Episode 5: Maryam Helmi and Her Angry Little Ball of Fire

Maryam Helmi, looking cool outdoors.

Maryam Helmi is a recent BSc (Hons) Geology graduate from the University of Edinburgh. She is Malaysian and she will sometimes log onto Twitter to talk about something cool and Earth science-related!

During her time studying geology, she spent a lot of time educating herself on race and intersectionality with a wonderful and welcoming community of activists. Because of them, she did things that she thought she never could do, like organise a tour about her 483 year old university.

In this episode, she was invited to delve into our collective experiences as women of colour in Earth science. She personally enjoyed the recording session, so hopes you can take something away from it, if not enjoy it with us too!

Below is the full transcript of the episode. Please be advised that this episode touches upon experiences of racism and as this was our episode on decolonising STEM, swearing was permitted. Enjoy, and please do provide feedback or get in touch with Maryam via Twitter: @maryam_aTCK.


Jazmin, Nuzhat, Maryam

Jazmin: 00:07

Hello, and welcome to the What on Earth Podcast. I’m your host, Jazmin.

Nuzhat: 00:11

And I’m your host Nuzhat. In this podcast we celebrate Earth, environmental and planetary scientists from diverse backgrounds and get to know what they’re up to.

Jazmin: 00:23

We also speak to scientists from different disciplines about how we can decolonise science and make it more inclusive for everyone.

Nuzhat: 00:32

In this episode, we will be talking to an earth scientist about studying Earth Sciences, and how we could decolonise the subject. Today we have Maryam Helmi. Hey, Maryam. (Maryam) Hi! (Nuzhat) Would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?

Maryam: 00:46

Sure. My name is Maryam Helmi as Nuzhat said, and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Edinburgh. I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Geology. (Nuzhat) Woo! (Jazmin) Yay! Well done! Thank you.

Jazmin: 01:07

Alright, so what made you want to become a geologist and get your Bachelor’s in Geology?

Maryam: 01:12

So, around the end of high school, so maybe when I was about 16, to 18, I did the Duke of Edinburgh Award up to silver level. And it was through this award that my- that I- grew to love the outdoors more than I did before the you know, the hiking, the camping, just the feeling of being among nature. And I’m noticing that- noticing what we don’t always see while out and about so- and so around about A levels when I was trying to decide what kind of degree I would do. My mum, who was working in oil and gas industry, she was not geologist herself, but she was in the industry had suggested that I talked some of her colleagues for- just to see if geology was for me [and] something I could, I might do. So, I did. And just after like speaking to them about what their field- their respective fields- I mean, I talked to, I think, someone who specialised- who was I think, a hydrogeologist, and I talked to a few other people as well. And I think from- and I think just from the way the passion that they had in their voices describing what they do at work, and the fact that I could actually go out into the wild and do more and hike some more. I kind of just thought I’ll go for it. I’ll haven’t done I haven’t done like in-depth geology before, but I thought I’d just go for it. So, I did. And here I am graduated.

Nuzhat: 02:40

It’s kind of good that you enjoyed your Duke of Edinburgh, when I tried to do Duke of Edinburgh, so my school did introduce it for my year and I just remember doing the expedition and just being cold and getting lost and remembering that we- because we got lost it took us longer than we had to, and I think that was also like my first experience of being outdoors. And that time I didn’t love it. So, like loving outdoors was something that kind of grew on me, but I never ended up taking my bronze because they decided to do the final expedition on Eid, and they wouldn’t move it. Despite the fact they already moved it like three times. They wouldn’t move it for me. It’s okay. I ended up my parents took me to the shopping centre, and I met Jacqueline Wilson that day, so it was like okay.

Jazmin: 03:33

That’s a shame that they didn’t move it for you for Eid.

Nuzhat: 03:36

Yeah, it sucks. Kind of like yeah, I kind of resent them on it but I did everything I could I asked them, and they didn’t move it

Maryam: 03:46

Sounds kind of racist not to not gonna lie.

Nuzhat: 03:49

Yeah, it is problematic thinking back and actually, I should have done more I should have like push them and say that’s discrimination that because of my religious holiday, they wouldn’t move it. But I think if they weren’t listening to me, then I felt like they wouldn’t have listened if I took it further up, unfortunately. But like looking back, I wish I did push for it, but shame on them. (Jazmin) Yeah. (Nuzhat) But would you say your school equipped you quite well for the outdoor culture?

Maryam: 04:17

Definitely. I was very- I was very lucky to have like good schools who would- who definitely helped- they did- who- did whatever they could to prepare me for the outdoors because, I did end up doing like Duke of Edinburgh with Doha College when I was schooling Qatar- in Qatar, it’s an international- British international school. And it was very, very lucky that the stuff was- they were very, very welcoming. They’re very friendly. They’re very supportive. I was like, a full I was like when I was a hijabi then, like full on covering with covering everything and even then, they were extremely supportive towards making sure that I have everything sorted out and even like in some emergencies where I couldn’t really where my hiking boots because they were still fresh. (Nuzhat) Yeah. (Maryam) They weren’t really broken in properly. So, I had blisters, I told them, I have slippers and I have socks. Like if I put my slippers into my socks, I’ll have protection on my feet. And I have protection on my soles as well. So, could I please just you know, use this, they were like extremely lenient on that. And I think to be honest, if the field trip had happened during Eid- I think during Ramadan or Eid, they would have been very welcoming to move it to a date when I can do it. There- I am like extremely grateful to Doha college for helping- for nurturing the outdoors in me.

Nuzhat: 05:44

So, when you say you were like a hijabi then, did you feel like there was a contrast that- did it take for a lot for you to think, oh, this is something I could get into. Because at least in the UK, you don’t really associate like outdoor culture with- or I am not used to seeing people from like my background to going outdoors. So, it’s not something that I even considered doing. It’s not something that, you know, as someone who grew up Muslim and have a lot of Muslim friends, they never really did outdoors. And I think it’s partly because the image association is very, like white. And it just seemed unaccessible or we just couldn’t picture ourselves outdoors. Other than, you know, also the cost as well and everything associated with that. But did you feel like there was like a contrast with your image? Oh, God, I mean, it’s definitely a contrast between like, if I was raised in the UK, because growing up I think in Malaysia [it] was very pretty much normalised that anybody wearing- anybody- even was whether you were you wear a Hijab or not, you are pretty much expected to be able to hike and camp out in the wilderness even like hike up like, even hike up the tallest mountain in Malaysia, which is Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, like the whole process of being able to hike and like go and survive in the jungle with your Hijab and the image of is pretty much normalised. So, I just grew up being able to look at the wilderness or look at whatever really cool sport that people do and think I can do that. Cool, that sounds cool. I was really- I’m really, really like privileged to be able to grow up with that image, of that ability to see myself do whatever I want to do, because that was that’s also what led me to also do sailing. When I was third, between the ages of 13 and 16. I did like the full-on sailing, maybe a few races here and there. So- and definitely if I wasn’t, if I wasn’t raised to be normalised with that ability to just do what I want just because I think I would enjoy it, I- yeah.  So, I guess it makes a big difference when you’re like a minority in a white dominated versus when you’re a majority and yeah- when you’re a majority in a country. So, taking a step back. So, your schooling, so were you schooled in lots of different countries? Can you take a step back and like explaining where you studied?

