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From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Geology Rocks! How I got involved with Occidental Petroleum

by Tania Campbell

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Here I am hiking the world famous Permian Reef Trail at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park to study carbonate rock outcrops.

I’ve worked as a production geologist for 11 years for Occidental Petroleum, and while that is a long run with one company in the energy industry, it has gone by fast. I remember being introduced to rocks in middle school, but by the time I was in high school, I was more interested in marine biology. I then went on to successfully complete a dual bachelor’s degree in marine science and geology, which laid the foundation for understanding carbonate rocks and basic geologic principles, starting me down my path as a production geologist.

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The Miami Circle, where American Indians carved a circular structural support out of bedrock limestone.

The first community project I got involved in that I attribute as a catalyst to my geology interest was working with an archaeological site called the Miami Circle. Approximately 2,000 years ago, American Indians used the bedrock limestone to carve out a perfect circle to support a structure. As a volunteer I only found a few animal artifacts, but I was most interested in the exposed limestone.

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A sample of core that has been cut and slabbed after it was taken from the subsurface in a well. A geologist will describe the rock types and features observed, and other interpretative data is combined to make geologic models and maps.

There are so many different kinds of specialties in geology that sometimes it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out what you want to do. I kept an open mind and set off to learn more with a master’s degree at a different school. It is highly recommended that geologists have their master’s if they want to work in the petroleum industry. I studied hydrogeology and petroleum geology for my master’s, which has helped me work better with team members from engineering backgrounds and develop further in my core profession of doing reservoir characterization. My role involves describing and modeling the layers of rock in the subsurface to predict the most favorable areas for continued secondary and tertiary hydrocarbon recovery.

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Hiking with other geologists through the canyon cuts to map the rock types and observe vertical stacking of the layers of carbonates and siliciclastics.

I am extremely thankful for my education and the career opportunities that have brought me to a place where I enjoy coming to work. Every day there is a different problem to tackle. Sometimes it requires communicating with engineers and understanding other types of non-geo data, or sometimes I need to go on a field trip to an outcrop or a core lab to visualize what the rocks could look like in the subsurface. Or Maybe that day I make maps of the reservoir. It is forever changing in the geology profession.

About the author: Tania Campbell is a production geologist with Oxy Permian Enhanced Oil Recovery, a global corporation partnered with the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) program to help educate girls through hands-on science activities and outreach.

Because Work is Ruff: Take Your Dog to Work Day at the Museum

by Victoria Smith, HMNS Executive Assistant

 

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Here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, we love all animals, not just extinct ones. When we heard it was Take Your Dog to Work Day, we thought that sounded like fun. . . maybe a little too fun considering how many pre-historic bones are here. Since letting Fido roam free in the paleontology hall could be a bad idea (and by bad, we mean “potentially devastating to years of scientific research”), we decided the next best thing was to take pictures and show the world, that, yes, our pets love science as much as we do! Employees were encouraged to dress their pets in geeky, museum or science-related costumes, and the winner would receive prizes from the geek-chic line of pet products in our Museum shop. It was hard to pick just one winner, but we decided one little dog proudly embraced his role as a Museum Employee Pet.

 

Some people might think entomologists are nerds, but we think Celeste Poorte’s job as our Butterfly Rearing Coordinator is to help creatures find their inner beauty.  It is something she also does with George, her hairless and semi-toothless Chinese Crested dog, who may, in fact, be a bit of a nerd.

Some people might think entomologists are nerds, but we think Celeste Poorte’s job as our Butterfly Rearing Coordinator is to help creatures find their inner beauty. It is something she also does with George, her hairless and semi-toothless Chinese Crested dog, who may, in fact, be a bit of a nerd.

And here's what she won!

And here’s what she won!

 

There are so many great employee pets, we decided to share a few more.

Esteemed Anthropologist Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout has studied quite a few bones and skeletons, a love he shares with his dog Sparky (who isn’t afraid to wear his heart—or femur--on his sleeve)

Esteemed Anthropologist Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout has studied quite a few bones and skeletons, a love he shares with his dog Sparky, who isn’t afraid to wear his heart—or femur–on his sleeve.

Kenneth Collins has been with the Museum for almost 20 years.  He’s the Sugar Land Facilities Manger now, but he got his start taking tickets for the Butterfly Center.  His dogs stay true to his roots.

Kenneth Collins has been with the Museum for almost 20 years. He’s the Sugar Land Facilities Manager now, but he got his start taking tickets for the Cockrell Butterfly Center. His dogs stay true to his roots.

To become an HMNS Concierge, you need to be knowledgeable about various Museum topics.  Lourdes Martinez has earned her place on the team, with a little help from her chiweenie Chico, whose interests include Egyptology and paleontology.  At the end of the day, they like to unwind catching up on Doctor Who.

To become an HMNS Concierge, you need to be knowledgeable about various Museum topics. Lourdes Martinez has earned her place on the team, with a little help from her chiweenie Chico, whose interests include Egyptology and paleontology. At the end of the day, they like to unwind catching up on Doctor Who.

What does it take to learn the finances of a world renowned institution?  A lot of studying, hard work and maybe graduating at the top of your class, like this vale-dog-torian who is ready to join Jill Lee in the Museum’s accounting department.

What does it take to learn the finances of a world-renowned institution? A lot of studying, hard work and maybe graduating at the top of your class, like this vale-dog-torian who is ready to join Jill Lee in the Museum’s accounting department.

Victoria Smith is an Executive Assistant at the Museum, but at home she gets assistance from Captain Tripod McStumpy who is always willing to lend a paw (but only one).

Victoria Smith is an Executive Assistant at the Museum, but at home she gets assistance from Captain Tripod McStumpy who is always willing to lend a paw (but only one).

