NAME: Sandie Will
CURRENT TITLE: Geohydrologic Data Manager/Professional Geologist (P.G.)
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Management, Leadership, Hydrogeology, Hydrostratigraphy, Water Resources
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 18 – my experience includes 10 years in environmental consulting and 8 years with a state water agency.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science, Geology, University of South Florida; Master of Science, Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida. Main area of study for my Master’s degree was in water resource planning and management with an emphasis on sustainability.
What’s my job like?
Primarily, I’m a manager of a highly technical team that studies and collects data from several aquifers in Florida. I work for a state agency called the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District). I have managed the Geohydrologic Data Section within the Data Collection Bureau for the past four years. I am responsible for the Regional Observation and Monitor-Well Program (ROMP), special projects and the Quality of Water Improvement Program (QWIP). The primary mission is to protect natural systems and future water supplies.
Work at a typical ROMP site is usually performed in three stages. The first stage is exploratory coring and testing. We collect core data to 3,000 feet below land surface using a Universal Drill Rig (UDR) core rig. During coring, we use off-bottom packers to collect slug tests and water quality samples at specific intervals as the core hole is advanced downward. Geophysical logging is also performed. This data, along with water level and discharge data is used to determine formation changes and hydrostratigraphy, looking for aquifers and confining units. Identification of these aquifers and the confining/semi-confining units between them is critical for representative long-term water level and water quality monitoring as wells as for groundwater modeling and other evaluations conducted by the District.
The second stage includes well construction. Once the aquifers are identified, the hydrogeologist prepares well designs and a water well contractor is hired to install the wells. We usually install wells within several aquifers including the surficial aquifer, Hawthorn aquifer system (otherwise known as the intermediate aquifer system), and the Upper and Lower Floridan aquifers. Geophysical and video logging are also conducted at various stages.
The third stage includes aquifer performance testing. Once the well construction is completed, the hydrogeologist will use a system of transducers and data loggers to collect water level changes during and after pumping an aquifer to assess drawdown and recovery. Analyses are run on a software package and the aquifer parameters such as transmissivity and hydraulic conductivity are used in groundwater models and other evaluations by other sections and outside entities such as consultants.
Once all the work is completed, the hydrogeologist prepares a technical report which is available online.
What’s your day like?
My day primarily consists of administrative duties in the office. I have a staff of 15 hydrogeologists, well drillers and technicians. This includes a supervisor who oversees all field work and coordinates staff where needed. My responsibilities include reporting and presenting work progress, forecasting budgets and field schedules, reviewing technical reports, planning future work, performing employee evaluations, preparing goals, tracking metrics, leading major initiatives, coordinating staff and many other tasks. I report to a Bureau Chief and am always involved with Executive requests. I love the combination of working in management and geology. I have a passion for helping employees advance their skills and providing opportunities to learn new skills.
My favorite part of the job is visiting the core site and seeing cool evaporites, sucrosic dolomite, and various fossils. Evidence of shallow seas that occurred millions of years ago is fascinating to me. Also, I like when a staff member is promoted or finishes a major task like a well site or technical report or passing a test. This usually leads to a mango key lime pie or brownies or red velvet cupcakes that I bring in to celebrate. Also, we have Hattoween, where everyone in the Bureau wears their favorite Halloween hat and the best one wins a prize. We do a volunteer event every year at Feeding America and help them by sorting food and stocking shelves – always a very rewarding experience to help others in need! I love outreach events too. This year we did a Skype class from the core site to middle-school students in their class and we also went to the university to teach college students about our jobs.
My workload can be very challenging at times. Sometimes I work after hours or on weekends, but I try to keep it to a minimum. The worst is when employee evaluations, goals and end of year budgets are all due at the same time! Predicting well construction costs a year in advance for preliminary budgets can be challenging too, because we are allocated funding for projects based on these. So far, we haven’t run short yet! There are also many challenges related to drilling that have to be overcome and can delay projects including fractured zones that clog up bits and formations that like to drink so much cement that you feel like it’ll never end!
What’s your advice for students?
Learn how to interview! When you go on an interview, you need to sell yourself. I know that’s a hard concept in science, but you are always selling something, whether it’s a project to a Governing Board or yourself for a new job or promotion. Work on your communication skills including writing and speaking. Presentations can be a major part of your job as you move up. Ask questions – no one will think you’re stupid. Stay away from the negative gossip mill. You know who those people are – don’t associate yourself with it. Stay positive and supportive of others. Have faith in yourself. You’ll see that what you don’t know now will be a piece of cake later. And finally, mentor others, take them under your wing, and don’t hoard your knowledge in fear of losing your job. Their success will lead to your success!
Please don’t hesitate to leave questions in the comments below – I’m always happy to answer them.
**All opinions and statements are solely of my own and not that of my employer.