Name: Wilson Bonner
Years as a Camper: 2 summers
Years as a Staff: 4 summers Jr. Counselor – Aquatics (2 summers), Assistant Head Camp 4, Lake Chief
Current Profession and Title/Years in role:
Geologist, KoBold Metals (since June 2021)
What drew you into geology as a career and how did you get started on your professional path?
I went to Sewanee University of the South and that was through a Sea Gull connection. My brother, Stuart was close with Grant Thomas who was a counselor at Sea Gull for a long time and he really looked up to him. Stuart became interested in Sewanee because of Grant and then I followed my brother there.
Sewanee is a great place to study geology because you’re up on this big isolated plateau and you can literally walk outside of the classroom and see amazing outcrops of sedimentary rocks to learn things about depositional environments or structural geology. These were things you read about in a text book and then you go out and see it in the flesh. I immediately liked it because it was so tangible and fun to be outside.
Can you tell us about your current work and your career aspirations?
I’m in mineral exploration. Almost the entire periodic table of elements is used to make a cell phone and so many things we use daily and we have to mine those elements that we use every day in the modern world. My job is to use geology to predict where metal deposits of whatever commodity of interest we’re looking for may exist and then to drill for them to see if they’re there.
Most of 2022, I was out working in the field in Canada but I’m based in Salt Lake City, Utah now. One of my greatest successes thus far was that I was on a team that discovered the largest undeveloped underground gold deposit in Nevada.
Do you have any career advice for members of our Camp community?
I tell young people that are getting into geology, ‘if you want to save the world, become and exploration geologist. We’re fighting an uphill battle of trying to limit the impacts of climate change by bringing on renewable energy sources. One way can we do that is to electrify our light vehicle fleet around the world. Technologies, especially batteries, require metals like cobalt, copper, lithium and nickel. Those are the metals I’m looking for. We currently don’t have enough resources identified in the world that would allow us to completely switch to a completely electric fleet in the US. We’re up against the clock to reduce our carbon emissions before the impact is really bad, especially on coastal communities.
The only way we can have a chance at saving some of those communities is to try and find more of these metals to make the batteries that can make that happen. It's humbling to know a discovery my team or I could make would have such an impact and I use that as motivation.
How do the values or skills you learned at Camp show up in your everyday work and/or personal life?
The lessons you learn working through the Blue and Green Books is something that stayed with me. The ranks are designed to be hard to achieve so that if you fail you learn to try again. You learn to establish a goal, try, and then learn from where you may have failed the first time through.
In my professional life I’m not afraid to set a goal and then not achieve it. I know from my time at Sea Gull that some goals you don’t achieve right away but that you have another opportunity after having learned from failure. Especially in my field of science, not just geology, but in any science you develop a hypothesis and you test it. So many young scientists are afraid to try and be wrong. Forming and testing a hypothesis is a fundamental to how science works. I’ve never had that fear of being wrong or of a hypothesis failing because of gaining that skill at Camp and it has been highly relevant.
Is there a person or a situation that had a huge influence on you while you were at Camp? How and why did they/it impact you?
Our family started attending Family Camp when I was about three. Brooks Sykes was influential and someone I looked up to during those Family Camp years. Douglas Andrew, Ashley Andrew Silverman and William Silverman all worked at Family Camp and then at Sea Gull and Seafarer around that time and they were awesome and I looked up to them a lot. When I was on staff Jon Vance and Ken and John Hyde were role models. Ken was a huge influence on me as a person and I looked up to him immensely. He taught me so much about being a counselor.
Favorite Camp meal
Anything with curly fries because I liked the longest curly fry competition
What profession other than your own would you like to try?
Baseball beat writer
What are you currently reading?
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. It has all kinds of interesting society questions about our own world that I found super relevant and interesting.