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Phillip Geer ‘13

Phillip Geer’s mom wanted him to move back home from Boston and used the lure of Geology to do it.

"My mom convinced me to take a course just to move back from Boston," Geer says. "And I love hiking, I love rocks. So I picked Geology and I just knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Rocks are everywhere, they underlie everything, they have a "mystical presence" Geer says.

"They are in everything, we’re filled with them, but I didn’t really know too much about them," he says. "Every class I took, including now in grad school, I’ve learned something that just blows my mind. You’re dealing with such huge time scales and pressures and temperatures, it’s very humbling, seeing how small we are and sort of insignificant."

And he had a lot of chances to learn and explore while at Keene State. Each year, he says, the Geology Club goes out for a two-week excursion to look at rocks and talk about the processes that made them. "We’ve been out west, to Canada, down south, and I mean there’s a saying in Geology, ‘the best Geologist are those who’ve seen the most rocks,’" he says. "And so whenever we could we’d get out and look at them, we did."

The first time he went out West was with school, the group looked at the massive uplift of the Colorado Plateau and the forces at work that would need to erode and deposit such massive volumes of sediment.

"The professors really know what they’re talking about," he says. "Keene State has a really good faculty The Geology Department is a pretty tight crew. We’re kind of a unique group, and like I said the professors just really know what they are talking about and they are pretty passionate."

Geer along with fellow Geology major Lorne Currier also had the chance to present a paper and poster at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Section of the Geological Society of America.

For Geer and Currier’s part, they presented a paper entitled, "Assessment of a Storm Drain Outfall to the Metal Contamination of Sediments in the Ashuelot River, Keene, NH." The paper went onto win the 2013 GSA/ExxonMobil Field Camp Award, one of only 15 awarded nationally.

Previous studies showed that the sediments of the Ashuelot River in Keene, New Hampshire, are contaminated with heavy metals, including lead, well above sediment quality guidelines from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the past, the lead was determined to be from paint flaking off of bridges. However, a recent study showed elevated levels of other metals occurring in sediments not associated with the bridges. In this study, Currier and Geer, undertook detailed sampling of river sediment in the vicinity of a storm drain outfall in order to determine whether this could be the source of these metals. The occurrence of these metals is consistent with measurements of metals in soils adjacent to a highway, suggesting contamination by Road Dust Sediment.

Geer graduated in May 2013 and is currently getting his Master’s at UMASS Amherst in Geology specifically structure and petrology. He plans on eventually going into industry studying hard rock or going on to get his PhD.

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Emma Wilson
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