The following projects were among my favorites: Most resulted in confidential reports for clients and several are at my own initiative.
Getting paid to look at rocks?
I was sitting under a juniper tree as we paused for lunch while classifying soil, overlooking a red-rock canyon near Dove Creek, Colorado. My boss John McCoy had noted my interest in rocks and casually commented "You know Dave --they pay guys to look at rocks" -they're called geologists. I said you've got to be kidding! That was it, I knew in an instant that was what I wanted to be. I had graduated from high school the previous year but wasn't about to start college without a goal. And so I had worked outside jobs in the West such as surveying and soil classification. Now that I knew what I wanted, I applied to all the major western Universities such as Colorado School of Mines, University of Arizona, etc., but with only 3 weeks before fall semester began. I also applied to American University, and was accepted immediately. They had received my transcripts quickly from nearby Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School while the other universities were just beginning to reply. American University had an excellent geology department at the time. I had outstanding mentors, including Dr. Matthew Norton, Chairman of the American University Geology Department who trained us to be iconoclasts. Dr. Lee Woodward, Professor of Geology at the University of New Mexico where I studied for my M.S. in Geology. Dr. Woodward taught me how to map geology and how to write a geologic report. And John E. Motica, Senior Vice President of Exploration for Ranchers Exploration and Development Corporation who taught me all I know about uranium exploration and much more.
My advice to those students with an insatiable curiosity and an interest in Geology ...go for it. Put everything you have into the schooling, including taking all the instrument courses available, then find a job to gain hard-earned experience. Don't start out managing or consulting, learn the ropes first. In mining geology and other geology work, the job is where you really learn with experienced mentors and people who know what they are doing. A few years of tough experience and if you prove yourself you'll work your way up to more and more fun, and changing companies if necessary. If you feel your abilities aren't being rewarded it may be time to move on. Patience, however rather than jumping at the first problems.
Geology is fun!
The scope of possibilities in Geology are endless; from studies at the atomic and microbe level to the earth's history, composition and changes, to the limits of outer space.