• Organisation: The British Geological Survey
  • Contact name: Frankie Bean
  • Placement student name: Charlotte Green, 1st year BSc Geology + Geography
  • Placement title: Geochemical Baselines Survey of the Environment (G-BASE) summer placement
  • Dates of placement: June - September 2013

Founded in 1835, the British Geological Survey (BGS) is the world's oldest national geological survey and the United Kingdom's premier centre for earth science information and expertise. The BGS provides expert services and impartial advice in all areas of geoscience. Our client base is drawn from the public and private sectors both in the UK and internationally.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) will be recruiting earth and environmental science students for voluntary work, during the 2013 summer vacation, to assist with geochemical sampling in southern England. Fieldwork will involve the systematic collection of geochemical samples for the G-BASE project. Applicants need to have a high degree of commitment to fieldwork, be able to traverse difficult terrain and work in all weather conditions. Sampling is undertaken by students working in pairs and will involve map work, walking long distances, and carrying equipment and samples. Students work a six-day week and will be expected to undertake evening work as necessary. The work will give successful applicants an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the more practical aspects of geology and geochemistry.

Charlotte Green, 1st year BSc Geology + Geography

I was quite late applying for work experience, and a lot of the opportunities had closed. However, the BGS thankfully still had theirs open and after searching their website I found it. It was just what I was looking for, as it was related to my course and gave me a chance to work for a well-known organisation.

As it was offered by the BGS, I assumed it would be well organised, professional and generally an enjoyable learning experience.

I hoped to widen my knowledge of aspects of Geology that I was not very familiar with (such as Geochemistry that the placement focused on) and to develop my field skills that will be useful for my course and any future employment in Geology or Earth Sciences.

It was a lot of physical hard work! However, it was also very rewarding and I really felt like I was contributing to a useful project.

Our duties included being in the field from 8am to around 5/6pm during the week, (Half day on Saturday) collecting water, pan mineral concentrate and sediment samples from various streams (mostly 1st or 2nd order streams) then walking on foot to the next site (we had roughly 7/8 sites per day). The equipment we used to collect these samples was a sieve kit that we carried with us. At each site we had to fill in a field card that included various information about the site such as land use, contamination and so on.

As we began to work faster, the number of sites increased each day to meet the needs of the project. The support was great; if there were issues with our work they would be flagged up and the office team would help us to correct them and improve. They were well organised and it would have been so much more difficult without their help.

It was more difficult than I imagined in terms of physical work at the start, however it gradually became easier as we grew as a team, improved our skills and became stronger.

The experience made me realise that taking part in fieldwork and physically collecting data is definitely the sort of career I would like to go into. Taking part in useful projects such as GBASE is rewarding.

I have developed various skills ranging from improving on general skills such as teamwork, communication, data input and organisation, to more course specific skills such as geological mapping, map reading and geochemistry.

I have identified that Geologists need to improve their decision making skills as future careers in the subject will need to make definitive decisions based on what they see in front of them, instead of relying on others.

I would think that my experience working for a well-known organisation (such as the BGS) and the fact that my work was related to Geology will improve my CV and make my skills more desirable for future employers, hopefully making them choose me above others.

I would say apply early; look for opportunities in the first semester. If you can’t find anything don’t worry and keep looking from time to time as some opportunities open later. Bigger and more well-known companies will have tons of applications, so really try to make yourself stand out; if it requires a CV to apply, tailor it to fit the requirements of the placement as best you can.

When undertaking a placement, always be organised, professional and remember that the experience is there to help you and improve your skills for future employment. However, it is also a learning experience to be enjoyed so make the most of it.