Profile: Natasha Dowey (Team Leader, Oil & Gas Industry).

Natasha Downey crop.jpgName: Natasha Dowey

Job Role: Team Lead, Regional Geoscience

Organisation: Oil and Gas Industry

Education Background: PhD in Volcanology at the University of Liverpool, MPhil in Geochemistry and BSc in Environmental Earth Science at Aberystwyth University


1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?

I grew up in Cornwall, where I spent a lot of time wondering how the cliffs and coves around me had formed, and how the tin mining industry worked. I had a really inspirational geography teacher at GCSE and A-Level, who gave me a passion for volcanoes and dynamic earth processes and made me realise that I could study Earth Sciences at University. When I started at uni, I soon realised that a career in geoscience meant fieldtrips, and exploring new places, and understanding earth’s history… and I was hooked!

2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?

My path to the oil and gas industry was a bit unusual. Many people study sedimentary rocks, structural geology or engineering to get into petroleum, but my passion was for volcanoes. I mapped part of the volcanic island of Santorini in Greece for my undergraduate dissertation, and then analysed the chemistry of Santorini volcanic deposits for a one-year Masters research degree. I took a year out and did a lot of travelling, before deciding to do a PhD that involved fieldwork studying Tenerife volcanics. I loved scientific research, travel and fieldwork, so it seemed like the obvious next step. During my PhD, I came to realise that there was a clear choice between working in academia and industry- I had been at university for a long time, so I decided to try something different. I applied for a job at a geological consultancy, and have worked in industry for four years now. I had a lot of great training on the job to learn about petroleum geology, and now I get to use my knowledge of igneous geology to teach others in my company how volcanics affect oil and gas deposits.

3. What does your current job role involve?

My current job involves managing a team of geoscientists who carry out research on ‘frontier’ parts of the world (areas that are relatively poorly understood geologically). We consider tectonics and sea level change to investigate what kind of rocks have been deposited throughout geological time, and whether or not they may have potential for oil and gas exploration.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the variety of my job- one day I am studying Central America, the next I may be looking at Asia, the next I may be teaching a course, or attending a fieldtrip. I also love the teamwork aspect of industry- you often work on projects with other scientists, and get to brainstorm ideas and learn from each other. The applied nature of the job is also great- a client may put your research to use straight away.

5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?

Because women can scale volcanoes with scientific equipment, hike across deserts mapping outcrops, and run geochemical laboratories just as well as men. We can analyse data, attend conferences and present findings just as well as men. We enjoy geology just as much as men. Too many people associate geology with grizzly old guys with beards and hammers. Modern geoscientific analysis is far from this image, and we need to ensure that we have a modern demographic to match. We need more women geoscientists to be role models to the next generation.

6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?

Get as much fieldwork under your belt as possible- go with other lovers of geology and get debating how the different rocks got there. It’s a great way to better understand geological concepts, and to build confidence in voicing scientific ideas… a strong background in field geology will stand you in good stead, whether you choose academia or industry as a career.


Find out more about careers in the Geosciences at our ‘Girls into Gesociences’ event on 4th July.  Book your place today: girlsintogeoscience@plymouth.ac.uk  or Tel (01752) 585975.

You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci

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