Meet our P.G. of the Week: Stephanie Coffman, P.G., Senior Fluvial Geomorphologist, Stantec

Since she was eight years old, Stephanie Coffman has wanted to be a geologist. She studies the power of water and the effects it has on our Earth in her work as a Senior Fluvial Geomorphologist and Professional Geoscientist at Stantec. All of this is why she has been chosen as our P.G. of the Week! Meet Stephanie Coffman, P.G.

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1. Tell us about your background. What do you do, your interests, hobbies, etc?

I had the best childhood. My parents took us on several canoeing/camping trips every summer starting when I was 5 years old. I loved the river and how it snaked across the landscape, eroding steep streambanks on one side and depositing sediment to create point bars (campsites) on the other. Each trip I would come back with sacks of rocks and containers full of sand. When I was eight years old, I bought a rock and mineral book at the scholastic bookfair – it had a cool rock and mineral kit with it. I opened the book and read, “Geologist are people who study the Earth”. At eight years old, I decided I AM GOING TO BE A GEOLOGIST and I haven’t looked back. Today, I am a professional geoscientist who evaluates rivers and erosion hazards that impact pipelines, roadways and buildings – the things that make everyday life possible. Water is amazing, it’s our most powerful, yet precious resource on the planet. It erodes Earth at remarkable rates. As a professional geoscientist, I study earth processes and I help develop solutions to protect our vital infrastructure that work with the river rather than against. I am fortunate that I am able to restore degraded streams and leave places better than I found them.  My career is my hobby. I love wading creeks and canoeing rivers.

 
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2. What college did you attend? Did college prepare you for the ASBOG?

I graduated with a BS in Geology from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I loved my undergraduate. I completed more than 70 hours of geoscience related course work. For three years, I participated in several directed research projects. My professors were extremely knowledgeable and many of them actively provided guidance for “real world” geologic-related problems and issues. I worked closely with my advisor Dr. Doug Haywick, and we published several posters and papers together. After my freshman year, I became a Teaching Assistant, and for the next three years, I was a Teaching Assistant for several geoscience courses while I completed my degree.  

I graduated with a MS in Geology from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. My Professor, Dr. Peter Allen, PG was incredible. His knowledge and expertise on Texas geology, engineering geology and hydrology is amazing. He took me on several site visits to observe and evaluate erosion hazards. His coaching shaped my career. Rivers and creeks are extremely complex and dynamic. It takes several years to be able to “read the river.” This is expertise that can only be learned over time by a professional.

College, combined with professors that were licensed Professional Geoscientists, prepared me for the ASBOG. I passed the Fundamentals of the Geology and the Practice of Geology the first time I took the tests. 

 
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3. Why did you become a licensed professional geoscientist?

I became a Professional Geoscientist to help the public stay safe and develop healthy river systems for our future generations. I wanted to help communities by developing erosion hazard setbacks to keep infrastructure away from eroding riverbanks, thus keeping the public safe. This expertise takes time to develop. It takes a well-educated geoscientist graduate who has observed years of erosional processes under a professional geoscientist. I use my knowledge of geology and rivers to help communities across Texas. For example, pipelines that carry wastewater from our homes to the treatment plant must cross and/or run parallel to rivers and streams. I work to identify locations where erosion might threaten these pipelines potentially causing it to break and spill raw sewage into the river and ultimately into our lakes. I work collaboratively with engineers to develop solutions that incorporate the geomorphological processes into the design. It is important to take care of our natural water resources - having clean water is important. Restoring our streams using sustainable, resilient practices is critical. We only have one Earth. 

4. How long have you been a professional geoscientist?

Since December 8, 2014.

 
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5. How have you helped the public with your PG license?  

I have evaluated geomorphological processes and geohazard concerns regarding infrastructure adjacent to rivers and streams such as residential development (homes), large (3-9 feet) and small (1-3 feet) diameter water and wastewater pipelines, pump stations and water intakes, dams, roads, bridges, culverts, and areas of stormwater erosion. 

6. How does your job require you to use your PG license?

I perform geoscience investigations that require my Professional Geoscientist seal.

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7. As a licensed PG, what is the most interesting thing you have seen or done?

Every project is special to me because the problems being evaluated are specific to that river or stream system. I had the opportunity to work on the Bois d’Arc Lake Project for several years of my career and am now working on the Riverby Mitigation Site for the project. The Bois d’Arc Lake Project is a critical new source of water for the residents and businesses (up to 80 communities) in north Texas served by the North Texas Municipal Water District. This will be the first new reservoir constructed in Texas in nearly three decades.

8. What would you tell someone in school who wants to gain their PG Licensure?

I would be supportive and honest. Obtaining a PG is rewarding and meaningful. It’s a significant endeavor in your geoscientist career. It takes years of hard work in the college classroom and several more in the field being coached by a licensed Professional Geoscientist. Having a PG license signifies that you are knowledgeable and capable of working on the most complex geologic investigations (related to your field of practice) and that you are obligated to work in the best interest to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.   

 
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9.  Why is licensure in the state of Texas important to you?

I live in Texas. I want only the best practicing geology. I want experienced, qualified geoscientists working on projects that include geoscience related problems that pertain to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

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Randi Walker