Darrell Kaufman is a professor of Paloeclimatology and Glacial GeologyThe science that deals with the dynamics and physical history of the earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the physical, chemical, and biological changes that the earth has undergone or is undergoing. in the school of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. Not only did he lead our field team, he is also a Co-PI of the Arctic Glacial Lakes Project. His leadership was crucial in maintaining the moral of our team – no matter the obstacle, Darrell had a positive attitude and always supported us. After 30+ years working in the Arctic, he was an impressive resource, answering questions about the project and geology, but also arctic birds and plants as well.
What are your broad scientific interests?
How the earth and humans relate, specifically the intersection of earth science and human affairs. I am interested in the the long term perspective on earth changes – longer than the human life span, thousands of years. The Arctic is also a special place to do research, with its glaciers, lakes, and mountains.
Why did you become a scientist?
Curiosity about the natural world and wanting to understand it in an intellectual way, systematically and quantitatively. Nature presents a lot of interesting questions. Being a scientist is also an opportunity to work outdoors.
What do you like most about your job?
I've got a great job! I like a lot of things about my job! Specifically, working with students. They have fresh ideas and are eager to learn. The opportunity to pursue scientific curiosities. Having a lot of autonomy in research and teaching. And finally, being outside and doing fieldwork!
What do you like least about your job?
Public funding is dwindling, which is concerning for the long term viability of research programs. There is less focus on intellectual curiosity, learning something because it might be interesting, and seeing where that might lead.
What was your favorite day of fieldwork?
I really liked the variety of things we did! The lake, glacier, hiking, even the down days – reading while the rain beats on the tent is part of it. Chamberlin had everything – physically challenging with heavy packs, ice, wind, fog, waves. Getting to Lake Peters was another special day!
- Is there anything else that I didn't ask that you'd like to tell my readers and students?
Take advantage of learning through Rebecca's experience. Ask her about how she got to explore such a different place and her connection to the environment and the research team!
This is the first of three team profiles, created from interviews after our field experience. Answers are in the scientists' words when possible, but I did edit for readability and length where necessary.