Faces of GSN

Brooke J. Miller, Geologist (Published in November 2015 GSN Newsletter)

If you search the Internet for your name, you might find many people who share it. Here is one of the search results about me; it is my current biography blurb from LinkedIn.

Brooke is a resource geologist in SRK’s Reno office with over nine years of experience in exploration and mining projects in Nevada and California. She is a Qualified Person (“QP”) under CIM NI 43-101. Her primary expertise is in geologic modeling and data analysis, and she has contributed on many NI 43-101-compliant reports, from Resource to Feasibility stage. Field experience includes drill core and chip logging, highwall and drift mapping, and drilling program management. Software proficiency includes Leapfrog 3-D® Mining and Geology, MineSight 3D®, and familiarity in a variety of related programs.

How did the only child of horticulturalists and small business owners end up as a geologist in the mining industry? I occa-sionally ask myself the same question. Here is the explanation.

My home town is Sturgeon Bay, in northeastern Wis-consin. The geologic setting is the western edge of the Michigan Basin, on the same Silurian dolomite that forms Niagara Falls 450 air-miles to the east. This resis-tant crest of dolomite juts out of Lake Michigan to form the Door Peninsula. The landscape is beautiful, and isolated. Sturgeon Bay is the largest town in the county, with a population of about 8,000 people, and approxi-mately three times as many Holstein cows. I am the only child of Ben and Bonnie, who have been co-owners of Bonnie Brooke Gardens since 1984. They met when they worked at the same tree nursery one summer, thanks to one of the office clerks who set them up. Horticulture must be in my blood, and I had the unique opportunity to grow up in the family business. This meant that I spent a lot of time at the garden cen-ter, and had to entertain myself or be put to work if I complained about being bored. I spent a lot of time reading- enough to read the original series of Nancy Drew mysteries, and then some, the summer between second and third grade. Maybe my quest to solve mys-teries in geology started with this reading list?

I was lucky that my parents and grandparents were supportive of music in education. Starting in sixth grade, I was a band geek and immersed myself in all aspects. I don’t remember why I became a drum ma-jorette for a year, but there I was, and Mom and Dad were evidently proud because they took a bunch of photos of this parade! I was a flaky piano student through high school, but learned enough to play bass keyboard for the show choir and improve my perform-ance on trombone.

Perhaps I should have worked harder in my math classes, and high school in general, but chemistry and physics were a breeze, and I didn’t value pre-calculus over advanced music theory until I was in college… live and learn. When I began college at Lawrence University, I started as a physics major, and definitely had no concept of what I wanted to do when I grew up. It wasn’t long before I decided that doing problem sets for the next 15 years to become a post-doctoral research assistant was not a good fit for me, and there had to be a more suitable major. The new women’s Ultimate (Frisbee) team was recruiting during the spring of my freshman year, and because Lawrence’s total enrollment was about 1,200 students, I knew several people on the team. I joined, and began to see the light. One day during practice, I was talking to the coach, Jeff Clark, who is also one of the geology faculty. I asked him “If I get a de-gree in geology, can I have a cool and interesting job?” He said yes, you can, and was he ever right!

I meandered through physics and chemistry to arrive at a declared geology major, and looking back, I would do it the same way, except I would find a way to study abroad for a semester. Because Lawrence is a liberal arts university, I had the op-portunity to study philosophy, literature, drawing, and a variety of disciplines. My parents were supportive of all the classes I took, but may have steered me away from majoring in Art History. I value my liberal arts B.A. in Geology because I have an appreciation for the arts and education in general, and have become a lifelong learner.

Before fall term of my junior year, the Geology Department (all 14 of us, including two faculty members) went on a field trip to the High Plains and Wyoming for 12 days of mapping. This was the first time I experienced the Rocky Mountains, and I was hooked. My advisor, Tony Hoch, is a University of Wyoming alum, and I can’t thank him enough for this awesome experience and all of the guidance during my time at Lawrence.

I found that geology applies all of the natural sciences, all at once, at nano- to mega-scale, through time. I found my call-ing. The discipline was a perfect fit for my interests- how things work, in general, and a way to achieve one of my goals in life- to have an interesting vocation.

In Wisconsin, the main application of geology is hydrogeology and contaminant transport in the phreatic zone. That may be an oversimplification, but as a wide-eyed college student, I saw my future in groundwater. I graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in Geology, and as I was deciding where to go next, the job market looked bleak. After the trip to Wyoming, I knew that I wanted to go west, and not only because there is gold in them thar hills.

I considered graduate studies at several schools west of the Front Range, and decided to go to The University of Ore-gon. The original plan was to complete a Masters thesis on geothermal systems in Iceland, but due to delayed well drill-ing, I completed a study of fluid inclusions in the Butte, Montana epithermal copper system. This was the first step on the slippery slope to the geology of ore deposits. It all started with my advisor, Mark Reed, and one of his former students, Rick Streiff, who hired me to be a mine geologist at (then) Newmont’s Midas Mine.

GSN will always have a special place in my heart, because a Winnemucca Chapter meeting was my introduction to the geology community in northern Nevada. My future colleagues at Midas invited me to attend the meeting when I was in town on a house-hunting trip before starting work. The next spring, I happened to meet Greg Ferdock at the 2005 GSN Symposium, and later worked for him at Idaho Gen-eral Mines/ General Moly. Thanks to Greg, I spent over two years working at the Liberty (Hall) Moly Pro-ject near Tonopah. That opportunity, to sink or swim during a 5-rig coring program, taught me so much about the life of a geologist, how to manage a team, and how to entertain myself in central Nevada.

Before I was lucky enough to move to northern Ne-vada, I hiked the southeastern part of the Tahoe Rim Trail with some friends from college. One is a Reno native who is now a geophysicist and lives in Hous-ton. He took the photo on the left. Chuck and Marcia Growdon, Mark’s parents, have unofficially adopted me, and have helped me navigate my career and life in general in countless ways. They have watched me leave Reno, and boomerang back, twice, and it is no coinci-dence that I bought a house in their neighborhood.

Fast forward several years. I have been with SRK Consulting since 2011, and have been lucky to work with Jay Pen-nington and the rest of the group in the Reno office. This is a great opportunity, with plenty of challenging projects, and always more to learn. Plus, Jay always smokes me during the weekly SRK mountain bike ride. Consulting presents op-portunities for travel and work in a variety of aspects related to mineral extraction. It requires critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and all of the great science I’ve studied over the years. Despite what Earl Abbott told me, it is not “just pushing papers around your desk”.