European Geologist of the month: Joan Escuer Solé

“European Geologist of the month” is a section of EFG’s monthly newsletter GeoNews. Each month we ask one of the European Geologist title holders to tell us about his professional experiences and which role the title has played for his career. This month we have talked to Joan Escuer Solé, member of the Spanish association ICOG.

Joan Escuer Solé currently works in a project of 3D geological modeling to be used by a large mining company in the environmental control of its activity and he collaborates with a law firm in case of rock fall with serious consequences. He is also the co-founder of a cooperative dedicated to the storage of electric energy from renewable sources and this also takes part of my working time. Joan Escuer Solé has participated in the creation of COLGEOCAT, the professional association of Catalan geologists and has chaired the association for ten years.

Name: Joan Escuer Solé
EurGeol title number: 975
Country: Spain
In which country do you currently work? – Spain
In which field of geology do you work? – Minerals/Natural hazards/Oil and gas/Mapping/Geologic energy storage.

How would you explain to the average person what geology is and why it is important? – Although ordinary people are not aware geology dominates their lives. Most of the raw materials used by humans have ultimately a geological origin. It is evident in the case of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) and in metallic ores as well as in universal building materials (concrete, cement, gravel, sand, gypsum). In other cases the evidence is less well known to the public. The sources of phosphorus and potassium vital to modern agriculture have a geological origin as well as many of the materials used by so-called renewable energies, where the truly renewable is energy flow but the materials used in it do not. Rare earths, lithium salts and other sophisticated materials have a geological origin. The environmental care required in all these tasks also requires extensive geological knowledge.
Geological hazards are, on the other hand, a source of both material and human problems and losses. Large-scale geological phenomena can greatly affect the economy of a country as in the case of large earthquakes or drastically change climate behavior as in the case of large eruptions. Who can doubt the importance of the geological sciences?

What inspired you to become a geologist? – My passion for mountains and climbing has certainly been a source of inspiration, but so were some books that told of things as amazing as the continents were moving… Also good work of a teacher during high school also had its influence without a doubt.

Have you been a geologist all your life? If not, what other job(s) have you done? – Yes, I have dedicated my entire work life to geology.

In which sector(s) did/do you work? – I worked in fields as varied as geological hazards, hydrogeology, geological engineering, mining prospecting, environmental geology, oil and gas, geological energy storage but the heart of my work has always been related to geological mapping of any kind and at any scale (geological, geomorphological, hazard, thematic, environmental, mining and so on).

What do you currently do in your job? Could you describe an average day? – At present I participate in an ambitious project of geological modeling in 3D to be used by a large mining company in the environmental control of its activity. I also collaborate with a law firm in a case of rock fall with serious consequences. I am a co-founder of a cooperative dedicated to the storage of electric energy from renewable sources and this also takes part of my working time. Daily work includes many hours in front of a couple of computer screens processing spatial data from various sources including field data that I have previously collected.

What’s your favourite part of your job? – I like fieldwork as well as lecturing. I also enjoy learning and using specific software. In this sense I have experienced a technological revolution from paper to digital files especially in mapping and processing of spatial data.

What is your proudest accomplishment as a geologist? – Without a doubt, I am proud to have participated in the creation of COLGEOCAT, the professional association of Catalan geologists. For me also it was a privilege and an honor to chair the association for ten years.

Could you explain when and why you applied for the European Geologist title? – I applied for the title by stating the need to have an endorsement, an acknowledgment, of the accumulated experience. If you have not followed an academic career is suitable and advisable to have a degree that certifies the experience and continuing professional training. The title of Euregeologist complies with it.

Did you already work abroad? If yes, could you tell us about your experiences abroad? – Yes, I have worked on geological, geomorphological and hazard mapping in the Dominican Republic and, to a lesser extent, Argentina. I have modeled and restored geological sections for the oil industry in Colombia, also collaborated in seismic risk assessment projects in France and Italy. All have been enriching experiences in which I have met other colleagues, other ways of approaching the geological sciences as well as idiosyncrasies of the countries in which the work was developed. I remember intensely the adventures with the off-road vehicle in unknown places of the Dominican Republic of an unknown beauty and very far from the image of Caribbean beach that show us the tourist brochures. I also remember the immensity of Patagonia (Argentina) or the singular vegetation of the highlands of the Colombian Sierras. But the most intense experience is lived with different people and different cultures.

What are your professional projects/aspirations in the future? – In Spain we are still enduring difficult conditions due to the economic situation of the last decade. This coincides with my professional maturity. Maybe something more than maturity … I usually say that after the 50’s you can always find a younger and cheaper geologist for standard jobs. So at present I try to orientate my professional offer to those clients who are able to appreciate the experience by incorporating new technologies and processes. I am particularly interested in small-scale underground storage projects aimed at storing energy from renewable sources either by substances such as hydrogen or compressed air or also in the form of heat as in the case of UTES.

There are fewer women working in geology than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in geology? – I would tell them not to be discouraged. Women are perfectly valid to perform any job in the world of professional geology although it is true that in some fields is still a world of men where a woman can feel intimidated, for example on oil rigs. But times are changing and even in environments and extreme jobs women are increasingly present and so I think it should be if they want it so.

Why should young people consider a career in geosciences? – Dedicating yourself to professional geology is a good way to invest in the future of our planet. In addition if you like the contact with nature you will enjoy your work in a way hardly comparable in other disciplines.

What kind of personal qualities do you need as a geoscientist? – Scientific curiosity and spatial vision. A certain degree of skepticism in equal parts with an open mind to new concepts is also advisable.

What does the European Federation of Geologists represent for you and what do you expect from our association? – EFG is an umbrella, a common home for European geologists practicing their profession. Especially for those who for professional reasons are disconnected from the academic world. What is expected of this professional association is the promotion of excellence in the application of geology and the creation of public awareness of the importance of geoscience for society. In this way it can contribute to a safer and more sustainable use of the natural environment, protect and inform the public and promote a more responsible exploitation of natural resources. I know that the objectives of the EFG are precisely these.

Why does it matter to have a European, cross-border community of geologists? – Obviously “union makes force” is the literal translation of a Spanish saying. Communication is essential for development. The information must flow. Sharing experiences is always enriching and promotes new ideas. Knowing other realities enlarges the perspective.

To know you a little better: What do you like to do in your spare time? – To climb. I climb walls since I was 15 years old. I like especially clean climbing, techniques and equipment which climbers use in order to avoid damage to the rock. Spain is an ideal country for rock climbing and in the surroundings of my city I have a paradise of walls from small blocks to authentic big walls of more than 500 meters. I feel lucky.

More information on the EurGeol title: http://eurogeologists.eu/eurgeol-title

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