Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

4. Why did you want to be a glaciologist. How did you figure out that glaciology was what you wanted to do?

Hi Tyler,

First, I always like getting a question from someone with the same first name as me. Second, this is a bit of a long-winded answer, so bear with me.

I figured out I wanted to be a glaciologist during college. When I left high school, I wanted to either go into science or classics. During my first semester at Bowdoin, I took an introductory environmental geology course and really enjoyed it. I spent a lot of time doing outdoor activities, so geology was a natural fit. But while I liked many aspects of geology, I realized I didn’t care about rocks and minerals much, I liked processes. And I liked processes that happened on human timescale. The geology that took millions of years to happen just wasn’t as exciting. So after my first year, I spent the summer researching groundwater and stream flow on an island in coastal Maine. I found I liked it quite a bit.

I continued with geology, having eliminated classics since I didn’t want to learn Latin or Greek. After my sophomore year, I did a month-long wilderness mountaineering class (NOLS) in Washington State. I found that glaciers had many of the same processes as I had learned about in geology class, but they changed much more quickly. So I then spent the summer after my junior year in Fairbanks, Alaska working on a glaciology project. I found I really enjoyed it and continued working on it during my senior year. Next thing I knew, I was applying to graduate school and getting a PhD.

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