Hooked on Environmental Engineering

Board Member Spotlight – Brad Melocik

My father was an engineer. As a child, I had no idea what he did at work, but he was an amazing problem-solver and could fix anything. For that reason, I held him, and his title, in high esteem. Through my childhood and into high school, I had an affinity for water—I enjoyed fishing, surfing, water skiing—and that love of water eventually bled into the classroom, where I was fortunate enough to take classes in marine biology and Chesapeake Bay biology. I was introduced to books like The Last Waterman, where I learned that the area where I lived in Maryland had been teeming with fish and wildlife before development and pollution.

These experiences helped me realize the importance of the relationship between human society and the natural environment; with an interest in water and a desire to study the environment, I attended the University of Florida and aimed at becoming an environmental engineer. As I completed the requisite courses of the standard engineering curriculum, I quickly learned which areas of study piqued my interest and, just as importantly, those area of study that did not. With the fundamental courses successfully behind me and the opportunity to select more of my  own classes to suit my interests, I gravitated to all things water resources. Finally, as I moved into my senior year, I secured an internship at a small local engineering firm working on the St. Johns River in South Florida to develop water quality sampling devices. Not long after, I was able to work on those farms and irrigation channels for the installation and implementation of the devices that I had been developing… and I was hooked!

My passion really grew after graduation, when I moved back to Maryland and got a job working for a medium-sized engineering firm in their transportation department. My new boss asked me if I had a pair of waders (of course I did) and then asked if I could show up early (5 a.m.) on my first day. Over the next five years I was lucky enough to work in the field performing geomorphic assessments and scour analyses for bridge structures, which fueled my passion. As part of my training, I had the opportunity to travel west to Colorado to attend Dave Rosgen’s Wildland Hydrology courses in stream morphology and restoration, which in turn developed into a newfound love for the mountain west.  After a few hunting trips to Wyoming and Montana that solidified my feelings, I realized that I needed to move to an area where I could experience the mountains.

This led my wife, Allison, and I to travel to Alaska in March of 2004 to visit some friends in Anchorage and to see if we could possibly make a life for ourselves amongst the mountains of Alaska. I had previously spent nearly a month in Alaska during the summer of my freshman year in college, and this trip reminded me of why Alaska is so special. The sun was shining, the mountains came right down to the water, and the people were friendly and helpful. While we were there, our friends had a party and invited their friends in the engineering field. That night I learned about DOWL, and my life would change forever.

We moved to Anchorage in June of that year, and I started my career at DOWL a couple weeks later as a member of the transportation group, where my work included managing the drainage aspects of projects, but also working on retaining walls, sidewalks, roadways, culverts, etc.  The experience was invaluable, and I was able to see these projects through multiple lenses, make connections in the industry, and learn how to manage multi-disciplined teams.

Now, as a professional with more than 20 years of experience under my belt, I’m enjoying the time spent with GBA activities. My journey with GBA began in 2007, when I enrolled in Fundamentals of Professional Practice (FOPP), and continued in 2011, when I joined GBA’s New Leaders Committee. My experience with GBA has been a great one. I felt a connection with my fellow committee members immediately, and I enjoyed attending the GBA conferences. Eventually I landed in the Emerging Issues and Trends Committee and later served as Chair. The connections and work I do with GBA continues to challenge me to move forward and think differently. The conferences and committee work give me time to step back, look at the big picture beyond deadlines and project budgets, and focus on things like employee retention, technology, and engaging myself and others around me. My GBA friends have been a great help, readily providing me with assistance, guidance, and answers to my questions. This group fosters a community within the geoprofessional field that brings me back time and time again. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my involvement with GBA and look forward to contributing in meaningful ways to this empowering organization.

When I am not working, I can be found with my family at the hockey rink or outside  enjoying the great outdoor opportunities that Alaska has to offer. Mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and hunting bring me closer to nature and help me maintain perspective and balance in my life. My happy place is a cabin in Cooper Landing, about 100 miles from Anchorage; it’s the perfect mix of remote wilderness, mountains, river – and community. Somehow, through perseverance, dedication, and a dash of luck, I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in the type of place I dreamed of years ago when I left Maryland at the onset of my professional journey.