Thursday, May 29, 2008

Would it be unethical to publish this image?

I'm a field-based structural geologist/metamorphic petrologist. I try to sort out when rocks were squashed or heated or buried or cooled, and use that timing to make arguments about what happened in the middle or lower crust. And that means that my evidence is often visual: field photos of folded dike, or thin section photos of foliations, or backscatter electron images of minerals frozen in the midst of an ancient chemical reaction.

Back in the day, I used film. I'm not a great photographer, but I learned to develop black and white film to try to get decent images of thin sections. (Then I laid a piece of mylar film over the photomicrograph, sketched the outlines of the minerals with a pen, scanned the drawing, and re-did the entire thing on a computer in Canvas. And published the two images side-by-side.) I also would take many exposures of everything I photographed, because I could never tell what would show up well in the developed film. And backscatter images... those I took using big pieces of polaroid film, and it was hard to guess just what combination of contrast and brightness would work.

Now, I don't do any of that. I've got a little digital camera that I take into the field, a digital camera on our polarizing microscope, and digital images of every mineral I even consider probing. But I may be sloppier as a photographer. A photo might be a bit too dark, or too bright. I leave off the tungsten filter on the microscope, for instance, and then take a set of adjacent pictures, knowing that I can easily splice them together in Photoshop.

When I'm done, my photomicrograph looks like this:

Is it ethical to publish this? It's a doctored image, and an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed says that means that it shouldn't be in a journal.

It's all automatic doctoring, though - I used Photoshop's automated photomerge command to splice the photos together, merged the layers, and used the auto color adjustment to fix the yellow color from the tungsten light. In the olden days, I would have taped photos together into a mosaic, or adjusted the microscope magnification to get the image I wanted. I would have used a tungsten-balanced film (after taking an entire roll of yellow images) to avoid the yellow color. I would have taken multiple exposures to make sure the image was not too bright and not too dark.

And the photo isn't raw data. You, the reader, can't do all the things that I did to make sure I was identifying the minerals correctly. You can't spin the stage and watch the biotite change color. You can't cross the polars and see that the andalusite is grey, and the high-relief mineral (kyanite??) is red. You can't put in the gypsum plate and spin the stage around (though I know you want to). You've got to trust me that the mineral I say is garnet is really black under crossed polarizers.

But you can see some of the things that I want you to see. See the little yellow staurolites? See those white things beside them? Those are pressure shadows... and the garnet doesn't have them. You can see why I think the kyanite has partially replaced the andalusite - and you can tell me whether you've ever seen a texture like that before.

Is it doctored data, an intellectual lie? Or is it an attempt to show you what I see when I look at the rock?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Flaky weather

On Tuesday, temperatures were in the 80's Fahrenheit. It cooled off Wednesday, and today, it did this:

It started snowing on Wednesday in the high country, which may explain the hydrograph for the Animas River:

(Image source: USGS Water Watch)

I was talking to one of my colleagues about the daily peaks: notice that they were always before noon. (Compare it to the gage height graph from Ouray, posted at Geology Happens for this month's Accretionary Wedge.) And the peak discharge was on Wednesday, when it started cooling off.

My colleague reminded me that the Animas has a long way to go from the high country. Nobody rafts all the way from Silverton to Durango - there's an impossible-to-run section deep in the canyon, clogged with logs, certain death to even the most skilled kayaker - but he had a good sense of how long it takes to get through town at high water. It made sense that the water might take around 16 to 20 hours to make it down to Durango. That would explain the morning peaks, and also the highest discharge on the day it started to cool.

And the diurnal fluctuations have disappeared. The snow is currently accumulating again, up to a foot and a half of snow predicted in the high country this weekend. I hope for the sake of the soon-to-arrive field camps that it melts quickly. Though the water managers may have different wishes.

