Graduate Research: The focus of my graduate research was employing a novel geographical approach to locate inland Michigan sand deposits that could replace coastal dune sand currently mined for the foundry industry. It evolved out of a collaboration with both an environmental group, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and an auto manufacturer, Ford. My work involved physical and chemical testing of sand from inland deposits across the state. In addition, I developed a suitability matrix for ranking these deposits based on numerous spatial factors that influence their usefulness and quality. Such factors included distance from transportation routes, deposit size, and location, among others. Stratigraphic data from Michigan’s hundreds of thousands of water wells were also used to create a map of Michigan inland sand deposits that could be used to guide future exploration and facilitate a move toward non-coastal dune sources. Results of my research found such a move is likely feasible given the physical and chemical character of Michigan’s inland sand and the vast size of the deposits.
My Career Path: After finishing my graduate class work at MSU I was hired by a small environmental consulting and engineering firm, ELM Consulting, as a fluvial geomorphologist. My work focused on using fluvial geomorphic principles to aid in the effective clean-up and remediation of contaminated river systems. Most of my initial work centered on identifying the distribution of dioxin and furan contamination on the Tittabawassee River floodplain in Midland and Saginaw Counties, Michigan. As part of this work I was involved in mapping the floodplain and river environment and in collecting, describing, and sampling soil and sediment cores.
In early 2009 I joined a larger firm, Tetra Tech, again as a fluvial geomorphologist, but with added emphasis on using GIS as a tool in effective geomorphology-based river clean-up. My work with Tetra Tech has included river sediment sampling to test for PCB contamination on the Fox River near Green Bay and river mapping based on multi-beam bathymetry data. Since the summer of 2010 I have been assisting in the clean-up of the Kalamazoo River after a ruptured crude oil pipeline discharged almost 1 million gallons of oil into the river, impacting almost 40 miles of the channel and floodplain.