THE SAVVY TRAVELER: LEARNING LANGUAGE & CUSTOMS OF INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH
The first project involved an experimental investigation of a particular groundwater remediation technique. The medium investigated was geologic, the experimental design and execution was influenced by the civil engineering culture, the results were applied by mechanical engineers, and the overall interest in the project came from public policy makers. Another project on bioremediation of groundwater was conceptually based in microbiology, but required extensive work in analytical chemistry before it could be of interest to environmental scientists. The third project is focused on pharmaceutical contamination in ground and surface waters. The results may have general public health implications, but the immediately interested parties are dairy and swine farmers. The project can only move forward by fairly sophisticated analytical chemistry, guided by principles of organic chemistry. The fourth project is investigating the occurrence and abundance of an insect in ground water. While the entire venue is hydrogeologic, entomology becomes the key ingredient in determining the relative significance of the results.
In each of the cases mentioned, success was/is dependent on asking questions, approaching problems and evaluating results within the different disciplinary cultures involved. This often requires language and customs foreign to a geologist.