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Your background? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career? 

The son of a Scottish homemaker and an electrical engineer from India, Srivastava admits he was a nerd growing up. R. Mohan went to MIT, where he first learned that it might be possible to make a living combining his love of the outdoors and his enjoyment of mathematics. Following his Bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences from MIT, he went on to earn a Master’s degree in Geostatistics from Stanford University.

What do you do?

Srivastava began a career as a geostatistical consultant, helping international mining companies determine where to point their drills.

His job entails using data to extrapolate how much wealth might be buried underground. He has spent almost all of his professional career as a consultant, applying geostatistics and numerical methods to a wide range of earth science problems, from resource estimation in the mining and petroleum industries, to fracture modeling for nuclear waste repositories and carbon sequestration, to studies of animal populations, climate change and groundwater modeling.

What is a typical day like?

A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”