Job opportunity (MS/PhD): Field Program Coordinator

Normally this kind of info gets passed around by e-mail (or shows up in paid ads), but I don't have MS or PhD students myself, and I know there's a lot of competition for academic-related jobs these days, even if geology-related industries are booming. So... a job ad.

Got an MS or PhD? Enjoy field work, including handling logistics? Interested in pedagogy in the outdoors? Want to live in the Bay Area? Need a job? If that sounds like you, you might be interested in this job opportunity:

Position Description: Field Program Coordinator (Stanford University)

The School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University is seeking a Field Program Coordinator to support and grow our field program. The primary responsibility of the coordinator is to facilitate the development and execution of field-based courses both local to Stanford and abroad, primarily in California, the Rocky Mountains, Hawaii, and potentially Alaska and South America. The coordinator will work closely with faculty and graduate students to support existing field-based teaching, develop new field-based courses, and develop and test field labs, offering both logistical and pedagogical support. In addition, he or she will coordinate field opportunities throughout the school, providing assistance to existing courses as necessary. Courses cover a variety of subject areas, including geological field mapping, ecology and environmental science, remote sensing field campaigns, and interdisciplinary courses that include a strong cultural component. The primary role of the coordinator is to help develop and execute all components of the course, including logistics such as housing and transportation, making and maintaining connections to local agencies and landowners to receive permissions, scouting appropriate field data collection sites, and maintaining some equipment. This position reports to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Specific tasks include:
• Work with individual faculty to help develop new field activities and courses
• Coordinate development and support the teaching of multi-faculty, interdisciplinary courses, including a quarter-long course in Hawaii and a 3-week Sophomore College course
• Collect and maintain logistical information for conducting field courses
• Work with coordinator of the shared Field Measurements Facility to schedule field equipment usage, train new users, and purchase new equipment as necessary
• Work with Undergraduate Program Coordinator to develop learning outcomes in field skills for undergraduate and graduate students and categorize field opportunities based on skills expected and skills achieved
• Work with Web Producer to develop and maintain a field trip database including location, skills, maps, background information, and field guides
• Update and maintain web pages advertising field opportunities and recording results of past field courses
• Work with Directors of Alumni Relations and Communications to communicate field program outcomes to alumni and report on use of funds
• Work with Health and Safety Coordinator to develop and offer field safety training courses
• Coordinate scheduling of field trips and field research courses in Earth Systems, Energy Resources Engineering, Environmental Earth System Science, Geological and Environmental Sciences, and Geophysics
• Provide logistical support for field trip planning, including the maintenance of camping equipment and scheduling the use of camping equipment, vehicles, and campgrounds
• When necessary, attend field trips and/or courses to act as on-site field camp manager

Advanced degree (MS or PhD) in the Earth/environmental sciences with demonstrated excellence in field project management; 2+ years experience in managing field projects or coordinating and leading field trips is required. High degree of cultural sensitivity required; experience collaborating with a variety of cultures and/or communities desired. Familiarity with techniques of data collection in the field highly desirable; may include experience in geologic field mapping, surveying, environmental consulting/data collection, or other field research skills. Flexibility and willingness to learn new techniques, strong communication skills, and a comfort working with a variety of people are essential. Exceptional organizational skills are required. Writing and editorial skills are expected; web skills are desirable. Demonstrated ability to take initiative, to carry out responsibilities, and to exercise good judgment are critical. The application deadline is June 30, 2008.

To apply, go to and search for “Field Program Coordinator.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Using blogs to advertise for jobs?

I've got a question, oh readers. I've been asked to pass word of a job opening on to anyone who may be interested. It's open to people with an MS or a PhD, and it's field-oriented and teaching-oriented without the pressures of a tenure-track academic job. It's the kind of thing that I suspect many exhausted geology post-docs or disillusioned MS students might be looking for (assuming they wanted to live in the Bay Area). So my first inclination was to describe it on the blog, figuring that there may well be people reading who would love the job.

