Alumni Spotlight: Catie Gullo (BS '15) Works in Environmental Quality

Jan. 15, 2020

Catherine “Catie” Gullo's (BS Environmental Science ‘15) passion for environmental quality and public health led her to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Gullo, an alumna from the Department of Environmental Science, works at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), using skills she learned during her environmental science major to improve and protect both the environment and public health in our state.

“Develop the skills you want at work every day at school. I learned a lot of my skills on field trips, like soil coring and flow meters.” 

Digging into Applied Environmental Microbiology

Gullo pursued a degree in environmental science with an emphasis in microbiology at the University of Arizona. Her interest in environmental microbiology led her to work with Dr. Raina Maier’s lab on mining remediation.

Learn more about the Environmental Science Major

In the Maier lab, Gullo worked on the remediation of the legacy mine site Iron King Mine, an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.  

“It was an eye-opening experience to be involved in a project focused on rehabilitating the environment."

The heavy metal ore waste from the mine, called mine tailings, contain toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead. Neighboring communities are concerned about potential heavy metal poisoning from the dust that blows off these mine tailings. Gullo helped investigate whether plants can be used to keep these contaminants in place, chemically and physically.

Aligning Her Passion with the ADEQ Mission 

While job hunting, Gullo relied on her broad environmental science skill—not just her microbiology laboratory experience—to land a position as a water quality technician at ADEQ.

Gullo’s main focus was to collect water samples, ensuring they complied with state standards and the Clean Water Act. A promotion in 2018 led Gullo to oversee a project that looks to improve watershed management in Arizona. 

“I feel like I’m working towards a goal that will improve our environment and the lives of people."

Now, she examines the issue of nonpoint source pollution, or pollution from diffuse sources. This is especially crucial for Arizona during the monsoon; the highly variable rainfall causes runoff that deposits natural and man-made contaminants in rivers, ponds, and streams in a very short amount of time. 

Her expertise in microbiology comes in handy with exploratory analysis of E. coli in sediment of Arizona rivers and streams. She hopes preliminary data from this pilot project will help ADEQ create better standards to protect both the environment and public health.