Hello Adventurers, Welcome back to another edition of Annette's Adventures!
I am back working in the Cerrillos Hills, one of my favorite locations to work. This time, I am three gates deep into private property and loving every minute of my workday. Getting access to the area that I am working in requires coordinated access permission from multiple people. Once permission was granted and the keys were picked up, I drove out to scout the roads and plan my workdays. I know the road as far as the gates and a little ways past the last gate, but I have never been all the way out the road. My first mission was to see how far out the road I could drive. I drove out farther than I expected, but not as far as I had hoped. Once turned around and parked, I started traversing the hills, but I had forgotten to update the data on my GPS unit, so it was indeed just a scouting day.
I returned to Cerrillos Monday morning, ready and excited for a full day of work. My goal was to reach the top of the central mountain and record monitoring data on my way up. I started in the hills, moving up the mountain's eastern flank with each feature that I monitored. The day was still and peaceful. There was a slight breeze and a little nip in the air, but the sun was warm, and I quickly traded my thermal for my go-to field shirt.
I carefully picked my way through the cactus as I climbed the hillside. Each feature I came across was slightly higher than the last, and each time the slope flattened out, I would take a break from walking to enjoy the view. The higher I climbed, the steeper the terrain got and the closer the cactus grew together. At one point, I had to stop and ask myself if the risk was worth the reward. The slope was steep, the rocks were loose, and cactus carpeted my path. I continued to the top, knowing that there must be features at the top. There are always features at the top. My responsibility is to make sure that I check them for safety, regardless of how difficult they are to access.
I eventually reached the top of the mountain. The slight breeze that gently kept me cool in the lower elevations had turned into a full-blown wind. The temperature had dropped, and the sun was lower on the horizon than I had hoped it would be. But that was all ok because I made it to the top, and there really were mine features up there. I proceeded to the features, recorded their current state, took the required pictures, and then crept to the edge of the north slope to plan my route down.
I knew there were features below me, but I didn't know where. I knew that I didn't want to leave them for a future day, but I didn't know if I could safely reach them. I took a few minutes to prepare for my descent: I pulled my thermal on over my field shirt, studied the GPS unit, and tucked it into the back pocket of my vest. I pulled my gloves on and slowly started to make my way down the north flank of the mountain.
Thankfully my trajectory was spot on. I quickly saw the first of the 3 intended features; it was directly below me. Knowing that it is not safe to walk straight downhill to a feature, I changed my path and moved to the west before proceeding downhill. As with the climb up, I was making my way across loose rock through fields of cactus. I picked my way carefully and grabbed onto juniper branches when available to help ease my mind.
Once at the mine feature, I recorded my observations in the GPS unit and started to plan my route to the next and final feature of the day. The last and final feature of the day was a bit higher on the slope and somewhere east of my current position. I planned it that way to get that feature on my way back to the truck, but I was unaware of the slope conditions when I made my plan. No turning back now, and there is no way I wanted to climb back up at a later date, so I very carefully picked my way to the last mine feature of my day.
With the last feature completed, I had to make a decision. Do I make my way downhill and then cross the many hills to get back to the truck? Or, do I cross the slope and make my way down the eastern flank as previously planned? I decided to stay high on the hill, but I knew it would take decisive foot placement. I made my way to the east and then carefully downhill. Every step was a careful judgment call. Are there any loose rocks? Are there and cactus? Is the slope stable? Is it safe to stop there? All the while keeping an eye on my trajectory, I was aiming for a specific spot on the hill that would give me a more clear view of my route out. Once there, I again started down that slope, very carefully picking my way through the carpet of cactus. I was walking in the shadow of the mountain and would remain in the shadow for the rest of my hike out. I knew I wanted to get back to the truck with as much daylight left as possible. As the slope graduated from too steep to climb to a pleasant hill, I quickened my pace. I made it back to the truck at 4:54, three minutes before the official sunset, and quickly sent a text to HQ confirming my safe return.
