This whole cruise (“cruise,” like we haven’t been in the same place this whole time) has been absolutely incredible, and I cannot believe that this is actually my job. I got paid yesterday, like for real work! I am incredibly lucky to be a part of this. And if I suddenly jumped back to being an 18 year old college freshman, I could not replicate the series of life decisions that led to me being a professional paleontologist if I tried. I decided to major in geology because I liked being outside, the Earth history parts of my GEO 101 class blew my mind, and I thought I’d have to take less biology than if I majored in Environmental Science. I got into micropaleontology because I did well in my Sed/Strat class and the professor, Neil Tibert, asked me if I wanted to do an undergraduate research project, and his field was micropaleo so that’s what I did. I got into the Cretaceous because I went to UMass to work with Mark Leckie, and I did that because Neil did his PhD with Mark and encouraged me to go there. After all those unlikely coincidences, it was just a matter of getting a PhD and applying to sail and now here I am.
As you’ve probably gathered, I’ve really enjoyed my time on the L/B Myrtle. Going into the field is my favorite part of my job, and it never happens enough. I’ll spend the next year (at least) looking at the samples we’ve collected out here. And it’s not that lab work isn’t interesting (it is, thank God), it’s just that there’s not the same sense of discovery and the unexpected. When we’re coring, each new core is a surprise (and we had some great surprises on this expedition). You never know what’s in front of the drill bit, and it compresses the whole scientific process. Something changes, and we predict what we will see next, and then when the next core comes on deck an hour later it proves us right or wrong. Working under these conditions is just plain fun, and it was very exciting to throw a micropaleo sample under the microscope for the first time and see what age the latest core was. The subsequent lab work lacks that sense of discovery. Lab work is more about doing the hard work of developing the ideas you’ve had, and trying to prove them to the larger scientific community. This is very satisfying, but I will always prefer when my office is an outcrop or a ship or a drill rig than when it’s an actual office. And I still can’t believe I get to spend a career asking and answering cool questions about the history of the Earth.
Posted by Chris Lowery
Featured Image: CLowery@ECORD_IODP