So July’s topic is about your inspiration to enter geoscience. Was it a fantastic mentor? Watching your geologist parents growing up? A great teacher, or an exciting intro field trip? How did it happen?The short version: I started out fairly early with an interest in rocks, minerals, mountains, and roadcuts because of travel with my geologist dad. I also fell in love with dinosaurs and volcanoes by the time I was five.
A slightly longer version: I didn't plan on being a geologist while growing up, although I collected rocks and minerals and diligently labeled and categorized them. I took Earth Science in high school, but by the time I got to college, I thought geology was out because of how lousy I was sure I'd be in Chemistry and maybe Physics. Math was fine, but I was afraid of Chemistry, and although I did fine in high school physics, I didn't think that accomplishment would have any bearing on how I'd do in college physics.
So, not knowing exactly what to take, I signed up to be a History major. I had always wanted to be the sort of person who knew the dates of important events and other historical details, and I thought that wanting to be that sort of person would be a good start. After some deliberation and a little consternation, I began my first quarter with European History. For a science, I took Geology 201, Intro Geology, a class for majors and non-majors.
The geology class - one of those huge affairs in a large, auditorium-like room with raised rows of seats - was taught by the then head of the department, Dr. G. C. Grender. It turned out that he was one of those highly inspirational teachers, who had been put in the position of teaching Intro Geology because of the number of converts he routinely would win.
History was boring. Geology was exciting. Because of my at-home geological background, coupled with my Earth Science course in high school, I had a head start on identifying rocks and minerals, and a head start on memorizing the Geological Time Scale, which of course looked a little different back then. I could also read road maps and topo maps, and I knew what a drumlin was. Before the quarter was over, I changed my major to Geology. I got a B in Euro History, an A in Intro Geology. (I later got an F in one quarter of Chemistry, and did fine in Physics. And even though I was able to skip two quarters of first year math based on high school grades and SAT scores, I managed to get a D in one quarter of 2nd year math. Things like grades eventually don't matter.)
One long version starts like this, "How did a nice girl like you become a geologist, anyhow?" I was often asked this question, especially in my early days as a geologist, often by strangers — people, usually men, who I had just run into out in the field: prospectors and would-be prospectors, landowners, ranchers, and other geologists. Really, you'd think people could be a little more inventive than to reuse this worn phrase so many times — from Yuma to Gabbs, from Hog Ranch to Okanogan, and from Juneau to Fairbanks.
I've been from Tucson to TucumcariThe question, phrased so redundantly, seemed to imply some wrongness: wrongness in my choice of careers, wrongness in my where-ever-it-was location in the field, and wrongness in the fact that I'd somehow managed to meet the questioner out in the field at all—a "field" where I presumably didn't belong. I wondered at that question every time it was asked. I usually stuck to my routine answer, "My dad is a geologist," an answer that made sense to everyone and explained everything, at least to those who asked the question. It didn't really explain things to me, nor did it tell the curious or suspicious questioners much about me. ...
Tehachapi to Tonopah
I'm Willin', written by Lowell George
(An applicable song: my exploration travels have taken me, on legitimate business, to all of the places mentioned.)
July Accretionary Wedge: Inspiration
To be continued...