What started as a blissful morning traversing the hills turned into a great accomplishment. Not only did I climb the mountain, but I did it safely and without injury. I started my day thinking thoughts of gratitude, specifically for such a peaceful day and for having a career that allows me moments of happiness in beautiful locations. I finished my day thankful for my skills and abilities and the gear and equipment that kept me safe. Every year on Thanksgiving, I ask everyone at the table to say what they are most thankful for. This year I am grateful for so much, I won't begin to list everything, but most of all, I am thankful for the support of the great folks at GEM Environmental. This has been a fantastic year, and I am looking forward to many more adventures and many more safe returns....
Welcome back to Annette's Adventures! While Annette has been on time and active with her adventures, I (Marlena- the editor) have been backed up and behind and I formally apologize for the delay! Without further ado, here is Annette's October Adventure...
Hello adventurers! Welcome to Annette’s Adventures.
I spent most of this last spring monitoring the Cerrillos Hills; I’ve tried not to bore you with all the details, but it is, by far, my favorite place to work. You can read about my introduction to Cerrillos Hills and AML monitoring in my blog from March.
Today I am going to take you back to Cerrillos Hills with the summer intern crew. GEM Corps arranged for the interns to meet with AML Administrators from State and Federal agencies in the Cerrillos Hills, for a walking-talking tour of mine closures.
Our day started at the State Park Headquarters in the village of Cerrillos. We met with the administrators and listened while they gave the group some background on Abandoned Mine Lands and the mine closure efforts in the Cerrillos Hills. From there, we went to a trailhead and walked to some closures in the state park. We started with one closure: an old mine shaft covered with wire mesh and a bridge that allows you to safely walk over the mine shaft. We talked about the anatomy of the mesh closures and the engineering behind them. Then we talked about what type of degradation to look for when monitoring closures. We walked to a second nearby closure, where we looked at how the mesh is anchored into the ground and looked for signs of degradation.
From those two closures, we walked back to our vehicles and drove to some harder-to-access closures. We visited some “puff closures,” backfills, and the second type of mesh closure. The administrators explained the engineering that goes into the different closures and the typical kinds of degradation at each closure type. They also told us some stories from their learning experiences in implementing the different types of closures.
The AML Administrators finished the tour by taking us to some of the oldest mine features in the area. We visited the Mina Del Tiro and Bethsheba mines on our way to the oldest known turquoise “pit” in the area, Mount Chalchihuitl (CHAL CHEE WEE TE). Mina Del Tiro is known as the oldest recorded metal mine in North America. Bethsheba’s claim to fame is that it is the most studied lead mine in North America. Both mines are remarkable for their age, depth, and history.
Of all the stops in the tour, Chalcihuitl was the only feature that I had not previously monitored. As such was a special surprise for me. My first impression of the diggings at Chalchihuitl was one of awe and reverence. For me, it was a humbling experience, the idea that this space was held in reverence for thousands of years and countless generations. I noticed that voices were a bit hushed, eyes were wide open, everyone stood around taking in the atmosphere. Our trip to the Cerrillos Hills didn’t last long. Still, the experience will last a lifetime. I’ll be working in the area this winter and look forward to exploring Chalchihuitl and the surrounding area more. Til next time, my friends and followers….
In honor of Veteran's Day, we would like to introduce our newest GEM Environmental STEM Scholarship, The 1st Annual Robert Graves Memorial Scholarship for Veterans in STEM. Andrina Shields, the mother of Robert Graves, has partnered with GEM to award a $1,500 scholarship to Veterans in STEM fields and to share Robbie’s story to help spread Veteran Suicide Awareness throughout our community.
Robert (Robbie) Graves was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the oldest child of Andrina Shields and Robert Graves, he has a younger sister Taylore, and four half siblings. Robbie was always the life of the party and could make anyone laugh. He really loved teasing his little sister. In Grade School he was the lead in many plays, especially when there was singing parts. In Junior High, he was on the wrestling team and started a garage band with the neighborhood kids, in which of course he was the lead singer. During High School he enjoyed the independence of working and having his own money. He saved enough money to buy his first car, which was a 1990 Jeep Wrangler. Robbie attended Greenway Highschool and graduated at a charter school in the area. After high school, Robbie joined the United States Air Force, and began his journey into adulthood.