Maryam: 08:11

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I feel like I’ve answered this question many times with people who have asked, you know, that question like, “Where are you from?” People ask me that like, because I’m like a third culture kid, like that mean someone who’s grown up for a huge portion of their life outside the country they’re born in. So being a third culture kid hearing where you from is kind of a bit jarring sometimes because I never really know what to say. I’m, I was born in Malaysia, I was raised there for 12 years. And then I moved to Bahrain, lived [and went to] school there for three years. And then and within those three years, the Arab Spring happened. So, we’ve had to kind of split the family. All my- me and my siblings moved to Qatar stayed there for two years, while my dad was still in Bahrain and then we all moved to Oman. And while my family was in Oman, I was privileged enough for my parents to send me to boarding school in the UK, in England actually in Bath, and while I was doing my A levels there for two years during the holidays, I would sometimes come back to Oman, maybe during the summer not during the winter because flights are expensive. So, we try and limit how many times to can go back and well after Bath, I had a gap year and I stayed in Malaysia to take my driver’s license, spend a lot of time with my extended family, which I didn’t really have before while I was traveling around.

Jazmin: 09:40

That’s great. Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I can sympathise when people say, “where are you from?” Because we get that a lot. And people may not know it, but it is a microaggression as well. Especially if you asked it so many times. Like for me, it’s just stop please. Like I’m- my parents are from- well like my dad is from Watford. My mum is from Slough. I was born in Luton. My family are mainly in Luton and High Wycombe because that’s where the main St. Vincent population is. Obviously, Jamaica as well in London. So, I have lots of family in London. But of course, my grandparents came over from Windrush. That’s only three grandparents, my other grandparent came from Finland. So, it’s like, yeah, I don’t think I’ve said that before. Yes. So, like my family- like I just- I come from Luton, like my accent is, you know, kind of a weird hybrid between North London and Buckinghamshire weird accent. I think people just leave it at that as I mean, like when I say it’s also “where you from?” and say all around here like, oh, that’s nice.

Nuzhat: 11:02

Yeah, that question means different things to different, like people, and people need to understand that we can define where we see we are from. (Jazmin) Exactly, yeah. Okay, so you have travelled, lived and studied in various places, but we’re gonna jump in the deeper end. So how did it feel studying geology in the UK?

Maryam: 11:27

Since I mean, after I, after I moved to Bahrain, and started international school, I kind of like, was I’ve been around a bit- I’ve had been around White people a lot. So nearly all the time, so it [was] kind of just felt normal to be in that sort of environment. And so, when I moved to Edinburgh to study geology, it just, it felt just as normal at first because, you know, Edinburgh is just as White, maybe felt just as White as like the international schools I went to, maybe even more White, I don’t know. But it was definitely more white than, say, Glasgow and London. And for me, that was already quite normal. Because also, I had also just come out of Bath, like the boarding school in Bath, and both is pretty, pretty heckin’ white. And so, but I don’t know, I think after the more like- I have to say, I think when I first joined the university, I was quite like, a bit of a pacifist when it comes to kind of race issues, like kind of just thought, you know what, I don’t really need to bother with all this talk about race, it just seems too complicated. I’m not gonna engage with it and then think, and after I start talking to my friends more about it, the more exposure I got to- more exposure, I had to race through like, both activist student- student activist groups at the University of Edinburgh, the more I started to realise how in the dark I was, for a long- how ignorant I was for a long time. I don’t know if I like being wilfully ignorant was a defence mechanism or not, but point is being normalising being surrounded by white people, that it didn’t feel normal anymore. After maybe second year because I started to feel the isolation of being the only brown person in the room, at least I start to- start to become a lot more cognisant of the lack of the euro-centricity. With- of my courses and content within the curriculum. Just a lot of things started to become more clear to me. And when and with that, it became much clearer to me why my, some of my experiences in high school and in boarding school were the way they were like I had, I had had reasons to, I had finally had like, the reasoning to explain why I was called, like, I was called ‘Obama’, maybe in a train station in Bath was very weird. So yeah, the time when it happened was so weird. I was just, I couldn’t comprehend why that happened. But I just let it go as a one-off event, because I don’t know I hadn’t, I didn’t have a reason to process it. And, and the teachers I had when I was in Bahrain, as well, they were. They were mean in some ways, but I couldn’t but me being 13 not familiar with race issues I couldn’t explain why. And it was only after becoming more aware of how race works in the UK, and how the entire system of structural system of oppression worked through the world in the modern day and through colonial and through colonial legacy that I finally kind of realised why a lot of these teachers were mean to certain people in the school. Like when I say certain people, I mean, they were some of these teachers pretty much let the white kids do what they want, but they would pick on the brown kids- (Nuzhat) Oh. (Maryam) -in school. Now I was like, oh, holy shit. My school is racist as hell. So, yeah. (Nuzhat) That’s really awful, this was an international school? (Maryam) It was the international school yeah. (Nuzhat) Oh my god. (Maryam) It was horrible. Anyway, so yeah, I mean, third year, I mean, third year and fourth, it just became just a little bit harder to deal with because you had that extra anxiety on you being cognisant of you being the only person in the room who isn’t White. And who is- yeah and who is an hijabi as well and who might be the only person, I don’t know affected by Eid and Ramadan during exam time when everybody isn’t. (Jazmin) Yeah.

Nuzhat: 15:43

I was just thinking in your schools. Did you have any kind of education on race and racism?

Maryam: 15:51

Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Let alone slavery- like the transatlantic slavery. Like in his- I’ll tell you what, when I was- when I did history from like, year seven up to year nine we studied, you know, we studied the Native Americans but from a very, like, White American, White imperialist kind of view. We watch Dances with Wolves. That’s a like, a very white gazing movie, white- a very white saviour movie. We did Henry and his Henry and his six wives- Good lord. Henry, and his six wives. We did World War like- World War One and World War Two. I noticed I was like, really good at writing essays at that point, when we were studying wars, but it just felt, yeah, there was absolutely no Black history. There was no mention of the transatlantic- transatlantic slavery whatsoever, let alone race. Just glanced over.

