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I have a series of questions if you don't mind.
1. How long have you worked in this occupation?

2. What other occupations did you work previously?

3. Do you primarily work with people, data, things or ideas?

4. What do you like most about your job?

5. How did you get started in this line of work?

6. What personal qualities do you feel are needed to succeed I this line of work?

7. What type of training and education is needed for this occupation today?

8. What changes in your occupation have seen occur?

9. What are the most frequently occurring problems of your job?

10. What type of technology do you use?


1) I have worked in geochemistry on and off for over 34 years.

2) I have been a geologist for 34 years and I have done petroleum exploration, environmental cleanups, geochemical exploration and computer software development for geological exploration.
I have used geochemistry in all of them in one form or another.  In some instances I collected samples and processed them, in others I interpreted the data, and in others, help develop the tools to interpret the data.

3) Both.  Science is kind of a team sport.  In your career, you might at one time collect the samples in the field and send them to the lab, to be processed or process them yourself.  Later you might interprete the meaning of the result or someone else will.

For example as a environmental consultant, I would collect samples and ship them to a lab to have them analyzed.  I got the results and made concentration maps.  Then I would work with another scientist who was a specialist in doing environmetal risk assessments and we would determine how likely it might be that people would be exposed to the chemical contaminants, and what the risk of harm might be.  We would then work up a report of our findings.

Early in my career, I traveled and collected samples for petroleum exploration.  I trained people to collect the samples and process them.  I led them out in the jungles of South America, and after collecting and processing the samples, I would go back to my office in Oklahoma and create maps and interprete their meaning and write a report and then do a verbal presentation to the companies who hired me.  I did this in Canada, throughout South America, and even did a job in the South Pacific where I had to scuba dive to collect geochemical gas samples from the ocean floor.

4) I liked the adventure, the travel, and meeting people and visiting wild places.

5) I was hired by an oil company for my training in geochemistry and satellite image interpretation skills.

6) Good work ethic, determination, drive, adventurous spirit, intelligence, good organizational skills, and sense of responsibility.

7)Good science background, classes in chemistry, organic chemistry, low temp geochemistry, soils, mineralology, economic geology, environmental geochemistry.

8) More reliance on computers for mapping and modeling.  We had no computers when I was in school, we only had pocket calculators and could not use them in tests.  We had laboratory instruments to be sure, but a lot of the work was manual.  We did no computer modeling of contaminant transport like we do today.  So there is a better understanding of the end result of our work.  More women are in the field today.  In 1976 when I took a lot my geochemistry classes, women were in them for the first time at my university.  Women were in chemistry, just not geochemistry.  That has changed a lot.

9)Changing regulations governing materials.  One day things are normal, the next certain things have been declared "hazardous" and have to be treated differently.  Materials have to be inventoried and tracked dilligently to conform to state and government regulations.  The biggest problem is public ignorance of science and what it can and cannot do.  For instance, on CSI the tv show, they sometimes deal with geochemistry and show the running tests that take only minutes, when in fact, sample preparation can take hours or days even before the samples are prepared to be run through a machine.  The sample analysis can take hours too.  So people have false expectations of how long something takes, how complex it actually is, and how clear cut the results may actually be.

10) We use a variety of instruments and tools.  We rely on computers a lot now, but also laboratory instruments such as a Gas-Liquid Chomatograph for breaking down a sample into its component parts.  We use a Mass Spectrophotometer to analyze samples as well.  New instruments combine the two instruments into one.  We also use microbiological techniques to analyze samples for the types of micro organisms that are present.  All the results are input into a computer to generate maps or graphs to display and help in the interpretation of the data.


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Keith Patton


I can answer questions concerning physical and historical geology, environmental geology/hydrology, environmental consulting, remote sensing/aerial photo interpretation, G&G computer applications, petroleum exploration, drilling, geochemistry, geochemical and microbiological prospecting, 3D reservoir modeling, computer mapping and drilling.I am not a geophysicist.


I have 24 years experience split between the petroleum and environmental industries. I have served as an expert witness in remote sensing, developmental geologist, exploration geologist, enviromental project manager, and subject matter expert in geology and geophysical software development.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists
American Association of Photogrammetrists and Remote Sensing

Bachelor and Master of Science
Registered Geologist in State of Texas

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