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Alumni: Amy Draut, Class of 1997

Current Employment
Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, CA

Amy's Story

I would tell anyone considering a geology major or career that it is the most fun you're likely to have doing useful, interesting, and rewarding work. At Tufts, I was drawn to geology because the subject was fascinating and provided a way to work outdoors much of the time, which is important to me. Geology gets you involved with a great community of people, too. While working on a B.S. in Geological Sciences at Tufts, I also did a summer internship in coastal geology at the University of Hawaii (studying beach erosion) and went to a 6-week field camp in Montana through Indiana University's program, to improve my field mapping skills.

I completed a Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics in the MIT/ Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint degree program, focusing on sedimentology. During grad school, I worked on field projects in Ireland, Alaska, and Louisiana, and traveled to many other places during classes and field trips. Since 2003, I've been with the U.S. Geological Survey in Santa Cruz, CA, where I'm a research geologist.

My research projects are varied and no two days at work are alike. I spend 20-40% of my time in the field: mapping the sea floor offshore California, studying flooding patterns in coastal Hawaii, monitoring how floods change river channels in Olympic National Park (WA), and studying how wind-blown sand affects the preservation of archaeological sites in Grand Canyon National Park (where I'm also in charge of the weather stations). My work is used by National Park managers and Native American tribes to help understand the effects of dams on rivers, and then to decide how to manage dams in ways that minimize environmental impact. It feels like my work makes an important contribution, and it's very enjoyable at the same time.

I've always had colleagues who, like me, have fun being geologists. Unlike in many other careers, you find that geologists don't watch the clock checking to see if it's time to leave work yet. People commonly stay on past normal retirement age because they find their work interesting and fun. There's a big gray area between work and play; my field work requires hiking, backpacking, whitewater rafting, or scuba diving depending on the project. Although I often can't believe I get paid to do this, it's definitely not a lark either—it's hard work for useful purposes that happens to be fun.