But, on the other hand... there are lots of organizations that fund their publications, in part, with job ads. I'm a member of some of them (AWG, GSA). I think the friend who sent me the ad expected me to pass it on to former thesis students, not to advertise it to the world at large. (I don't think she knows I have a blog.)

So. Are job ads appropriate for a blog? (I would only post ads that I thought were unusual - not typical ads for faculty positions, which are usually in EOS and Geotimes, or for industry positions. But if I saw something interesting and out-of-the-ordinary, I might pass it on.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NPR interview about aftershock prediction

NPR has an interview with Walter Mooney of the USGS about expectations for aftershocks of the Eastern Sichuan earthquake. It's a good explanation of what seismologists can predict (things like the size of aftershocks) and what they can't (the exact time of aftershocks). Mooney also talks about the stress changes that can trigger later earthquakes - science that's been developed in the nineteen years since I was in Loma Prieta (and heard Mooney, amongst other people, talk about what to expect).

All that knowledge doesn't help when villages are buried by landslides by the shaking, however. It sounds like the most difficult problem, as with natural hazards from California to Indonesia to New Orleans, is that there are a lot of people in the world, and most of them aren't able to choose a perfectly geologically stable place to live.

My response to high gas prices...

John Fleck from the Albuquerque Journal asked his readers whether the rising price of gasoline was changing their behavior, and got some interesting responses. A few days late, I'm going to answer here.

  • I figured out how to use cruise control on my car. Yes, I realize it isn't rocket science, but I had an irrational fear of careening off the road while trying to figure out which buttons and levels and knobs controlled my speed. But I figured it out.

  • I started keeping a little notebook to record gas purchases and mileage. My dad used to do this in the 70's, but my husband and I weren't organized enough to keep doing it once we had a car. But my car is a 2001 model, from the days of cheap gas, and it doesn't tell me what mileage I'm getting. (Plus the IRS now requires some kind of clearly synchronous record of business travel, and this seemed to be a good way to record it.) The results: my Subaru gets 28 to 30 mpg.

  • And finally... I'm moving. Into town. To a house within walking distance of work. The decision was driven more by the realization that I'm going to be a soccer mom, and living outside of town means that every activity takes an extra forty minutes because of driving. If I could reduce the driving time, I could do more research, or exercise more, or spend even more time telling my son that he needs to put his shoes on, or read more stuff on the internet. (This will also allow me to eventually replace the Subaru with something that gets high gas mileage, but doesn't have all-wheel drive. And most of the time, I will replace the Subaru with my feet, a bike, and the town bus system.)

If my blogging seems light, it's because I'm spending my blogging time cleaning the house so that it looks nice for prospective buyers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Animas from above

The photo that I took yesterday didn't do justice to the Animas, so today I went for a run on Animas City Mountain, and took photos from about a thousand feet above the river.

Showing the meanders and oxbow lakes:

My campus is just on the high terrace across the valley, just off the right side of the image.

Looking northeast, showing the transition from a braided stream to a meandering stream. The valley bottom is flat because a lake formed as the glacier melted, and its water was trapped behind the end moraine:

The big rockfall is across the valley from this trail. I've got a zoomed-in photo of it, as well.

And the source of the water is still visible to the north, barely. The snow is going fast, but I'm glad I'm not trying to do field work above treeline yet.

Discharge when I took the picture was about 5500 cfs, according to the USGS. It dropped again this evening, but it's still above 5000 cfs. It's still supposed to be warm tomorrow, and then a storm system is coming through. Might snow on Thursday, and then rain through Sunday.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Signs of spring summer

  • Hummingbirds (arrived two weeks ago).
  • Flowering shrubs (first flowers last weekend).
  • The Animas River at bankfull, with big brown waves and lots of kayakers. (There's a pool in town to predict the maximum spring flow. The winner will be announced June 1. Meanwhile, I'm going to hand out and watch people play on the river this Friday.

