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Posts Tagged ‘science’

Jessica Ball, Geologist

Today’s entry is at the request of My Cool Job fan Angela B, who told me she has always been interested in volcanoes and wanted to find out more about what it’s like to be a Geologist — a profession I previously knew little about. But no longer.

A few clicks on the web later, I arrived at Cool Jobster Jessica Ball’s very entertaining blog Magma Cum Laude. As the title implies, it’s a blog written by someone who loves “hot rocks” and has a great sense of humor.

According to my research, the word “geology” was first used to describe “the study of solid matter that constitutes the earth” in 1779, but the actual “matter” that geologists study is far older than that — millions of years older, in fact.

So how did the Painted Desert get “painted”? How did Mt. Everest get so high? Where does the magma that spews out of an erupting volcano come from? These are just a few of the types of questions that you can search for answers to when your “cool job” is Geologist!

The ‘interview’ below is one of the best-written and most engaging entries so far, and I’m thoroughly pleased to introduce Geologist Jessica Ball and her “cool job” to you!

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?

Geologists are like detectives, only most of the events we investigate happened thousands, millions, or even billions of years ago. We like to pick apart puzzles and answer questions, and we’re always developing new tools with which to do so. Occasionally we get to experience geology “happening”, like when a volcano erupts, an earthquake or a landslide occurs, a tsunami or a hurricane strikes, or glaciers melt and ice caps break up because of global warming. But we’re constantly asking questions about the world around us, and trying to find the best ways to explain what we see.


What are the things about your job that you love?

I love that geologists have the opportunity to spend so much time outside, or “in the field”. We visit some pretty amazing and beautiful places, and it’s even more fun to go somewhere when you’re able to figure out (more…)

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groovy specimens from the mammalogy departmentMy BFF Erica P was kind enough to take a few minutes to fill you in on what it’s like to work in the Mammalogy Department of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I have been “behind the scenes” there myself and I can attest to the utter coolness of her job.

Job Title: Scientific Assistant. I work in one of the research departments of a natural history museum. My primary responsibilities are curating (identifying and re-identifying specimens, keeping current with the scientific literature) and maintaining (boring physical stuff like organizing, labelling, cleaning) the expansive collections of mammals therein.

Upside: There are many. I get to see some of the world’s most interesting, obscure, and downright bizarre creatures, and that’s besides my colleagues. Oftentimes the curation work is actually mentally challenging, or at least engaging. A nifty perk is that, as part of the “sisterhood of museum workers,” I (and whomever I’m with) have free admission to other museums; it’s nice to pop into an art museum just to look at a painting for 15 minutes and not feel obligated to spend the better part of a day! I occasionally liaise with the Exhibition department here, giving them scientific advice and providing them with specimens when they are creating new shows and exhibits. I’ve also gone “into the field” to obtain new specimens for the collection, although I don’t do that as often as others. For the most part, things are low-key and there aren’t too many critical deadlines at my job. Very gratifying is bringing people to my workplace because they’re always so excited to go “behind the scenes,” which renews my own enthusiasm, plus I can impart some of my knowledge about the natural world.

Downside: The pay is not exactly stellar. Sometimes dealing with idiosyncratic personalities, people who couldn’t survive in a normal work environment, isn’t pleasant, or is at the very least capital-F frustrating.. (I’m sure other people here say the same about me.) Some of my responsibilities are unchallenging, boring and stultifying. For instance, it’s the only place I know where “cutting corners” makes things take longer, because you actually have to cut the corners of things (like labels and tags so that sharp corners won’t damage specimens).

How I Got Here: Combination of education and luck. I have a degree in biology, but I answered an ad in the newspaper and, after a series of interviews, was hired.

A Funny Story: I’ve definitely had some good times here, but nothing is leaping to my mind at the moment. One vignette: I may be one of the few people in the world who’s played a real-life version of Barrel of Monkeys, although it was a giant vat and they were gibbons.

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