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Internships with Cuyahoga Valley NP Conservancy

I got this email from someone at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and I thought I would share it here.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and its nonprofit friends group, the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, have a number of spring and summer internships and jobs to offer to your students. Ranging from Graphic Design and Public Relations to Environmental Education and Resource Monitoring, CVNP has a large variety of opportunities.

Located between Cleveland and Akron, CVNP enables college students to apply classroom learning and gain hands-on experience in a unique work environment. Check out our current internship postings

Find seasonal job announcements for a GS-3 or GS-4 or GS-5 seasonal Park Guide, open for applications between January 22 and January 28 and the GS-5 Interpretative Park Ranger, open for applications between February 3 and February 7, Interested applicants must apply at

Attend Alternative Spring Break Weekend, March 14 – March 17. Program features include volunteer service projects; special presentations on careers in national parks; guided hikes; campfire and recreational activities; and lodging and meals provided at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. For more information or to receive an application, contact (330) 657-2796 ext. 100 or

Hydrologist + professor = Anne's answers to career profile questions

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

A few weeks ago, I was asked to answer some questions for a career profile section of a website aimed at students looking at college degree options. The website creators wanted to use me as their profile of a hydrologist, maybe because hydrology has been dubbed one of the “50 best careers for 2011” and “should have strong growth in the next decade.” As US News reported in December, “There were 8,100 hydrologist jobs in 2008, and the Labor Department projects that employment will grow more than 18 percent by 2018.”

I’ve included below my answers to the generic career profile questions I was asked, but I was unable to completely disentangle my scientific profession as a hydrologist from my career as a university professor. Hydrologists working in industry or government would have somewhat different takes on day-to-day work life than I do. Nonetheless, I hope my answers might be useful to students trying to decide “what to be when I grow up.”

What do you do, and why did you decide to pursue this career field?
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. My research and teaching focus on water, so I am a hydrologist.

The sorts of research questions that fascinate me are: “What controls whether a rain drop ends up running over or through the soil into a stream channel within hours to weeks versus sinking down and becoming groundwater that spends years to centuries underground before maybe emerging in that same stream at a spring? How do the topography and geology of a landscape affect the sensitivity of streams and groundwater to floods, droughts, and climate change? How do human activities like urban development, stormwater management, and stream restoration affect floods, low flows, groundwater recharge, and water quality?”

My hometown is on the Mississippi River and its identity and economy is strongly tied to the river. In 1993, while in high school, I got to see the incredible dynamism of the river in action during a record-breaking flood. I was hooked, and decided to study geology in college. My first experiences with scientific research thrilled me – being the person to collect and analyze the data and answer a question that had never before been answered. In order to choose my own research projects in hydrology, I knew I needed a Ph.D.

What type of preparation did you do to get into this field, such as educational experience and work experience?

I have a BA degree in Earth and Planetary Science from The Johns Hopkins University, a MS degree in Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota, and a PhD in Geology from Oregon State University. After my PhD, I spent time as a post-doctoral researcher before getting my job at UNC Charlotte.

All through school, I was involved with research. As an undergraduate, I did a summer “Research Experience for Undergraduates” at the Smithsonian and a senior thesis on soil water isotopes. Graduate degrees in the sciences are heavily research oriented, and both my MS and PhD projects involved lots of work in the field – wading in streams to measure the amount of flow and collecting stream water, snow, and rock samples. They also involved a lot of time in front of the computer trying to make sense of all of the data I had collected.

While I was in school, I had a couple of work experiences related to water policy and management, since those are also interests of mine. As an undergraduate I did an internship with an environmental organization in Washington, DC, and as a MS student I worked for a county planning department and for the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center. These sorts of experiences aren’t required for a hydrology professor, but, for me, they provide valuable context for my scientific research.

If your education was directly related to your career, what types of classes and projects did you have to do?

