Chuck at the Lounge of the Lab Lemming has a good Monday-morning meme: bad geologic habits. What things do you forget to do – or do when you know you shouldn’t?
I am probably an embarrassment to everyone who ever taught me*. Here’s an incomplete list of my bad habits:
- Leaving gear at outcrops. (I’ve actually put bright-colored tape on my rock hammer, to make it easier to see. I also have cultivated the habit of carrying my hammer and my map in my hands, rather than in a pack or attached to my belt, so that something feels wrong if my hands are empty.
- Forgetting my camera. Argh. Never go anywhere without a camera, if you’re a geologist. Geology is everywhere. You never know when you’ll see an example that will be useful in class. And when you’re doing research, and your observations are part of your data, well…
- Forgetting to take pictures. Especially pictures with people in them, or pictures of gorgeous views.
- Forgetting spare batteries for the GPS.
- Forgetting to set a waypoint for the car. Or to mark the location of the car on the map. Fine if the car is in the parking lot at the trailhead to the wilderness (which is often, these days), but if it’s on the side of a Forest Service road someplace deep in the woods…
- Not packing enough food or water.
- Sloppy and incomplete note-taking, especially at the end of a day that’s been frustrating or repetitive. It may seem as though I will never, ever forget the nth identical field description, but three years later, that’s not true.
- Not wearing sunscreen. I know, Mom. I know.
- Leaving samples at outcrop, instead of putting them into my pack.
At least I learned to write sample numbers on multiple places (rocks, sample bags, pieces of paper tucked into sample bags), to put my data on my map while I’m in the field, and to be redundant in my field note-taking. (I was in grad school the last time I had to throw out data because I realized, while plotting it, that the combination of measurements was geometrically impossible.) And I’ve only locked the keys in my car once while doing field work. I think. And I’ve never come down the opposite side of a mountain from where I thought I was. (Though I did once walk all the way around a hilltop in deep fog during grad school. That was before GPS, though. And I found my chisel while I was lost.)
*Actually, I know this isn’t true – my students have gone on to TA for some of my professors. Maybe I’m successful at “do as I say, not as I do.”