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Outdoor Science Career?

  1. May 1, 2012 #1
    I'm a freshman in college who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do. Currently, I'm in a biological engineering program and doing well in the intro math/science/engineering courses. Until recently, I thought that I wanted be a scientist working in the newly established field of biophysics due to my love for biology and math/physics, but after joining a neuroscience lab and working on a somewhat theoretical project I think I have changed my mind... I actually find it quite boring.

    Let me give a little background:
    I first became interested in research during high school after a summer of field work with birds. This experience made me realize how tangible science really can be. The next summer, I worked for a month at a national park in Michigan doing conservation work and loved it. These two experienced really made me appreciate and "connect" with the outdoors.

    Up until recently, I always thought that being a field biologist was basically the only way to combine science and the outdoors. The problem is that I want to do something that is very quantitative as well. So I figured my only option was to either choose biology and work in the outdoors doing field work that won't take advantage of my quantitative skills or work in physics/engineering and be cooped up in a lab all my life but get to enjoy doing the math. I thought I could sacrifice not being outdoors, but I'm starting to realize otherwise.

    I recently found out about the field of geophysics which sounds like a great mix of outdoor field work and quantitative lab work. I'm just looking for some other suggestions for science/physics fields that would include outdoor field work and that may match my interests.

    Thanks to all who can help!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2012 #2


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    Have you thought about working as a fisheries biologist? They survey fish populations, oversee hatchery operations, and conduct stocking operations, among other duties. Lots of counting, measuring, estimating biomass in fisheries, so there is quantitative work in addition to the field work.
  4. May 1, 2012 #3
    Hmm interesting. I'm not sure if that would be enough math to keep me interested but I'll look into it. Thanks
  5. May 1, 2012 #4
    Engineering, for the Dept of Agriculture, or the Forestry Department.
  6. May 1, 2012 #5
    Become a particle physicist and work at cosmic ray detectors in Antarctica.
  7. May 1, 2012 #6
    Does 'outer space' count as the outdoors? :biggrin:
  8. May 1, 2012 #7
    That would be amazing!

    Actually, I originally wanted to major in physics and go the astronomy/astrophysics route but chickened out (for a good reason I believe) because I've heard the horror stories about employment. I am VERY interested in space and always have been but I thought it would be a good idea to keep that as a hobby instead.

    Possibly geophysical or planetary physics really would be the best fit for me... Does anyone know if planetary physics could involve any fieldwork or is it mainly just processing data from satellites etc. ?
  9. May 1, 2012 #8
    no offense, but that's like saying "what career can I have where I'd be physically active" and you said "Olympic athlete, NBA superstar, there's lots of options!"

    I think its harder to become an NBA superstar or Olympic athlete than it is to become a particle physicist that gets to go to Antarctica...
  10. May 1, 2012 #9
    The decision you make now is going to have very little effect on what you end up actually doing. Don't worry about it. If something interests you enough then I'm sure you'll like it even if it's an inside job.
  11. May 1, 2012 #10
    Tying into the geophysics suggestion would be oceanography. Admittedly, research excursions in this field tend to involve boats, but given that ~ 70% of the planet's surface is water, it certainly would - in principle - open up a lot of area to cover in a hypothetical career. Naturally, if you're prone to seasickness, it may not be an ideal route.

    I would of course see about trying to do something a bit more experimental in nature in your current biophysics lab - it can be a bit difficult to appreciate the theoretical background right off the bat. I was fortunate in that my undergraduate research supervisor had me doing a lot of wet bench work while I acclimated to the lab. There was reading and partial digestion of some critical papers, attending group meetings, and generally being irritating before I really began to grok what was going on with the research. In the meantime, though, I was able to point to samples I had made and was being shown the technical details of how to run the instrumentation.
  12. May 2, 2012 #11
    Mike, thanks for the suggestions. I'll be working in the lab this summer so hopefully I'll get some additional exposure to different aspects of the lab work. I'll keep what you said in mind.
  13. May 3, 2012 #12

    Dr Transport

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    environmental engineering/science
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