Vessey finds his key to success

Growing up, Colton Vessey always dreamed of being a marine biologist. He wanted to wade into the ocean and find exciting, practical ways to help the environment.

By HenryTye Glazebrook

But it wasn’t until he got to the University of Saskatchewan that he realized there was a whole world of possibilities right in his backyard that captured the same spirit of sustainability that he’d always found so enticing.

“Being from Alberta, I was always in the mountains when I was in high school and as a kid,” he said, explaining that his first-year geology course reminded him of his upbringing. “The content and material taught in that class, I found it really interesting learning the actual processes. I just fell in love with the program after first year. I felt like I could use that knowledge in a really practical way.”

Vessey will graduate with his classmates in the U of S Department of Geological Sciences at Fall Convocation at TCU Place on October 28.

When he first came to the university, he planned only to stay a few short years, earning enough experience to branch out to a marine biology program elsewhere. Instead he discovered that the world of geology dovetailed nicely with his own aspirations for academia, and he opted to stay on at the U of S for the length of his bachelor’s degree.

“When I first started out, I wanted to go into marine biology to help the environment,” he said. “I always wanted to go in a water- science direction in conservation and environmentalism, and it just worked out that geology has that field in it as well. Environmental geology is a large and growing field. It’s becoming very important globally for mines and communities, and there’s more jobs in it than there is for exploration geology.”

Vessey proved to be an ace geology student, securing the highest grade point average in his class (and posting an impressive overall 87.3 per cent average for all of his undergrad studies). He also served as treasurer for the Ore Gangue Geological Society and won numerous scholarships and awards during his time on campus, including the Dean’s Scholarship, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada Graduate scholarship and the Undergraduate Leadership scholarship.

Working with assistant professor Matt Lindsay, Vessey spent his undergraduate research doing field sampling and analysis on reclaimed wetlands in the oil sands region, trying to better understand the capacity for protective clay layers to mitigate salt breakthrough, and the dire effects this process can have on the surrounding environment.

“The tailings underneath have a lot of sodium in them, which can be really toxic to plants in high concentrations, so we’re worried about sodium coming up through the clay layer and infiltrating the wetland,” he said. “It’ll kill the plants.”

Returning to the university this fall to work on a Master of Science, Vessey is already looking ahead to a possible doctorate in the future, based on the simple fact that he loves absorbing new details about his area of study. In the meanwhile, though, he had a bit of tongue-in-cheek advice for students hoping to duplicate his success.

“Listen, and don’t skip class,” Vessey said with a chuckle.