There are many different undergraduate majors possible for people interested in working with water. Among the most common are civil and environmental engineering, geology or earth science, and geography. There are only a handful of universities that offer undergraduate degrees in hydrology or watershed science, though graduate programs specifically related to interdisciplinary training in water resources science are increasing. As an undergraduate, I recommend getting a strong base in the fundamental courses and concepts in your major, and then adding water-related classes as you have time. If you don’t get a deep enough base in a traditional discipline, you may find that potential employers or graduate advisors don’t understand what skills and knowledge you have.

Regardless of your major, if you are interested in hydrology, take as much math, chemistry, and physics as you possibly can during your high school and undergraduate years. Those classes will give you critical background for your hydrology classes. By the time I was done with my PhD, I’d taken the equivalent of six semesters of math (calculus, differential equations, and beyond), two semesters of statistics, two semesters of physics, and three semesters of chemistry. I sometimes wish I’d taken more, and I definitely wish I’d taken a computer programming class. Another thing I I recommend for almost anyone interested in hydrology is a class (or more than one) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is a powerful tool for anyone interested in understanding how natural resources are distributed across a landscape, and some employers may expect at least a little familiarity with GIS.

If you decide to go to graduate school, you may find the array of classes that you can choose from to be dizzying. Work carefully with your graduate advisor and your committee to select a set of classes that will serve your graduate research project *and* your future career plans well. There’s no one standard set of classes for people seeking graduate degrees in hydrology, but I took classes like “Forest and Wetland Hydrology”, “Hillslope Hydrology”, “Groundwater Hydraulics,” “Sediment Transport,” and “The Role of Fluids in Geological Processes.” I also took classes that wouldn’t appear to have anything to do with water, things like “Volcanology” and “Glacial Geology”. Those classes were helpful as I continued to increase my depth of knowledge in geology, and because they provide a supporting framework for understanding problems in hydrology. However, the most important part of graduate school is learning to do scientific research and to communicate it well. You’ll learn that outside the classroom through working with your advisor, your committee members and collaborators, and your fellow graduate students.

How did your education help you in your career?

My education through a Ph.D. was absolutely essential to enable me to become a university professor in hydrology. While there are some limited teaching-intensive positions that might not require a completed Ph.D., if your goal is to teach and do research at the university level, you must complete a Ph.D.

What was your career path like in this field? For example, did you begin in one position and advance through others to reach where you are now?

I am in my first position as a university professor. Before getting my job at UNC Charlotte, I had gained some valuable teaching experience as an instructor for an Oregon State University summer session class, and I spent about a year as a post-doctoral researcher expanding my research skills, but this position is the first one to call on all aspects of my training – and then some.

What types of skills is someone required to have to work in your position?

My job requires me to have both deep and broad knowledge of hydrology and related fields, but there are many other skills that are necessary to be a successful hydrologist and university professor. In no particular order, someone like me needs skills in:

  • Written communication – I need to be able to communicate to both technical and non-technical audiences. The written form is the primary way I share my research results with other scientists and secure funding to continue doing my work. I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on student writing, and I also have to write things like letters of recommendation.
  • Oral communication – My job involves speaking to large groups, creating an interactive classroom environment, and communicating one-on-one or in small groups with students and colleagues. Teaching is about 50% of my job and being a communicator and a good listener is vital to being a good teacher.
  • Quantitative, statistical, and computer usage– I spend lots of time in front of a computer analyzing data and doing spatial analysis in GIS. Of course, computing grades also requires low level quantitative skills. 😉
  • Creativity – As a PhD-level scientist, I get to pick the research projects on which I want to work. That means I get to dream them up, and then figure out how to make them feasible.
  • Outdoors – When I get out in the field, skills like map reading, water safety, wilderness survival, and being able to “read” the landscape and weather are essential to keeping my students and I safe and getting the data we want to collect. For some hydrologists, the necessary outdoor skills might include whitewater kayaking or rafting or operating motorboats or snowmobiles.
  • Lab skills – Although most of my data comes from the field, I also do some more traditional laboratory analyses. That means that I need to do things like pipette, clean glassware, and properly store chemicals.
  • Construction – This might sound odd, but I’ve learned to be handy with PVC, wood, metal cable and various other construction materials. My students and I are constantly designing and building our own apparatuses to measure things like peak water height and to safely secure them at our field sites.
  • Personnel and budget management – In some ways, being a researcher is a lot like being a small business owner. It is important for me to be a good mentor to my students, so they learn how to do research, write a scientific paper, and get their degrees. For each research project with which I’m involved, I have to carefully manage the budget so there’s enough money to do the work to completion.
  • Time management – There is absolutely never, ever enough time in the day to get through all of the things that I need to do for my job. Figuring out how to prioritize, work efficiently, and just let go of the things that can’t be done is probably one of the hardest challenges for a new assistant professor. Four years in, the time crunch hasn’t gone away, all I can say is that I’ve gotten inured to it.

