Zelma Maine-Jackson’s dedication to the environment spans over 35 years, covering the geosciences to environmental justice and economic revitalization in various communities, and then returning to geosciences. Throughout her career, she has maintained front-line advocacy in the nuclear industry. As an Exploration Geologist in the early 1970s with Atlantic Richfield Oil Company, she explored the Rocky Mountain Region for sandstone-type uranium deposits. After locating several successful productive mines, she entered graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington and earned a Master in Economic Geology.
In the early 80s, she transitioned from uranium exploration to environmental remediation of uranium contamination at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 586-square-mile Hanford Nuclear Site in eastern Washington State. Hanford is one the largest environmental cleanup projects in the world, consisting of tons of legacy chemical and radioactive waste in various containment methods. Over the years, the vadose zone, groundwater and Columbia River have been impacted. In a 20-year role as a Hydrogeologist with the Washington State Department of Ecology Nuclear Waste Program, she provides technical oversight for groundwater cleanup of the radioactive and hazardous waste contamination. This effort entails collaboration and cooperation with various entities, the community and stakeholders to uphold Washington State’s legal mandate to protect human health and the environment.
Zelma’s commitment to sustaining the environment has always extended beyond cleanup and remediation of legacy waste but also addressing disparity issues in impacted communities bordering chemical and hazardous waste sites. To integrate scientific dialog into communities across the country, she participates in various gubernational appointments, community economic revitalization, holds founding memberships in the National Association of Black Geoscientists, and board position with the American Red Cross, United Way, Rotary International, STEM education high schools and various public schools. As an indigenous member of the Gullah-Geehee Nation, she is dedicated to conserving Loggerhead sea turtles at South Carolina’s Hunting Island State Park and to sustaining and restoring wildlife population and habitats in the ACE Basin, the land drained by the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers.