Friday, October 30, 2009

male-female ratio

Sorry about the long silence - I've had lousy internet service during my travels. Back to your usual programming...

I've worked in areas where the male:female geologist ratio is approaching 50:50, and where the majority of environmental science/engineering students coming out of college are female. But I've also worked in areas where female geologists are still a rarity, and drillers/subcontractors can refuse to work with women and not commit career suicide. Those areas aren't nearly as far south (in the US) as one might think.

So I'm wondering: what percentage of working geologists in your area are female? Are you seeing the number of women increase over time?

I don't stay up at night worrying about exact male:female ratios, but I've worked in places where female geologists are essentially unheard of, and they've been lonely and discouraging. I don't have the personality to be a pioneer, I guess.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

clothing change

I'm usually a little behind when the seasons change, but this week has been cold enough to convince me to switch into winter gear. The lightweight hiking pants have been put away, and I've dragged out the shapeless sweaters, the 2-layer wool long underwear, the silk long underwear, the wool hats, and the carhartts.

Taking out the carhartts reminded me of a particular winter day a couple years ago, when I was working in the middle of nowhere with a subcontractor. We were wearing the same carhartts (obviously different sizes, but same color), and when I pointed this out, he was actually sort of horrified. He never wore those pants again.

Dude! Carhartts only come in about five colors! And carhartts are worn by about 90% of field people! Seriously, if you find a photograph of a geologist, they'll most likely be wearing the distinctively orangey-brown standard carhartts. If you're offended that you end up wearing the same ones as someone else, you need to buy some fancier field pants.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

office decor

We all tend to personalize our office. Pictures of families, hobbies, and random stuff end up taking over the odd corners of our desks. Geologists tend to collect rocks.

I'm not a big fan of rocks in general. I'm a dirt and contamination person. Sure, if I'm coring rock or I pick up something cool in the field, I'll take it along. But many times, the interesting rocks don't make it all the way to my office.

So I don't have a rock collection. What I do have is a drilling detritus graveyard.

It started when we (the driller) destroyed a roller bit (example from wikipedia below) in some particularly difficult terrain.
The driller chucked the bit in my direction and said "why don't you take it?"

So I did. I ended up as sort of a broken bit magpie. When something shears off or wears down to uselessness and can't be repaired, I'll take it back to the office as a sort of trophy of a difficult (and expensive!) day. The more mangled, the better.

The problem is that my collection makes for some heavy (and occasionally greasy) paperweights. Next time I move, maybe I'll donate my collection to the next enthusiastic newbie who chirps, "hey, what does this do?"

Monday, October 12, 2009

drilling expectations

I can rant about this sort of thing for days...

As my long-term readers know, I was pretty shy when I started working in consulting. It was hard for me to speak up when I wanted something done differently. So what often happened was that I would let something go for way too long, and then I'd surprise the driller in the middle of whatever and say, "we need to change/add this." This leads to a lot of aggravation.

Now, when a drilling company first arrives at a site, I make an effort to have a truly comprehensive site briefing. This is after I've called the office to make sure we're on the same page. Why are we doing this, what are we looking for, and what are the specific things that I need? Then, when we're ready to start doing whatever, I'll remind the driller again.

Most of the time, all this is overkill. But I'd rather go through everything and make sure that we have everything we need and that there are no surprises. If I've written or reviewed the drilling specification, then I know it should cover everything I need. But the probability that the guy actually doing the work has actually read the thing is fairly low.

It sounds simple. But I can't tell you how many time we've arrived at a site and the driller says "I had no idea we needed mud mats/a steam cleaner/to cut through thickets/to get water four miles away" and it turns out to be a colossal pain in the ass and we all start out cranky.

drilling respect 2

I got a good bunch of comments on my last post.

Just to clarify, 99% of the drillers I've worked with have been fine to work with.

I'm perhaps pickier than many geologists when I'm watching a rig, but I'm generally following a long list of procedures that were designed to prevent safety issues, collect a good sample, and/or construct a well that will "behave" as well as possible over the long term. And I haven't met a driller who did every single thing I wanted the first time.

That's fine. And I will bend on certain things, and I'm amenable to suggestions. I'm not going to make the mistake of telling the driller exactly what to do, because that gets into the whole "well, then you do it" argument.

But I have had bad experiences, with drillers who won't take any direction, who are unable to keep a lid on their racist/sexist/horrifically off-color commentary (trust me, this is more than your standard salty language), and who generally make life miserable. And whom I've been completely unable to compel to behave.

In this sort of situation, appeals to a higher authority (i.e. the drilling company management) tend to work only if you're presenting an ultimatum, i.e. get me a new driller or I'm shutting this job down. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but I've never escalated things that far.