(This photo is upstream of the youngest moraine, in the meandering section of the Animas River. The boaters play further downstream. Flow was up to 4290 cfs today, for anyone considering dropping everything and heading for the river.)

(The photo is also taken from the parking lot of my son's daycare. Ron, this is just downstream of the United Campground.)

  • Tourists standing in the middle of the street, taking a photo of a Victorian hotel. (And there wasn't even a stoplight there. I mean, Durango drivers are generally polite, but this was one of two intersections on Main Avenue that don't have lights. I try to avoid crossing at those two places - not everyone stops. And this guy was totally oblivious to anything but his photography!)
  • Crowds of orange-vested twenty-somethings, scribbling on clipboards or field-hardened laptops, on the road that cuts through the moraine from the last glacial maximum. I expect to see vans beside the last outcrops of the Cretaceous seaway sometime this week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

AWG's pilot mentoring program accepting mentees

The Association for Women Geoscientists has been putting together a pilot mentoring project over the past few months. They've been accepting mentor applications for some time, and now they're making their last call for both mentors and mentees.

From the AWG e-news:

The AWG peer mentoring pilot project has been enrolling mentors since our kick off at the AWG Transitions Convention. We have an interesting mix of AWG mentors, professors, environmental professionals, research lab scientists, and oil and gas professionals. Some are experienced mentors; others are excited to learn how to pass along their experience. We now have more mentors than mentees now but are still accepting mentor applications.

Most people have had informal mentoring relationships over the course of their career. Some employers provide on the job training that is called mentoring. However, there are many reasons to work with an external mentor in a facilitated mentoring relationship. Are you wondering what your next career move should be? Do you need to find someone who can help you:

o Find new role models?
o Gain feedback in a confidential relationship?
o Enhance your networking skills?
o Tap the career wisdom of the senior members of the organization?
o Gain insights into the professional culture?
o Gain wider friendships?
o Gain increased skills to self-direct your career?

Maybe it is time for you to work with a mentor. Noted women’s career advocate, Sheila Wellington, reports, “Mentors are more important to career success than hard work, more important than talent, more important than intelligence. Why? Because you need to learn how to operate in the work world – whether in a corporation, a professional firm, a nonprofit, a university, or the public sector – and mentors can teach you how.”

Don’t let this opportunity pass! Visit the website soon to fill out a mentor or mentee profile: Mentees must be AWG members.

The website provides a matching process that allows mentors and mentees to each have a choice in the assignment increasing the likelihood of a successful mentoring relationship. The site offers a training tutorial for mentors and mentees, an open access library of mentoring articles, and additional training materials for participants. The site also automates a monthly support program with suggestions for ways to use a mentoring relationship for competency development.

To our knowledge, the AWG Peer Mentoring Center is the first web based mentoring program designed specifically to connect women in a scientific professional organization for coaching or mentoring relationships. Many professional scientific organizations are now embracing mentoring programs for their membership or their student members. Our program combines elements successful in workplace mentoring programs with those from telementoring programs that support students. Our program will teach you about mentoring and support your mentoring relationship.

This is a unique opportunity to enhance your career and help AWG to develop an important new program to benefit our membership. Feel free to contact me with any questions, Thanks!

More information and forms for signing up here. Mentees must be AWG mentors; mentors can be anyone.

(Also, I'm not sure why they don't list the mining industry as employing mentors. If you work with ore deposits and want to help mentor, your expertise might be needed!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NPR's China earthquake coverage

NPR had a crew in Chengdu, the large city near the May 12 earthquake, when the earthquake struck. They have a recording of the earthquake itself (scroll down and look on the left side of the page for a link), and a blog with stories before they go on the air. (It's hard to read, as a parent - so many kids in schools, and left in apartment buildings with grandparents...) Back in the US, NPR interviewed USGS seismologist Lucy Jones about the earthquake (and how it was the same size as the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906).

