In the spring of 2003, I declared my major as geology when I finalized my admission information for the Uni-versity of Montana, Missoula. I wanted adventure, fresh air, and to continue my education in the “earth sci-ences.” Before that moment, I had never set my mind to be a geologist. In fact, only a few years before, I was certain I would be an analyst in the Central Intelligence Agency… in the footsteps of my fictitious crush Jack Ryan. That being said, I was already a product of my environment with my experiences growing up and the guidance provided by my family. The two main influencers in this respect were my grandfather, Nat Mahan, who was an Engineer in the Operations and Management Department with the Bureau of Reclamation in Du-rango, Colorado, and my Dad, Gary Sweet, who was a civil engineer employed with international construction and petroleum companies.
Dad’s career took our family all over the United States as well as around the world. He was a Construction Engineer/ Area Su-perintendent at Fluor Engineers and Constructors from 1973 to 1984. In that span of time, my parents, Gary and Lynne, and two sisters, Kristen and Clarissa, lived in Huntington Beach, California; Oregon, Ohio; Alvin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Esfahan, Iran; and Cilacop, Indonesia. This was all before Kaitlin (BK), as our family likes to say, since I was a late addi-tion to the family.
When I came along, my family had established their home base in balmy Redding, California, and enjoyed a short stint living life state-side. However, living among extended family and friends did not last long as my father accepted a position as Civil In-spector/Civil Engineer for Saudi Aramco and we moved from Redding to Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, in December 1988. I was three years old, Kristen and Clarissa were 12 and 14 years old, and Oden Frederick (a.k.a. Odie - the family dog) was one. My sisters, once they turned 15, went to boarding school at Fountain Valley in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and after that, Odie was my best friend and partner in various adventures.
I lived with my parents in Saudi Arabia from 1988 to 1993. The American camp, Abqaiq, we lived in was quite small; however, there was still a dining hall, library, movie theater, commissary, sports fields, and swimming pools. But I guess movies, racquetball, and swimming were not stimulating enough, and we ventured into the surrounding desert. Mom would pack the cooler with delicious snacks and sandwiches and we would leave for the weekend to ex-plore vast expanses of sand…and treasures that would inevitably be waiting for us. Some families never left the camp. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. I am so grate-ful my parents wanted to explore. My memories of these trips are filled with hot sun radiating through San-cho’s (our Land Cruiser’s) windows, cool air conditioning circulating through the car, and the odds were good that either Enya, The Po-lice, or Spin Doctors would be tirelessly playing via the cassette tape player. Sometimes we would have picnic-like meals with pickled eggs and deviled ham sandwiches. Other times (usually when it was just Dad and me) we just survived on MREs. These adventures allowed us to see the nearby communities and overall culture and landscape. During our weekend trips, we would leave the pavement, deflate our tires, and set out for an adventure. I suppose that was my first introduction to paleontology, historical geology, and archaeology. We would explore historic town sites, where I climbed the stairs of a spire, perhaps a prayer tower, and remember looking out over the desert and SUVs below. We would find shards of pottery, arrowheads, grinding stones, and my favorite – sharks teeth. Even Odie found an arrowhead one time – tri-colored with a broken tip. Every so often Dad would hy-pothesize that we were perhaps the first people to touch these artifacts since they had been made a thousand years ago (he’s a civil engineer – so please go easy on scrutinizing his incorrect dating scheme). We would think about how many times a particular arrowhead had been covered and uncovered by the transient sands. We would daydream about the historic events taking place in the ‘western world’ when people inhabited the areas we were currently exploring, which had long been abandoned. Honestly, I think it is a bit odd that I did-n’t become an archaeologist, but apparently that just wasn’t in my cards.
