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Fascinated by nature: Latoya Perkins on career in geology

Sunday, July 29, 2012


THERE are people who never take the time to observe the world around them; the same cannot be said of Latoya Perkins.

In fact, nature fascinates her and has for a long time; it's the reason she chose a career in geology.

"I was captivated by the dynamics of the earth from a tender age. Back then, I would spend hours gazing at the rivers and hillsides, trying to understand the processes that left the rocks and various forms," said the 26-year-old who is currently Jamalco's mine reserve geologist .

"I can remember pondering for a long time why the ocean had several shades of blue, which got darker away from the shore. The desire to find out helped to cement my decision to become a geologist," Perkins recalled.

"Additionally, I believe that a large volume of the country's wealth is cradled in its natural resources and I am passionate about harnessing this wealth in a manner that will secure its natural beauty and uniqueness," she said further.

The earth scientist believes that her high school geography field trips increased her curiosity and interest in the environment and contributed to her decision to pursue a double major in geography and geology at the University of the West Indies.

"One that left a lasting impression was a trip to Reggae Falls and the Serge Island Marble Deposit in St Thomas. I was interested in gaining a better understanding of the processes that occurred to create the metamorphic rock deposit and landform, which I found captivating," she recounted, adding that a field trip to the Blue Mountains to observe the endemic flora and fauna also proved influential.

So great is Perkins' interest in the environment that she recently applied for an Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship and was the only one of the 11 bauxite company employees accepted to participate in the programme.

The selection has made Perkins the first ever Jamalco employee to participate in the Earthwatch programme since its inception.

She is excited about the trip, which will put her in touch with seven other Alcoans from Canada, the USA, Spain and Brazil between August 12 and 18.

During the Earthwatch expedition in Brazil, she will become personally connected to the natural world and will be involved in scientific field research and education to promote environmental sustainability.

"I am quite ecstatic and I hope this Earthwatch Fellowship will help me become more familiar with global environmental issues, sustainability programmes and preservation techniques that I can use in my capacity in protecting the resource areas during the bauxite exploration process," she noted.

As the mine reserve geologist at Jamalco, Perkins' main responsibilities include participating in the planning and supervision of bauxite exploration and production activities, inclusive of control drilling and sampling.

"I am also responsible for implementing a robust computerised mine evaluation system which utilises the existing GEMCOM mining software system and the reporting and updating of the bauxite reserve and resource information. Environmental, health and safety is also an integral part of my daily responsibility," she noted.

Prior to working at Jamalco, Perkns did a stint at the Mines and Geology Division where she was responsible for conducting mineral resource evaluations of Jamaica's economic mineral resources, and from this she produced technical reports.

"I was also responsible for maintaining the database on Jamaica's Economic Mineral resources. This was an excellent start to my career, which brought about some invaluable lessons," she declared.

For Perkins, working as a mine reserve geologist is ideal.

"I love the fact that I have the opportunity to spend time outside in the field. I am able to visit some pretty amazing places, and it's even more exciting to go somewhere where you're able to figure out the processes responsible for the land formations," she said.

"I really like the idea that as a geologist I am like a detective, investigating events that occurred billions of years ago. I also like the fact that the job is not static. In geology, we're constantly asking questions about the world around us," Perkins added.

She is currently reading for an executive master's degree in business administration, but makes it clear she has no intention of changing careers.

"My passion is and has always been in earth sciences. In the future, I hope to still be actively engaged in this field, albeit in a more managerial as opposed to technical position. Concurrently, I plan to exercise my entrepreneurial skills. The first option is to use my knowledge of minerals to produce and distribute eco-friendly make-up -- a more feminine approach to geology," she said.



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