At the age of 12, Robbie watched with his mother as the second plane hit the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. This is when he proclaimed that he would join the Military. He chose the United States Air Force to follow in his Father’s footsteps and chose the field of logistics. Robbie was stationed in Japan right out of basic training, this is where he met his future wife, she was also in the Air Force. He was deployed to Iraq in 2011, where he spent his 21st birthday. After this deployment, Robbie and his wife were stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota where he finished out his four years of service and decided not to re-enlist. During this time, Robbie became a father to his beautiful son, Michael, and worked very hard to become a Train Conductor for BNSF Railroad. Life seemed to be going great for the young family.
Soon after he started working for the railroad, Robbie and his wife divorced. He was having a very hard time transitioning to a life outside the Military and the couple could not make their relationship work any longer. After the divorce, Robbie seemed to be doing well. He had a wonderful relationship with his son, a great job, and he even purchased his first home. It was not until April 2017, when he was five years out of the Air Force, that Robbie started showing signs of PTSD. Robbie’s family was still in Arizona and the signs of self-medication, self-isolation, insomnia, and anger outbursts were not known until it was almost too late. After his family became aware of this, they were able to get him to Arizona with hopes of finding a treatment program.
This is when it was discovered that Robbie wasn’t on drugs or alcohol, he had nothing in his system. Robbie was diagnosed and suffering from Manic, Chronic, PTSD. With little knowledge of this condition, and few available resources, Robbie’s family worked hard to find support for his condition until the very end. On Memorial Day 2017, Robbie lost his battle to PTSD and died by suicide.
“Living a life without Robbie is a daily journey. There is a hole that will never be filled, and a heartbreak that will never heal. The devastation of losing someone to suicide is far greater than one could ever imagine. Families are left with guilt, judgement, and grief beyond comprehension. Suicide has a ripple effect and statistically, every suicide causes at least one other suicide. The stigma is so great and many times families are left very alone simply because others don’t know how to comprehend this type of grief. As a result, families feel isolated and grief stricken without much support. I believe the only way to move forward is to help others. By helping others and yourself, the grief somehow, with time, has meaning by honoring your loved one.”
- Andrina Shields, Mother of Robbie
Robbie’s careers in logistics, and the railroad, were both heavily impacted by STEM. Because of this, and to help Veterans who are transitioning out of the Military, Andrina felt this scholarship would be a wonderful way to honor Robbie’s life. To learn more, or to apply for this scholarship, click here. All applications will go through a review process and the award recipient will be chosen directly by Andrina Shields.
TO APPLY FOR THIS SCHOLARSHIP CLICK HERE.
TO DONATE DIRECTLY TO THE ROBERT GRAVES MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND CLICK HERE AND DESIGNATE TO THE ROBERT GRAVES FUND.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from PTSD or suicidal thoughts please reach out for help! Here is a list of many organizations that can offer assistance:
Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors T.A.P.S
Operation Restored Warrior
Combat Vet Vision
The Pipe Hitter Foundation – helping find justice for our brave men and women
PTSD Foundation of America – Weekly warrior groups for Combat Vets and Camp Hope
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hi, friends. Welcome to another edition of Annette’s Adventures. I’ve written a lot about my adventures in the field, exploring the rocks and mountains of New Mexico, but today I decided that I wanted to share an urban adventure with all of you.
Did you know that New Mexico is possibly home to the oldest apple tree in North America? Let’s start with a bit of history before I get into the adventures.
The Spanish arrived in New Mexico around 1598, but people were farming the middle Rio Grande Valley as early as 1200 – 1300 AD. Spanish Colonists established farms and ranches all along the Rio Grande and planted apples throughout the region. The Pueblo Revolt occurred in 1680 and drove the Spaniards out of the area until they returned in 1706 and established more permanent settlements. La Villa de Albuquerque became the administrative and trading center for the surrounding area. Agricultural settlements sprung up around the Villa; each settlement developed a unique community identity that still stands today.
The Manzano Mountains are a small, north-south trending mountain chain located approximately southwest of Albuquerque. In 1926, the Manzano Forest Reserve identified a tree near the Manzano Mountains that is believed to have been planted before 1676, making that the oldest apple tree in North America.
So, what does this apple history of New Mexico have to do with Annette’s Adventures? Everything!
My New Mexico harvesting adventures started this summer. I kept in trail-ready condition for fieldwork by hiking on the weekends. When it got hot, my friend and I started hiking in the Santa Fe Ski Basin; we could escape the heat and get some high elevation hikes in. One weekend a lady on the trail gave me two mushrooms. I took them to the field and shared them with the crew. They were delicious! After that, I was hooked. I took a basket and mushroom field guide to the mountains every weekend for a month straight. It is important to note that I only picked mushrooms that I could positively identify as bolete and sought out mushroom mentors whenever possible.
A friend recently introduced me to a local group of volunteers called Food Is Free ABQ (FIFABQ). We joined FIFABQ for a harvest at a micro-orchard in Los Ranchos. The orchard is considered original; it was repurposed as a central park for a small townhouse community. There are about 30 trees in this specific micro-orchard, most were apples, but there were also pear and Asian pear trees. In two hours, the group harvested roughly 2,400 pounds of fruit. The fruit gets distributed to local people who can use it. As a harvester, I came home with an unexpected grocery bag of apples. My first harvest was a blast, and I got apples too! No surprise that I would jump in and help with more harvests. The second harvest I joined was only two miles away from my house and was again an old established micro-orchard. FIFABQ is an all-around win when it comes to community service. Harvest season continues through November, and I look forward to volunteering with Food Is Free Albuquerque again
The adventure doesn’t stop there. The apple harvests is a great way to connect with and learn from locals. I made a small comment about how beautiful and tantalizing the prickly pears look, this led to me learning how to process the ruby red fruit. Filled with curiosity and armed with leather gloves, tongs, and paper bags; I harvested my first batch of prickly pears. My cupboards are filling with local harvest, who knows what fruit I will harvest next, but it will likely produce many tasty treats. Until next time my friends….
GEM Environmental is proud to welcome Dave Tharp to the team. Dave is the newest Board Member and a pillar of our community. Welcome aboard, Dave!
Dave has over 25 years of experience in the Firefighting and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Industry in Arizona – holding the ranks of Reserve Firefighter through Battalion Chief and is a certified Paramedic. He is currently the Assistant Chief of Administration for the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority and has overseen the “business part” of fire agencies (Human Resources, Finance and Administration) for the past 8 years. He managed the transition of the Central Yavapai and Chino Valley Fire Districts to create the first Joint Powers Authority in Arizona in 2016. He sits on the Board of Directors for Securis – a worker’s compensation risk pool for fire districts, and Kairos – a health insurance risk pool for town, cities, school districts and fire districts in Arizona. He is finalizing his degree in Fire Administration through Columbia Southern University, has 6 kids, loves to golf, was born in Hawaii and is fluent in Italian.
Dave understands and emphasizes the importance of STEM Curriculum in the fire service and has seen scientific advances make firefighting and emergency services more efficient, effective and safer. He notes, “firefighting used to be considered a “blue collar” profession – however, with all the presenting hazards in emergency medicine, chemical materials, swift water/ technical rescue, structural and wildland firefighting – this has changed and pushed this profession to be a technically trained, highly specialized and science driven profession. There is still a need for physical fitness and abilities in firefighting, but it is now coupled with higher education that focuses on STEM."
GEM Environmental is excited to spotlight our newest scholarship recipient. Emma Goethe was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and now attends school at Arizona State University in Tempe. Growing up with the mountains in her backyard, Emma quickly developed a passion for the outdoors and specifically native reptile wildlife. These interests have now expanded into a graduate educational career where she is working towards a Master of Sustainability Solutions. One of Emma’s exploration avenues is conservation education, and she is also fascinated by transboundary conservation initiatives. Selecting a STEM-focused educational path was a no-brainer for Emma. Her passion for protecting the natural world requires an understanding of the sciences. What makes sustainability so unique is its combination of hard and soft sciences. Congratulations Emma!
How did you hear about G.E.M. Environmental and this scholarship opportunity?
