Saturday, November 10, 2007

What I do

A few months ago, I ditched my university job to become a project geologist for a small exploration company. One thing I’ve noticed from my travels is that many people don’t have a real good idea what industrial geologists do. I’m fairly new at this gig, so here’s the best description that I can think of at 1 in the morning.

Basically, I get paid to look for buried treasure. Unlike colonial Spanish contraband or grandma’s Easter eggs, the treasure we look for is natural, having formed through geological processes at some point in Earth’s history.

We use geochemistry to understand the processes that allow the mineral deposits to form, and then we use geophysics to try to detect them from the surface. Once we formulate a hypothesis for the location of an economically valuable concentration of our target mineral(s), we drill holes in the ground to test that hypothesis.

From a scientific perspective, I like the work because it is very big picture, drawing on all sorts of skillz and knowledge that I didn’t use as a lab technician. From a personal perspective, I enjoy the wide open spaces, the camaraderie of a small company, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a day of hard physical and intellectual work. The pay isn’t bad either.


Chris said...

How many of the skillz are things you learned in school, how many did you know already from other sources such as hobbies, and how many are you learning on the job?

Dr. Lemming said...

For the past few years, I haven't really looked at anything larger than a millimeter, so basically all geology that happens on larger scales was dormant, but is now being reactivated.

Micron scale geology is great, but there is so much more to the planet...

BrianR said...

"Once we formulate a hypothesis...we drill holes in the ground to test that hypothesis"

This is probably the best aspect of applied science, in my opinion.

Miguel Vera said...

Nice, I was wondering where the exploration geologists were heh. Here in Peru most geologists are either petroleum or exploration geologists, or both. The main cause being the mining and petroleum potential of course. Also because most universities prepare geology students for these tasks.

I'm not sure if I'll follow any of them, but I certainly like the level of analysis and interpretation required to understand the dispersion and deposition of the economic mineral.

Just now I'm working in the GIS area of a company prospecting for uranium in Puno, Peru. It's a volcaniclastic setting, not very common for uranium deposition and as the geochemistry and radiometric results come in it turns more and more interesting.

Anyway, it's nice to see a familiar side of geology in the geoblogosphere.