A Writing Intern in the Field

-by Sara Tewksbury

As the science writing intern for the EarthScope National Office, field work is not generally a part of my job. However, earlier this summer I was lucky enough to lend an extra hand in the field, removing seismometers that had been deployed in 2015 and were done collecting data. I joined Doug Christensen, Geophysics professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Matthew Whitley, a research assistant with the Alaska Satellite Facility. The seismometers that we pulled out are expensive, so they are a shared scientific resource and they move around to different locations in order to maximize their data collection potential.

Our first stop was in Anchorage, where we boarded a float plane for a one-hour flight to Beluga Lake and then Judd Lake. It was my first time on a float plane, so it was definitely the highlight of the trip! We also drove to 10 different stations on the Kenai peninsula, including Soldotna, Nikiski, Ninilchik, and Seward, among others, to remove instruments. We then had to prepare all of the equipment to ship back to the IRIS/PASSCAL instrument center in New Mexico.

As someone who has written about the seismometers, I was glad that I was able to experience even a small piece of the hard work that goes into deploying and removing these instruments. Our removal job was straightforward: we hiked out to each site, took down some recordings to make sure the instrument was still working, and then carried the equipment out. The equipment included the seismometer—an expensive and delicate instrument that gets carried back on its own in order to not damage the internal mechanics—followed by 20-pound batteries that we had to carry back to the car. In some cases that was just a few feet away, but in other cases, it required maneuvering up and down hills, all while being eaten by mosquitoes. Although the field work was mild in terms of difficulty, I felt out of place. In some cases, I felt weak. But I was happy I got to do some physical work and that I got out of the office for a week to see some beautiful places while gaining a better understanding of the work that I write about.


My first ride in a float plane! to remote field sites to remove seismic stations. I joined Doug Christensen (project PI with the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Matthew Whitley (research assistant with the Alaska Satellite Facility). (Credit: S.Tewksbury)

Top Image: Loading gear at Beluga Lake. (credit: S.Tewksbury)