Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Accretionary Wedge #18 - My Geological Inspiration

The current Accretionary wedge being hosted over at Volcanista's Magmalicious Blog and the topic is:

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? Deadline of July 10, and leave your permalink in comments when your post is up!

My Story

Growing up I had been very interested in dinosaurs. And for as long as I can remember I had wanted to dig them up (although Jurassic Park scared the crap out of me). So I told people that I wanted to be an Archaeologist (since that is all I knew at the time). Until one day when I was probably around 10 I was at a family party when someone asked me what I wanted to be. I told him an Archaeologist. He asked what specifically did I want to dig up, so I told him dinosaurs. Well he corrected me and told me that they were not archaeologists but paleontologists. And from that point on I was set in the right direction.

I started my studies into paleontology with my 8th grade Earth Science class when my professor told me that the best way to become a paleontologist was to either study biology or geology (but being that he was a geologist he kind of pushed me in that direction). So I started to direct my undergraduate school options towards schools with either a paleontology department or a geology department. To help me along I took two summers of the Paleontology Field Experience with the Museum of the Rockies in Montana.

After this I went off to college with paleontology always in mind. I started immediately into the undergrad geology department at SUNY Geneseo, and I worked at it. At first the information came fairly easy to me and the information was pretty straight forward but nothing too complicated, and nothing seemed to fit together. Just a bunch of disjointed information. Then I hit Mineralogy like a lead wall. My worst grade in school to date. Well I studied and I studied hard for it (just ask my wife). And I got through it. Then things started to make sense. And the more classes I took the more they fit together, like giant puzzle pieces. And by the time I was a senior I understood it. I could see the whole picture and it fascinated me. I love puzzles and this one I just finally put together. Well, I then proceeded to study Vertebrate Paleontology in grad school at Texas Tech and that is when I had my first immersive experience as a Geology TA. I started to understand things better because I had to teach them to people who had no clue what I was talking about. From that point on I wanted to teach people geology and have them understand what became so fascinating to me. I have since moved on and am starting my doctorate in regular paleontology (not vertebrate) in the Fall at the University of Utah and have built up a website (Dinojim.com) to help people learn about the basics of geology and I provide some out of the box teaching tools and information to help others learn geology.

So that is my story. Not all that interesting but I always find it fascinating that I started out loving dinosaurs to being more interested in teaching people about geology and finding out what other information there is to be had (but don't get me wrong, I still love dinosaurs).

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