Our Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

No tags yet.

How Living Abroad Helped Find My Love For Geology


Chanel Fraser























I am so excited to introduce myself. My name is Chanel Dvorak. I am 30 years old and completing my master's of geology at Portland State University, 2021. I plan to have a career that allows me to use my skills in volcanology and geochemistry.

I was first introduced to the geology world when I visited Yellowstone National Park around the age of 17. My step-mother's uncle, Doug Pearson, was a former employee of the park and started work there in the summer of 1969 for USGS, researching geysers regarding temperature and depth. He had given my family and me a behind the scenes tour, and in true Doug, fashion rattled off many stories of the park, particularly rich in geology-and I was transfixed.

My love for geology grew while I was living and traveling abroad for approximately three years. I moved to Australia in 2010 after a college advisor told me to "just pick a major." I decided then and there that I was not going to 'just pick something.' I wanted more. I was attending community college in Northern California for about two years post-high school, and those two years, I felt lost. I did not know my likes, dislikes, career options, what to study, or even who I was. I needed out. I needed to explore and learn. And man, did I get a global education! Travel is one of the best things I have ever done in my life thus far. It gave me insight and geology.

I bought a one-way ticket to Australia at 19 years old, with a one-year working holiday visa in tow, hardly a plan, and very little money to my name. I had this urge for more in life. I wanted to see it all and still do. I began my journey landing in Western Australia, where my older sister and her husband were living at the time, during their travels. It felt like a good jumping-off point. From there, I had a short period where I needed to find work, living, and transportation. My brother-in-law had a position in the Iron Ore Industry as a production technician at BHP Billiton. Since he and my sister were planning on continuing their travels soon, we thought it would be a good idea to see if I could take over his position. To my surprise, they accepted. I was then ready to start training and begin work. As funny as it may seem, working at a mine is not what made me fall in love with geology! More so, it was the landscape of the region, which was otherworldly to me.Over time, settling in and making some money, I traveled around and saw the land a bit more. This is when my love for our earth truly blossomed. Seeing Karijini National Park in Western Australia blew me away. Karijini is a national park centered in the Hamersley Ranges of the Pilbara region, located in the northwestern section of the Australian state of Western Australia. The park is located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, about 175 miles south by southwest of where I was residing in the Pilbara. This national park should be on everyone's list of geologic beauty worth seeing. It is littered with banded iron formations, dolomite, shale, gorges and slot canyons, waterfalls, water holes, and the list truly goes on. The cool water pools were a salvation from the blistering heat. I have a vivid memory of the bright pink and red sunset at the park bouncing off of the red, iron-rich dirt, creating a kaleidoscope of colors. Honestly, this place makes you feel like you have landed on Mars. This region was bursting with geologic wonder and sparked a desire in me to want to learn more.

Shortly after that trip, it was evident that I was not coming home to the United States any time soon. I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, from Western Australia, only a short flight from where I was. Bali is a lustrous realm of beauty. It pulls you in and tantalizes you in a way that you find yourself never wanting to leave. I wish I would have known more about geology when I was there because many of the sites I dream now of seeing. Which honestly gives me an excellent reason to go back. I then returned to Australia to meet up with my younger sister in Sydney, to continue my travels along the east coast in my camper van. I purchased a yellow Mitsubishi van equipped with a bed, a stove, storage space, and a full tank of gas. I was ready to hit the road.

Working at the Iron Ore Mine in Western Australia.

Over time, settling in, and making some money, I was able to travel around and see the land a bit more. This is when my love for our earth truly blossomed. Seeing Karijini National Park in Western Australia blew me away. Karijini is a national park centered in the Hamersley Ranges of the Pilbara region, located in the northwestern section of the Australian state of Western Australia. The park is located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, about 175 miles south by southwest of where I was residing in the Pilbara. This national park should be on everyone’s list of geologic beauty worth seeing. It is littered with banded iron formations, dolomite, shale, gorges and slot canyons, waterfalls, water holes, and the list truly goes on. The cool water pools were a salvation from the blistering heat. I have a vivid memory of the bright pink and red sunset at the park bouncing off of the red, iron-rich dirt, creating a kaleidoscope of colors. Honestly, this place makes you feel like you have landed on Mars. This region is bursting with geologic wonder and sparked a desire in me to want to learn more. 