Nuzhat: 16:51

But isn’t that interesting that race is a subject that’s taught if it’s taught in school in history, as if it’s not a current day issue as well? (Jazmin) Yeah. (Maryam) Exactly. Yeah. No, I mean even in like geography, they wouldn’t teach in urban like in like- when we do modules on urban geography, even though you know, when you studying stuff like poverty, I’m pretty sure race plays a lot into it. But I’m so surprised, like, I’m still surprised looking back now that my teachers never covered it or never even mentioned it whatsoever. Even in my way, when I went when I was studying geology? No, when I was studying geography, at A level, my human geography teacher never mentioned race, she just talked about poverty, like it was just a thing that was normal for certain countries in the world. My physical geography teacher also talked about poverty and like development, like it was, like an underdevelopment in certain parts of the world, like it was normal for them. And I’m like, thinking back now. So, you wouldn’t talk about it. So, you wouldn’t mentioned race, you wouldn’t talk about race. And you also then thought- we also then asked if I- how you also then asked if I was from Saudi, just because I wore a headscarf well, great teacher you are. (Jazmin) Yeah. (Nuzhat) I only bring up the school because I could empathise a lot with you when you’re saying that, you know, when you started University, it took a while before you became engaged on racial issues. Because, I mean, the difference is, I went to a very diverse school. So luckily, I didn’t face racism from my peers or teachers, not that I’m aware of. There was like one primary school teacher that was racist. But I was pretty much I went to a very diverse school with diverse teachers. And I remember like going into uni, it took a while before I became articulate, and, like I had all these experiences, but I couldn’t identify what it was. And I thought I was the problem. And then it took a while before I read about it, and I read other people’s experiences. And, you know, it took a while before it became even on, like available on the news or on social media, this kind of discussion, and I realised, oh, there’s these structural barriers. And it’s related to race. It’s related to gender is related to sexuality and disability, and class, lots of different things. And it’s interesting that I didn’t even it didn’t hit me until you said it, how our school these subjects are absent, even though they’re teaching us around it, but they’re not teaching us about it. And they’re just like preserving it into a history lesson as if, like, it happened in the past and it doesn’t happen anymore, and we’re all harmonious and we don’t have race- racism anymore. So, the thing is one of the barriers is that because they do not educate, especially students of colour on issues that affect them, they don’t have the language for it, and they can’t vocalise it. And it’s interesting because, you know, I wasn’t political when I was like, in my teens but I see my sisters political and more aware and debating and having these intense arguments that I only had in my early 20s onwards. And it’s because they’re getting this information from social media, not from their school, they’re more aware. And one thing you know, I’m glad they’re aware, but I’m also sad that at such a young age, they’re getting the innocence taking away and they’re having to challenge these things. When, you know, we shouldn’t- we should- I want us to have raised generations where they don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore.

Maryam: 20:50

(Jazmin) Yeah, I agree. (Maryam) Yeah. I mean, I don’t know what to say about this. Except that, yeah, my sister herself, she’s only 13. But I think the just the other day, she got into a fight with another- with a girl from her class, who was pretty much equating animal rights with BLM or- (Nuzhat) oh, God- (Maryam) some spotting some kind of like, some kind of like, vegans- vegan supremacy- (Nuzhat) oh, gosh- (Maryam) bullshit and so my sister, being the confrontational person she is, told her off and like, exposed her in public, to all her followers.

Nuzhat: 21:26

That’s really good. My sister, my 18-year-old sister. Like few years ago, she messaged me on WhatsApp saying, like, I want this, like, I’m on this debate and a WhatsApp group about sexism. This guy doesn’t believe it exists, like, can you help me and not like, I’ll help her. But I’m just like, first of all, I like, I also have my own battles as well. I want her to be able to defend herself. But also like, you know, they’re so young, they I just want them to have fun. And it just sucks that the younger generations people are also being misinformed or not engaging with the challenges properly.

Maryam: 22:12

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, to be fair, it’s like- to be fair, resisting against structural oppression is kind of like a generational thing, you don’t really see it happening overnight. So, it’s inevitable that our younger are you are your younger siblings, or kids or cousins, will have to like start fighting, helping us fight this battle in into their 20s. And I mean, it’s in one way, you could see it as them kind of like losing their innocence a bit earlier than we did. But in another way, you can also see it as them becoming more aware of the world so that they know how to navigate it better as being so up as young as they are, so that they know how to deal with it. Mentally, they know how to avoid it. And they know how to deal with it head on confrontationally.

Nuzhat: 23:00

I definitely agree, like my sister would be a lot more. She’ll be a lot more aware. And she’ll be a lot more ready to have this conversation. She won’t go through that period of like, why is this happening? Why do I feel so isolated? Or why am I alienated from my peers or my teachers? So, I’m aware that, you know, she’s not going to drag herself down, she’s more aware about what she’s facing.

Jazmin: 23:28

Okay. Yeah. I mean, it’s slightly different for me, because I was taught about all this at home not school. So, because of that, obviously it was generational trauma, from being a Black person and being descended from slaves in the Caribbean. Like, it was my parents and my family that taught me about like, the transatlantic slave trade. And- (Nuzhat) yeah (Jazmin) -mistreatment towards Black people and not just black people, mostly non-white. And like, so for me. I was aware of it probably a lot earlier. Like, back in school, it wasn’t much of a problem for me. But it was more of a problem for my sister, but that’s just because of her personality and physically, like, I’m more introverted into myself, whereas my sister is more outgoing and more confrontational. I mean, that’s definitely- it’s definitely I think there’s for that in terms of like, I’m not really interested in confrontation more than not but at the same time I can get very angry about stuff. But I think just like also because I am more aware of it because I was taught at home, I was definitely more prepared and definitely from like the get go, when I went to undergrad, I knew I was like, alright, I’m the only black person in this class. That’s fine. And that’s just the way it is, I mean, it was at Coventry. So, Coventry is a diverse place anyway. And of course, I was nearby Birmingham as well where I have family, and that so- and obviously geography itself in a cohort was not very diverse. But obviously I was in an environment where it was diverse, like where I grew up. So, I felt like I can, if I wanted to distance myself from that stuff, because that’s just the kind of person I am. That like, I will try new things, but in a way, I feel more comfortable with challenging.

Nuzhat: 25:37

I think the older I get, I learned more about picking your battles, what is more productive, because I even though I went to a diverse school, my undergrad and my PhD, both were very White dominated. And you know, at certain times, I was like the only PoC in my cohorts. But when I made that jump between like my school and my undergraduate I, it wasn’t in my mind that I’m going from a very diverse to a very undiverse group setting. So, I didn’t worry about it. Even though I faced microaggressions and macroaggressions during my undergraduate, it still took a while to realise that this was a structural society problem. And the thing is, I was always an optimist. So, when I started my PhD, I wasn’t like bracing myself like, oh no, I’ve got like a white dominated group. I’m gonna be the only PoC to face this or that. I hoped for the best. And it’s just with experience that I’ve been let down continuously. So, Maryam, we talked about micro and macro aggressions from peers, but what about the way that geology is taught in Edinburgh University? Did you find that it was exclusionary in any way? Or if there’s ways that the curriculum could have been improved to make the curriculum more inclusive?

Maryam: 27:07

Oh, definitely. I mean, if people have been following the geoscience Twitter from this week, you would have seen the uproar around. You know what I’m talking about the well, who is it? The idiot who said that you can’t be a geologist if you haven’t been out in the field, otherwise, you’re a desk jockey. (Jazmin) Yeah, yeah. (Maryam) So yeah, the University of Edinburgh does passively, perpetuate exclude- some exclusionary tactics. So field trips, being one of them being quite ablest and the normalising kind of alcohol over conferences or even like, or even during field trips, I guess after your after- like a whole day’s work, just normalising going out to the pub and hanging out with lecturers, networking there, it’s a bit, it definitely cuts off opportunities for people who don’t drink or people who just don’t feel comfortable being in the pub, or especially a pub in a rural area that’s populated by mostly White people, maybe some violent White men, potentially violent White men. I mean, I wouldn’t know I personally wouldn’t know if anybody is violent, but I don’t really want to take the risk of being a hijabi going to the pub, and talking about geology with somebody without any insurance, I’m not going to be attacked, you know? Stuff like that, you know, the other ways are a little bit-

