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Consulting Soil Scientist in Alaska: Permafrost!

I am a consulting soil scientist specializing in permafrost and soil/ecological connections.

Lorene Lynn
Soil Scientist
Red Mountain Consulting LLC

I consider myself a: Soil Scientist

My Highest Degree: Master’s Degree

I received my degrees from: University of Alaska Fairbanks, BS 2006 University of Alaska Fairbanks, MS 2009

I received my degree(s) in: Natural Resource Management: Plant, Animal, and Soil Science

I have the following Certification(s):

I chose to become certified because: I saw becomming certified as a way to demonstrate to my clients that I am a qualified and dedicated soil scientist.

Length of Career: I have been a professional working in soil science since 2006.

What was your career path to your current position?
I became interested in studying soils while I was an undergraduate student and started my Master's degree. As soon as I finished all of my graduate course work, I began looking for work (about 9 months before I defended and a year before I graduated). I worked for a summer with the NRCS conducting soil survey, but signed a contract with a consulting firm right away with a 9-month delayed start time. I have started my own consulting firm working with the same clients I had while at a larger firm.

What projects are you working on now? What interesting projects have you worked on/led in the past?
My project work right now is fascinating. I manage the tundra rehabilitation program for a major oil company in the arctic of Alaska. While much of the work is not specifically related to soils, it is great to be able to tie in my expertise in soils and permafrost to advance the techniques we use in revegetating the disturbed tundra. I've also had the opportunity to write soils and permafrost sections for a major EIS, complete a soil survey for a large mine expansion, write the soils and revegation portion of the reclamation plan for a large coal mine, and to be a resource to my fellow co-workers when they have questions related to soils and permafrost on a project.

What do you find most interesting about your work (either currently or a story of a past experience)?
Most of my work in Alaska requires that we access sites by helicopter. While working on a job in western Alaska, we had to select a drop-off and pick-up site in the very steep terrain. The wind was blowing, the helicopter was getting tossed around a little, but our skilled pilot was able to drop us on a small outcropping near the top of the mountain. He had to maintain a hover because there wasn't enough room to set both skids down. Our team of three (two soil scientists and one botanist) worked by leapfrogging each other down the mountain, where the soil scientists would set out to different sites and the botanist would work one site and then the other. At one point, the radio crackled on and our other team member came through with a jumbled message. The only word that came through clearly was "bear." We were in dense alders at the time with a line of sight of about 20 feet, not ideal for encountering a bear. We abandoned our soil pit, found our other team member, and were picked up by the helicopter. As we were taking off, we saw the juvenile bear whacking at the brush, maybe out of frustration or fright. It was exciting and great to be part of a team that handled itself safely in bear country!

What do you like best about your job and/or what do you like best about being in your profession?
Like most soil scientists, the field work is the most exciting part of the job. I travel all around Alaska and spend 20+ days each summer in the arctic collecting data on revegetation, collecting seed, and analyzing sites for potential subsidence (when the ice in the permafrost melts and the ground sinks).

What’s the one thing you would change about your job/profession that would make it better?
Finding work focused on soil science is a trick in Alaska, since most of our work overlaps with vegetation, wildlife, and hydrology studies. I am always learning something new, but it is challenging to find soils-based work in a non-agricultural region.

What would you say to someone thinking about entering the profession? What advice would you give for succeeding in this field?
Each region of the country is different, but for work in Alaska, it's important to have a broad background that includes botany, hydrology, permitting, and a good foundation in all the basic sciences (chemistry, biology, etc.). The two most important factors in finding and keeping a good job is to 1) be a great writer and 2) smile.

What do you like doing in your free time?
In my free time, I garden, run trails and mountains (sounds crazy, but there is a whole race series here), and Nordic ski. Alaska is an amazing outdoor playground and there is always something new and exciting to do.

If you have more questions about my career, feel free to contact me at:

Lorene Lynn
Soil Scientist
Red Mountain Consulting LLC
Palmer, AK
Red Mountain Consulting LLC