Dr Steve Hood describes how using a petrographic microscope during a university earth science course changed his life. To be able to look inside a rock and see its structure, composition and origin opened up to him the world of geology. Apart from the lab work, being able to go into the field adds to the enjoyment of being an academic geologist
DR STEVE HOOD
The thing that was new to me in probably first year earth science was a petrographic microscope. I had no appreciation that one could look inside a rock and see the components and get a story. So that is something that’s fascinated me since first year. Always had in interest in physical geography at school, but when I got to earth science at Waikato University, started appreciating the internal workings of rocks and particularly minerals. So going on into master’s, the petrography, what’s inside limestones particularly, how they work, their history, how they’ve come together is something that I took through into my PhD working on an oil reservoir rock in Taranaki and then through into seep work.
So I particularly enjoy the nitty gritty – what’s inside the rock, how it got there, but before you do your microscope work, you’ve got to go out into the field, so the enjoyment of going out into the field with colleagues, particularly Cam Nelson, students on field trips – that is the outdoor laboratory if you like – and then bringing the rocks back and then unravelling often a complex history for these rocks.
If there’s a school-age student that’s currently keen on rocks and minerals and fossils, I think it’s important to do science firstly at secondary school, maybe a little bit of chemistry although that might sound a little bit scary to some, even a little bit of maths. Clearly, the physical geography side is really what we build into earth sciences at university. So a geography/science background, an enjoyment of the outdoors, but there’s certainly good employment opportunities in earth sciences, whether that’s at regional sort of level and Environment Waikato, for example, in Hamilton or whether it’s in mining or petroleum particularly overseas in Australia at the moment. A lot of our graduates are getting very good jobs in both those fields.
Department of Earth Science, The University of Waikato
Dr Megan Balks
Bruce Mercer, Mercer Photography
Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre