Blog: Women in Science Day (Naomi)

Blog: Women in Science Day

by Naomi Foster

I’m Naomi and my job is Geology Projects Officer. This involves a huge range of different things, including running workshops in primary schools, organising guided walks, writing interpretation panels, and training volunteers. I have been in this job since June 2018.

This job is great for me because I enjoy working with the public of all ages and sharing the amazing landscape of the North Pennines. My background is in public engagement with science, having worked in a science centre in both delivery and development roles for nearly eight years prior to this job. Like many science communicators, I didn’t know this was something I wanted to do (or even that it was possible to do) until I started doing it. I fell in love with those face-to-face interactions that generate curiosity and wonder in adults and children alike, and the thought that goes into making them happen.

The experience of performing, developing activities, working on national and international projects, training other staff and all of the planning, administration and management that go along with it are essential for what I do now. I also have a degree in Natural Sciences from Durham University including biology, archaeology and geology. The geology part qualified me for this role, and the biology and archaeology are pretty useful too!

One of the great things about my job is the sheer variety. One day I might be meeting with representatives of tourism organisations and the next I’ll be getting covered in sand and clay with a class of 7 year-olds. The North Pennines AONB is also a UNESCO Global Geopark and being part of the Global Geoparks Network means talking to colleagues all over the world who do many of the same things and face similar challenges. I never realised it would be so international. I’ve met with artists and writers, I’ve made playdough in the office kitchen, and I’ve wandered around B&Q trying to work out the best adhesive to stick pebbles to concrete.

My job can be hard to describe – I often find myself explaining what geology is and what being a UNESCO Global Geopark means. I get asked questions about archaeology quite a lot, which is about things humans have left behind rather than things created by natural processes. I also get asked about dinosaurs. We don’t have any dinosaurs here – fossils in the North Pennines are generally quite a bit older than that! I see geology as the science of Planet Earth, all about discovering what’s beneath our feet and how things come to be the way they are today. UNESCO Global Geoparks however are not just about geology. They are a network of areas that work together to promote the things that make our planet amazing – geology, landscapes, wildlife, culture, and people.

Jobs like mine are fairly few and far between. My advice to anyone looking to get into public engagement, environmental education or heritage interpretation would be to get a broad range of experience and say yes to anything you can. Make the most of the experience you have even if it doesn’t seem obviously relevant – things like working in a shop, writing for a website, giving presentations, volunteering with children, planning events etc. all give useful transferable skills. Be prepared to start at the bottom of the ladder and work towards your goal, though you’ll probably find the goal changes along the way!

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