Geologist, Himalayan Glaciology, Zahid Majeed @ShahzahuZahid: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME: Zahid Majeed


AREA OF EXPERTISE:  I am a geologist for the Geological Survey of India, and my current division is Glaciology.


EDUCATION:  I have a Master’s from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar and two years research experience from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun. Took a break in my research activities, as I was selected as a Geologist through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Geologist Examination in 2009.

WEBSITE: Geological Survey of India

himalayan glaciology

Geologist, Zahid Majeed at Chandra Tal Lake, Lahaul & Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo copyright: Rahid Majeed

What’s your job like?

My job is to generate primary baseline data of glaciers from remote areas of the Indian Himalayas so that maximum glaciers can be added to the glacier map of the world. We do snout mapping and monitoring of glaciers in the field, mass balance studies, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of glacier sediment, and glacier melt water chemistry. There is a short window for us to carry out all of these investigations from July to August over selected glaciers from different areas of the study area. The mapping and dating of the landforms produced by the episodic advance and retreat of glaciers provide a method for reconstructing local climate oscillations which can later be correlated with the climate of the world as a whole.  Later the analysis of all the data is done at the headquarters and glacier change detection studies are carried out to understand the impact of global warming on the overall glacier health.

What’s a typical day like?

After the establishment of an advanced glacier camp, the instruments are checked properly before leaving for the field. After breakfast, we start the day by trekking and noting down all the information on the way until we reach the snout. Here, we carry out detailed surveying and monitoring of the glacier snout and its adjoining glacial features and landforms. Special emphasis is given regarding the formation of pro-glacial lakes which can be a future threat in case of a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) event. Melt water, snow melt water and glacier ice melt water is also collected to analyze for any toxic element.

Snout mapping of Pin valley glacier, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo copyright: Zahid Majeed

Geologist, Zahid Majeed, snout mapping of Pin Valley Glacier, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo copyright: Zahid Majeed

What’s fun?

What else would you want from life when you have clean air, clean water and bright sunshine with limited supplies of food for living? Or being close to nature without any disturbances from networks and wifi? It’s all fun when you have the sincere attitude and passion for what you really like to do and when you are getting paid for the same.

What’s challenging?

Challenges start from the day you leave sweet home. You have to sleep on stones, walk with blisters/rain/snow, let your skin burn, and at times, the cold can make things worse. High altitude sickness is a nightmare if one suffers. However, this is what geology is all about — challenges.

What’s your advice to students?

I am a student myself still, but given the little experience I have, I would like to suggest to all pursuing a career in geosciences that you will always love this field unlike a desk-job.

“Follow your instincts with a pair of eyes and a geological hammer.”

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