Wednesday, January 21, 2015

non-geology spam

Environmental geology is a pretty small corner of the scientific world, I know. And the vast majority of applied scientists out working in industry today are likely in some corner of the (human) biology world.

I get more biological spam than I do environmental or geology spam. And I've been to enough conferences that I'm on just about every environmental mailing list out there. Today, it was an international (very prestigious, they swear) journal of medical science that wanted submissions from me. Earlier this week, it was a firm selling high-end biotech equipment. And the at least 3/4 of the job listings I get from linkedin are for biology positions: microbiology lab tech. Pharmaceutical rep. Cognitive psychologist. Process engineer for a big regional biotech firm.

Sure, there are corners of geology and biology that do intersect. Paleontology. Geomicrobiology. But big pharma R&D? Not so much.

Friday, January 16, 2015

collar color?

I  was having a discussion with someone recently who said they left an outdoor job (forestry, in their case) because they were tired of being dirty and they wanted to have a white-collar job.

It's funny - when I was in the environmental consulting biz, I always thought that I did have a white-collar job. One that involved a fairly extensive travel schedule and fieldwork, sure. But I wrote reports and did analyses, and I had an advanced degree as well.

Maybe convenient job classifications don't work as well for scientists...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

cold adaptation

I finally have this cold weather thing figured out. It took ages, but now I can do fieldwork in both absolute cold (well below freezing) and wet cold (deep snow, temperature just below freezing, pouring rain) all day without misery or risking hypothermia. The factors that keep me warm, from easy to adjust to... not:

Behavior:

1. Breakfast is critical. I cannot have too many complex carb/protein/fat calories the morning of a long day of fieldwork in the cold. I need to get all that energy in early because...
2. If I eat anything more than a snack during the day, my body works on digestion instead of keeping me warm, and my core temperature crashes. This is backwards and strange, but I am the sort of person who will start shivering after a big meal.
3. I'm better off staying out in the cold, rather than warming up. If I get toasty at any point, my system goes, "oh good, we don't need to worry about dealing with cold any more" and then I'm miserable the rest of the day.
4. Keep active. Sometimes I'm just watching other people do work, and if I just sit there, my circulation goes down and then I have a serious extremity problem. I have no shame doing "the cold dance" - bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet in place (so I'm not in danger of slipping) if my feet start to get cold.

Clothing:

Many of my "gear" posts are about the stuff I wear. It took a lot of experimenting to figure out what keeps me warm, but not overheated, in all sorts of conditions. How many layers are too many? Is there a possibility of getting wet? Will I be fighting through brambles? Maybe the knits and high-tech outer layers need to be replaced with something sturdier. How can I fit the PPE (personal protective equipment) I'm required to wear in with the cold-weather gear?

Experience:

I almost called this "grit", but that's not quite accurate. What I mean is, I've had lots of practice being cold. I shiver and turn funny colors easily, but there's a difference between "brrr!" and dangerous. I've learned to adapt to the cold, and I can stay comfortable (or uncomfortable but safe) for longer and at much lower temperatures than when I first started out.

Insulation:

I matured super late, physically, and was still in "colts years" into my early 20s. I've gained 30 pounds on a small frame (and remember, I'm a short woman!) since I started working in the environmental biz. Where did that weight go? Big muscles in my shoulders, upper arms, and back, from hauling coolers and other equipment. Same thing with my legs and butt, from hiking around all day with said equipment. My hips and boobs, from general weight gain and finally developing a "womanly figure" after spending what felt like an eternity (middle school, high school, early college) with no assets in that department. And yeah, I do have a pooh belly. That extra mass - everywhere - really does help.

I wouldn't say that I enjoy spending the day outside when it's miserable out. But I can do it for weeks on end without any ill effects, and then I have a bounty of war stories to impress newbies/scare my parents/negotiate for raises in the future.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

so dirty!

I don't know what it is, but I cannot keep my clothes clean when I'm in the field. Everyone else on the field crew will leave the site looking like they've spent a day working hard, sure. But I leave the site looking like Pigpen. So why the mess?

1. As a geologist, I have to really get into the soil. I'm logging cores, or venturing close to the drilling operations to collect cuttings. So I have more contact with dirt, or with drill rigs spewing stuff in general.

