CELS Alumna helps clean up the environment one site at a time
Janelle Bonn has had an interest in everything outdoors from a young age. As a child, she aspired to be a paleontologist, loving the natural world and the history that goes with it. Now, she is an environmental scientist for the consulting firm Woodard & Curran, where she conducts hazardous waste site assessments and investigations, as well as assisting companies and municipalities with stormwater compliance and permitting related issues. Many of the projects Bonn works on are designed to bring sites into compliance with various environmental regulations, whether they relate to cleaning up contaminated properties or managing stormwater to minimize pollution to nearby waterbodies.
“With respect to most of the hazardous waste investigation projects I work on, we are rectifying mistakes of the past,” said Bonn. “Some of the things I have seen are horrendous. I have worked on sites where drums of hazardous waste were buried next to beautiful wildlife habitat. Older vacant industrial mill complexes were often located next to rivers, and the soil, groundwater, and river sediment are still impacted with the chemicals that were used to make whatever products they manufactured decades ago.”
“Stormwater compliance work is equally as important, especially in urbanized areas,” Bonn added. “Developing solutions to assist companies and helping municipalities manage and mitigate the potential effects these pollutants have on aquatic organisms, habitat, and wildlife is really gratifying.”
Bonn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Coastal Policy and Management and a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Rhode Island. After witnessing the policy aspect of environmental remediation, first hand, during an undergraduate internship, she realized a more scientific approach to policy and management might be a better way to make a difference.
That’s what led her to change course, and seek a graduate degree in Environmental Science at URI. In addition to intensive course work, her URI professors became an integral part of her learning experience as role models and mentors. Professors Anne Veeger, Thomas Boving, and David Fastovsky cultivated her interests in environmental science and provided real-life perspectives that helped Bonn decide on a career path.
Bonn also gained valuable hands-on experience in URI labs learning how to use scientific tools. One of those tools is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer, an instrument used to analyze water samples to identify volatile compounds. While it was a temperamental piece of equipment, it provided a great experience that has helped her perform lab data validation in her current position as an environmental scientist.
Bonn’s future goal is to expand her knowledge base to influence more change. “You can never learn too much,” said Bonn. “Anything new we learn affects everything else we know.”