I heard about this scholarship opportunity through the ASU scholarship portal website.
Please provide a brief description highlighting your work/area of focus.
As an elementary and middle school student, my school partnered with the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary to introduce us to the amazing world of reptiles, but also concepts of conservation. In fourth grade, we held a reptile showcase where I was assigned the California Kingsnake and we presented on their physical makeup but also challenges they face in the wild. This experience has stuck with me since then. Upon looking for internships sophomore year there was an opportunity to be a conservation educator at the sanctuary. Almost three years later, I am still on the conservation education team and travel around the valley of the sun teaching the community about reptiles and the need for increased conservation efforts. The sanctuary also holds week-long courses for students to take which go in-depth on reptile families and what can be done to protect them. For these programs, I am the course facilitator and lead groups of about 15 students through the week’s curriculum. At the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, I have discovered a passion for educating others on challenges for species survival. I believe the best way to see positive change is to spread awareness, which is the exact goal of the sanctuary. For my honors thesis, I decided to take my love for conservation education and native reptiles in the valley even further. I developed a 15 week-long course for local middle school students which introduces them to species survival and concludes with the students developing a conservation campaign that they pitch to the entire school. The course consists of topics from ecosystem functions needed for a reptile to thrive to case studies of global conservation efforts being taken to protect biodiversity. Throughout the course, the overarching theme is sustainability, how can we address these complex topics which are not just environmentally driven in a way that will allow biodiversity to persist for future generations. The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary has since expressed interest to have me facilitate the course in partnership with them this year. To further spread awareness of the need for conservation and the adoption of sustainability, I participated in the Disney College Program where I worked in Animal Kingdom. Along with this experience providing me with unparalleled professional development opportunities, I also learned how to tell a story. Sometimes concepts like conservation and sustainability and intangible for an audience, but at Animal Kingdom I was able to be creative and connect to guests in a way that was relevant to their own life. It was a goal of mine to leave every guest interaction with action steps that they could take in their own lives to help be an educated global citizen. While at Animal Kingdom I was also exposed to a plethora of research opportunities that strive to protect biodiversity. When returning to ASU I knew I wanted to explore the world of academic research. Here I found the most remarkable mentor I could have asked for, Joseph Wolf. He took me on as a research assistant, and I can undoubtfully say thus far this has been the most academically fulfilling experience in my life. In the lab, I can explore independently and collaborate with a team. I have learned how to code and analyze ecological data in the software R, I have created annotated bibliographies that will be used as a reference in our soon-to-come publication, and I have begun drafting the article outline which will be submitted to prestigious academic journals. The research being conducted analyzes prairie dogs’ effects on physical, biological, and chemical soil characteristics in the Thunder Basin Ecoregion. Within this region there is a direct interaction with farmers, so not only are we trying to illustrate how the prairie dogs are keystone species, but also how they could benefit the farmers. I have thoroughly enjoyed working within a social-ecological systems framework because here I could harness all my passions into one area. Next, I will be working specifically in the Global Locust Initiative lab where we analyze the biological effects locusts have on regions in the world, but socially we dissect how women and children in these communities are affected by the outbreaks
If your scholarship funds HAVE NOT BEEN USED yet, how do you anticipate you will achieve success?
This scholarship funding will allow me to pilot my 15-week long conservation course and continue my role as a research assistant in the Global Locust Initiative Lab at ASU. Without these funds, I would not be able to partake in both projects. I am extremely grateful because these funds will limit some of the financial stress associated with funding classes or projects like my conservation course. Inspiring young learners to promote conservation through hands-on educational experiences like reptile engagement could assist future efforts to promote widespread conservation initiatives. I truly believe that education is one of the most powerful tools we have towards building a more sustainable future. By conducting the course and analyzing which activities or lessons were most effective we can build stronger educational opportunities for youth in the future. My course is designed specifically for students in Arizona, so it is my hope that there will be increased community awareness regarding the importance of native wildlife.
Tell us what this scholarship means to you.
This scholarship is allowing me to work towards some of my educational dreams including piloting a course I personally designed and having the chance to hopefully become a published author in an academic journal. I absolutely love learning and with these funds, I can focus on school even more.
