Going for Gold

Good day everyone! Welcome to my first post of 2018! Firstly, I wanted to thank you graciously for continuing to read my content, even if it does veer away from geology at times. “Rock Bottom: Part 2” remains outstanding, but lets save that for another time. I must also issue an apology for the time that has passed since my last entry, as dealing with a severe lack of motivation has recently hindered production. For this article, I would like to wrap up my summer job experience of 2017, as well as touch on an exciting career advancement that I have had recently in the field of geology.

When the summer came to a close back in September, my contract with the Joggins Fossil Institute was about to expire. My time at Joggins was brief, but invaluable. I made new lifelong friends, and for anyone that knows me well, knows that this is not an easy feat as I lack the desire to be in social situations the majority of the time. In addition, I was able to gain a plethora of scientific knowledge; mostly relating to the Carboniferous Period which is when the geology of Joggins was formed (roughly 300 million years ago).

This information stemmed from my own research, but more importantly from coworkers and visitors to the museum. On one particular tour, I had the pleasure of leading a geologist who was involved in the discovery of the spectacular Carboniferous fossils in Wales. I was speaking with her about her work as it was coming time for her to leave, but I could tell she didn’t want to go. She was in awe to have seen the best representation of Carboniferous fossils in the world, and it showed plainly on her face.

I have learned over the course of the summer that geologists are a very modest breed of scientists. Most of the geologists I have lead on tours usually chose to go incognito, and if I happened to find out there was a geologist on my tour, chances are they were not an expert on the paleontology and geology of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Most scientists tend to concentrate on very specific subject matters, and the geologists that visited Joggins realized that they had much to learn about other geological topics, including the Fossil Cliffs. I was appreciative of the fact that they allowed me to teach them, and there were several things that they taught me.

I like to live by the short but simple quote once uttered by the popular scientist, Bill Nye. He said that “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” This mindset allows me to be open-minded and provides me with the opportunity to learn from everyone I encounter, geologically or otherwise. The geologists I met this summer were thankfully of the same mindset. Conversely, the so called “know-it-alls” were typically rock hound hobbyists, who liked to think they knew more than anyone in the museum or on the beach. This is an exceedingly dangerous attitude to possess, because they are likely not open to learning very much. Why would they be if they think they already know everything? Fortunately, this personality type was encountered rather infrequently.

I also had the opportunity to learn a great deal about myself. Primarily, it has confirmed the fact that I am severely introverted, and that working with the general public is typically not my preference. I was able to grin and bear it, and used geology as a tool to help me converse with others. I even enjoyed it a lot of the time, and I miss being there now. But it took a lot out of me. On my two days off, I would mostly hibernate in my room, recovering from the amount of social interaction I had to partake in that previous week, and psyching myself into it for the following week.

Even though working with the general public is not my first choice, I learned that I was able to do it on a level I never thought possible. About 9 or 10 years ago at one of my first jobs working in a café, I was barely able to muster up a quiet “Hi” to the customers I was serving. Fast-forward to this past summer, and I was able to lead tours with upwards of 40 people, sometimes up to 4 hours in duration. Some time ago, I would have bet all of my possessions that this was something I could not have done, but I realized I was capable of more than I had once thought, even if it was uncomfortable at times. Every so often life will force you to dive in head first. That being said, I used geology as a crutch very heavily, but I was pleased to accomplish this personal feat. I mean, who else can say they lived as a rock star and were on tour every day of the week? Well, besides the person I stole that line from (Thanks, W.F.).

One afternoon at the end of a tour, a visitor had struck up a conversation with me, asking me if I was a geologist. I informed her I was, and she then proceeded to inform me that her son was also a geologist, but was leaving his job in Ontario for another position elsewhere. I asked her where he worked so I could take mental notes as there was now a new job opening in the geosciences field. She couldn’t remember what the name of the company was, so she called her son to ask him. Next thing I know, I am speaking with him on his mothers cell phone, still down on the beach, technically on paid-time. He asked me for my information, and the next week I received a call requesting my resume. The week after, I received a second call for a pre-screening interview. A few days following, I had a telephone interview with the managers of the site, and was offered the job a few days after that. I must say, I am forever indebted to this stranger on the beach and her son, for playing a massive part in helping me land my first permanent, full-time job since graduating.

The company which I am now working for is called SGS, and the position I hold is Geochemist/Wet Laboratory Technician. The “wet” refers to the fact that I work with liquid chemicals, such as various acids, cyanide, and of course water. We test and analyze rock samples to find out how much gold is in each sample, and report the data back to the client. These are mostly sent to us by various gold mining companies based in-and-around Northern Ontario. We also analyze samples for copper, carbon and sulfur, but gold is our main squeeze. I will not go into too much detail with an explanation of what we do in the lab in this publication; this will be the topic of perhaps the next blog article. There are many moving parts to this job, and it truly deserves a post of its own to allow for a proper description.

The town that I am now living in is called Cochrane in Northern Ontario (Canada, of course). The climate here is classed as sub-arctic, however, I didn’t truly realize just how much the weather varies from my home in Nova Scotia. The winter here runs from about October to April, and temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius are considered normal during the heart of the winter. The sky is consistently grey, and it seems to snow a little bit each day. The shrill sound of snowmobiles zipping on top of the compacted snow is surely to be heard at all times of the day and night, as everyone here seems to own one. For a good 5 months straight, I could count on one hand the number of times I saw the sun shining. It has been quite a difficult adjustment period.

At the present time, there does seem to be a good number of jobs for junior geologists in Canada. However, as a recent graduate with little geology-related work experience under my belt, I was mentally preparing myself to be unemployed or working another minimum wage job while searching for a job within the realm of geology. From graduation, to my summer at the Joggins Fossil Institute, to my current job at SGS, I couldn’t feel more appreciative. It is a calming feeling knowing that I now have a secure job; one that I always wanted, too.

Cochrane, Ontario. Photo from Wikipedia.


2 thoughts on “Going for Gold

  1. Good for you Mel! We are so glad to hear that you have followed your passion and doing so well.Life has taken many twists and turns for you and here you are!

    Sent from my iPad


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