Earth Science Alumni Spotlight Scott Beason

Scott Beason graduated in May 2005 with a B.A. in Earth Science and in May 2007 with a M.S. in Environmental Science (both from UNI). Beason currently lives in Ashford, WA, and works at Mount Rainier National Park.

“Mount Rainier is a 14,410 foot volcano located about 60 miles southeast of Seattle/Tacoma, WA and is one of the most hazardous volcanoes in the United States and world due to its proximity to a large population downslope from the volcano. As Park Geologist, I study both eruptive and non-eruptive hazards from the volcano, everything from eruptions to debris flows and flooding,” said Beason.

After leaving UNI, Beason worked for an environmental consulting company in Seattle, WA, working on stream restoration sites across the Pacific Northwest. After that job, he attended a Park Service Law Enforcement academy and worked for nine months as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger at Yosemite National Park in California. While he was working at Yosemite, the Park Geologist position at Mount Rainier National Park opened; he applied for the job and was hired. 

“I love living and working in the Pacific Northwest. It is absolutely beautiful here, year round (even the rain!) I work in one of the most incredible and dynamic places on Earth and get to witness incredible things,” Beason said. “Less than two hours away is the Puget Sound, at sea-level, and just in my backyard is a 14,000-foot volcano. The relief here is amazing and the mountains are spectacular. Mount Rainier sports one of the largest ice packs in the continental United States and has more glacial ice than all other Cascade volcanoes combined. The interactions of the glaciers, the landscape and the threat of climate change mean that I have a true wealth of things to study and observe here… it’s never boring!”

In addition to his work at the park, he volunteers at a local Fire Department in Ashford, a job he has been doing for three years. He likes to spend his free time being outdoors.

“I love to get out and hike, camp and explore the great Pacific Northwest. I climb the mountains around here and take lots of pictures,” Beason said.

In 2011, he received a certificate through GIS through the University of Washington. As of right now, Beason is considering going back to school to get his Ph.D. If he chooses to do this, he says it will be several years down the road. Recently he was selected along with nine other emergency management professionals to attend a bi-national exchange between the United States and Colombia to learn about volcanic hazards and alert, notification and evacuation plans for volcanoes in the two countries.

“In November 1985, a volcano called Nevado del Ruiz erupted in Colombia and spawned a lahar that killed 23,000 people. The Colombian government and scientists have learned a very costly lesson from this event, and have taken major steps to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. I was sent to Colombia with nine other Americans to learn the systems the Colombians have in place, and, in turn, 10 Colombians were sent here for a week to learn what we’ve done. Colombia was an incredible experience… seeing a town called Armero where more than 20,000 people were killed in a single event was an experience I cannot describe. The exchange opened my eyes and showed me ways that we can prevent tragedies here and improve our systems,” explained Beason.

Beason is currently working on multiple research projects.

“I am working on several research projects at the park. Here is a brief list of them:

“My primary area of focus is landscape response to Climate Change, especially in rivers that radiate away from the park. As Mount Rainier loses glacial ice, many areas that have steep, unconsolidated sediment are now exposed to erosive forces, all of which mean more sediment is now ‘on-line’ and available to be provided to rivers. I am currently finishing a comprehensive technical report about the effects of sediment inputs to park rivers in the last 15 years. One of the key findings is that ‘Atmospheric Rivers’ (massive jets of warm moisture from the tropics that lead to intense rainfall in short periods) in the early winter are key to sediment production. Those AR’s that occur in the mid-late winter lead to incision in rivers (due to deep snow packs as the winter goes on up high.)

“Related to the first project: We have been studying glacier dynamics on the Nisqually Glacier, a large south-facing glacier that starts at the summit and ends around 4,600 ft at the Nisqually River. We’ve found that parts of the glacier are speeding up, while other parts lower down are hardly moving. We’ve seen glacial outburst floods in the last few years from this glacier and theorize that the speed differences create zones of water accumulation in the glacier. I am a co-author on a poster about this that will be presented at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver, Colorado in October.

“The last major project I’m working on is an analysis of former evacuation paths for visitors and employees in the park, with a goal of improving and marking evacuation paths,” he said.

Beason is happy with the job he has now, and going to UNI was a big part of his success.

“I fell in love with Geology at UNI and the professors I had at UNI were very supportive and created an environment of intense learning that opened my eyes to the broad ways of studying the Earth we live on,” Beason said. “The professors encouraged us to observe and learn from a broad range of topics. I firmly believe that if it was not for the professors I had at UNI, I would not be where I am now. I want to thank everyone who guided me in support of my dreams. I have the best job in the world!”