22 December 2009

2 Year Blogiversary

Posted by Jessica Ball

Two years already! (It’s a good thing Callan started his blog up before I did, because otherwise I would completely forget to do this. Hope you’re having fun in Patagonia, Callan!)

Things have changed quite a bit for me since I started this blog two years ago. I finished working at my first real job, started graduate school in a new state, got my first apartment, earned a great fellowship, visited active volcanoes in three countries, been invited to be on a GSA committee, started freelance writing, and adopted a new kitty. (Surprise! I thought I’d avoid putting a bunch of kitty photos up, but maybe just one or two at the end of the post…) It’s been a very exciting time. Sometimes – in fact, often – stressful, sometimes crazy, but always interesting. (Isn’t there some sort of curse to that effect? May you live in interesting times!)

The past year has been a big part of that. So far…

  • I earned an NSF Graduate Fellowship, and because it guarantees three years of funding, I’m almost finished switching from a masters to a PhD. This was something I certainly hadn’t expected, but I’m happy with it, since after my first semester of grad school was over I knew I didn’t want to stop work with a masters. It’s just so fun! And I have great teachers at Buffalo – I’ve learned so much in the past year, and I’m really lucky to have found such a good fit in my graduate school. (And hey, I can’t help but be excited about the fellowship, since it takes a lot of stress away. TAing and taking classes and trying to research all at the same time was rough.)
  • I went to Guatemala and Italy, and got to see volcanoes erupting in both countries. Guatemala was a real eye-opener for me – not just because Santiaguito is a really cool (and unique) volcanic dome, but because I’d never visited a third-world country before. Aside from the food poisoning, it was a fascinating experience, and it really drove home that I want to study volcanoes so I can help people as well as for the sake of research. I also felt my first big earthquake there! Italy was amazing, naturally, and I don’t think I’ll ever find another place that combines history, food and volcanoes in such a fun way. I hit a few rough patches on that trip too, but I’m glad I had the experience. 
  • I gave my first talk at a professional conference. This was, frankly, petrifying, at least before I gave the thing. First talk of the session, 8 in the morning, in front of a whole room full of geologists who’d been working in my field area for decades? Talk about nerve-wracking! But the talk went well, I didn’t run over my time, I managed to answer questions without sounding like an idiot, and no one got angry or argumentative when I gave conclusions that differed with their older studies. I know this won’t always be the case, but at least I had a chance to ease myself into giving talks in a professional setting without being totally traumatized. 
  • My volcano articles on Geology.com started getting pretty popular! In fact, one of the professors at UB who assigned an extra credit paper about volcanoes said that my articles were the second most popular reference in her 300-person intro class. She even congratulated me on it, which was neat. I’m glad that they’re proving useful (and that people think they make good references for geology students).  And I’m getting a lot of good writing practice in at the same time…

As I said, some big changes and great experiences. Hopefully there are a lot more to come! And now, because I promised, here’s Sabrina, the newest member of my family, busily absorbing volcanology along with me:

Well, maybe not absorbing. But the Encyclopedia of Volcanology seems to make a good blanket, too!