Reflections from Jeffrey Hedenquist
About the Project
I worked in the USGS Pacific-Arctic Marine Geology program on the Coastal Sedimentology project, led by Ed Clifton. The summer I was with the project we worked in Willapa Bay, Washington, north of the Columbia River mouth, the largest undisturbed estuary in the lower 48 states. The project characterized the sedimentological features of the estuarine environment and its transition to the open ocean. I was one of 4 field assistants to 3 professionals, and everyone was a certified SCUBA diver. The work program included collection of box and tube cores of sediments throughout the estuary, X-raying slices to reveal internal structures, and freezing samples for transport back to Menlo Park, plus other field work.
Most Memorable Experience
I became part of a group of professionals and assistants working in a challenging environment, from slogging across mud flats to coping with rip currents during tidal flows, the latter while in SCUBA gear. It was all new to me, including professionals giving me responsibilities and (brief) instruction or direction. It was a great environment, learning by doing.
The summer of field work followed my junior year, and at the start of the summer, I was unsure of what I would do after graduation. However, by the end of the summer my work with geologists in the field made it clear that this is the direction I would head for my career. Four decades later I am still working in the field as a consultant, plus writing up research results and editing the papers of others.
How the program contributed
Without a doubt, participation in this program was the starting point of my commitment to a career in geology. I had spent time with professionals in the field, tops in their discipline, and saw how hard they worked - but there was still time to relax, during our weekly TGIS (late Saturday afternoon). I worked with the same group the following winter, spring and summer, and then attended graduate school, assisted by strong letters of reference from two of my mentors.