Kirk Stowers is a bit of a rock star in his field. He’s the principal geologist and environmental division manager at the consulting firm Broadbent & Associates, which provides scientific solutions to resource management challenges. That may sound like a dry field made for a stolid professional, but while the Harvard-educated Stowers understands the gravity of his work, he knows the value of not taking life too seriously, too. “I knew I wanted to be a geologist as soon as I realized how much of geology revolved around beer drinking and camping,” he says. “That is clearly the thought process of the college freshman that I was at the time, but it has actually worked out quite nicely.”
What is your background and what brought you to Las Vegas?
My parents moved to Las Vegas in 1973. My father had arthritis and his doctor recommended a warm climate. He worked at UNLV for 24 years and my mother was an English teacher and later an administrator for the school district for decades. As a result, with short detours to Boston for school and Wyoming and Flagstaff for short-term work, I am a Las Vegas resident through and through.
Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?
Broadbent recently hired both a Human Resources professional and an Information Technology person and a member of our Reno staff just received his Certified Industrial Hygienist certification. These are all big achievements for us and basically ensure our leap to premiere global environmental tour de force by the end of this week, conservatively speaking.
What are your areas of expertise?
My areas of expertise used to be the characterization and remediation of soil and groundwater impacted by anthropogenic contamination. However, my current area of perceived expertise is trying to wrangle a very talented, intelligent and quirky Las Vegas workforce into doing what’s best for our company while also doing what’s best for them as individuals. The former was considerably easier, but the latter is more rewarding.
Tell us about some of the scientific research you’ve conducted locally.
I have had a hand in helping develop some of our understanding of the local geology and hydrology of the Las Vegas Basin through my work throughout the valley. The Las Vegas Valley is a complicated mixture of bedrock, alluvium, and faulting that often holds unexpected surprises.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
While some may view my 27 years with one company as a staggering lack of ambition, I consider it to be an indication of incredibly good luck and my best achievement. Short of rock star/international philanthropist, I can’t think of a job that I would prefer.
What is your management style?
It’s always a bit tricky to quantify one’s own management style. I don’t subscribe to any particular philosophy or something inspiring that I heard on a podcast. I guess I stick with the basics. Listen to people. Respect their time and feelings. Give second and third chances, when possible. Don’t be a jerk.
What’s the biggest environmental issue facing Southern Nevada?
The air quality in our valley, while considerably improved due to the hard work of Clark County personnel and the businesses and consultants they work with, should continue to trend toward cleaner. Better and more convenient public transportation would require less cars and their emissions, and low- or no-emission vehicles would help as well. I used to take the bus to work and would love to do so again, if it could be managed.
If you had a magic wand, what three things would you change about Southern Nevada?
We would have an ocean front in our immediate vicinity.
The summer would top out at 100 degrees, but then, inexplicably, drop down to 50 degrees every night.
Our homeless would be housed and adequately cared for and Las Vegas would become the example for the nation of clean, friendly and safe streets.
What are you reading?
I recently finished the book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” by Sebastian Junger. It has some interesting and, I think, true ruminations about the detrimental effect of the loss of our tribal roots. It also has some very important things to say about how we should view our returning combat veterans as they try to assimilate back into civilian life.
What is your dream job outside of your current field?
My current outside-of-work hobby is serving as chairman of the executive board for the professional Las Vegas theater company, A Public Fit Theatre. If I didn’t have to worry about making an income, I think it would be fun to do that work full time instead of during my free time. I was an actor with the City of Las Vegas’ Rainbow Company Youth Theatre when I was a child and my desire to work in theater has never really left me.
What is your favorite rock or mineral, and why?
No one has a favorite rock, including geologists. Therefore, I am going to assume that you are asking about my favorite rock music and that has always been hair metal. My kids don’t like it and rightfully so. Most of my parenting time is spent explaining the lyrics in the context of the #MeToo movement — which, frankly, are indefensible.
How could any Las Vegan’s favorite mineral be anything other than pyrite, also known as fool’s gold?
Humor us with a sentence using the word caliche.
I don’t always feel like ordering some small pieces of shrimp seasoned in lime juice, but when I do, I always order the caliche. Wait a minute …
If you could spend a day in anybody’s shoes, who would you choose and why?
I feel like it would be fun to be Bill Murray for a day or two. I would love to pop up at other people’s events and make their day by my very presence and relatability. Anyone who hasn’t seen “Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man” on Netflix should go immediately home and cue it up.
What is something that people might not know about you?
There are many, many things that people do not know about me, mostly due to a small army of lawyers and forensic scientists who specialize in scrubbing my online profile. But of the printable ones, I think most people are surprised to find that I worked for and actually lived in the cemetery of one of Las Vegas’ funeral homes in the 1990s.
What advice would you offer aspiring geologists?
One out of every 10 people you meet is pretty sure they found a meteorite. If you tell them you are a geologist, they will try to show it to you. Rule of thumb: It’s not.