It was very clear, shortly after that trip, that I was not coming home to the United States any time soon. From Western Australia I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, only a short flight from where I was. Bali is a lustrous realm of beauty. It pulls you in and tantalizes you in a way that you find yourself never wanting to leave. I wish I would have known more about geology when I was there, because many of the sites I dream now of seeing. Which honestly gives me an excellent reason to go back. I then returned to Australia to meet up with my younger sister in Sydney, to continue my travels along the east coast in my camper van. I purchased a yellow Mitsubishi van equipped with a bed, a stove, some storage space, and a full tank of gas. I was ready to hit the road.

Enjoying monkey forest in Ubud Bali.

My home, what we called the yellow bullet.

We took our travels southeast, eventually ending up along the Great Ocean Road. Here is where the stunning sea stacks named the Twelve Apostles to reside. They are a collection of limestone sea stacks off the Port Campbell National Park shore in Victoria. I kept finding myself asking, "Why?" Standing there, staring at these striking landforms around the world and wondering, "Why?" How did they get there? Why do they look like that? This curiosity kept nagging at me and kept leading me onto the internet, searching for these extraordinary sites' geology. This curiosity began turning into an obsession, looking up everything regarding how different geologic formations occur and wishing I knew more about the subject to understand all the terminology.

The Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.

After traveling up and down the east coast of Australia with my sister, it inevitably was time for us to part ways. As she continued with her travels, I moved to Byron Bay in the state of New South Wales. Byron Bay is a magical little beach town with a heartbeat; you can feel it the second you step on the sand. It's alive, welcoming, artistic, freeing, and an all-around good time. This town became my little "home away from home," along with the people in it. I am not the only one to think this of the region, as the local Arakwal Aboriginal name for the area is Cavvanbah, meaning "meeting place" -a an accurate representation. I was sad the day my job at the time said they needed to relocate me to Sydney. I had been to Sydney and liked it, but... I was loving Byron Bay. I could have just quit and found a different job, but I thought, "Why not take this opportunity and see how I like living in Sydney?" It is from here where I traveled to the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is mind-blowing, how it is a coral forest protruding from the water and barricading the coast. Before visiting the location, I knew very little about it, only the name and that you must see it. I found myself asking, "How did this form, and why does it look like this?" I needed to know more about our earth.

Stairs to a temple in Northern Thailand.

After traveling around the coast, my visa expired, meaning that I needed to leave the country. This is then where I traveled to Southeast Asia. I had stopped in Brunei, located on the north coast of Borneo's island, then spent time in Thailand. After frolicking around Southeast Asia, I returned to Australia with a six-month tourist visa in tow. Once my six months expired, I decided to move to New Zealand. Living in these geologically magnificent places worldwide opened my eyes to how little I know and how much I want to learn. I learned life lessons, how to listen, respect the culture, see new perspectives, and what my likes and dislikes are, along with understanding who I am and want to be. Travel is a bountiful gift of insight that is worth more than any materialistic item on this earth. I learned to love our planet and its history, geologic, and present. I learned that I forever want to be able to travel and continue to ask, "Why?" This is why I decided to go back to school after taking five years of absence. I desire the unknown, and with every year of my studies, I realize how little I know. This continuous growth of unknowing is what I love. I can't wait to see where this geologic journey takes me.

Seeing the sites in Lake Taupo, New Zealand.

#Travel #geology #education #school #Bali #Australia #SouthEastAsia #Thailand #NewZealand #student #geochemistry #volcanology #introduction #collage #geologynerd #WomenofGeology #WOG #PortlandStateUniversity #PSU #Oregon #PNW