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Need - or enjoyment?

lkjThough the most enjoyable aspect of my training, I have learned far more from mapping exercises, borehole data, lab work, microscopy, study, and spending time with geological collections.  To be a good micropalaeontologist, for example, you need good academic and analytical skills, not boots and a hammer. 

Geophysicists and Reservoir Engineers need primarily to be physicists and engineers with strong IT skills.  The vast majority of geology and Earth science graduates go on to pursue non-geological careers – probably not requiring field work.  Those who do go on to field-based careers have a lifetime to hone their craft on-the-job.


This becomes particularly poignant when considering access and inclusivity for all abilities.  Yes, I enjoyed fieldwork, but did I actually need it? I have become disabled and am no longer able to work full-time.  Though this has created personal challenges, far from restricting my access to geology – it has caused it to be re-born! Paradoxically, I am now at liberty to wander wherever my fancy takes me. 

So much has changed in the decades since university.  With a laptop and (optional) microscope, the choice and access is truly amazing.  Add a smartphone or tablet and you’re really cooking.  I can research areas I could never hope to access - without leaving home: far more efficient and affordable than trudging through terrain in all weathers.  Mars is fascinating, but I don’t need to go there to study it.

We are blessed with world-class geological collections up and down the country, which I have no problem accessing; with staff happy to help, if I want a closer look or more details.  Online collections are open 24/7.  One wonders how undergraduates are able to turn their back on this vast resource, just to produce original pieces of fieldwork! Should we not be embracing technology, and using the likes of Google maps and BGS online geological maps for training and distance learning?  A good scientist’s mind-set surely constantly challenges the premise of the questions asked and remains open to explore all means and options.

I have recently (just in time!) bought an automatic Land Rover Defender (picture).  My current project is to see how much access that affords. The biggest help in this regard would be using the influence of The Geological Society to obtain, organise, and facilitate permissions for vehicle access to areas where I am unable to walk, but can drive.  To enable those who still want to do fieldwork rather than need, we must be provider- and user-focused in equal measure to ensure best delivery.