Published: Jan 15, 2015
Meet Jennifer Bauer, co-owner and principal geologist for Appalachian Landslide Consultants PLLC (link to http://appalachianlandslide.com/). Jennifer identifies landslides hazards around western North Carolina. As well as researching such hazards, she advises policy-makers on how to avoid and adapt to landslide risks. You can watch a video of Jennifer's presentation to US Congress here (link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RxAZ2iiOYM).
What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a scientist?
The thought of wanting to become a scientist came to me slowly, as I loved every subject in middle and high school. I started to realize that I really enjoyed science during an Anatomy and Physiology class I took in high school. That led me to try out a geology class as a freshman. Once I realized I could have a career and work outside, I was hooked.
When you were a child, what did you think you'd be doing as an adult?
I didn't think about what I would be doing as an adult much when I was a child. I was too busy playing outside.
What’s the most exciting part of your research?
I get excited when we are in the field and stumble upon a landslide we haven't seen before, especially if it is a big one. I enjoy examining the remaining evidence and trying to imagine the event as it happened.
When you encounter frustrating situations or dead-ends, what keeps you going?
When I get frustrated or feel at a dead-end, I try to take a step back and look at the big picture. I am passionate about the landslide mapping that I do, and I know that what I am doing is helping people. This keeps me going.
What’s the strangest place/situation you’ve been?
One of the strangest places I've ever been is in Alberta, Canada. I visited the 1903 Frank landslide. I was standing in the middle of the debris field, looking across the valley at the half of the mountain that remained after the other half failed. Knowing that there were people in the town below that were killed by that slide, and seeing the massive amount of boulders and slide debris that remained was eerie. (See Wikipedia for more info – link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Slide)
What aspect of your research/science would you happily do away with?
In the science of landslide inventory and susceptibility mapping, I would happily do away with the politics that inevitability get involved. I get frustrated when people who do not understand or even ask questions about the science begin to doubt it or speak poorly of it because it doesn't match their political agenda.
Where do you see your research taking you?
I would like to continue the landslide mapping we have started as a private geology consulting firm in other watersheds, counties, and states that have yet to be mapped. I see my work making the biggest impact when it is available to everyone in the region for use in making informed decisions about their property, public safety, and the natural environment.
What advice can you give to scientists who help their communities and/or advise policy-makers?
The advice I give to scientists who help their communities and/or advise policy-makers is to start any project by communicating with all potential stake-holders. Communication is the only way that potential misunderstandings can be headed off from the start. Throughout the project, continue communication, addressing concerns as they come up.
How have your friends/relatives who are not scientists reacted to your career/research?
My non-scientist friends and relatives have been very supportive of me starting my own consulting firm and continuing my landslide mapping research. They believe in what I do and how it can benefit the community we live int.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in the Earth and space sciences?
I advise college students considering a career in the Earth and space sciences is to get involved with professional societies. These are the places they will learn what kind of science is being practiced in the “real world.” These are also the places they will meet their future employers. They will become more comfortable speaking to people they don't know. In this business, it's all about building relationships. Get involved and out of your comfort zone.