It's good coverage - sensitive to the human tragedy and careful about describing the geology and engineering. And there are photos on the blog that give a sense of the topography - steep hillsides with one-lane dirt roads and thick vegetation. Difficult terrain to get through - it's easy to see why rescuers have only reached the epicenter today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Basin and the Divide

Geologists can have a weird kind of double perception of places, seeing the world as it is, but also seeing the world as it was in the past. I’m sitting here in Durango, wondering what the weather will be like tomorrow. But in my mind, I’m also 25,000 years in the past, looking down on the outwash plain from the Pleistocene glaciers that covered the San Juan Mountains. Or maybe I’m sitting on a delta, watching the Cretaceous interior seaway recede. Or maybe it’s 1.7 billion years ago, and I’m watching a continent grow.

(You may imagine how confusing this can get for students. I tell them that they are standing on a Cretaceous beach, and they think: “No. You’re standing on a rock. And you’re about to fall off of it.”)

I was thinking about this last week, as I drove down into the San Juan Basin, and up over the Continental Divide.

In Durango, it can be easy to mix up today’s topography with that of the past fifty million years. Both the mountains and the rocks slope upwards to the north, and the rivers drain south. To go downhill on the road means to drive into younger and younger rocks, from the Precambrian granites and gneisses exposed in the canyon of the Animas River to the Paleogene sediments of the San Juan Basin. And Farmington, New Mexico, the center of the basin’s energy industry (though, like Durango, it sits on the geographic edge), is somewhere around a thousand feet lower than Durango. So I think of New Mexico as being down: down topographically as well as down on the map.

Somewhere around fifty, sixty, seventy million years ago – I don’t know the dates, and I’ve read arguments about them, but it was late Cretaceous through early Paleogene – my part of western North America started to get its mountains. However the Laramide orogeny was caused (flattening of the subducting plate under California and Nevada is the model that has survived the most criticism), by around seventy million years ago, it was forming isolated mountain ranges and basins all through the intermountain West. The rocks on the edges of basins are bent up into hogbacks and monoclines, probably faulted at depth. And in the middle, there’s sediment. Lots and lots of sediment. In the San Juan Basin, there’s gray and green and slightly purplish shale and siltstone with tongues of sand, and there’s a tan sandstone that caps it all. The Four Corners Geological Society wanted to put scenic highway signs explaining it. The state of New Mexico laughed at them, but there is a certain lonely beauty to the badlands.

So in the Paleogene, water flowed down from Durango and into the San Juan Basin, and dumped mud, and sand, and sand, and mud, until the sand and mud were thousands of feet thick. (And then the coal beneath the sand and the mud got hot enough to make natural gas.) And as I drive across northwestern New Mexico, two hours between towns, I think about the basin.

And I drive uphill.

The Continental Divide in New Mexico isn’t that high, but it still separates the arroyos that flow towards the Colorado River from those that aim at the Rio Grande. The divide itself lies in sandstones at the top of the San Juan Basin sequence. At one point, rivers flowed there and deposited sand. Somehow, I think of that spot as a geologic low point: the basin. But sometime after the San Juan Basin filled with sand and mud, the Rio Grande Rift pulled New Mexico open on one side, and the Basin and Range dropped the base level in Arizona on the other, and the two great rivers went their separate ways. And this spot, in the San Juan Basin, now separates them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tectonics of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake

The M 7.9 earthquake that struck Sichuan province in China is already tragic, with at least 10,000 people dead. It's China's worst earthquake since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake - the earthquake that killed at least a quarter of a million people, and maybe many more. MIT's tectonicist Clark Burchfield is quoted in the NY Times as being surprised that an earthquake of that magnitude (which requires a lot of fault to have moved at once) occurred in this particular spot. But although the size might be larger than one would expect, the type of earthquake isn't. This isn't a classic plate boundary earthquake, but it's part of the way that continents respond to continent-continent collisions.

