Monday, July 21, 2008

Going in the field with students

Thanks for the welcome back comments, everyone. It’s good to be back.

When I saw Ron Schott’s call for submissions to the Accretionary Wedge on the topic “Field Camp Geology” on Saturday, I thought, wow, what an appropriate way for me to re-enter the scene on blogging. University above the Arctic Circle is located in the middle of world class outcrops of rocks from the Precambrian to the Quaternary and teaching is strongly focused on field based activities. This is one of the things that attracted me to this location in the first place, but it is also a challenge. Not the least in the practical sense. In a few weeks I will be leading a field course to several localities I have never visited before. There are no road signs here, and one needs to know from which side of the mountain the ascent is easier, where the best outcrops are or where it would be convenient to place, say four groups of students, who should work on the same formation, but not breathe down each other’s necks. This kind of knowledge requires a familiarity with the localities that cannot be achieved from the literature and which isn’t easy to obtain in the course of a few weeks as a new faculty member. Therefore I’m happy to have been asked to tag along as a co-teacher on another field course in the department, led by an experienced colleague who has been working on these outcrops for a long time. We are leaving today and alas this trip is also getting in the way from me writing a more coherent post on my thoughts on field camps/ field excursions or dig out some old stories on time for the Accretionary wedge. I will leave you with a photo from one of the places we’ll be going to and I’ll be back to talk more about field trips in general and this one in particular in a week’s time.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The one in which I reinvent this blog

Once again I've been missing in action for a very long time. My mini-sabattical turned into a tough and demanding writing boot camp (though a very productive one) and I lost inspiration for blogging entirely. For some people academic writing and blogging go hand in hand, for me the energy put into the former seems to correlate negatively with my motivation for the latter. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even have the energy to sign on and write a short reply to the people who actually came here to ask how I was doing. I'm sorry, but your comments were very much appreciated.

As I talked about in the spring I was undecided about which direction I wanted this blog to take, and couldn't strike a tone I was entirely satisfied with. To the endlessly repeating tune of what would I write on the blog if I wanted to update it now, spring and early summer was taken up by finishing a major writing project, field work and moving, and then lately, slowly settling into a new place. I have been here for three weeks now. The house is still a mess and my office is still in boxes, but it feels good. Summer classes are well underway. I'm leaving for the first field trip with students on Monday and I'm working on the final adjustments to the syllabus for the fall semester undergraduate course. I've even managed to do some edits to a manuscript and do some small research tasks every day.

I'm happy and I think I will enjoy working here. I'm also nervous about how I will manage to get grant money, if I will ever come up with a good research topic for this particular location, how interaction will be with the rest of the department and how the switch back to a sub-discipline I haven't really worked actively in for several years will pan out. Thinking about what a source of inspiration and support the academic blogging community has been to me in the past, when navigating other difficult paths from the dissertation to the post doc to new teaching and admin responsibilities made me realise that I wanted to jump back on the wagon. It also made it clear to me that what I'm most interested in here, is how to navigate the academic carreer as a person, as a scientist, as a geologist and as a teacher. I have learned a lot from watching others and I want to share my version as well. Ideas about whether this should be more personal or private and maybe in my mother tongue or whether it should be a more streamlined research blog are just out of line with that main interest, and maybe setting some boundaries for myself about what this space is, will actually allow me to do something more interesting with it.

I may redesign the page a bit, to make it a more professional place for me. I want to be able to talk more freely about what I do, and since I'm in a very small place now, that due to its location and priorities gets a lot of attention, it will be easy to figure out who and where I am. I don't think I will come out of the pseudonymous closet, just yet, but I want the page to be in a way where I wouldn't be terribly embarrased if a colleague found it. Changes are not likely to happen over night as I will be travelling an awful lot over the next couple of months, but at least I am back in the game, and am looking forward to reconnect with all my lovely blogfriends.