Student Spotlight with William Aley IV

William Cullen Aley IV is an FAU alumnus who graduated in 2005 with his M.S. in Geology along with a minor in Invertebrate Zoology and Geographic Information Systems. Aley has been a Professional Geologist for five years now with Taylor Engineering, Inc. located in Jacksonville, Florida.

What are some of your core responsibilities? 

I lead the company’s Coastal and Marine Geosciences Laboratory and I manage a variety of coastal and waterfront projects. As a Professional Geologist, I am uniquely involved with a variety of multidisciplinary projects, this is what I really enjoy about my career in geology. My job as a geologist/geoscientist may require drilling cores in the field, testing soils in a lab, analyzing remote sensing data, applying for a dredging permit, administering a construction project, reporting on laboratory results, researching historical use of sediments, planning investigation... the list goes on and on because geology relates to all fields of science and engineering.

How did FAU help prepare you for this role? 

The courses I took and instruction I received from professors at FAU prepared me in every way for my current role. As a geologist, we received training and hands-on experiences with many different disciplines of geology and geosciences as well as opportunities to collaborate with students and professors from other colleges such as chemistry, physics, biology, etc. During my time in the geology program at FAU, the professors and administrators were genuinely friendly to all of us and it was clear that they absolutely loved what they did and they had a passion for sharing it with us students. 

What did you enjoy about your experience at FAU? 

The location of the school was the primary reason I chose to go to FAU. I had no idea what I wanted to major in but knew I wanted to be by the coast in South Florida. Upon arrival, I absolutely loved the campus and Boca Raton area. Once I found the geology group I was hooked! Where else could you have opportunities to collect fossils in quarries, scuba dive off the coast, take field camps, attend scientific conferences, and have a variety of other field classes and training opportunities. 

The highlight of my experience at FAU was being able to spend several summers on live-aboard research vessels, dredging, trawling, sampling, and scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Cay Sal Bank, and the Bahamas. I was even able to take a trip aboard Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution’s Seaward Johnson AND take a dive several hundred feet into the Gulf of Mexico in the Johnson Sea Link manned submersible! I am very thankful to the university faculty and staff for these opportunities. 

What research did you perform while at FAU? And how did the faculty help you through your thesis or dissertation?

My thesis research focused on a geological-oceanographic anomaly at the western Great Bahama Bank that supported a highly diverse deep-water fauna, more similar to a shallow reef fauna than would be expected at the depths encountered.

Multiple faculty members, geology and others, guided me through a variety of processes and disciplines required for the completion of my dissertation. They were willing to take personal time to share interests, experiences, and feedback with me. I consider them all friends and am still thankful for them all today.

What tips would you give to current students in the College of Science looking to pursue a career in your field?

Pursue Summer Internships, stay in touch with your peers who graduate in the years before you, they can help you get jobs, attend and participate in conferences and trade shows, seek out opportunities for field experience, be flexible and confident that you have a breadth of multidisciplinary knowledge, participate with professional societies such as AIPG/FAPG, GSA, AGI, FSBPA/ASBPA, and keep pushing that rock up the hill!