GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 307-10
Presentation Time: 4:05 PM


OLSON, Carolyn, USDA, Climate Change Program, 14th and Independence SW, Washington,, DC 20250,

Looking back over a career, it can be difficult to mark milestones and turning points: why are you where you are now and what decisions placed you there. Some of the most critical measures are: skills sets, ability to apply academic training, developing mentors, the ability to communicate and ‘time.’ All of these come with the added challenge of being a woman. Most geologists are trained in an academic environment and as with most women geoscientists they are overachievers, extremely well-qualified but concentrate narrowly in one topical area. Major advisors encourage PhD candidates to go on to an academic career in a university setting often in their advisors image, sometimes to the detriment and often disappointment of the newly minted professional. There are many ways to pursue research positions both with field and laboratory work that are available in the private and public sectors outside of academia. Similarly there is a place for modelers and science policy advocates outside of academia with both Masters and PhDs. Interdisciplinary studies can be a conduit to a much greater skill set and an expanded job market than a focused geologic discipline in one specific field. I found that my options were greatly increased because of minors chosen in related fields of soil science and civil engineering. It is never too late to learn new ‘tricks’. A second Master’s degree in Public Administration led me not only to supervision and management, but to the basics of global climate modeling and to a new job function. Science policy can open new doors to advocacy of science in an area that is nearly devoid of strong science backgrounds. Mentoring and networking are key to advancement in employment. While many of us are lucky to have an advisor who takes on the role of mentoring during their academic career, some of us may not realize the enormous benefit of a mentor during graduate school. There is no rule that states you must have only one mentor nor must those mentors be within your academic discipline. Many programs exist now in which ‘signing up for mentoring’ is used. A forced mentorship programs is often ineffective. And finally ‘time’. Choosing a profession that does not disappear after a few years, being flexible and staying current as that profession changes over the decades safeguards your professional career.