Alumnus Kevin Kelly ‘04 Lectures on Bioremediation and Environmental Consulting

On Tuesday, February 23, Colgate alumnus Kevin Kelly ’04 gave a lecture primarily catered to geology concentrators entitled “From College to Reality: Environmental Consulting, Fluorescent Dye Tracing, and Bioremediation.” Kelly spoke of the work that he and his colleagues at Langan Associates have done in environmental consulting projects, specifying a recent project regarding a chemical processing plant in California. Although it is now closed down, this plant used to dispose of chemical waste fluids through drains that would send chemicals deep below the surface to where an aquifer resided. Consequently, the aquifer’s ground water became increasingly polluted with residual chemicals. Kelly and his colleagues at Langan Associates used fluorescent dye tracing to follow the movement of chemicals within the aquifer.

With respect to the actual removal of these residual harmful chemicals, Langan Associates used bioremediation techniques, a method of environmental cleanup administering the digestive capabilities of microorganisms that specifically eat chemicals. As described by Kelly, bioremediation utilizes natural remedies for unnatural pollutants, allowing the site to be effectively cleaned up over time.

“[I found this] particularly interesting, [as] a senior geology major very interested in the environmental consulting field,” senior Kate Hardock said.

Kelly also reassured the employment concerns of geology concentrators by highlighting the opportunities available in environmental consulting. He also met with students following the lecture to provide further insight into possible career trajectories after college. Senior geology concentrator Ryan Clements shared his perspective following Kelly’s lecture.

“People tend to think that being a geology major doesn’t make you employable like a major in economics might. [But] there are actually a lot of great career opportunities out there for geologists, and it was great to meet a very successful geologist like Kevin Kelly,” Clements said.  

Ultimately, Kelly’s lecture described the geologic controls on the movement of human-induced pollution into the groundwater flow. Usually, this chemical pollution is the product of decades of plants like the one in California dumping waste into the sub-surface. With the semi-recent rise of environmental consulting, these unnatural pollutants are finally being addressed. Although this talk specifically targeted geology majors, Chair of the Department of Geology Martin Wong remarked the lecture was actually relevant to a much larger audience.

“The talk reinforced to our students how geological concepts that we teach in the classroom are applied to solve real-world environmental problems…[This is important because] environmental pollution due to human activity continues to be among the most pressing issues of our time,” Wong said.