Monday, March 25, 2013

Questions from Pierce School

Another school that sent us a bunch of letters with questions was the Pierce School.  Their letters were awesome and super creative, and a real treat to read - it looks like they are a bunch of budding scientists!

In addition to the questions I answered for the Curley School (students at both schools were interested in learning more about Antarctic extremes, the types of animals that live there, and the importance of our work, so if you want to see my answers to those questions go to the previous post), the students at the Pierce School were very interested in some of the questions about life.

Q1: How did you decide to become a geologist?

I love this question!  Just as with people working any job, scientists all have various reasons why they chose to work in their particular field.  The difference with scientists is that they generally love what they do because they are doing/imagining/discovering things no one has ever dreamed of before!  Don't believe that scientists love their jobs more than other people?  The government surveys its employees to see how much they like their jobs - people who work for NASA love their jobs more than any other department!

Anyway, this is my personal story of how I became a geologist so if you are thinking about becoming one as well (woooo!), know that this is just one path and you get to write your own story.  I grew up wanting to be a scientist because I wanted to explore the world and learn how things work.  However, geology never crossed my mind until college.  My family loves the outdoors and so we went hiking and camping a lot, which gave me the chance to see all sorts of geology - fossils from extinct animals that lived in an ancient sea (in Ohio of all places), scrapes on mountaintops from huge ice sheets that used to cover the northern US.  Though I was developing a love of science and of the outdoors, I still didn't know I could combine the two.  When I started college, I began pursuing a degree in physics because that seemed cool, but when I began physics research I was stuck inside on beautiful sunny days.  Still, I didn't realize geology was something I could do.  The 'aha!' moment struck literally on top of a mountain.  I had been hiking all day and when I reached the top I took a break and started chatting with a random person I met up there.  She began telling me all about how everything we could see from our mountaintop perch had formed, and that I too could learn about it.  I was hooked and immediately reorganized everything to accommodate my new study.  I have absolutely no idea who this woman was, and am sorry that I cannot thank her for changing my life.

Become a geologist and get to see the world!  And get goofy haircuts because no one is around to make fun of you...

Q2: What do you do in your spare time in the tent?

First of all, we don't have very much spare time - we work most of the day, all seven days of the week.  We get up, eat breakfast, work until dinner, then compile our data until we go to sleep.  Right before we go to sleep, we sometimes read or listen to music just to unwind from a long day.  Breakfast and dinner are laid back (lunch is just a quick snack sometime during the day), so we can relax a bit then, which means chatting and maybe listening to music on our iPods.  We do take a day off each for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which we might spend hiking, reading, or cooking a fancy meal.  If the weather is bad (hurricane-force winds, for example), we can also be forced to stay inside the tent.  Some of these days we can still get things done in the tent, prepping experiments for when the nice weather returns, but if we run out of work then we just sit, chat, read, listen to music, and hope the tent does not blow away!  I spent a bunch of free time writing this blog and making videos for it.

When the weather gets bad, why not take some pictures of it?  Here I have set up one of my cameras to take a time lapse of a storm rolling in.  It is set up on rock sample boxes that look unstable, but when full are 80 pounds each!  The rock box labelled "DINNER" is because we bring food out in the boxes, then send our rocks back in the empty boxes.
Despite the large amount of work, we do definitely still have fun and goof around - the weather was warm (by Antarctic standards) and  had absolutely no wind, so we thought it would be funny to sleep outside.


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