Lockwood has called for a new Accretionary Wedge about “important geological experiences.” This one was actually a hard one for me to wrap my head around, since I don’t think there was one definitive (or even a few similar) experiences that shaped my path to become a metamorphic petrologist. I think it was the repeated occurrence of going into the field at all stages of my education & career.
As I said in a previous post, I had originally come into geology thinking that I wanted to going into planetary science. The one major strike against that from the first was the lack of field time. I went on my first geology field trips in the 8th grade, since I was lucky enough to live in a school district that required all students to take Earth Science in junior high. I went on my next one a year later to get my Digging Through the Past Girl Scout Interest Patch. When I was in high school, I was taken to several pegmatite mines on the Maine / New Hampshire border during the summer. For me, when the list of possible first-year seminars from Middlebury appeared, it was an easy pick to choose the one that guaranteed weekly field trips — “Geologic Landscape of Vermont” with Kim Hannula. Since leaving Midd, I’ve realized how lucky I was to go to college in a state where I spent the overwhelming majority of my fall geology labs out on the rocks / on the research boat instead of in a building. Besides the encouragement from Kim to reconsider planetary, it was the lure of field time that brought me over into met pet. Field camp convinced me that sed/strat & paleo was not the way my interests lay. But it was fighting off the marauding mosquitos, sweltering in high 90s temperatures & high humidity, and getting beaten up by 10-yr old bramble that convinced me collecting rocks for study in the lab was the way to go. Except for not having to live in a tent & a distinct lack of bramble, my masters research occurred under similar circumstances. I lucked out and my PhD work involved no bugs and no bramble or other vegetation, but it never got warm enough to take off my fleece despite the fact it was August. We lost two days due to white-out snow conditions. And I loved it.
I enjoy teaching in the classroom and lab, but my favorite part of my job is taking students into the field. Whether its just down the road or halfway across the country, watching students learn how to look at the ground beneath their feet and the landscape around them to backtrack the geological history of an area is worth the headaches of renting vehicles, planning food that can be cooked over a campstove, and wondering if its going to downpour or snow. To me, going into the field is the reason why I love being a geologist.