Faces of GSN

Caitlin Ellis, Geologist (Published in January 2016 GSN Newsletter)

I accidentally signed up for a zero period Green Biology course in high school. The class started at 6:30 am with 1 hour of Santa Barbara City College horticulture in our on-campus garden and ended with an hour of Advanced Placement Biology. Despite the early mornings, it was my favorite class. Junior year I became the president of the Green Club, scheduling environmentally friendly volunteer opportunities for my fellow club mates. Senior year I took an Environmental Science class that convinced me I could heal the world. The 180° turn my life has taken since then amazes me, but it’s not surprising as my interest in science is just as convo-luted.

My first year out of high school I attended Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), where I took Oceanography from Dr. Robert Gray, one of the biggest influences in my career of hard rock geology. Dr. Gray taught a class full of lackadaisical surfers and aspiring marine biologists about turbidites, foraminiferal oozes, and continental margins with such passion that I was enthralled. The geology department held field study courses every semester to either Death Valley or the Eastern Sierras with a summer course to the Colo-rado Plateau. I took them all twice. I met a certain handsome geologist, my boyfriend Jason Kline, on one of these field studies. I excelled in my optical mineralogy, petrology and chemistry courses and Dr. Grey suggested I study economic geology.

During my two years in the SBCC geology program I was awarded a Brunton compass for Outstanding Geology Student of the Year and an American Petroleum Institute scholarship of excellence. I was the Vice President of AAPG’s student chapter and an active member of the Coast Geologic Society. I tutored for all of the geology classes and interned at John Minch Associates for a bird fossil sensitivity study in San Bernardino, CA. Every weekend there was a different Geo excursion; we visited La Brea Tar Pits, the Na-ture Conservancy Side of Santa Cruz Island to study exotic terrains and natural selection, and Vandenberg Air Force Base’s ophiolite sequence. During my second trip to the Eastern Sierras, GSN members Doug and Gael McGibbon led a tour of a project Doug was working on. We also visited Briggs Mine where I met Dr. Elizabeth Zbinden, who encouraged me to get out of California and finish my education in Nevada.

My last summer in Santa Barbara I took SBCC’s summer field course in the Cuyama Badlands and the Ridge Basin near Gorman. Although I froze water bottles over night for the field, I drank hot water by 10 am every day in the sweltering 115 degree heat. One afternoon during a particu-larly difficult mapping exercise, we came back to a flash flooded camp where I found my sleeping bag and books floating in a foot of muddy water in the tent. All in all it was a rewarding experience. I learned how to use a plane table alidade, triangulate, write detailed organized notes and not care about my personal hygiene for weeks at a time.

I took Dr. Zbinden’s advice and was accepted to UNR in 2010. Shortly after moving to Reno I joined the GSN and enjoyed free food and talks beyond my grasp. My first year at UNR was a breeze; SBCC over-prepared me for my first semester and I actually had time to intern at the NBMG where I became familiar with their extensive collection of quadrangle maps. When UNR did not accept my optical mineralogy, I retook the class with Dr. John McCor-mick. It was a blast; there was never a dull moment behind those scopes! My first class with Dr. Tommy Thompson shocked me. Gone were the days of sailing through exams without studying. Jason and I always competed for the top score in every class, but in Dr. Thompson’s economic geol-ogy we were struggling. After long hours at the library and no social life I received an A in his class!

During spring break 2011 I travelled to Turkey with the SEG student chapter and a hand-ful of eccentric geologists. What an amazing trip! I visited my first underground mine and collected more than my fair share of rhodonite at Efemçukuru. I experienced artisanal olive oil grown on a mine tailings at a mine in Çanakkale, and drank the finest whiskey Turkey had to offer with Dave Shaddrick.

I met Dr. Earl Abbott at a spring GSN meeting and he offered me a job that summer. We travelled all over the state from Tonopah to Elko and everywhere between. He intro-duced me to the complex fold and thrust belts of Nevada.

The following semester I started a joint senior thesis with Jason Kline on one of Coyote Resources’ projects near Cortez Hills. After meeting Bill Howald, then president of GSN, on a GSN field trip he agreed to fund our project. We conducted a micropaleobiologic study to identify biostratigraphic relationships within the Cherry Springs Chert with Dr. Paula Noble, and prepared plagioclase samples for an Ar/Ar age date under the supervi-sion of Dr. Chris Henry. We also had a number of hand samples assayed, and Gael McGibbon taught me how to fill out my first submittal sheet. The thesis was a success due to our profoundly knowledgeable advisor Dr. Thompson and the guidance of nu-merous GSN contacts. I graduated on the presidents honor roll in 2012 and that summer completed my UNR Summer field study.

I landed my first full time job with Allied Nevada’s exploration team. I worked at the Hycroft mine first as an ore control geologist then in exploration, all the while enjoying what I naively thought would be a long lived career with ANV. I was laid off 8 months into the job and promptly took a month long trip to Indonesia with my severance.

With the sad state of affairs in the job market, Jason and I moved to my family’s off-the-grid ranch in Big Sur, CA and tried living off the land. We cultivated an orchard and took care of a flock of crotchety hens and a mag-nificent white rooster, Gandolf. Living at the ranch taught me a lot about the dangers of electric fences, the destructive forces of herds of wild boars and how to skin a rabbit. Jason and I went on many backpacking trips around California and I started playing music again. I’ve played guitar since I was 10 but picked up banjo, mandolin and resonator guitar while we lived there. Finally I found a position with a friend’s environmental consulting firm, Cap Rock Geology, in Salinas, CA. A few months of inspecting asbestos ridden houses and sampling contaminated water wells near the Moss Land-ing power plant made me realize that environmental work was not my cup of tea. Thankfully Bill Howald saved me from that job by offering me a short term contract position sampling and mapping Rye Patch Gold’s Gold Ridge project.

Two weeks turned into a year and a half, with Rye Patch offering me a full time posi-tion in April 2015. I so enjoy working at RPG because I am involved in every aspect of exploration, grassroots sampling and mapping, land status, permitting, data manage-ment, core and chip logging, geologic modeling, creating cross sections; you name it, I’ll learn how to do it. Ronaldo Pinto da Silva and Dr. Radu Conelea have taught me so much. I look forward to expanding my knowledge base with such an experienced team of geologists, as there are many exciting prospects on the horizon.

My plan for the future is to get my Masters in Economic Geology, and travel for work. Perhaps study Manganese Nodules in the Cook Islands or IOCG’s at Olympic Dam. My dreams depend on whether I can find the right contact, which I’m sure the members of GSN have! GSN welcomed me into this geologic community and has provided me with interesting employment opportunities ever since. Thanks for allowing me to share my story.