Nuzhat: 28:34

Hold on, can I interject? So just talking about drinking, I would say, I went to first of- what’s the word? I want to preface this by saying that my undergraduate cohort at Cambridge University, they’re all lovely. But I had a hard time integrating, because the first field trip that we did was that Arran, and during my undergraduate, I was going through a journey of how I feel about drinking, I started out not drinking, partially because I was a practicing Muslim there. So, it was not something I was comfortable in trying. So, I didn’t drink, and I felt like a lot of the social was drinking centred. And while you don’t have to drink to be able to be part of this group, I found it hard to integrate because I just didn’t know how to be in that setting. You know, I didn’t know how to socialise with people and I also didn’t feel comfortable. And sometimes, you know, people do make it a big deal if you’re like the only non-drinking person there. And it was it wasn’t just the drinking, it was also the culture that they were from, it was the two combined like I- geology is a very middle-class White background. And I was like a working class, women of colour, Muslim practicing, so I found it quite hard to be able to socialize with them. And just adding the drinking component made it even harder I, I didn’t know how to- yeah, I just didn’t know how to socialise with them. And because like all the field trips involved heavy drinking, or a lot of the socials involved heavy drinking, I was too shy to even try and break into that as a non-drinker. So, I found like, even though my cohort, I’d say that they’re lovely, I found it hard to become part of them. So, I ended up having my own friendship group outside of geology. And I sometimes look back on the Arran field trips thing, like, you know, it could have been so much more different if I was able to partake in the socials if I was a bit braver or if I felt more comfortable not drinking. But as it you know, as both sides, you know, it’s partly my fault, but it is also their fault for not making it inclusive enough for non-drinkers or people from a different background.

Maryam: 30:55

Yeah, sorry, I’m gonna interject here and say you is not, it isn’t your fault that you don’t drink. I’m sorry not, not sorry, it’s not your fault!

Nuzhat: 31:04

No, it’s definitely not! It is my choice, but it was, I’d say a lot of my social life was affected by drinking at Cambridge. And, obviously, I do drink now. But it’s I still comfortably don’t drink, like my norm is not to drink. When I meet my friends, I don’t really drink, unless, you know, they’re the one that are kind of initiating it. But I’d say I found it hard, because a part of me was sad that I wasn’t as part of this geology group, everybody was really friends with each other. And I could go to them if I had questions or like, they were all really nice, but I just knew I couldn’t, I didn’t become good friends with any of them and I’d say drinking played a big component. And that affects other stuff. You know, when it comes to networking, when you’re trying to ask for help when you’re stuck in exams, or coursework like it, it did play, even though it directly impacted my social life, it did affect my academic life, too.

Jazmin: 32:07

But I decided to add to the alcohol conversation in that for me, up until I went to university, I did not drink, of course for medical reasons. I was on medication that impacted my liver, so it was always recommended I don’t touch alcohol, just in case. And so, I was like, that’s fine. But then of course, I was undergrad, conveniently I was off medication. So, for all right, I’ll give alcohol a go now. So, I did that for four years of my undergrad degree. And funnily enough, it was at the end of my last field trip to Mallorca and I thought, you know what, I’m going to stop and, not drunk alcohol since that was like about five, six, seven years? Eight years? Oh God, long time ago, it’s a long time ago now. But it’s obviously interesting, because I started off in geography, but now I am in geology. And yeah, I have noticed the big thing of alcohol and geology, and like field trips, and it’s always in the evenings, there is the social component involves alcohol. For me. One: I don’t like large groups of people; two: because of my physical disability, I’m always so knackered at the end of the day. So, once we’ve done our little, you know, our group activities of, you know, writing up what happened during day doing the extra tasks and everything, I would actually go like, dinner and go to bed, like I would I, at that point in my life was like, I don’t give a crap. If I miss out, like, [be]cause I’m just like, I like what I’ve always said, since I like realised this, is that my health comes first. Like, I do have a social life, obviously, it’s not as great as everybody else’s, but I do talk to people. And I’m okay with just being excluded from stuff because like, I don’t care. This is what I think this is my biggest thing how I have managed to cope with being in this field around alcohol because I don’t care about what other people think about me. And the fact that I don’t drink alcohol I sometimes get “oh why aren’t you drinking alcohol?”, and I just say because I don’t want to and I leave at that if they want to push me, I will just say because I don’t want to, just leave me at that. And yeah, like I like I go to bed early. Like I mean, how many conversations have we had Nuzhat those have were I go “right and going off the bed now” and you go “oh what, it’s only half nine, why are you going to bed now?!”. That’s just because of my chronic fatigue. Like I just have to go to bed because I’m just zonked out, but then obviously I’m the first one awake. So that’s what makes it great about field trips because like I could see everyone next day being absolutely hung over. And I’m like “hey, guys, what’s going on?” And they’re like, “Oh don’t talk to me”, so I kind of get my own back in that way.

Nuzhat: 35:02

That’s how I feel about sunburns and like the next day I’ll always people with crazy sunburn and I’m like, Yep, I am fine. (Jazmin) Yeah- (Nuzhat) -I always wear SPF, you know, but I’ve never had a sunburn to this day.

Jazmin: 35:16

Yeah, and I think the whole and every time this whole argument of alcohol comes up like what was the latest thing? Was it a geologist? Society? (Nuzhat) Oh yeah, they said that they won’t have beer during poster sessions. (Jazmin) Yeah, everyone kicked up a fuss about it. I’m just like, who cares? You can have a drink later. (Nuzhat) Yeah just wait one hour. (Jazmin) Just wait one hour what the hell is your problem? Like? I was just like, drinking alcohol is not personality trait guys.

Nuzhat: 35:49

Oh my God, I hate it when they treat you like a personality trait. Oh, how boring must you be for you to depend on this?

Jazmin: 35:56

Yes, exactly. I’m just like, think of your liver guys. Like you know, it’s a vital organ maybe you should just treat it more nicely, you know? (Nuzhat) I think that’s the one thing that’s nice about age the older you get, the less crap you give about other people. You’re like, yep, I don’t drink I don’t care what you think. (Jazmin) Yeah, yeah, and I’m just like, you know what, like you destroy yourselves. It’s up to you, like it’s your body. So, I just-

Maryam: 36:19

I don’t care what you think. I’m gonna steal that from you.

Nuzhat: 36:24

But what I also find is that when it comes to drinking the people kicking up a fuss- there was a thread someone asks, you know, you know, are T-totals really affected by the alcohol culture and I always find that first of all, when it comes to conferences, they’ll spend a good amount of money on alcohol like you know, throw us a nice drink to contribution aims like our contribution means a lot as well kind of why don’t you just give us a nice glass of elderflower?

Jazmin: 36:54

Oh yes, some cordial, that would be amazing instead of frickin orange juice. (Nuzhat) Treat us too! (Jazmin) Like we deserve a bit of variety!

Nuzhat: 37:03

Exactly, and it also doesn’t even cost anywhere near as much as a bottle of wine. (Jazmin) Exactly, yeah.

Maryam: 37:09

Oh, good Lord. It’s ridiculous. I love elderflower cordial. So much. (Jazmin) It’s the best, it is the best. (Maryam) I love it. Love it.