2. I finally have all my field clothing that's sized appropriately and works for me. Everything else I have to wear? Not so much. Traffic vests billow out and catch on things, or just drag down across the table when I'm bent over to log something. Hard hats and safety glasses slide down, and I push them back up with dirty hands or the back of a dirty sleeve.

3. If I'm primarily observing contractors or others, it would be nice to kick back with a camp chair in the shade. But the appearance of laziness doesn't go over well with the general public, clients or other stakeholders who drop in, and the people you're overseeing. Besides, I'm far too twitchy to just hang out. Instead, when I've been on my feet for ages and need a break, I tend to lean against/perch on whatever's handy: a tailgate, a fender, a pile of core boxes, etc. And those are invariably dirty.

4. I'm just not that fastidious, and I'm usually in a hurry. So I lean in to yell something at the driller over the noise of the drill rig, and my shoulder brushes against a glop of grease on the rig. Or I round the corner of a truck and snag part of my jacket on it. Or I grab a mud-covered pipe wrench that the driller can't quite reach, and transfer some of that to my sleeve. Or I'm fighting through undergrowth to locate something, and I get a colony of burrs stuck to...everything.

This is why I need lots of pants and field shirts - I run through them faster than anyone else I know.

Monday, January 5, 2015

12 months of AR

It's time for my annual recap of 12 months of Accidental Remediation! Silver Fox also included links to her previous versions of this meme, so I thought I'd add that in, after an absence last year. See 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Unlike Silver Fox, I mostly don't have illustrations.

Same rules as before: first sentence of the first post of every blog, plus a link. This year, I didn't really have any "filler" posts or big apologies for being an irregular blogger, so no cheating!

January: In a recent post, I mentioned that the HAZWOPER course can be tremendously useful for getting interns out into the field.

February: I have used this particular computer to add posts to blogspot with no problem.

March: I was asked about review courses here and figured the topic needed more than just a short answer.

April: A while back, I mentioned that I needed a replacement camera.

May: AAM recently had a post from someone who was frustrated with a manager who would only give vague (but extremely negative) feedback about her writing.

June: A few months ago, I visited an area with very stinky tap water (stinky groundwater) from naturally-occurring hydrogen sulfide, which produces a rotten-egg odor.

July: A comment on the previous post raised the issue of "firing" drillers/drilling companies.

August: This recent post on AAM regarding writing for free (for an established for-profit publisher) collected a big pile of comments.

September: One of the signs I'm getting older is that I need to keep a better eye on my diet.

October: Another writing pet peeve to add to the pile:

November: When I'm overseeing contractors, I am generally easygoing.

December: Geologists/scientists, did you have any terrible grades in a science class?

Bloggers, consider yourselves tagged...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

geology uncyclopedia

I'm going to be taking some time off for the holidays. But before I go, something trivial to enjoy in my absence:

Someone pointed me to the uncyclopedia entry for "geologist" a while back. It's pretty amusing, although many of the jokes are getting old at this point. Geologists love beer? Whoda thunkit?

I will admit, however, that some stereotypes have a kernel of truth. I touched on the Great Geologist-Engine CDer Controversy ages ago, and it still pops up pretty high in search terms that end up here. Anything that strike you as exceptionally accurate, or completely off the mark?

Friday, December 19, 2014

arrogance

I occasionally see badly-written reports that will be read and picked apart by other stakeholders, and  bidders who blatantly ignore proposal requirements. I have also attended meetings with technical experts who had no idea what they were supposed to discuss.

These are usually not signs of incompetence. They indicate arrogance - someone or an organization that thinks that they are above such inconsequential things as evidence or support for their position.

I have never been able to just waltz into a room and expect that everyone will think that I'm brilliant (or even that I know what I'm talking about). I've never been the "golden child" or the person who everyone can see is "going places". I was an academic nonentity in high school and in college. After I'd established myself in the field, I still had to fight to prove myself when I was job hunting. And I'm still (like, this year) getting strange "wow, you can give a presentation" compliments years after I thought that particular question was settled.

All those ridiculous experiences have given me a decent-sized chip on my shoulder. But they also mean that I take my shit seriously. And when I offer a technical opinion, you'd better believe I can back it up.

I have been gratified to see that certain persons/organizations that have been particularly careless because of overwhelming arrogance have gotten burned recently. Of course, some of the offenders that I've worked with/around more closely seem to be doing perfectly fine. Sigh.