Karen Whitley plans birthday parties at the Museum, but it's not all fun and games.  Or is it?  Her cats get in on the fun with the ultimate game of cat and mouse.  Checkmate!

Karen Whitley plans birthday parties at the Museum, but it’s not all fun and games. Or is it? Her cats get in on the fun with the ultimate game of cat and mouse. Checkmate!

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Kelly Russo is our Director of Online Media which means she has to follow proper rules and protocol . . . unlike her dog Wynnie who is quite the rebel.

Kelly Russo is our Director of Online Media which means she has to follow proper rules and protocol . . . unlike her dog Wynnie who is quite the Jedi rebel.

Have no fear, Coco and Loki are here, with their trusty sidekick Sheila George, Manager of Online Media at the Museum.  If your online media needs to be managed, just send the bat signal and Sheila George will be there, with her trusty sidekicks Coco and Loki.

Have no fear, Coco and Loki are here, with their trusty sidekick Sheila George, Manager of Online Media at the Museum. If your online media needs to be managed, just send the bat signal and Sheila George will be there, with her fearless superdogs.

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Martine Kaye will go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your corporate group has a great visit to the Museum.  She hasn’t welcomed anyone with a parade and fireworks yet, but her dog Cleo thinks it’s a great idea.

Martine Kaye will go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your corporate group has a great visit to the Museum. She hasn’t welcomed anyone with a parade and fireworks yet, but her dog Cleo thinks it’s a great idea.

One Night Only HMNS Film Screening: Queen of the Sun

When you sit down for a meal, at least one out of every three bites you take is thanks to a pollinator, and that’s not just fruits and veggies. The animals that produce meat, milk, eggs and other animal products must be fed as well, and that feed often starts with flowering plants.

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To produce fruits, vegetables and seeds, about 75 percent of flowering plants require pollination. Birds, bats and some small mammals serve as pollinators, but most, about 200,000 species, are insects. These plants create not only $20 billion annually in U.S. products consumed by humans, but feed an entire ecosystem, and urbanization and pesticides are threatening the pollinators that help them grow.

Learn more about pollinator concerns and the lives of honey bees at the Houston Museum of Natural Science with a screening of Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?, a one-night-only event tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23 at 6 p.m. Enter the world of the honey bee colony with Dr. Nancy Greig and the HMNS beekeepers as they join scientists and farmers to discuss the current global bee crisis, and share ways to bring these critical pollinators back into a balance with nature.

For advance tickets, visit www.hmns.org/lectures or call 713.639.4629. Check out the Pollinator Partnership to learn more about preserving pollinating species.

Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice through the Eyes of a Geologist

by Michele Wiechman

 

When people think of Iceland, the first thing that pops into their heads will likely be “the land of fire and ice.” This is fitting due to the fact that nearly 75 percent of Iceland is covered by lava fields or glaciers. It’s also a land of extremes. Icelandic volcanic eruptions have been impacting the planet as long as humans have been recording history, its landscapes are what we picture an alien world to look like, and its people have adapted to some of the harshest living conditions on Earth.

Iceland is one of the top destinations for geologists around the world not only because of its extremes, but because it is a world-class laboratory to study basic geologic principles.  Luckily, this past year I got the opportunity to travel there with three coworkers, all geologists. In a week, we got to experience the unique Icelandic culture, see an active volcanic eruption, explore ancient lava tubes, hike on a glacier. Oh, and we also got to see the northern lights!

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Most people really first heard about Iceland because of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010.  Due to the amount of melt water then flowed into the volcano, the eruption was quite violent. Air travel was disrupted across Europe due to the volcanic ash in the air and many people had to evacuate their homes due to flooding from the melting glaciers. In 2015, Iceland had another major eruption, Holuhraun; however, this eruption did not impact humans like Eyjafjallajökull. The eruption opened a large fissure 1.5 km long and created a lava field that covered 63 km2, the largest in Iceland since 1783.

image2image3Due to the large amounts of volcanic activity, Iceland has an incredible amount of lava tubes. Only a small proportion of these tubes have been discovered and explored. Because of the large amounts of caves and ease of accessibility, caving has become a favorite pastime for Icelanders and tourists alike.

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Iceland owes its volcanic activity to its position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The ridge is a divergent tectonic plate boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates. There are only a few places on the planet where the rift occurs above the water surface, the Thingvellir Rift Valley is one of them.

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Iceland’s position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and its intense volcanic activity make Iceland one of the leaders in geothermal energy. While most people actively enjoy a number of natural geysers and geothermal hot springs, most people don’t realize that the hot water they are enjoying has a number of other uses. Bore holes bring up hot water to supply the public’s hot water needs and to create electricity. Approximately 26 percent of the island’s power comes from geothermal sources.

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We can’t forget about the ice part in “the land of fire and ice.” Glaciers and ice caps cover 11 percent of the land area of the country. The southern portion of the Iceland is home to a number of beautiful glacial lagoons, including Jökulsárlón glacial lake. The lake is at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and has been steadily growing with the retreat (melting) of its glacier. Huge blocks of ice have calved off of the front of the glacier, resulting in a number of icebergs heading out to the ocean. This can be concerning for the shipping traffic off the coast of Iceland. Melting of the glaciers in Iceland also results in increased flooding that can have negative impacts on transportation structures and homesteads in the area.

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image12Iceland is an incredible place, not only because of the impressive geology but also the unique experiences afforded to travelers. I would highly recommend it for any scientist, travel junkie, or casual tourist.

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About the author: Michele Wiechman is a geologist for Oxy Permian Enhanced Oil Recovery, a global corporation partnered with the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) program to help educate girls through hands-on science activities and outreach.

Photo Credits: Jordan Drew, Kate Pollard, and Michele Wiechman. Photos may not be used without the author’s permission.