GEM Environmental is excited to spotlight our most recent scholarship recipient. Sofia Lomeli is a proud graduate from Mingus High School in Cottonwood, Arizona. She enjoys painting, volunteering, traveling, and trying new foods! She highly values STEM Education and believes it will be the main force in shaping our future for the better. Congratulations Sofia!
How did you hear about G.E.M. Environmental and this scholarship opportunity?
I heard about GEM Environmental and this scholarship through the Scholarship Fair at the Yavapai College.
Please provide a brief description highlighting your work/area of focus.
I will be majoring in Architectural Studies in the Fall at Arizona State University. I plan on studying abroad in Russia in the future to learn about principles of design there and implement them into my work.
If your scholarship funds HAVE NOT BEEN USED yet, how do you anticipate you will achieve success?
I anticipate achieving success through dedicating myself to my work and making meaningful connections along the way. The GEM Environmental funds will help make this an achievable goal.
I have two main goals behind my future architectural work: To give it a message of diplomacy and to implement sustainable practices wherever I can. By taking inspiration from eastern European designs into my work, I intend to create spaces in communities so individuals can embrace differences between the cultures and also find similarities.
Tell us what this scholarship means to you.
As a first generation student receiving the GEM Environmental scholarship has helped alleviate some of the financial stress that comes with pursuing a secondary education in STEM.
Hello Friends! Welcome to another story from Annette’s Adventures. Today we are going back to northern New Mexico and the Picuris Mining District...
We arrived just before sunset and searched for a place to set up camp. After some deliberation and muddy road driving, we settled on a campsite and made our temporary home. The next day, as is customary, we took the ranger out for some dirt road reconnaissance. We drove around the roads for most of the day, looking for connecting routes and mine features. With the dirt roads behind us and general knowledge of the terrain, we stopped for lunch. Our lunch location was, of course, set amongst mine features. After scampering around the hillside, we returned to camp and started planning the next few days of work.
The goal for the following two days was to focus on monitoring the Harding Mine. You may remember from my last adventure that, try as I might, equipment failure was inevitable. I had to return home with only one piece of data. This trip, I was determined to rectify that. I also wanted to find the elusive “Iceberg”! Iceberg, what is Iceberg? Why is it marked on the map? Why does it say “Icelandic Spar”? Is there Icelandic Spar here in northern New Mexico? Why did they put it on the map but not talk about it? I had so many questions. The only way to answer my questions was to hike hills and see what I could find.
We arrived at Harding and went straight to the top of North Knob. I like to start at North Knob because it gives you a sense of the whole operation. But it is not until you are down on the ground that you get a sense of the beauty. I quickly separated from the group and started making my way around the mine features. I hiked down North Knob towards the west and found a couple of trenches on the side of the hill, marked them, and moved on. I chased down a couple of prospect pits out in the flats and decided to turn my focus back to the mine complex. I circled my way back to the mine through the large “waste rock” piles and climbed up the hill to a shiny new-looking fence. A collapse, good thing the undercuttings below were closed. I made my way back around the face of the underground workings, where all the closures are, and slowly worked my way back to the group.
When we went back to Harding the following day, I had an ominous feeling that I couldn’t shake. My job is to ensure the safety of mine closures. If there is one collapse, then there could be a second. How would I know? I had to walk to the hill. I had to put boots on the ground and hike every inch of that hill. I again left the group and started hiking. I traversed the hill multiple times, keeping my head moving. I looked for any sign that I could see that would suggest giant gaping holes. After a thorough inspection and no sign of impending collapse, I decided to move on. I found a well-worn trail on the southwestern slope of the hill. It was an odd trail that went around the backside and away from the mine workings. I followed the path to see where it would go. While rounding a corner, that’s when I saw it; little ice cubes all over the ground. It must have been close to 90 degrees that day, I knew it couldn’t be ice! I found Iceberg! My mind was so focused on the safety of the complex that Iceberg had slipped my mind. I kept walking, with my eyes on the ground, and the pieces grew in size. I eventually called it in on my radio, “I FOUND ICEBERG!” and then promptly sat down to play with the pebbles.
