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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Alumni Career Spotlight: Mark Dilley

Mark Dilley
Natural Resources ‘91
Master of Science in Environmental Science ‘03
Chief Scientist & Co-Founder, MAD Scientist Associates

Mark Dilley standing over a mossy log with his arms raised and smiling in a vernal pool

Mark completed his undergraduate degree in SENR in 1991 having majored in Natural Resources with a specialization in Fisheries Management. Among his many involvements during his time in SENR, he was part of the Mountain Honorary and Big Brothers/Big Sisters and worked as an intern at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) within the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. After graduation, Mark got married and received his Master of Science in Environmental Science with an emphasis on wetlands from OSU in 2003. Mark is now the Chief Scientist and co-founder of MAD Scientist Associates located in Westerville. 


Read the full interview with Mark:    


A Glance at Mark’s Current Work 

I am the Chief Scientist and co-founder of MAD Scientist Associates located in Westerville. My wife, Chris (whom I met at OSU) has her MBA and serves as our CEO. Our firm specializes in ecological and wetland consulting, and we and our team of professionals strive to Make A Difference (MAD!) through science, service and education. We like projects that have an outreach component and we sincerely enjoy working with the public to accomplish good things for the environment and our community. 

What does a typical day at your job look like? 
In consulting, we always answer "there is no such thing," somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However, ours is a very dynamic, client-driven enterprise. It takes an entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of flexibility and creativity to make it all work. We can only make a living when someone hires us, so it feels like you're job-hunting every day (which you are, in a sense).Mark and his wife, Chris, accepting an award as Westerville's 2019 Small Business of the Year.  

However, we've built a strong reputation as a business and now have a lot of repeat customers and larger projects that make the day-to-day workload easier to navigate. Everyone on our team spends a significant amount of time in the field, especially from April through mid-November. We'll be out completing ecological surveys, vegetation quality assessments, stream and pond studies, site analysis work for wetland and stream restoration work, construction oversight, plantings, invasive species management, and monitoring throughout the warmer months. For our field techs, they are likely to be in the field 80-90% of the time during these months. Our environmental scientists spend about half of their time in the field. Things shift toward more office work for everyone during the winter. 

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?  
It's a solid tie between seeing our staff grow and develop in their professional careers and seeing our restoration projects grow and develop into functional ecosystems that benefit the environment. In both cases, I get joy from seeing that our efforts are Making A Difference.  

"Follow your dreams but set realistic expectations. Nothing happens quickly. You need to look for and seize opportunities to gain experience, even if those opportunities aren't 'perfect.'"     

Professional Development     

What were you involved in during college? 
I was involved in the CFAES Fall Recognition banquet planning committee, the Mountain Honorary, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and various other clubs and volunteer events. In terms of internships, my experience began with an unpaid position at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) within the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. After about a year of that, I was hired into a paid internship, and soon thereafter, into a part-time position as the Central Ohio Stream Quality Monitoring (SQM) Coordinator. I met a lot of great environmental professionals and volunteers and got over my nervousness with public speaking by leading SQM training sessions. I found that talking to groups outdoors (in my element) made me more relaxed in front of a crowd, and then it became easier to present to large groups in indoor settings! I really loved my time at ODNR. 

What advice would you give to someone who is still in college and hoping to do what you do? 
Mark and his coworkers dressed up for Halloween in white coats and white-colored wigs for HalloweenFollow your dreams but set realistic expectations. Nothing happens quickly. You need to look for and seize opportunities to gain experience, even if those opportunities aren't "perfect." Read a lot. Ask for advice from more established career professionals. Attend professional meetings and social functions and meet new people, so you can learn more about them and they can get to know you. My experience is that if you have a growing network of folks who know what you're looking for, they will try to share news of opportunities that could benefit you on your career path. I think in the environmental profession, particularly, we all want to see one another succeed.  

What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development? 
The hardest moments, honestly. I discovered and started working in consulting only after the full-time job I had a lock on at ODNR fell through due to budget cuts. Seven years later, I was laid off and interviewed for another job with the State of Ohio. I got the job, but the paperwork processing that would actually allow me to start work took nearly half a year to complete - and in the interim, I began working independently, securing my own projects and contracts. By the time the State surmounted its own bureaucracy to actually give me a start date, I was already booked up for the remainder of the year and they wouldn't offer any flexibility on my start date, so I turned down the position. That was the beginning of my wife's and my journey into business ownership and the start of MAD Scientist Associates.  


What did you do immediately post-graduation? 
Mark and his son, Brent, wearing OSU colors and sitting next to a status of Brutus BuckeyeI got married and began working right out of school. My future mother-in-law worked at Battelle when I graduated and learned that there was to be a hiring freeze at ODNR. She worked as a secretary in their environmental group, and with a vested interest in seeing her future son-in-law gainfully employed, she asked her colleagues where I might apply. Through introducing me to environmental consulting, she changed my entire career path. I later returned to work on my graduate degree (part time) while I worked full-time and started a family. Chris and I now have three adult sons, the youngest of whom is completing his Bachelor's degree at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at OSU next year. 

What was most important to you in your job search? 
Knowing that I would be in an environment where I could contribute and grow. It was also important to me (and still is) that the jobs I worked made a difference and contributed to the greater good. 


How to connect with Mark: 

Start with an e-mail to and include a phone number. One of my favorite ways to start the day is meeting recent graduates and young professionals over coffee to share my experience and get to know them. 


Post created October 2021