Nuzhat: 37:18

That reminds me. later on. I’m seeing my friends for a pre-like Eid meet up with my Bangla Soc friends. I’m gonna get a bottle of elderflower to share with them. (Jazmin) Nice, nice). (Nuzhat) They’re also friends from Cambridge as well, so I think it’ll be a bit of a throwback. (Maryam) I’m happy for you. Happy, happy early, Eid al-Haj. (Nuzhat) Oh, yeah, happy Eid to you too. (Maryam) Thank you. (Nuzhat) And then secondly, when it comes to the alcohol problem, it’s, it’s predominantly women of colour that are affected by it. It’s either, you know, the uncomfortable position of being with someone who’s like tipsy, you know, more likely to make uncomfortable comments, sleazy comments, or just the other attitude making us feel uncomfortable. And it’s predominantly women of colour. I’m not saying that, you know, White women also don’t face this, or men also don’t get pushed into uncomfortable positions. But it is predominantly women of colour that are saying, look, we are uncomfortable with this. And it’s so annoying when are people like, oh, I didn’t face this, or I’m fine with it. And it’s like, think about other people, we are thinking about how to make geology inclusive. How are other people feeling about this?

Maryam: 38:35

Yeah, I’m gonna let probably- I’m gonna hope the audience- your audience doesn’t like ‘White Lives Matter’ this whole episode, I’m pretty sure when we say what Women of Colour doesn’t mean, White women don’t experience the same level of discomfort. Yeah, I mean, they might not experience the same level of discomfort, but it doesn’t negate that they also experience discomfort, but we do as well and probably have the additional impact of race on that. (Nuzhat) Exactly, yeah.

Jazmin: 39:03

Let’s move again we’ve gone off track.

Nuzhat: 39:07

So other than drinking, what other forms of exclusion do you think the way that geology is taught like imposes on their students.

Maryam: 39:17

The Eurocentricity definitely, in our curriculum, because, I know one of my friends- one of my lecturers, a few of my lectures actually do really love like the geology of British Isles because I mean, to be fair, to be fair, the British Isles has got like lots of extreme variety in geology from like the northern- from the highlands like to the to the very north, but it’s got like what Precambrian geology all the way down to like the very, very young rock done to, I think done to the south have been done to like South England maybe Dorset, I can’t quite remember. (Nuzhat) Testing your geology here. (Maryam) That you are, that you are. Yeah, but anyway, we’ve got like all forms that- we’ve got like geology from like Precambrian in all the way down to the Quaternary, right? Here in the UK. So, I don’t blame my lecturers for appreciating this, the geology of the British Isles, and also because it’s more practical to, to host field trips here in the UK, but in lectures, when you don’t really need to think about practicality, in terms of case studies, you, you can’t you’re very much free to talk about African case studies, about places in Latin America. In Asia, even Oceania, just a lot of- East Asia, a lot of places that could have potentially been talked about, but yeah, just a lot of I just feel like there are a lot of missed opportunities to talk about really extremely rare forms of geology, rare phenomena in geology. So, like, I mean, I wouldn’t call it extremely rare, but you know, in like the Carboneras fault, right, you have like that phenomena of like multi-coloured sediments, like, on the faults because of like the way the chemical reactions work, because of like the this because of the force on the fault. I’m pretty I haven’t I didn’t know that this was, I didn’t know that there was a similar locality in what was it in Peru? (Nuzhat) Yeah, the Rainbow Mountain- (Maryam) Rainbow Mountain, both in China and in Peru. And I just thought to myself, why did I not know about this, you couldn’t have taught this as well? You could have like, done a little bit expanded on this really cool phenomena through like, beyond just Europe, Spain, you know? And even like, even then, even like a case studies, like the carbon-based lava in Tanzania, and volcano in Tanzania, that- case studies like that it kind of just glossed over- glanced over mentioned once and then never to be talked about, again. You know, those look really that those really cool phenomena that I kind of like, are the are some of the reasons that pulled me to geology in the first place. Because you know, the mysteries of the earth. Why the earth does some things but doesn’t do this one thing? I don’t know, I just feel a little bit disappointed that these really cool, really amazing case studies kind of get glanced over in favour of European geology. Yeah, so yeah, I mean, this not seeing enough, diverse I suppose diversity in case studies is another sort of exclude- passive exclusionary tactic, because it kind of, because like, the majority of the people in my cohort are all European and British. So, you’re seeing places from your own relative backyard, kind of almost like this kind of like a call to your heritage? For me not seeing any very, very few case studies, or focus within my own part of the world, kind of, you know, doesn’t feel it kind of, it’s like a very, very passive, subtle way to say that I don’t belong.

Nuzhat: 43:18

It’s very ironic. (Maryam) Just, yeah- (Nuzhat) It’s very ironic, because it’s geology, a study of the earth, you know, it should be about the whole world, not just the Eurocentric case studies. Adding on to the case studies, like, especially in engineering, there’s a lot of focus on, you know, on the West, but including Japan as well. For example, I remember when I went to Peru, I learned so many about the ancient techniques about how to cope, mitigate earthquakes, the engineering techniques that they use, there’s several and we don’t hear about it, we always hear about modern techniques. There were also like, pre-colonial techniques that we could learn from and, you know, do inspire today’s architects as well.

Jazmin: 44:09

I mean, it’s the whole fact that they think aliens built the Aztec pyramids. And then they don’t believe that the Egyptians managed to build those pyramids so well. Like obviously, like- (Nuzhat) yeah, they’d rather credit aliens than PoCs. Like how stupid, it’s like, obviously, they’re jealous, obviously. I mean the pyramids are pretty dope, but like, yeah it’s like how stupid can you be to like, aliens is actually- instead of the people who were there, you know like, yeah, I mean, yeah, there was all the engineering, architecture and geology involved to make those pyramid, I assume- (Nuzhat) Yeah, definitely- (Jazmin) -that then that’s like, why can’t you think that their own techniques at that time were superior compared to I don’t know the castles made in Europe or something, [be]cause I mean-

Maryam: 45:02

(Maryam) Yeah, superior or comparable or just as just as advanced or even something even more advanced I think in some civilisations to be honest with you.

Nuzhat: 45:12

Yeah, definitely and adding on to case studies if they do talk about non-Eurocentric case studies, it is so Eurocentric because it’s related to colonialism, because we learned a lot in my curriculum about the Kaapvaal Craton and the kimberlites there. You know, we can attack the kimberlites issue from several perspectives, but particularly it is well studied because, you know, it was mined for diamond and gold. And, you know, there’s the irony of how much- how well the Kaapvaal Craton is studied by Europeans- by White geologists compared to say, the access of that information by local indigenous groups.

Jazmin: 46:01

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, all of history that we are taught in the western- Western Hemisphere? That in the West, is very Eurocentric, because it is related to the colonialism and imperialism. And that’s why I’m currently like, researching, reading up on for a paper of mine, in fact that even like, anthropology is also Eurocentric, obviously that’s about studying the ‘Other’, and the ‘Other’ being mainly non-white people. And in most cases, the portion I’m reading about is native American groups, tribes. And obviously, in my case, is trying to think about the indigenous population across the Caribbean, as they- that is still an Eurocentric how they’re- for one thing that they thought they were cannibals. And fun fact, ‘Caribbean’ islands is a corruption of the Spanish word. So, So- (Nuzhat) Oh, I did not know that! (Jazmin) Yeah, yeah. So Caribbean is actually the corruption of the Spanish word cannibals. So originally, it was called the cannibal islands. (Nuzhat) Oh, God. (Jazmin) Yeah. Yeah. (Nuzhat) Oh my God. (Jazmin) That’s why I mainly call myself a West Indian as well. (Nuzhat) Okay. (Jazmin) Even though West Indian is still colonial- (Nuzhat) Yeah. (Jazmin) It’s a bit better than being like, oh, I’m from the cannibal islands.

