Thursday, September 18, 2008

find any oil?

This is the number 1 comment I get when I'm out drilling.

EcoGeoFemme's post today reminded me of the joys of interacting with the public. Not family members, not grad students, but the guy wondering what this giant rig is doing next to his house.

When I was in consulting, I had a pretty erratic schedule and so I never volunteered to do science-y outreach-y stuff like some of my coworkers. But I was happy to explain stuff to anyone who was interested. Here's what I said:

1. Step away from the rig, please; it's dangerous. (If he gets hit on the head with that precariously balanced rig hammer, I'm toast)
2. I'm working for (client) and these folks with me are our subcontractors. (yes, I am in charge and if you bug the drillers, they'll just refer you to me)
3. We're taking soil samples/installing a well to collect groundwater samples.

At this point, the person I was talking to either expressed surprise that there's water under the ground, accused the client of being an evil corporation/wasting taxpayer dollars, or fretted about the noise/mess.

I can recall only two times where people wanted to actually hear more, but I was happy to regale them with as much technical info as they wanted (and that I could give out without getting into trouble). One of those times, I was talking to another geologist (yay!) in a somewhat related field and the other time, it took about 10 minutes of conversation to realize the guy was actually just hitting on me. But he sounded so interested in the science!

Regardless of how interested folks are in the actual work I'm doing, I always like to talk to them about it. I'm always hoping that by being a visibly in-charge and knowledgeable female, I'm providing a public example of a Female Scientist.


Silver Fox said...

Places where I work, at least in the last 10-15 years, if anyone walked up to a drill rig I would have to tell them to stay way away from the rig, or get them a hard hat quickly. Otherwise I'd be in violation of MSHA regs, and my clients and the drilling company could be cited and pay fines! (Also they should wear steel-toed boots, but I probably might not mention that, depending on the location.)

I remember the days when only water well drillers seemed to ever wear hard hats, and no requirements were in place, or at least they weren't enforced by random inspections.

I think it's easy to talk about drilling and drill rigs when on/near a rig - and somewhat more difficult when in a casual conversation somewhere else, but I do my best, it's usually family and extended family asking, and they are usually very interested.

When I was just getting started, I was uncomfortable talking about any of my work, and usually didn't know what to say.

Short Geologist said...

You're right about keeping people a fair distance from a rig, of course. But when I'm working in residential areas, the "secure zone" around a rig gets shrunk to a pretty small area, especially on the sides. Adding dogs and small children to the mix makes things worse.

EcoGeoFemme said...

when people aske me about my work, I usually start with a sentence or two, then expand to a few paragraphs if the person wants to know more. I'm always happy to talk if they ask more questions, but I've seen the eyes glaze over too many times to go on if they don't actually ask.

I too had a guy ask about my work when he was trying to hit on me. It ended when he said "but you don't really believe in global warming, do you?" I think I've posted this same comment somewhere else too...

Sometimes people like family will say, I get the point, but what do you actually do? At those times I wish I worked with a drill rig. ;)

ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

When people see me collections/prospecting for fossils they often ask "find any oil yet" (or "find any arrow heads yet" because all paleontologist are really just archeologist...right...)as if dinosaurs/fossils = oil. It can be hard to get them to understand the difference. Fossil fuels is ingrained in their memory.

sandy shoes said...

Bailing wells in the New England wintertime, I *always* used to get asked if I were ice fishing. Ha! Ha!