In the big picture, India is moving northward and colliding with Asia. That's what created the immense mountains of the Himalayas, and the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau, in the first place. This earthquake, however, was not on the plate boundary itself. It was off on the eastern edge of the Himalayas, on the boundary between the high country and the Sichuan basin.

Here's the USGS earthquake location map. The pink lines represent the collisional plate boundaries - the boundary between India and geologic Asia runs along the southern end of the Himalayas. This earthquake was within Asia proper.

But continents are... well, continents are kind of wimpy, actually, in terms of deformation. They're made of rock that's easier to break than oceanic crust is. And on top of that, they're thick. And when they run into one another, the continental crust gets even thicker. And that thick, weak crust can break within itself - it doesn't behave like the classic rigid plates that "plate tectonics" is named for.

The crust of Asia breaks in a number of different ways. Parts of it are squeezed out, especially to the east, where it can run over the subducting Pacific plate like a semi over a squirrel. Parts of it actually stretch east-west, creating features like Lake Baikal up in Russia. Parts are pushed over each other, making the height of the Himalayas and Tibet possible. And parts are squeezed over other parts of Asia. And that's what's happening on the northwestern side of the Sichuan basin - the edge of the Tibetan Plateau is running over eastern Asia, in this case, along a classic thrust fault, sloping about 30 degrees down into the ground beneath the edge of the mountains.

You can also see the movement of Tibet in this map of GPS velocities:

(From Gan, Zhang, Sun, and Sun, 2006?))

Each of the arrows represents the movement of a GPS monitoring site compared to the rest of Eurasia. The southern Himalayas are moving north; the Tien Shan mountains, north of the Tarim basin (white, north of the Himalayas) are moving much more slowly, and the eastern Himalayas... are moving east. Or even south.

And at the Sichuan basin, that green blob east of the Himalayas, the GPS velocities drop. There's a change in movement. And that M 7.9 earthquake took place where the change occurs.

The Google earth image (from the USGS Google earth KML) of the earthquake and its aftershocks shows the setting closer-up:

It looks like the earthquake was on the basin-bounding fault. It looks like there are ridges in the basin running parallel to the fault, too - ridges that are cut by rivers. They are probably actively growing folds... which means there are probably active thrust faults running underneath the basin itself, not just under the mountains.

Those faults, at least, don't seem to have moved.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where geologists do Science

Seed magazine wants pictures of where people do science. The post is entitled "What's your workbench?" - which says something about the stereotypical view of science.

Clearly, they need pictures from geoscientists.

I mean... this is where I do science:

They need pictures of volcanoes and deserts and glaciers and mines and beaches and rivers and Subaru hatchbacks full of labeled sample bottles and ship decks tilted 90 degrees from the water surface and vertical rock faces. And they need them from better photographers than me.

Go get 'em.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Double rainbow during a thunderstorm Tuesday, while I was driving to Socorro, New Mexico (to use the microprobe at New Mexico Tech). Those are the Sandia Mountains, east of Albuquerque, in the background.

Sometimes I wonder how anyone in Albuquerque could be anything but a geologist. The Sandias are just there, one of the loveliest pink granites I've ever seen, with a little upper Paleozoic sedimentary icing on top. (And the granite is even a little deformed!) And then there's the Rio Grande running through town, wide and braided and looking very wet right now. And south of the city, basalt flows sitting on top of sediments, right there in the roadcut.

Ok, so it doesn't have enough water for its exploding population. (Bernalillo seems to have sprawled more every time I drive through.) But it's still a gorgeous place.

Also, Albuquerque has a Trader Joe's. I won't drive four hours for Trader Joe's, but I'll stop there whenever I'm driving past.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tag clouds for papers

I didn't write a Sunday Stroll yesterday, because I spent it doing spring cleaning. (Wheee! Giving away baby toys to a preschool yard sale!) I may write something late, because I heard a hummingbird on Saturday.

