Associate Scientist, Scientific

Conservation image

Eric Doehne was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where his father taught at the University of North Carolina medical school. When he was seven, his family moved to Woodland, California, near Sacramento. In high school he pursued a number of interests, including the trombone, theater, and student government, but he was particularly taken with an aerial geography class, taught by a former air force pilot who flew his students around the state on Saturdays.

Eric attended Haverford, a small Quaker college in suburban Philadelphia, and there studied geology, along with history and political science. He returned west to do graduate work in sedimentary geology and geochemistry at the University of California, Davis. There, he learned to use electron microscopes to identify traces of fallout from the asteroid impact that may have triggered the demise of the dinosaurs. He had originally intended to either work for an oil company or teach, but when his faculty advisor told him in 1988 of a position at the GCI, he applied. Though he had been offered a four-year scholarship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to complete his Ph.D. studies, he decided to take the GCI job.

Hired primarily to operate the Institute's electron microprobe, he was soon working on a variety of other projects as well. His first major project involved the Getty Kouros, work that was related to his Ph.D. dissertation on the weathering rates of marble from ancient Greek quarries. In the years since, he has contributed research to a number of Institute projects, including the conservation of the hominid footprints at Laetoli, in Tanzania, and the Maya site of Xunantunich, in Belize.

He enjoys conservation because it has so many interesting—and unsolved—problems. Particularly intrigued by the problems of deterioration, especially damage to stone caused by salts, he has used a variety of technologies (including time-lapse video) to examine the microdynamics of salt crystallization. He has long had an interest in digital imaging and enjoys incorporating imaging techniques into his work, which still involves operating the Institute's electron microprobe and its environmental scanning electron microscope. He is also working on new GCI projects, including one involving the conservation of earthen architecture and another that is focused on the exploration of the philosophical basis of conservation and the bringing of new ideas to the field.