Tag Archives: Wildlife

From Ice in Antarctica to Shale in Texas (Kim – Geologist)

I’m really happy to have my friend, Kim featured on the blog today – you will probably recognize her from our trip to Vietnam because we had a great time with her and her husband – we also really enjoyed living with them in Korea and were sad to see them leave. Well, not only is she our travel companion, she’s also quite the geologist. She’s another wonderful example of someone who has studied science and had some really cool opportunities…in fact, she’s probably my favorite geologist! I’ll go ahead and let her introduce herself…

I am Kim Fangman, a 26 year old geologist who recently married an engineer.  We have a small white poodle named “Penny.”I grew up in Houston, Texas and went to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. There, I double majored in Geology and Economics. After graduation I came back to Houston and received a master’s degree in Geology from the University of Houston.

Me in ice

I am now a geologist with Marathon Oil. I work in the Eagle Ford Operations team. The Eagle Ford is an unconventional shale play in south central Texas. I help “steer” lateral wells, and tell the rig where to drill down in the Earth. It is sort of like a video game. I receive new data every couple of hours, which I model in software. I then decide if we need to go up or down, left or right, to tap the best rock for producing oil and gas.

As a side note, I think masters programs in science are one of the best kept secrets. Many masters programs for geology will give you a full ride to attend the school, and a small stipend, if you are a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate classes. I was fortunate enough to be in one of these programs, and TAing really enhanced my experience beyond paying for school. Having to teach and clearly explain the basics of geology really solidified the knowledge and I am sure it will help me in the future. Most jobs in geology do require a master’s degree, which takes around 2 years to complete.

Why did you become a geologist?

I definitely did not go to college expecting to become a geologist. I viewed geologists as “mountain men,” very rugged like Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak. I am not the most outdoorsy person; I was in a ballet company throughout school.

But, I was in the liberal arts school at Vanderbilt, which required everyone to take an intro science course freshman year. I, like many students, assumed Geology would be the easiest, so I took it. It did not turn out to be easy, but it just seemed really interesting to me and I was good at it.

I found out I have a knack for really understanding things spatially, visualizing in 3D, and am good at maps (which is important, because a professional geologist’s product really is just different types of maps). Geology was more fun for me than economics. I fell into the perfect fit, which is why I really recommend keeping an open mind in college and taking a variety of courses. I became more open to camping and hiking along the way, too!


What projects have you done while studying or working as a geologist?

While in school I primarily worked on two research projects. The first used video footage of the ocean floor taken by divers below sea ice around Antarctica. I mapped the ocean floor and identified and counted the various critters I saw. There were mainly scallops, eels, worms, sea cucumbers, and star fish. I really enjoyed the project because I was helping to explore part of the world that had never been seen or studied.

My master’s thesis research was also on Antarctica. I took sediment samples in front of glaciers and analyzed them to see when the glaciers retreated, and how fast.


Have you had the chance to travel anywhere? If so, where and why?

Geologists get to travel, and to many exciting places! It is sort of integral to the job. I went to Antarctica for 3 months during my masters program. I was on an ice breaker that went right up to glaciers and allowed me to catch sediment samples for my research. I was close enough to touch penguins, whales, and seals! I also traveled around Chile on the trip.


With my undergraduate classes I hiked around the Appalachians, and went to conferences in San Francisco and Portland to present my findings. With Marathon I get to go on a one week training course each year in a different location to learn about the geology of that area. I am going to the beach in South Carolina this year. Some of my friends at work are going to Spain and France!

What have you enjoyed most about being a geologist?

I have enjoyed the travel opportunities, and the people I work with. I have coworkers that are passionate about what they do, and who are very friendly, caring people. It makes work something I look forward to. I think part of the reason for my pleasant work environment is geologists aren’t trapped behind a desk every day. We get out into the field, visit a rig, and really feel like we are part of the action and making decisions.

Group Picture at Eagleford Shales

Any advice to aspiring women interested in a career in science?

Don’t shy away from science or engineering because you don’t think it fits with your persona. Just like I didn’t have to be Pierce Brosnan to be a geologist, you don’t have to be a character from the Big Bang Theory to be an engineer or have a PHD. If you enjoy a subject, have a knack for math and science, just go for it!

Fabulous Sydney!

At the end of the year, we took a flight down to Sydney to celebrate closing out a great year and starting up another incredible one! Before the big festivities on New Year’s Eve, we had a few days to explore the city. I had been to Australia before and absolutely loved it but this was Ryan’s first trip down under. One of the best aspects to this trip was the fact that we got to leave winter behind in Korea and step into the beautiful summer weather! Hello shorts and flip flops!