So: making tag clouds for papers must be a meme now, because Brian, Lab Lemming, Maria, and ReBecca have all done it. So here's Hannula et al, 2000:

created at

It passes the suck-up test, because none of my committee members ever worked in this area (or even in this mountain range), and all my co-authors were undergrads. It fails the waffle words test, though: "generally" and "suggest" are both in there. (I'll let "dominant" slide, because I was talking about rocks with multiple foliations, so it's a legitimate term in this case.

Here's Hannula (um... 2002? 2003?), from the Journal of Geoscience Ed:

created at

This one included text from a number of labs, so it's a bit strange. (32nd is a street number used for reference in a topo maps lab.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

So you want to work with undergrads: II and a half. Industry experience?

First, Daniel Promislow from the University of Georgia sent me a link to a book he co-authored on getting an academic biology job. I haven't read it, but a book will probably have more carefully-thought-out advice than a blog post.

Second, Chuck brought up an interesting point in the comments to my previous post:

I think it is both amusing and sad that having any kind of work experience in the fields which your students can expect to be employed is completely absent from this list.

It's a good point. In the searches I participated in, some (but not all) of the applicants for the jobs had experience either in industry or in government, but I don't think the search committees explicitly looked for practical experience as a criteria for choosing members of a short list. This may have been unusual - the result of a combination of the positions in question, the institution (private SLAC in most of the searches), and the times (ten years or more after oil & gas stopped booming... last time). But it might also have been a pure academic's ivory tower bias.

I think we did consider professional experience as a plus when it provided evidence of the ability to teach certain subjects. But the experience alone wasn't enough - the applicant needed to put it in some kind of context and demonstrate that he or she had some idea of how to take that experience and translate it into effective teaching. ("My three years working for Big Oil Company on exploration of fractured shales allowed me to see the practical side of my training in rock mechanics. I have developed a lab exercise for Structural Geology that teaches the basics of rock fracture while showing the importance of fluid flow - both gas and water - through cracks in rock." - Not a real quote, btw - I haven't read any applications for structural geology positions.) Industry or government experience could be used to support statements in the cover letter, the statement of teaching interests, or the statement of research interests.

Different arguments are going to be effective for different positions. (If you're being asked to teach a course in Ore Deposits, it shouldn't be difficult to explain why industry experience is important. If you're being hired to teaching Mineralogy, Petrology, and additional advanced and introductory courses that fit your interests and the department's needs, you could still make the case, but it won't be as obvious. You would need to be explicit - talk about how your experience used the skills students need to learn to work on all sorts of different rocks, and how you can teach the fundamentals using ore deposits as an example.)

And different institutions have different attitudes toward vocational training. Private liberal arts colleges, in particular, see themselves as educating citizens, not training geologists. Most of my students at my previous institution aren't geologists now - there are doctors, lawyers, nurses, investment bankers, teachers, and at least one owner of a catering company/bed & breakfast. Students majored in geology because they liked it, not because the major would guarantee them a good job. And that attitude allowed the department (and similar departments) to survive in the 90's, when geology jobs were scarce and geology departments were being shut down for lack of students. And courses for non-majors are a significant portion of the teaching load at those schools - and from the administration's point of view, the non-majors courses may be the only really important ones. A career-oriented argument ("I know what students need when they graduate") probably wouldn't be very effective in that context. An argument about connecting textbook knowledge with important issues in the real world, on the other hand, might work.

Small public colleges, on the other hand, tend to be more practical. A connection to jobs (and the skills necessary to get and keep jobs) would probably be a better sell. (Public liberal arts colleges are a bit of a hybrid. My department thinks practical experience is important, despite having hired me. We've got several people in the department with varied experiences outside the Ivory Tower. But there are plenty of other faculty across campus who will argue that extreme focus on a career is not the purpose of the institution. Any prospective faculty member would need to remember that general education is a big part of our mission, too.)

In all cases, applicants for jobs at undergraduate institutions should remember that they'll be teaching a lot of non-geologists. I've seen a lot of applications that don't seem aware of just how important non-majors are.