Being a hydrologist
On August 14, 1978, I walked into the USGS office in Eugene, Oregon to start my career with the USGS, as a hydrologic technician, GS-5. I spent 4 years there learning the field work, and with the help of two excellent senior techinicians, Mike Crumrine (actually Milo but he doesn't like being called that), and Dwayne King. Dwayne could build anything from wood with only his eye and a pencil. He quickly learned I couldn't saw a straight line if I tried with the line drawn and couldn't use power tools without damaging something or hurting someone.
During those beginning years, I learned the basics of streamgaging and record production that stayed with me my entire career. Mike was a great lead technician and friend. Our office had the area covering the middle Oregon Cascade Mountains, lower Willamette Valley and central-southern Oregon Coast. You could't ask for better places to learn and be. I worked on numerous projects learning groundwater, river hydraulics, and water quality,and spent two weeks around Mount St. Helens after the May 18, 1980 eruptions working on the North Fork and mainstem Toutle River and lower Cowlitz River.
In May 1982 I was transferred to Phoenix, Arizona (there's a legal term for it as well as a personal not so nice term). It was a real shock. I drove down through Nevada, and crossing the Santa Maria River in northwestern Arizona, I knew it was really different. I will always say, although the time there was professionally very rewarding and worth the time, personally, I will only say it sucked. I'm sorry, Phoenix is not a great place to live unless you really like a city in hot weather.
What I did like was the desert. I did a lot of field work, from New Mexico in the east, Tucson in the south, Gila Bend (look it up) and Yuma in the west and Flagstaff and the Colorado River in the north. It was a great adventure, although at the times, it wasn't always fun. But the sheer beauty of the desert was worth all the troubles. I spent time in 7 of the 9 desert zones (the other two are in southwestern Arizona and into Mexico - places I never went). I saw a desert in snow, severed floods, thunderstorms, and almost every imaginable weather condition.
While there I did a greater range of field work, all the more professionally rewarding, but not always the most comfortable. One example was spending a summer (note >100 degrees) on the Gila River Indian Reservation inventorying wells - working, dry, abandoned or whatever - yes, every last one. But I also spent a week-plus at Marble Canyon working at the Colorado River at Lees Ferry gage watching all the boats and rafts put in for their down river adventure while making twice daily discharge measurements and sediment samples.
While there I finished my master degree (the thesis is one of those really long dumb titles) and was converted to a professional hydrologist. With that I worked on projects along with field work, which included a salinity modelling project for the Colorado River, a twin basin sediment data study of burned and unburned watersheds in the Mogollon Rim terrain, a geochemical study of a copper mine runoff in a small stream basin, several groundwater studies, and the satellite data collection system, one of the first three sites to collect real-time water resources data for the U.S.
In January 1987 I transferred to Tacoma, Washington to spend the rest of my career, first in the field office (1987-90) and then as real-time system and database manager, Website-data manager, Annual Data Report Editor (listed as author in 1999-2003 reports), and senior technical data specialist. I can't say enough about the field office people in Tacoma, Spokane, Pasco, Sedro Woolley and Vancouver with whom I worked with for those years (1990-2005), they're the best, and together we built the most popular USGS Website for water resources data.
Thank you USGS for the opportunity to be a part of the organization and thanks to the public for the support you give us as USGS scientists. I retired December 31, 2005 to a new life and career. It was fun and rewarding, and that's all one can ask in a career.
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