Erin Pink Shorts Sydney

Our first stop was the Sydney Harbor area – we had to pick up the tickets for our NYE Harbor Cruise (more on that in the next post…I had been excited about that for months!). At the harbor, we walked around to check out the major Sydney sights – the harbor bridge and the opera house. While walking around, we stumbled upon a market in the Rocks – we perused the stalls, grabbed some great food, and also a beer at the oldest pub in Sydney. It was a fantastic place to hang out!

Ryan and Erin - Sydney

The next day, we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to meet some of Australian’s most famous creatures. We had a blast checking out the animals – kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, cassowaries, kookaburras, and many more!

Featherdale Animal Park

It was a great place to see all of them – a bit outside the city but it was a great smaller wildlife park (a quick travel note – head there early…the animals are a bit more active in the morning before it gets too hot so it’s worth waking up earlier to go). While there, we were able to snap a picture with this cutie koala – a required picture for any trip to Australia and we were happy to check that off our Australia bucket list.

FDWP - KoalaWe truly fell in love with this city and enjoyed every minute that we spent there! Our best day of course was New Year’s Eve…I’ll fill you in on all of that on the next post!

FB: Kissing Kangaroos

I thought it would be fun to throw in some flashback (FB) travel stories about places that we’ve been before we moved to Asia – even some from before we got married, so here is one for today…the time I kissed a kangaroo! I’m not lying…there is photo evidence to prove it!

Ryan and I both caught the travel bug during university and this is partly because we both went abroad our junior year of college to complete our interdisciplinary project. This wasn’t your typical go study at an international school kind of experience, but rather we worked for companies or non-profits to help them solve a problem that has an impact on humanity (right up my alley!). It was a great experience – I’ll write more about it later because it’s all apart of how I became an engineer and this is part of the reason that I chose to go to WPI in the first place. Back to the story –  six years ago, this project requirement sent me all the way to Melbourne, Australia where I lived for nearly 2 months. We spent our week-days taking the train into the science education center to work on our project all day and then we had our weekends free for ourselves. On one of our free weekends, we decided to go to the Ballarat Wildlife Park in Victoria. We got there early to maximize our kangaroo time and bought some kangaroo feed and entered the park right as it opened…our initial site looked something like this…hello kangaroos!


We got in and started feeding them…they came in swarms ready for food. The park rangers told us that they come from a place called Kangaroo Island where they don’t have any predators, so they aren’t afraid of people – hence, the no fear mob-style mentality here.

Kangaroo Mob

They were smart enough to figure out we may have stashed some of the extra food we bought in our back packs, so they started poking around that, too.

Kangaroo Bag Search

My project partners and I decided it was best to sit down and just let them come to us.


From the ground, it looked something like this…

Kangaroos in your face

I had joked the whole time that I thought one of those crazy, unbelievable travel pictures would be if a kangaroo kissed me – fat chance that would happen, right? Wrong…I closed my eyes for a second, mockingly making a kissy face and he turned around and laid a wet one on me…so weird. Luckily my friend snapped a photo at the exact moment it happened so I now have this picture to keep forever.

Kissing Kangaroos

Have you ever snapped a crazy photo while traveling?

Whale Shark Encounters

We had heard about the opportunity to swim with whale sharks from some friends who had been there a few months prior and we knew we absolutely had to check it out. The sharks look so peaceful and wonderful in pictures - I could not have been more excited to get to see them in person! We drove down to the Southern part of the island to Oslob, where there is a cove that the whale sharks come into in the mornings. You pay the fee and then grab a snorkel and hop into a boat (well, more like a canoe) where they take you out a short ways and you immediately start seeing the beautiful whale sharks swimming around you.
Whale Shark 3
The guys tell you to get out of the boat and you have about 30 minutes to swim around.
Ryan and Whale Shark
The sharks come right up to the surface to get food so you truly get to see them up close.
Erin and Whale Shark
These sharks are huge – you can tell here the difference between the diver right below him – this was one of the biggest sharks. The locals who were manning our canoe called her the “Mama” and said she had been coming there for a long time.
Whale Shark 2
The craziest part about these pictures is that we were taking them with cameras that don’t have any zoom  - we were literally close enough to fully check them out. The photos below are not from the best camera in the world, but it made for some decent shots to give you a taste of what it was like.
Whale Shark 3
Whale Shark Belly
Whale Shark 4
Whale Shark Open Mouth
You’re supposed to stay 4m away from them to keep both you and the whales safe, but sometimes they sneak right up on you…in fact, I got hit with the tail by one that swam right up past us (I’m in the yellow shirt in the picture below). It was incredible to be up close and personal to these gentle giants.
Whale Sharks 1
The whole experience was truly unbelievable – something I never thought I would do but I’m so happy that I did. It is such a wonderful memory to have all together. I highly recommend making a trip to do this if you get the chance.
Whale Shark Group Shot
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