Nuzhat: 47:23

You can’t see this. But me and Maryam we just have our faces covered by our hands.

Jazmin: 47:28

Yeah. And also, I think the exploration of the Caribbean was related to Columbus’s expeditions to try and find gold, which obviously he found eventually in Latin America, which obviously, problematic, in fact, that it pretty much wiped out the indigenous population in Latin America, but basically, what I’m try to get at is that a lot of the geology and the history we are taught in the West is still Eurocentric, even if we do go to somewhere outside of Europe. And-

Maryam: 48:00

It’s kind of almost thinking like, you’re thinking the world is still Europe’s playground, in a way. (Nuzhat) Yeah.

Jazmin: 48:06

Yeah, and that’s why we do need to try and decolonise geology in the sciences. Because I don’t know. I mean, for me, like I’m saying, I obviously I am West Indian, that I did- I was born and raised in Britain and so are my parents, so for me, like, that’s why I wanted to study St. Vincent and La Soufriere because also, that’s my direct connection to the Caribbean. Because that’s where my family’s from, it’s where my ancestors [are] from, even as far back as I’m actually descended from the indigenous population in St. Vincent. It’s like, why I want to be the expert on that island, because I am from that island. So, let me talk about it. (Nuzhat) Yeah. (Jazmin) Because I am trying, I do my upmost best, I’m trying to decolonise in how I think about geography and volcanology and stuff because- (Nuzhat) it’s a journey. (Jazmin) Yeah, yeah, it is and we’re always learning, trying to decolonise.

Nuzhat: 49:09

With the, all the microaggressions and exclusionary teaching attitudes. This led you to create an exhibition, as we are aware. So, could you talk to us a little bit about it? So, first of all, what was this exhibition?

Maryam: 49:28

Yeah, I did do an exhibition. For this is- this exhibition was created for one of my yearlong courses called ‘Geoscience Outreach and Engagement’ for my fourth year. And the preliminary brief of this exhibition was to kind of introduce the sort of toolkit for anti-racist education to the public in a way that’s still quiet, it’s not as probably full on, as I would like, because it probably wouldn’t be, wouldn’t encourage as much engagement as I would like. Because, you know, I mean, learn- learning about race, if you’re, if you haven’t had to think about it before, it can be quite jarring and a bit of a shock, it takes a while, it takes a while to process. So, I had to kind of keep in mind the white fragility that would be present for my audience. And so, I did actually end up spending the year kind of like, doing a lot of research, going to talks going, going all the way down to London for the ‘Decolonising STEM’ conference to kind of get an idea of how I can start talking about decolonising in the context of STEM, earth science, especially, which is actually where I met you two and other people in person, which is great, yay, tweet up. So yeah, and so I did, I spend like entire year trying to do a lot of research in my free time, and I’m not doing my dissertation or pulling my hair out, trying to keep up with my other courses. And in the end, I kind of had to put away a lot of really good material I had in favour of going back to basics, which is defining the difference between structural oppression and prejudice which-

Nuzhat: 51:38

I’m just going to interject and say that you have to go back to basics with the geologists, unfortunately, it’s such a hard conversation, you have to go down to the basics.

Maryam: 51:49

You really do honestly, yeah. Especially- and I realised this all too late because I did try having a lot of like, conversations about race with my White cohort. My peers? Let’s just say my peers in my cohort. And I mean, a lot of them some of them were welcoming? I suppose I could say not really welcoming, but some of them were open to hearing about my experiences and reading about it, reading around the subject once they’ve- once I’ve told them about it, a lot of others were just really willing to do nothing but argue with me despite the fact a lot race impacted my life in many ways that they haven’t seen because they’re White. And so yeah, the realisation I had to be to go back to basics what came a little bit too late, but that’s okay. Because I had experience, by the time it was time to create the actual exhibition. And that kind of like brought with it a little bit of, I suppose maturity? In my opinions in the way that I confront these difficult topics, because before fourth year, I was definitely in a very suppose angry little ball of fire, wanting to like wanting to like start a fight with anybody-

Jazmin: 53:16

That’s the title of this episode by the way guys.

Maryam: 53:21

It is, and by the time I had started like, I was about to finish like, the entire project with this exhibition. I thought, you know what, I don’t need this energy anymore. I’m just gonna put out go back to basics and let the audience do with this information as they like, put a disclaimer there that says if you are uncomfortable with this exhibition, you’re free to just- free to disengage as you like, the rest is up to you.

Jazmin: 53:51

Yeah, so that’s a good point. So, do you want to walk us through what the expedition contained, like, what did you talk about? With these different subjects of prejudice and structured oppression?

Maryam: 54:05

Yeah, exhibition, the- so after the introduction to the exhibition that I have, like, I’ve split it into kind of four topics that I’ve sort of structured as, like a few, a few statement- a few brief statements about the state of how these topics are approached in geology, and then asking questions about- that questions that kind of like imply problems- imply that there are problems in the way that things are being taught. So, the first topic is talking about the most, I suppose the most apparent thing that we see in geology, the White male scientists, the image of the white male scientist, that’s the first thing. Most people think when they think of geologist is most likely the guy who- we got some middle-aged guy, white guy, white, white, straight abled, cisgender, middle age, middle class men, middle class men who goes, who drinks. The first person, I think that for me, I suppose as it was the first image that comes to mind. When I think about geology even as even as someone who has had the upbringing of having physical activity and being outdoors normalised, for me it kind of- yeah, sorry, the opportunity of like going out into the world being in the outdoors normalised to me. Even so, the just an image of a geologist always brings up like the straight white men. So, the first topic dealt with that and ask questions about what about these other female scientists? What kind of obstacles do you think they might have- they might have gone through having to rise up the ranks or having to just study science without people bothering them because of their gender, stuff like that. And the second topic dealt with Eurocentricity in our curriculum, why is it that we always focus on Europe? Why is Europe always the centre of everything that we study? Even though geology is a global field? I don’t know. Think about it. And even- sorry, no, I know. Sorry, that was not the end of it, think in that one topic. I did quote the- I did mention the pre-colonial Peruvian, I think? Pre-colonial, was it? Yeah, Peruvian structural engineering, with seismic, yeah- with seismic engineering that they that was that still remains intact, kind of semi-intact, I think to this day, though, that was the thing that I quoted, straight from your blog article Nuzhat.

Nuzhat: 56:51

Oh okay! I was so proud of that.

