Late-Life PhD, Volcanologist Lorraine Field
September 10, 2019
by Olivia Arthur
Lorraine Field wasn’t unhappy with her desk job at a British telecoms company, but she wasn’t thrilled either. What did get her excited? Volcanoes!
Field went back to school in her 40’s and got a PhD in Geology. "Studying volcanoes has completely changed my life. I've got a better understanding of the Earth that we live on for a start, she said. I can't wait to get up in the morning and come in to work now, whereas 10 years ago Monday morning had that Monday morning feeling - I didn't want to go in to work. I get excited about everything that I do now - it has completely changed my life.”
Fired up with enthusiasm and her new knowledge, Field decided she would take her first volcanic trip to the Congo, even though it is a remote and sometimes tricky place to visit. As luck would have it, a few days before the journey, a newly released NASA satellite image showed activity in the Congolese volcano, Nyamuragir. Traveling with a German group who shared her passion for volcanoes, she flew to Rwanda and then rode 111 miles before trekking through 5 miles of a rain forest led by their Congolese ranger. Exhausted and sweating from the humidity, the group arrived finally at the site. Instantly, they experienced the thundering noise and boiling heat of the volcano’s eruptive state. Field said that the experience was an “assault on the senses,” calling the sounds from the eruption as “incredible.”
Not everyone can experience a live volcano, but there is evidence of eruptions all around the world and there’s always something to learn. For example, Field takes local students from Nottingham University to study the rock formation in the Carlton Hill volcanic site in Derbyshire.
Field isn’t the first female volcanologist. In fact, there’s been an uptick in the number of women lured by the beauty, mystery and danger of eruptions and she encourages all women to go after dreams that fire them up. Field certainly has. She’s traveled the world, works at the British Geological Survey as a mineralogist and petrologist (looking at crystals and minerals to figure out their origin and history), and is involved with a BBC series, “Volcano Live”.
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