Sarah Doelger: Engineer II - Boulder, CO

 

Being employed as a field engineer for UNAVCO has never, not once, been dull. There is really no way to describe or categorize the position other than as “interesting.” This is also how people respond when I attempt to explain my job at social gatherings.

 
 

I have, for example:

  • Strapped precision instruments to donkeys on a remote Pacific island

  • Negotiated (with goats, not paper currency) for local assistance deep in the Ethiopian desert

  • Staked out a GPS site at 17,000 feet on the flank of an active Chilean volcano

  • Logged thousands of miles careening around the southern countries of Africa in a pickup truck with two seismologists.

  • And, whacked plenty of Philippine plants with a machete in the name of terrestrial laser scanning.


Often on such adventures, I have felt urged to pause for a moment and consider, “they pay me to do this?” It is also not uncommon to hear a co-worker joke, “enjoy your vacation,” before I head out to particular tropical locations. Certainly, however, the work is not without its challenges. Sometimes I witness my lovingly constructed GPS stations die at the hands ofvandals or large angry mammals. On other occasions, I have to sleep in sweltering, grimy, far away places crawling with tarantulas. Additionally, supporting scientific research around the world requires moving the necessary equipment around the world.  That is, customs issues need to be dealt with,different cultures accounted for, and sometimes, difficult personalities accommodated. Even so, providing engineering support to scientists, who may study anything from volcanology to tectonics to geomorphology to peat bogs, is always intellectually stimulating and very satisfying. Returning home to the office to deliver quality data to a principal investigator is oftentimes the best part of the job.