What do you do on a typical work day?

Over the course of a typical work week, I spend 4-12 hours in the classroom teaching, 12-30 hours preparing for class and grading papers, 3-8 hours meeting with undergraduate and graduate students about classes or research, a couple of hours in faculty or committee meetings or meetings with research collaborators, several hours dealing with email accumulation, and an hour or two doing what is called “service”, which includes things like peer-reviewing papers or grant proposals and evaluating scholarship applications.

And all of that is before I get to my own research time for generating and analyzing data and writing papers and grant proposals. If I’m really lucky I get to go in the field by myself, with students, or with collaborators. Or I sneak into the lab and run some samples. I try to carve out at least a full workday per week for research time, and I wish I could do more. Summers and holidays give me a bit more room to spend time on research, but in order to keep research going smoothly, it’s imperative that I make time for it even during the busiest teaching periods.

You can probably see that it is very easy to work far more than 40 hours per week as an assistant professor. That’s why I listed time management skills as a requirement for my job.

Do you plan to advance to another position within your career field? If so, to what position and why?

The general progression for a university scientist is to spend about six years as assistant professor, before applying for tenure and a promotion. The next stage is associate professor, and after that you can go onto become a full professor. If you have an interest in and a knack for management, you can try to become the head of a department or even a dean.

As for me, for now, I’m focused on doing good quality research and teaching to prepare myself to apply for tenure in less than two years. I’m trying to mix writing up completed projects, with keeping on-going projects progressing steadily, and writing grants to support new research. That’s not going to change, even with tenure.

What type of person do you think is best suited for a job in your field?

In order to be successful in my career, you have to be highly self-motivated. Love of the outdoors, being thrilled by discovery and data, a passion for teaching, a fascination for your subject…all of these are necessary things too. But they are not sufficient unless you are motivated enough to keep working hard in the face of failure (experiments gone wrong or equipment breakage), rejection (lack of funding for a grant proposal or negative reviews on a paper), long hours (there’s lots of grading), bad weather (working in 100 degree heat or freezing weather), and no one looking over your shoulder (you are your own boss). What keeps me motivated in the face of all that? That’s where the love of the outdoors, the thrill of discovery, a passion for teaching, and a fascination for water come in to play. I’ve got the best job in the world. For me.

Do you have any advice for those who are looking to launch a career in your field?

To summarize: Pick something that fascinates you. Get involved with research projects early and often. Take lots of math. Learn your field deeply and broadly both in the classroom and outside it. Don’t neglect to develop important skills just because they are not taught in formal classes. Learn to manage your time well. Have a passion for what you do and let that be your motivation. And make sure to get outdoors and be around water as often as you can, because that’s what reminds you of the fascination and passion that motivated this career choice in the first place.

Geoblogospheric community: what is it good for?

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

In recent weeks as science blogs have gone careening across the URLs, new blog networks have formed, and bloggers hint about more changes to come, navel-gazing on the role of science blogging has become almost a full-time preoccupation for some of us. Even my non-blogger friends have been asking me about what is happening in the science blogosphere these days. This month’s Accretionary Wedge geoblog carnival topic seems particularly well-timed to turn some of this navel-gazing into writing, and maybe some of the writing into action.

