Phillip Martello Class of ’00


Nicolete Smiley , Elementary/ Photo Editor

The Arrow is proud to announce a new “Where are They Now?” alumni series  that will highlight past graduates of Mohawk. Our first Alumni is Philip Martello, who is now an Environmental Scientist in Portland, Oregon. Philip generously took time to answer some questions to staff writer, Nicolette Smiley.

  1. What about Mohawk do you miss? I wouldn’t necessarily say there is anything about high school in particular that I miss, but do miss Western P.A. and the friends I made while attending school. I still have some family there too, oh and lightning bugs and thunderstorms and beautiful fall foliage.
  2. Where did you go to college?  I attended Slippery Rock University and majored in GeoSciences.  I love small towns and it was close to home.
  3. What do you like to do in your spare time?  Travelling, ski mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, bike touring, backpacking, reading. I also enjoy live music, but I really prefer to either be in the mountains or floating down a river.
  4. What advice would you give to students at Mohawk today?  Study Spanish, learn to play an instrument, pay attention in Chem, and be nice to your teachers.  Do a thru-hike (Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, North Country Trail) or some other grand adventure before college.  Apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can find.  Convince some friends to ride your bikes across the country when you finish college.  Leave home, travel internationally, volunteer mad hours, work for a non-profit.  Pursue your passion and turn that into your profession instead of working for the corporate world or chasing money.  Study the Earth Sciences and work in conservation at some point.  Pay off your school loans ASAP.  Never stop learning, live in the present, and don’t forget to call your mom.
  5. How did you know you wanted to be an environmental scientist?  My grandfather was an environmental activist and I always admired that about him. I grew up hiking Hickory Creek and the Mahoning River reading Abbey, Muir, Thoreau, et al. And became interested in land ethics and conservation.  I also had the most amazing Environmental Geology professor and adviser at SRU.  I have always been fascinated by water and it is our most valuable resource so I started working with the Clean Water Act as my focus area and over the years transitioned into other environmental regulations pertaining to soil, air, etc.
  6. What do you like about your job?  I am not stuck behind a desk working the grind. I ride my bike to work and spend the majority of my time outside in the sun or rain working on the Columbia River with views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helena.

    I think it is human nature to look for meaning and my career choices have provided me with meaning and purpose.”

    — Philip Martello

    I am definitely not saying the meaning of life is to work, but if you choose to work in a field that you love and if you feel that you are making a difference then it doesn’t seem so bad that you are actually working 40 hours a week instead of pursuing other passions or spending that time with family and friends.
  7. Is there anything you dislike about your job?  I work at a port so all the constant trade and commerce contribute to CO2 emissions and climate change. It can be a bit of a buzzkill that we passed 400 PPM and there is still zero political will to do anything about it.
  8. What about your job interests you the most?  Treating storm water pollution naturally via bio/phytoremediation. Storm water is rain runoff in urban areas. It is a major contributor of pollutants into our waterways.
  9. What kind of things do you explore?  Mostly alpine environments and books.  Currently, my partner and I are working on the 50 Classic Climbs of North America.  Watching the alpenglow or a sunrise at 14K elevation above the clouds is life changing and you all should experience it at least once.
  10. What does a day of an environmental scientist consist of?  Every day is different.  That is another thing I love about my work.  A port is a lot like a small municipality and employees wear many hats so some days I am observing vessel loading operations, some days I am groundwater monitoring, others taking storm water samples, and others cleaning up spills, or tree mitigation, or building floating treatment wetlands, or audits of operations and sometimes I stare at my screen and get caught up on emails and paperwork.
  11. Have you done anything dangerous?  I think it is important to put yourself out there and face your fears.  When you’re are in these uncomfortable places or situations you learn and grow as an individual.  Always challenge yourself.
  12. Did you want to become anything else before becoming an environmental scientist?  Yeah, I suppose.  I mean, when I was younger Indiana Jones was pretty much the coolest person ever, but after realizing Archeology is not at all like it is in the movies I entertained other choices like Environmental Lawyer, Hydrologist/Hydrogeologist, Biologist/Marine Biologist, Paleontologist (I love fossils), Environmental Engineer.  I also don’t think that a Scientist is the be all and end all. I plan to quit on my 40th birthday and travel internationally for a couple years climbing, mountaineering, woofing, volunteering, and then plan to dirt bag it up living in a van in the various adventure towns of the U.S. working as a river rafting/kayaking guide, mountain guide, bike mechanic, ski patrol, etc. etc. spending time pursuing other things which make me happy.