The pit was nothing special. It was a hole in the side of the hill, about the size of a minivan. I hung out at the pit for a few minutes and enjoyed the pretty pebbles while eating my sandwich. Eventually I pried myself from the rocks, but only so long as it took to find the rest of my group and bring them back. Finding Iceberg and solving my fun little mystery was the perfect way to end our day and make our way back to camp…
GEM Environmental is excited to welcome one of our new members to the team. Elliot Hoy is our new GEM CORPS AML Geographer’s Assistant. Elliot has spent several years working in IT and traveling before deciding to go back to school. He is now a senior at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He enjoys spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors. During a long back packing trip, Elliot met fellow travelers who were geologists and learned about the exciting lifestyle they led. This encouraged him to take geology courses at Yavapai College and pursue this field of study. This is Elliot’s second term with GEM Environmental. He served as a Field Intern with us in 2019. Welcome back Elliot!
How did you hear about this service opportunity?
From a talk at Yavapai College given by Eric Welsh.
Please provide a brief description highlighting your work/area of focus.
Recently I have been focusing in Petrology and trying to better understand the heating and cooling processes of the earth.
What do you plan to accomplish during your service term with GEM?
I'll be happy if I am able to continue to learn and meet more people interested in Geology. It has been really great being able to learn about the practical side of Geology.
What are your career goals?
I just want to be able to live an exciting life. So far all is going great.
Do you plan to continue your education? If so, what programs or school are you looking into and what is the highest degree you plan to earn?
Yes, I am planning on completing through a Masters program. I have been looking into a few schools both in the US and in Europe.
Have you had any other internship or service opportunities before this? If so, how do you believe internships have benefited you so far?
Yes, I've volunteered in a few aspects before GEM. However, GEM has been the most impactful as far as a geology aid. I've learned more about how the geology world works and the types of people.
The internship has helped me better understand my place in geology and how I can move forward in my career.
Robert Briggs, a 20-year resident of the Prescott area, moved to Yavapai County from Sacramento when he was 25 years old. After working as a reputable auto mechanic, he elected to change his career path and made the decision to return to college life as an older student at the age of 34. With persistence and dedication, he graduated in the spring of 2015 from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. During his work in the auto industry, he attained ASE Master Tech certifications and developed the ability to fix just about anything. This has led to a unique opportunity for Robert to join GEM as our fleet supervisor and as a contract geologist working with our Abandoned Mine Lands Inventory team. He thoroughly enjoys being outside with his eyes constantly on the terrain. His experiences working in the automotive field and his renewed zest for geology offers GEM a unique ability to visit remote field locations without fear of being stranded.
“What do you enjoy most about being involved in GEM?”
The prospects of working with GEM offers unique ability to partner with people of many different backgrounds. One of GEM’s primary focus is to serve the persons within the underrepresented genres. As such, I am included in that statement being an older individual that retired from one trade to move into another presented many difficulties. To be able work in an environment with folks of many great and wonderful talents gives me great joy.
What were your feelings when GEM first started and being part of the organization?
At the beginning, I much like Eric Welsh, our CEO did not know if we were going to sink or swim. We sure did not want to sink, so we spent our time ensuring that every aspect of GEM is exactly as it should be constantly learning, growing, and expanding into new and specialized niches that have never been attempted or given the appropriate attention. My feelings were one of excitement, trepidation, and passion for the love of the science we take great joy in.
What kind of progress has GEM made and what kind of progress do you see GEM making in the future?
I am never ceased to be amazed by the growth and potential that GEM has seen and been blessed with. It takes a lot of steadfast and hard work accomplished by the many fine folks within GEM to achieve such a growth. I fully expect to observe GEM to continue growth offering more services to the community and its partners in the many years to come.
In what ways does GEM feel like a family and what do you like most about GEM?
Being a part of the team much like being part of a family is the best part. Our interactions with each other brings community together, serves to help brighten our days, and even will bring a smile to each other’s faces. The laughs, science, community work, and programs offered via GEM all are aspects that help make it to feel, function, and appear to be a family. All of which are highlights that I would not trade for anything in the world.