Right now, I feel like geobloggers do a great job of connecting to each other, through reading and commenting on posts, sharing information and building camraderie on Twitter, and through combined feeds like Chris’s all-geo feed (see his post for more awesomeness to come). Geo Girl of Eat. Sleep. Geology. did a fantastic job of describing what it is like to be a member of this community.

I am awestruck by the level of camaraderie and openness that exists in the geoblogosphere and how it allows for communication of real geologic wonderment. The vast expanse of specialties, geographic representations, and experience available at your fingertips as part of the geoblogosphere is unfathomable. True geology is shared en masse and those of us with desk jobs in cube farms bask in the joys shared by the offshore and overseas bloggers, the field geologists, and the twittering TA’s. Perhaps the reverse is true, as the field geos are fighting off the cactus and the mosquitos. The opportunity to learn, share, and experience things beyond your own surroundings is a rich opportunity that shouldn’t be skipped.

But, as Geo Girl goes on to say, “the value of the geoblogosphere is greatly unrealized by those who are not a part of it.” One way to share the value of the geoblogosphere is to proselytize to anyone will listen about how their life would be so much richer if they just took up twitter and blogging….but I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective way to expand our reach. Instead, I see ways that we can expand what we are doing, to make our community bolder, more inclusive, and more outwardly focused. Building that sort of community allows us not just to provide camaraderie and support for one another, but also to act as agents of change beyond the borders of the internet.

Let me use three examples to explain what I mean, by showcasing what we are already doing and where I think we can go from here.

The ability of the geoblogospheric community to affect geoscience issues in the real world, by raising awareness and promoting action has recently been demonstrated with the California state rock, when what began as a blog and Twitter groundswell expanded to op-ed pages throughout the state and news stories in media outlets around the country. When the next challenge comes along, whether it’s in the form of ridiculous rumours about methane tsunamis, lack of reporting on an unfolding natural disaster, or construing volcano monitoring as political pork, will the geoblogospheric community draw on the strategies and resources it has developed to effectively work together to get the word out beyond our blog readers? Should we each be developing continuing relationships with science journalists at our local papers or is there some collective form of action that is more effective for countering geologic misinformation? Will developing alliances with our professional organizations like AGU and GSA enhance the credibility of the geoblogosphere when we do raise our voices? Of course, we might want to make a difference beyond just countering geologic misinformation. Jess Ball at Magma Cum Laude has partnered with the International Volcano Monitoring Fund to raise money for badly-needed instrumentation at Santiaguito in Guatemala. What can the rest of us being doing to help her efforts, and what other ways can we use our blogs to directly impact the collection of geologic data? Is there a geoscience equivalent of things like Project Budbreak, a citizen science phenology project and CoCoRaHS, the community collaborative rain, hail, and snow network, that we could engage with, encourage our readers to participate in, or even dream up and create ourselves? (Yes, there’s Did You Feel It? but some of us don’t live on active plate boundaries.)

For the past few years, science bloggers have participated in the DonorsChoose social media challenge. Last year, a combined geoblogger effort netted $9663 for earth science education in US public schools. Science blogging participation in that drive has been spearheaded on ScienceBlogs by the indefatigable Janet Stemwedel, but as the ocean bloggers showed us last year, you don’t have to have a brand name attached to your blog in order to participate and make an impact. For American geo-types, the DonorsChoose challenge is perfectly timed to coincide with Earth Science Week, making October a perfect month to catalyze our on-line and off-line outreach and education efforts aimed at the next generation of earth scientists. I’m willing to organize a DonorsChoose challenge this October, but I’d love to have help from other geobloggers in making it a success. But DonorsChoose, with its explicitly US focus, leaves out a lot of our community. What are the opportunities to engage with global earth science education efforts? Can we use something like the UK’s National Science and Engineering Week in March or the European Geosciences Union meeting in April to create a time to focus on earth science education outside the US? Is using our bloggy megaphones to raise money even the best use of our collective resources, or is there a more effective strategy to use our internet presence and community to make an on-the-ground, in-the-classroom difference in earth science education?

