Mark Mulcahy, principal hydrogeologist in the UK for MWH, now part of Stantec, has undertaken a number of complex projects including nuclear waste disposal, contaminated land assessments, geothermal energy schemes and water resource projects. He has also led operational teams in both clean and wastewater operations as well as industrial projects. Here, he shares some insider insights.
What has helped you get where you are in your career?
Hydrogeology is a very broad field and often provides a critical contribution for many other aspects of a project. Having a broad interest together with some areas of specialism has proved helpful for me.
Who have been your role-models/mentors?
I have had the benefit of working with a great many really excellent colleagues who are able to challenge the current state of knowledge in order to get to a solution effectively. Sometimes that has spawned new research and in other cases it has demonstrated how to apply the current knowledge in the absence of comprehensive data, based on expertise and judgement.
What qualifications are the most necessary/most beneficial in the hydrogeology sector?
Today a master’s degree is seen as the entry level qualification, ideally combined with some real-life practical experience in other areas such as field work, engineering or geology. A solid grounding in fieldwork and field hydrogeology is always a bonus.
What have been the pivotal moments in the field?
I was very fortunate to be involved with UK Nirex during the site investigation works at Dounreay and Sellafield. These were particularly interesting projects on a scale that is difficult to replicate outside of this specialist area.
What stages of your career have been the most rewarding?
For me, working in collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams is the most rewarding aspect of the role, as it shows hydrogeology as one essential component of a wider issue. Today, many problems are seen as part of an integrated set of solutions rather than isolated issues to be addressed and the collaborative approach is therefore becoming much more commonplace.
Where do you think there are the most job opportunities in the sector?
This is always changing depending on the current needs of society and the industry. Today, the greatest needs stem from population growth and climate change. Both are having impacts on the availability and quality of groundwater and are creating significant opportunities in respect of water resource characterisation and optimisation.
What other advice do you have for people about to embark on a career in sustainable hydrogeology?
I would say be flexible and keep an open mind. The needs of industry are always changing which in turn creates significant opportunities for us to participate in some fascinating projects which will have impacts over many decades.