Erik, 31, is a research geologist for the petroleum geology branch of Saskatchewan Industry and Resources (SIR) in Regina, Saskatchewan. He works at the SIR subsurface geological laboratory researching carbonate rocks to promote and develop the oil and gas industry in the province. He received his bachelor of science degree in 1994 from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
Stephanie: What made you decide to become a geologist? How did you become a geologist?
Erik: I would like to be able to say that I knew I would become a geologist since the age of six while looking at my rock collection, but that is not the case. While I had always been interested in the outdoors and the natural world around me, geology as a profession did not occur to me until I was already in university. I started at the University of Saskatchewan in a general arts and science program, and one of the sciences that I had enrolled in was geology 101. In that class and the accompanying lab, something in me just clicked. I felt completely at home with the ideas and concepts that were being taught, leading me to realize that geology would definitely be something that I could do as a career. Four years and many difficult classes later, I had achieved a B.Sc. in geology. However, I do not believe that I fully became a geologist until I had actually worked as one.
Stephanie: What are the different areas of geology that one can specialize in? What is your area of specialization and what kind of work do you do in the field?
Erik: The two main divisions in the geological field are informally called "soft rock" and '"hard rock" geology. A hard rock geologist is concerned mainly with igneous and metamorphic rocks, and as a result, deals with mineral deposits, mine development and bedrock mapping of remote locations. A soft rock geologist deals with sedimentary rocks, and is in all likelihood working in or with the petroleum industry.
I fall into the latter category, working for the petroleum geology branch of Saskatchewan Industry and Resources. Of course, the field can be further subdivided when one goes to graduate school to become a sedimentologist, petrographer, geochemist, paleontologist or another type of sub-specialist.
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Erik: Sometimes I think that being a geologist is somewhat like being a detective. You examine the clues that a rock gives you to determine the processes that had deposited it there. From that, you hope to be able to figure out where certain other types of rocks may be found. This is the general process that you go through to find economically important things such as petroleum pools and mineral deposits. If you are lucky enough to have a job where you are allowed to think about where to find such things, it can be very rewarding and almost addictive.
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Erik: Often, in order to get to "the good part" which is the rock detective work, a lot of data, such as drilling depths, assay values and sample locations, has to be gathered and compiled. Sifting through this data can become quite tedious, but is still very important to the final outcome.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a geologist?
Erik: The advice I would have is to make absolutely sure that this is something that you want to do. Many people consider geology to be more of a lifestyle than merely a job. Working in remote locations and being away from family and friends for long periods of time is commonplace. Make sure that you know this, and can deal with it.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a geologist? What kind of education did you get?
Erik: Generally people need a four-year bachelor’s degree from a university in order to begin working in this field. I graduated in 1994 with a B.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan. Many people specialize further and obtain master’s degrees and doctorates in geology in order to get more senior work positions or to work as professors of geology at the university level.
Stephanie: What is your favourite rock or mineral and why?
Erik: A very good question! This is something I had not thought of before. Considering my current research interests, I would have to say limestone. Limestone is deposited in warm tropical environments, and can contain an excellent fossil record of what life was like on the planet millions of years ago. It can also host great quantities of oil and natural gas, which makes all geologists happy.
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