We’re the Schist, but Don’t Take Us for Granite!

May 15, 2024

A look into the world of Environmental Geology at JPR

Meet Josh.  

With a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Grand Valley State University, Josh is the cornerstone of JPR’s environmental department.  

(See what we did there? CornerSTONE!)

Josh’s journey into the depths of Earth’s mysteries began long before he entered the professional arena. His passion for rocks and minerals was sparked during family vacations, where stopping at roadside gem mines served as personal treasure hunts. Those childhood adventures laid the foundation for a career driven by curiosity and a connection to the natural world.  

Josh was initially drawn to architecture. Although he enjoyed some aspects of that field of study, he found himself yearning for something more aligned with his true passion. With a pivot towards geology, specifically environmental geology, Josh embarked on a new career path.

Environmental geologists play a critical role in addressing environmental challenges, protecting natural resources, and promoting sustainable development practices. Their expertise in geology, environmental science, and regulatory compliance enables them to contribute to the preservation and management of our planet's environment.  

But what exactly does a geologist like Josh bring to the table? At JPR, his expertise spans a spectrum of services:  

  • Closing and removing underground storage tanks (UST)
  • Leaking underground storage tank (LUST) investigations
  • Asbestos surveys
  • Ground penetrating radar (GPR) scans
  • Soil and groundwater sampling
  • Soil-gas and indoor air investigations
  • State cleanup (SCP) and voluntary remediation program (VRP/VCP) investigations
  • Field work and report preparation for National Priority List (NPL) sites

Although the list above does not encompass all areas of expertise, one thing is clear; Josh’s meticulous attention to detail ensures that no stone is left unturned.  

Preparing to take water samples from a well, Josh will test and analyze them for various parameters such as pH, turbidity, and contaminant levels.

But environmental geology is not just about collecting data – it’s about making sense of it. At JPR, we leverage a variety of tools and techniques for data collection and, specifically, analysis. According to Josh, it all depends on the medium the team is testing.  

“If we are performing ground penetrating radar services we use industry-standard equipment that emits radio waves into the soil profile as you move the machine across the surface. These radio waves will reflect off any material that it encounters and show up as hyperbolas on the display,” he explained.  

On the other hand, when investigating soil and groundwater impacts, the team would typically utilize a geoprobe rig to dig up dirt (literally), allowing them to collect and analyze whatever samples may be required for a project.

“For long term projects we evaluate the needs of the site on a case-by-case basis and implement whatever methods and tools will allow us to precisely and accurately determine what concentrations are present within whatever media we are sampling,” said Josh.  

While Josh and the environmental team employ cutting-edge methods to deliver accurate and actionable insights to our clients, communication lies at the heart of Josh’s work. As a geologist, he understands the importance of conveying complex findings in a way that resonates with everyone. The ability to understand what you are doing and effectively summarize the observations and results is critical.  

“Much of the terminology and wording that the industry uses is unfamiliar to our clients,” he said. “It is incredibly important to make sure that you utilize non-technical terms or try to liken what you are talking about to something they are familiar with.”  

Josh uses ground penetrating radar to scan and confirm utility locations for a project at Four Winds Field, a Minor League Baseball Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Over the years, Josh has learned that unforeseen challenges can arise. As he puts it, “Sometimes things go a little sideways in the field, and you must be able to think on your feet and come up with adaptable solutions.”  

Translation? Expect the unexpected!  

It’s because of the unexpected that flexibility, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills are just a few qualities that define a successful geologist. Equally essential is a proactive approach to anticipating client inquiries and the ability to respond honestly, saying “I don’t know that but let me do some research and get back to you.” Of course, it’s also imperative to always follow through with a response.  

Staying up to date on all emerging chemicals of concern, new technologies, and procedures can also be especially challenging – which is why JPR’s Environmental Department has a focus on continuous education. According to Josh, belonging to various organizations, doing general research, and keeping informed of what is going on in the industry is of great significance.  

Building lasting partnerships is also important to Josh, ensuring his clients trust JPR to deliver projects that not only satisfy their environmental needs but also prioritize their budget and timelines.  

“My goal is to help provide guidance to a client, allowing them to navigate through the sometimes difficult-to-understand regulations and requirements in the environmental field,” he said.  

Throughout his career, Josh has been fortunate to have mentors who imparted invaluable lessons, shaping not only his professional growth but also contributing to his personal development. One piece of wisdom that resonates with him is the importance of honesty – a principle he continuously upholds. “A client may not appreciate it at the time, however, always tell them the truth,” his mentor advised. “You will develop a reputation and will be respected because of that. In the end it isn’t even about gaining respect, it is about being able to look at yourself in the mirror and live with whatever action or decision you decided to make.”

As part of his job, Josh oversees the closure and removal of underground storage tanks. This photo was taken during the excavation of a 10,000-gallon tank.

For Josh, the most rewarding aspect of his profession lies in the day-to-day challenges, the variety of projects and approaches, and the opportunity for a great balance between field work and office work.  

Outside of work, Josh is a connoisseur of exploration in all its forms. Whether he's embarking on a road trip to discover hidden gems (both natural and man-made), trying new foods, or immersing himself in the pages of a captivating book, Josh finds joy in the pursuit of knowledge and adventure.  

Finally, it is a well-known fact that any real geologist has a rock and mineral collection; and Josh is no exception. Although he does not have a favorite type of rock, he does have a few favorite minerals: galena, trapiche, and spessartine and grossular garnets, along with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, cinnabar, and orpiment.  

“I am always finding new and crazy rocks and minerals that I am adding to my collection.”  


Learn more about the Environmental Department at JPR: www.jpr1source.com/services/environmental

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