I think the geoblogospheric community is a largely untapped resource for recruiting, mentoring, and retaining a diverse geoscience profession. We have now voices of women and men from around the world, in industry, academia, and government. We have people who write about rocks, sediments, tectonics, and floods. If we strengthened our ties with climate, meteorology, ocean, and space bloggers we could truly span the range of earth sciences. Put all of that together, and our community provides a fantastic window into the geoscience profession. Even though I’m a water person, I can learn a bit about what it’s like to work in exploration geology or what paleontologists are getting excited about these days. And, as someone who advises undergraduate and graduate students with a range of professional aspirations, I can point students blogs relevant to their interests. Considering going to grad school? Check out Magma Cum Laude, Harmonic Tremors, or Musings of a Life-long Scholar. Thinking about environmental consulting? Check out Accidental Remediation. From those blogs, students can get far more insight into what their potential futures might look like than they can from my cloistered academic self. I think it would be even better if there were more choices out there for my students to read about careers outside academia. I know that there are, understandably, restrictions on what government and industry employees can blog about and that because of those fears there is a higher barrier to entry for potential geobloggers beyond grad school and academia. In some ways, its an incredibly difficult problem to cultivate blogs that show the geoscience profession in industry and government in a meaningful and transparent fashion, but I am (naively?) optimistic that as the geoblogosphere continues to develop and engage with real-world efforts like citizen science and education projects, more employers will see the potential value of letting geoscientists blog. I guess I’m adopting a sort of “build it and they will come” approach, but I’d love to hear other suggestions. Beyond just diversity in employment sector, I think future geoscientists, and the geoblogospheric community itself, would benefit from greater diversity in faces – gender, ethnicity, nationality, and ability. Increasing diversity, without putting undue burden on minority geoscientists to add blogging to their already long list of obligations, is certainly a challenge, but as the geoblogospheric community finds ways to maximize its real-world impact and lower its barrier to entry, I am hopeful that our community will grow and diversify. Finally, I’d like to challenge those of us who write mostly about geoscience news and research, to dip our toes a bit more into the water of writing about the practice of geoscience and our lives as geoscientists. There is an incredibly wealth of blogging going on about lives in science (e.g., as aggregated in the Scientiae carnival), but much of it is heavily oriented towards the biomedical science fields. People contemplating careers in geosciences, looking for solidarity as they write their theses, or seeking advice as they write their first grant can benefit tremendously from this sort of blog reading (I know. I have.), but it’s harder to see the applicability when such writing tends about the intricacies of NIH scoring or experiments in neuropharmacology. It might be much scarier to write about the practice of science than to describe a pretty outcrop, but it does have value. One idea might be to describe what a typical work day is like for you, an idea which would actually be exhuming a long-buried geoblogospheric meme. I’ll commit to doing that in a few weeks when my fall classes begin. Will any of you join me? What else can we be doing to genuinely promote an inclusive and diverse geoblogospheric community?

As I see it, what we have in the geoblogosphere is an opportunity to create a really incredible community. We’ve got the seeds of it now, but I’d like to challenge us to make it more focused on using our talents, interests, and resources beyond the existing community of geobloggers and geoblog readers. If we do that, I think the geoblogospheric community can become an agent of change for our profession and make the sort of real-world difference that motivates many of us in our day-to-day actions.

Hydrology is hot, again.

Want to work outdoors, in a lab, or in front of a computer?  Want to work on solving practical problems in the environment? Want to be a geoscientist with job prospects after graduation? Become a hydrologist.

Over the past 18 months, hydrology hires have increased 30%, while geology hires have decreased by an equal amount.  US News and World Report also lists hydrologist as one of the 50 best careers for 2010. According to US News, “There were 8,100 hydrologist jobs in 2008, and employment should grow more than 18 percent by 2018.”

More extended thoughts on why hydrology is hot can be found here. Or in any of my classes. Or, actually, anytime you ask me what I do and why I like it.

Why hydrogeology is so cool

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. Any further discussion will be found there.