We were in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. I remember my family being the only passengers on the flight coming back into the kingdom from our annual vacation in the United States. Life after that was fairly structured with bomb preparedness drills, including racing back to our house from the playgrounds when the sirens would start, grab our designated gas mask, and make our way to the concrete “distillery room” in the back of the garage. Those times were sur-real for me, being so young, as I didn’t fully com-prehend the seriousness of the situation. I saw it as added excitement. My mom would bake six dozen cookies, which we would take to an M1A1 tank company “Tuskers” C Troop in the 24 mecha-nized infantry division staged at the border with Kuwait. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with that division. Our experience in Saudi Arabia left me with a strong appreciation of other cultures and corresponding customs. My parents supported this respect.
After returning to the United States, earth science was my favorite class, followed by history. My inclination in these subjects coupled with my appreciation for travel and foreign landscapes, which were all acquired in my early youth, led me to pick geology as my major while finalizing my University enrollment. I studied geology for two years at the University of Montana, Missoula, before moving to Reno, Nevada, in 2005. I was deter-mined to find work in the field of geology while I was waiting to gain Nevada State residency before applying for admission to the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). I attended a career day presentation in the UNR ge-ology department where I met my future employers Earl Abbott and Opal Adams. I was excited to do field work and jumped at the opportunity to assist Earl with sampling and managing the many properties that his company, Tornado Gold, had under lease. I worked with Earl as a junior geologist for one year. During that year, I had an amazing introduction to the Nevada exploration community and minerals industry. I was even afforded the opportunity to attend the 2006 Prospectors and Devel-opers of Canada meeting. Seeing the international representation of the global minerals industry and the overwhelming representation of Nevada companies was impressive. With Earl’s strong encouragement, I became a member of the Geological Society of Nevada (GSN) and Nevada Petroleum Society. I learned the geography of Nevada, the major mineral trends, and started to grow my vocabulary and understanding of this new community I was now a part of.
The following year I was admitted to UNR and could no longer fulfill field work obligations with a full class load. I contacted Opal and requested an internship position at Enviroscientists, Inc. (Enviroscientists) while I completed my de-gree. Three short years later, I had earned my bachelors in hydrogeology. Due to hard work, a desire to learn, and job experience, my term papers and re-ports were among the best quality products in my class largely in part due to the writing style, report formatting, and production skills I had developed from working at Enviroscientists. In addition to my income from working part-time, I applied for and was awarded several scholarships every semester. One of these scholarships was awarded by the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (WAIMMEs). The Mackay School of Earth Sci-ences and Engineering (Formerly a School of Mines) was a wonderful learning environment as it maintains strong roots in the Nevada minerals industry, which supported the students at all stages of their learning and as we entered the work force. Thanks to the support of the minerals industry with generous scholarships, and some hard work on my end, I graduated without any debt. And from what I see in the headlines, that is very rare these days.
During my internship I found that I really enjoyed consulting, specifically the environmental permitting and compliance services that Enviroscientists offered. I decided to build upon the foundation I had started while in school and accepted a full time position with Enviroscientists in 2010. Before I knew it, I had acquired an un-derstanding and proficiency in permitting mineral exploration projects in Nevada and surrounding states. I loved working with the different people and companies as well as acquiring problem solving skills, patience, professional bearing, and communication skills required to successfully permit projects. As they say, the rest is history. I be-came involved with the Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration Reno Chapter which allowed me to learn even more about the minerals industry and meet more great people in the mining and supplier sectors. I am now ap-proaching my third year as the manager of Enviroscientists’ Elko Office. It’s been a very gratifying experience working in the Nevada minerals industry. I have met so many amazing people. I still have a hard time believing that as of September 2015, I have been a Nevada resident and a part of the minerals industry for ten years. I am proud to have received those scholarships from or-ganizations affiliated with the Nevada minerals industry and hope that the work I am completing today gives back in its own way to the industry that has been so supportive of me.
John Winton Erwin*
Erin L. Hart
Greg T. Hill
Joseph Kizis, Jr
Brooke J Miller
Justin and Ajeet Milliard
Mia (Cowgill) O'Neal
Shea Clark Smith
Roger C Steininger