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Deborah Locke


Deborah Locke grew up in Kansas and spent family vacations in Colorado. She moved to the mountainous part of western Colorado where rocks jumped out at her from everywhere. When she took her first earth science course she started learning why mountains and streams were located where they are. It was a science she could see and understand. She was hooked on the field of earth science after her first geology class in college which was taught by an excellent professor who was energetic and gave lots of local examples to explain concepts in geology.

Debby has had a variety of jobs. After graduation from college she worked as a cartographer and learned how to make maps. Next she worked as a technician at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation where she drafted maps and worked with groundwater studies. Then she worked for two years as a (civilian) field geologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During an average week Debby left town Monday morning to travel to the project area. She drilled with a crew of one driller and two helpers, logged soils (describing size, color and moisture content), collected samples, oversaw drilling activities, and returned home on Friday. She worked on a variety of jobs all over the United States using different kinds of drilling rigs and sampling techniques. When she worked on a hazardous waste site (an area that has unsafe chemicals in soil or water on the surface or underground) she was trying to determine the amount and extent of contamination. Debby learned about her job in training seminars and by trial and error.

Next, Debby moved back to Colorado and worked as a mud logger on oil drill rigs. She described the cuttings (rock samples the drill rig brought to the surface). She then worked as a chemical laboratory technician and performed tests on water, oil, and shale for an oil shale project. Now Debby is working for Oak Ridge Associated Universities as a health physics technician. She goes out in the field to sites in Colorado and Utah to determine if uranium mill tailings are in quantities high enough to be cleaned up. Tailings from a uranium mine are the material left over after the uranium has been removed. In the past, the tailings were given to anyone who want the sand (to mix to make concrete to bricks or to fill in a hole in the ground). Some of this sand may emit harmful levels of radioactivity. If someone requests a uranium survey to see if cleanup is necessary, Debby will make a uranium survey. She may take soil or concrete samples. Back at the office she writes a report on the results of the survey. She also works on hazardous waste cleanup and goes to different sites to see if underground water is contaminated.

Debby suggests you learn about the local geology. Find road logs (descriptions of rocks at certain locations along highways) from a local geological society or nearby college or university geology department or look for books on roadside geology at a local bookstore.