Close your eyes. (OK, maybe keep them open so you can read the rest of this post.) Imagine a geosciences specialty where there are lots of jobs right now. Now imagine a specialty where there are lots of jobs year after year after year. In fact, imagine a specialty where, according to the American Geological Institute, there are four jobs for every qualified graduate and it is described as “recession-proof.”

What specialty did you imagine? If you answered “hydrogeology” you’ve either studied the job market or you’ve read a feature in the 8 August issue of Science.

Almost 80% of U.S. hydrogeologists (~18,000 people) work for environmental consulting firms. These companies specialize in helping other companies, communities, and landowners, with issues ranging from water supply exploration and development, source water assessment plans, remediation of contaminated soils and water, and dealing with all sorts of regulations and permitting. Other hydrogeologists work for government agencies and in the mining and petroleum industries. Most of those jobs only require a M.S. degree, but if you decide to go on for a Ph.D., academic jobs are relatively plentiful (at least compared to fields like igneous petrology or, erm, paleomagnetism).

Aside from the good job prospects, what makes hydrogeology a hot field for a student deciding where to specialize? Hydrogeology is perfect for someone interested using their science skills to make a difference in the real world. Everyone needs water to maintain basic bodily functions and sanitation, so most hydrogeology problems can’t help but be “applied research” at some level. Hydrogeology has also got a mix of geology, hydrology, chemistry, and math, so you can never get bored with it. Trying to put aside my own particular research interests, here’s a short list of topics that I’d say are some of the interesting problems in hydrogeology right now.

With increasing population and increasing urbanization, accessing sufficient clean water supplies is a global problem. Surface water supplies, such as rivers and lakes, are often fully allocated and consumed and are more easily contaminated than groundwater. That makes urban groundwater development an attractive option, but because groundwater pumping can affect lake levels and river flows (and vice versa) conjunctive use must be carefully planned and managed. Sounds like a job for a hydrogeologist!

Along the same lines, there’s a lot of interest right now in actively managing the linkages between surface water and groundwater as a way of mitigating climate variations. During wet periods, surface water resources are used and groundwater is artificially recharged, and during dry periods, the groundwater is pumped back out and used. This sort of scheme, called aquifer storage and recovery, is not just of interest in the arid western US, but also in wet places like Florida.

Discovery and clean-up of groundwater contaminated by hazardous wastes, radioactive materials, and sewage effluents are the bread and butter of many hydrogeologists. These problems are not going to go away, but other substances are getting the buzz in the contaminant hydrogeology community. Recent research as documented the widespread occurrence of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors in groundwater supplies, and we are still trying to understand the distribution of naturally-occurring contaminants, such as arsenic in the deltas of south-east Asia (as featured in a recent issue of Nature). These issues highlight the intersection of hydrogeology and public health.

If climate change is your thing, don’t rule out hydrogeology. In addition to questions of water resource availability and changes to recharge patterns in a warmer world with more intense precipitation, hydrogeologists are playing an important role in examining underground injection of carbon dioxide as a potential sequestration technique for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Finally, I do have to put in a little plug for my own area of interest. If you like the idea of studying groundwater, but also really like to be able to see what you are working with, and maybe even wade around in it, you should consider focusing on groundwater-surface water interactions. There’s lots of cool research being done to understand how groundwater and surface water interact in streams to affect water quality parameters, aquatic ecosystems, and responsiveness to climatic variability.

If something on my laundry list has appealed to you (or maybe you’re still thinking about the job prospects), what should you do? Take a hydrogeology class, of course. If your university’s geology department doesn’t offer one (which would be unusual), look to civil engineering where water classes are also located. Also make sure that you have a solid background in core geology areas like sedimentology and structure. Consulting firms will expect you to be able to log drill cores and interpret geologic maps. After that, you should consider taking additional water related classes such as contaminant hydrogeology, physical hydrology, groundwater modeling, or mass transport. You should also try to find an internship with a local consulting firm or government agency; that will give you crucial work experience and help you get your feet wet, so to speak. (Caveat emptor though, my career path has been a pretty typical academic trajectory from undergrad through faculty position.)