Geothermal scientist Andrés Ruzo ’09 is described as “a restless spirit” whose passions for science and adventure drive the online photo essays he creates for National Geographic. In the first of the four-part series, he talks about what sparked his interest in the rugged land of fire and ice – Iceland. Ruzo earned undergraduate degrees from SMU in finance and geology and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
I’ve always dreaded the question, “Where are you from?” For me there is no easy answer. My life has always varied among Peru, Nicaragua, and the United States. I am Peruvian on my dad’s side, Nicaraguan on my mom’s side, and I live in the U.S. My life continues to be shaped by all three countries.
My first real link to geothermal science started as a kid in Nicaragua. My big, agricultural family is from northern Nicaragua and, among other things, we grow coffee on the Casita Volcano. Some of my most vivid childhood memories happened there.
As a child, I would regularly spend my summers on the coffee farm, playing with my cousins in the jungles on the flank of the volcano. My favorite place was the Casita’s geothermal field, which is full of fumaroles (steaming openings in the ground emitting hot, volcanic gases) and hot springs. There, the intensity of earth’s heat made it impossible for trees to grow, and the area seemed barren compared to the lush jungle surrounding it. We would throw things in fumaroles and watch the steam blast them away. We’d throw hot geothermal mud at each another. Once, we even cooked eggs in a hot spring.