Maryam: 56:56

Yeah, I was like, it was really, really interesting. So, I kind of just thought to myself, as I was reading, I really need to use this, this is amazing. Like, after like start sharing of all my friends. Yeah, the third topic was about the ableism present in normalising going up- normalising the compulsory requirement to go out on field trips in order to be a geologist to be in the field, to be able to hike in difficult places that maybe people with physical and/or mental disabilities would not be able to handle to be a geologist and not a disc jockey, whatever the hell that is. So, I kind of some of the leading questions- some of the questions I included in that topic was, what other ways can we make teaching geology much more inclusive to people who can- who have obstacles to going out into the field. And then the last topic was about acknowledgement of colonised territory, in a way. So indigenous territory in Australia, indigenous territory throughout Africa, Canada, USA, all these places I even- being- I mean, being a university in Edinburgh, we don’t have we never have to think about like, indigeneity. Because what people are kind of like, you know, the- like, I would I don’t want to say native, but they’re like, kind of like the predominant group of people here in the British Isles, so we never really have to think about indigeneity. But even so, when we move out of Europe to maybe briefly talk about places, localities in Asia, Africa, and Australia and North America, Canada, Latin America, we never really talked about, we hardly ever discuss the implications of being able to go to these places are being are having so much information about these localities due to colonialism, you know, it’s like there’s no even when we talk about these field trips, there aren’t there is no acknowledgement of why we have this information in the first place and who information should the- or who the information- you know who probably should have held this information, if not for colonialism, you know?

Nuzhat: 59:19

Yeah, there’s in our common room at Bristol University School of Earth Sciences there is a globe where people like kind of put like a little sticky of where they’ve done fieldwork or they managed to go and I look at that, I think, I wonder if they when they’re in those localities think if the locals can conduct the same type of fieldwork or if they have access to similar level of education of the geology of that surrounding. If they ever think like how privileged they are to be able to walk and especially like having a British passport for the majority of the students studying geology in the UK, do they ever think about the access to the land that they have, as well.

Maryam: 1:00:07

Yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely. My thing though- even with that, I know that people in my department do have good intentions to want to be better geologists. And I think if with a little bit more push, they could definitely be much better than they are now. Because I say this because like, some of the fundamental rules, I guess, not really rules, but fundamental advice that I got from my lecturers was that one of them, one of which has stuck in my head for a while. This lecturer told us that when you go out into the rural area, you must always seek permission from whoever owns the area. And I think even though I know he was referring to places in Europe, I’m pretty sure that’s pretty good general advice wherever in the world you go, you got to check whoever owns the area, if you’re going to New Zealand, you’ve got to check if you’re okay to hike or collect resource from the local indigenous people who own- who are living in that area, which is, it’s pretty good general advice. So, I’m pretty sure I think if we were- if this lecturer had known a lot- had- was more apparently aware of colonial legacy and indigeneity, I’m pretty sure he would have been much, much better, more inspiring geologist, I guess, to people of colour- to scientists of colour than you know in general.

Jazmin: 1:01:25

Yeah, I mean, even I have my research for my Masters and PhD, even I asked permission to like, not only to like interview people, but just even go over there and do research. Like even though, you know, it’s, I am from St. Vincent, I still ask permission. Obviously, with my research, obviously, I had to ask permission, if they’re okay with this being recorded and used in research, and obviously everyone said yes. And also, like, when I do my archive stuff is like, is it okay, if I use it in my research? Yes. I do not think, yeah, like, still just making sure it’s okay to ask anyway, instead of just obviously, demand in a way, I’m coming here to do this and leave. So that’s definitely the more that’s why the colonial/imperial kind of, like you just go in, do you want and then leave, but at least, at least asking is one way to try and form some sort of- what would you say is- (Nuzhat) Connection? (Jazmin) Connection or trust? (Nuzhat) Yeah trust (Jazmin) Yeah (Nuzhat) trust (Jazmin) Yeah.

Maryam: 1:02:34

I feel yeah, I feel like a huge part of decolonising geology is to kind of normal is to normalise consent, in order to break down this breakdown- like breakdown, normalising entitlement into lands. Like you- like, you know, this lands probably rule and may not belong to anyone, but you still got to find out who has authority over this land that you know, you’ve got permission to walk on. And it is not just like, for your safety, it’s just because, you know, it’s respect. It’s just basic respect, whoever owns this land, you don’t own that land to get to ask who owns it and ask them if it’s okay. Consent. Not entitlement.

Nuzhat: 1:03:12

You’re right, like, decolonising is about earning back that trust and to show respect, because at the end of the day, unless we do that, we’re kind of continuing the colonial legacy, right? We’re being colonisers.

Maryam: 1:03:28

Yes, stepping whatever into- stepping wherever you want, thinking, this land is mine, I’m allowed to be here, rocks some rocks.

Nuzhat: 1:03:42

This sounds like a great exhibition, and something that your peers could learn a lot from, and not just your peers, but also the teaching and the staff. So, what did you want to get out of this?

Maryam: 1:03:54

I mean, the more, I suppose the more noble reason was to educate more people about how race and how other forms of oppression affect a lot of aspiring geoscientists? Making the exhibition was to inspire more people to become better allies, to become more appreciative of the struggle some of us have- the additional struggle some of us have to go through to just study what we love. And I suppose the more selfish goal of the exhibition was to kind of just find a productive way to let out a lot of my rage. That un-resentment that’s built up over the last two and a half years of just being aware that I was the only person of colour there and that’s a lot of some of my needs were kind of not met or other my restrictions due to the religious practices I follow were kind of being side-lined because it was just because you know, it was normal to do something else. So, like, for I’ll give it I mean, for one example, from this is, when I had had a two-week field trip scheduled for the end of May, in the beginning of June and around 2017, I think this was it was my year- it was my second year. The- it was the end of my second year, and I had and that was kind of when Ramadan was at the end of May, and the beginning of June was kind of in the middle of Ramadan. So, I’ve kind of thought to myself, I’m not going to be able to hike for eight hours a day without food and water, what am I going to do? And so when I had a chat with the field trip organiser about it, he, I told him about my religious duties, he kind of said, I mean, we can’t really move the field trip because this is just how it’s always been done every year, even for just one Muslim or even just for two Muslims, because he had told me that they this the same thing happened the year before with two other Muslims, but instead of moving the field trip, so that the two Muslims can observe the religious duties in peace without inciting stress, he decided to go with- to operate the field trip as normal. But then the two Muslim women fasted during the two and a half weeks in hot, rainy northern Scotland, waking up at like, I don’t know, what time 6am-7am in the morning, to make food to make, like get to make food for Suhur and then fast for 13-15 hours a day while hiking without water and food, and then breaking and then only having like, what five under five hours to eat and sleep. And so, it was I mean, obviously, this was a health concern. But- (Jazmin) Yes, it’s a major health concern. (Maryam) obviously, but you know, me being in second at the time not as kind of aware of racial and structural oppression as I would have liked to been, I kind of thought, I mean, it does feel it feels a bit like, like a lot of effort to reschedule a whole two-week field trip because of two women. But at the same time, if he had another- I’m here, thinking back on that time, if he had rescheduled the field trip, knowing and known very early on that Ramadan is going to fall within these two dates, then maybe you would have had this health concern in the first place. And maybe then, I don’t know maybe they would have gotten better weather because during those two weeks all they had was rain. So maybe they deserved it. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not I’m not from that for me to say. But I think in my case, because I was the only Muslim in the year I kind of just thought I feel like a burden having to convince- try to convince this guy to move the field trip or move me to another field trip because of my religious duties. So, I kind of- I talked to my family and we kind of agreed that would be best for my health if I just didn’t fast for two and a half weeks and just went on the field trip as normal. So yeah.

Jazmin: 1:08:27

Yeah, it’s like put the compulsory field work component before your religious duties that’s just-

Nuzhat: 1:08:38

Kind of almost feels like that to have to this- it like feels like the same kind of you have being able being forced to choose between your religion, your identity- your religious identity, your religious customs, cultural identity, and the science the field that you want to study, because you generally find it interesting.

Jazmin: 1:08:58

Yeah, Yeah, that’s something you don’t want to do, you want to combine both because that’s part of who you are. So, Maryam, what are you doing now? And do you still want to pursue a career in geology?

Maryam: 1:09:13

So, right now I’m working at an educational centre in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur. And I’m using this job as kind of like a work experience pedestal to jump off from to apply for more jobs in geoscience industries here in Malaysia. So currently on like a job search, part time job search, but full-time work at the educational centre, as well. (Nuzhat) That’s very cool. (Maryam) So yeah, I do want to still pursue a career in geology. I still find it. I still find it really, really interesting. And but you know, because of COVID I’m kind of biding my time, until there until the right opportunity comes up for me to- (Nuzhat) At least you have something going on right now (Maryam) Thank you. Yeah, thank you. Yeah. But ideally, I’d like to go back into research because I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of really good laboratory work, laboratory experience that I kind of, I really liked. I remember I really, really enjoyed when I was at university, I had a course called practical geochemistry, and data analysis. And I absolutely enjoyed, like doing the learning about the lab work and actually processing the samples for studying later on. I really want to do more of that.

Nuzhat: 1:10:35

a lot. So, we talked a lot about the challenges of teaching geology, but we never asked you what type of geology you’re interested in? What kind of research would you like to go into?

Maryam: 1:10:49

I don’t know to be honest with you. I’m kind of- because I’m a fresh grad I don’t really mind what I get to study so long as I get to play with a lot of like nice expensive tools. No, seriously. No, seriously though, just because I’m a fresh grad I don’t really want to make to- make a judgement too early on what kind of thing I’m interested in. So, for now, I’m kind of open to doing whatever and learning more- learning new skills and developing the current skills in programming and laboratory work.

Jazmin: 1:11:22

So, you are okay in being desk jockey then?

Maryam: 1:11:25

I’m absolutely fine in being a desk jockey. If it stops me from getting- if it stops me from getting COVID from the locals, then I’m okay with that. (Nuzhat) You don’t have a choice at the moment. (Maryam) Done. Exactly. I’m alright being a desk jockey. Nothing wrong with the desk jockey geoscientist. (Jazmin) Yeah, nothing wrong about it.

Nuzhat: 1:11:45

All right, so we’re gonna wrap up so when we spoke to you, we set you a challenge and we set your challenge to find a favourite mineral that was not tainted by the legacy of colonialism. Did you find a mineral?

Maryam: 1:12:03

I found maybe a mineral and this is one really cool mineral called Yavapai Travertine and this is called like I think spirit stone by the Navajo natives in the USA and apparently this it was believed that by- I’m just- I’m looking this off like a basic Google Search I’m sorry if I get this wrong, disclaimer, but apparently the spirit stone was highly it was thought- to be higher- it was believed to be highly to be- highly significant spiritually because it- because the Navajo natives believe that history is told in the layers of the spirit stone, the Yavapai Travertine, which is pretty- which is if you think about it is pre-colonial geological knowledge. (Jazmin and Nuzhat) Yeah, yeah. (Maryam) Yeah, I don’t know if it has been tainted by colonialism because I’ve not done enough research on it but- (Jazmin) I hope not. (Maryam) -we know one Google Search yeah, I hope not too, but the one Google Search did bring this up and the second one I found is a fossil called I’m really sorry for pronouncing this badly but I’m going to try, the Ngwevu, Ngwevu which is which comes from like the word in Xhosa? I probably pronounced that wrong as well the actual language, but it was- it’s a genus of sauropodomorph dinosaur from South Africa (Jazmin) Nice. (Maryam) So far those are the only two things I found only two specimens I found so far in my- (Jazmin) Okay, maybe we will- (Maryam) in my search- (Jazmin) maybe we’ll bring you back on to hopefully you can come back and tell us hopefully there’s some more that are not tainted by colonialism, I mean that’s really awkward- (Maryam) maybe we should look I know I’m pretty sure yeah, you know I’m pretty sure there are a few more minerals like there are found that were unique to Africa but the problem is a lot of them have the word “ite” at the end and so I kind of don’t even the name has like a bit of a colonial taint on to it just because of yeah named it right? (Nuzhat) and was it used for mining or was it- (Maryam) yeah, I don’t even know. I’m pretty sure I gave Ngwevu was like yeah, never mind Ngwevu was like has colonial taint to it because it was- (Jazmin) No! (Maryam) -it was discovered, I’m just reading off the Wikipedia page now to you guys live. (Nuzhat) Live from Maryam! (Maryam) Yeah, it was discovered in 1978 by James William Kitching and this yeah, yeah. James William Kitching, who was regarded as one of the world’s greatest fossil finders. I’m pretty sure- (Nuzhat) Oh no. (Maryam) kind of yes, some kind of like connection to whatever colonial foreign-

Jazmin: 1:15:02

Yeah, that declaration just sounds like “nah”.

Nuzhat: 1:15:09


Jazmin: 1:15:10

Okay, so we have the fossil.

Nuzhat: 1:15:17

Alright, Maryam next time on when your back on, we’re expecting like, another mineral or fossil or a rock.

Maryam: 1:15:26

I will try, so far, we’ve got Yavapai Travertine, and nothing else. Unless I find out something else about that.

Jazmin: 1:15:35

I hope you don’t, hold on to one thing.

Nuzhat: 1:15:41

Oh my gosh. You know what, I just really hope someone doesn’t come in our Twitter or like email us to say actually.

Maryam: 1:15:51

Yeah. Do you know how annoying colonial geology is probably someone is gonna clarify about the Travertine. I wouldn’t be surprised. I would be disappointed, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Jazmin: 1:16:04

Yeah, I think we all just be disappointed. Well, thank you anyway. So final, final question. How can people get in contact with you?

Maryam: 1:16:17

Uh, they can-

Jazmin: 1:16:20

If you want them to get in contact with you.

Maryam: 1:16:26

If they would like they can DM me on twitter at: maryam m-a-r-y-a-m underscore a-t-c-k on Twitter.

Jazmin: 1:16:37

Awesome, and we’ll make sure we provide that in the description as well.

Nuzhat: 1:16:42

Also, if anyone is interested in Maryam’s exhibition and wants to host it do contact.

Jazmin: 1:16:48

Yes, it’s free. It’s open. It’s open to people.

Nuzhat: 1:16:51

Yes, snap it up!

Jazmin: 1:16:53

Just make sure you obviously acknowledge her work. (Nuzhat) Definitely. (Maryam) Yes, it’s free labour, please. Really please, I appreciate it.

Nuzhat: 1:17:05

Thank you, Maryam.

Maryam: 1:17:07

Thank you so much for hosting me.

Nuzhat: 1:17:12

And that’s it from us. If you enjoy this podcast, please like, subscribe, share and leave a review.

Jazmin: 1:17:18

If you have any feedback or want to get in touch with us, you can find us on whatonearthpodcast@gmail.com or whatonearthpod on Twitter or What On Earth Podcast on Instagram.

Nuzhat: 1:17:31

The next time!

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