Mineralogist for the defense
Mickey Gunter is a self-proclaimed “lab geek” who prefers to work hunched over a microscope, rather than scrambling down mountainsides for field samples. A mineralogist, Gunter has spent much of his career researching the health effects of mineral dusts.
As an expert witness for the defense in the trial U.S. v. W.R. Grace and Co., Gunter expects to bring to the courtroom what he’s learned about dusty minerals and the Libby geology.
Gunter published his first paper on the subject in 1994, “Asbestos as a metaphor for teaching risk perception,” and has been tracking the Libby minerals since first visiting Zonolite Mountain, the site of the former W.R. Grace vermiculite mine, in 1999. He has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to categorize the Libby minerals.
Gunter’s work, however, extends far beyond Libby. He was a member of the EPA review committee on the World Trade Center dust screening method in 2005; a member of the executive board of the Mineralogical Society of America from 2007 to 2009; and part of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s expert panel on asbestos biomarkers in 2006.
He has also taken his work and expertise overseas. He was a visiting professor at the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Italy, Rome in 2007 and at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies at Kyoto University, Japan in 2002, and a visiting scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland in 1996.
“First and foremost,” he said, “I am a college professor and like working with students at all levels.”
Gunter is now a professor and chair of the Geological Sciences department of the University of Idaho. He teaches classes on basic mineralogy, X-ray diffraction, and optical mineralogy. He was also voted “Most Popular Faculty Member” in 2002 by University of Idaho students.
Gunter received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Illinois, and his master’s degree and doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
When he does break away from the lab, Gunter likes to ski Idaho’s backcountry, which he says he enjoys as much as teaching.
– Will Grant