There isn’t much intersection with volcanology and public radio, at least not right now.
If John Perreault has his way, that might not always be the case. For the past several years Perreault has been the early morning host on KUAC, as well as the FM operations manager and traffic coordinator, but Nov. 1 marks his last day as a station employee; he’s off to a new job as a volcanologist.
“I joke that I’ve been inching up to careers,” he said. “You know, do a little media, do a little geology, do a little media, do a little geology.”
It’s been a long road to the volcanology job for Perreault, but it intertwines with his radio career and his ties to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Perreault grew up in Fairbanks, not within the city proper but on the outskirts, on Fairbanks Street. He said his parents attended the university and he feels a little like he grew up on campus.
“So it feels very natural to be at KUAC having literally grown up at the foot of the hill,” he said.
Perreault first volunteered for the station in the 1990s when he helped work a TV pledge drive. When he first attended college at the university, he pursued a journalism degree and co-hosted a show on the college music station KSUA.
“It was an electronic and dance music — techno, in the parlance of the times — show and we danced with the fury of 10 angry donkeys because we were 19, and we were in college, and we were silly, and it was Friday night,” he said.
It was the best they came up with, he said, and it stuck.
He didn’t stay at the university, though. At 19, Perreault left for Seattle. He got an associate degree in video production but academically didn’t feel content with that.
“That was part of why I decided to go back to school and pursue geology, because I was living in Washington state under the shadow of Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and was fascinated by them and geology in general,” he said.
It was a tertiary interest of his that he says rose to the surface. At the time, he was reading about the Nevado del Ruiz volcanic disaster in Colombia and noted the similarities between locations — with communities set up under a volcano that hasn’t erupted in so long people have forgotten what the impact is like.
“So there’s this disconnect in conversation between the scientists who understand what the dangers are and the communities around, and so … perhaps at some point in my career the science and communications will come back together,” he said.
For now, though, he’s still on step one, having just been hired for one of his dream jobs. He’ll be working with map making and doing field work for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
“It’s bittersweet because he really loves volcanology, he really loves geology, he really loves working at KUAC,” said Genevieve Perreault, Perreault’s wife.
The Perreaults initially met in high school, when they were both on the same academic decathlon team, but met again at UAF. Now they’ve been together for more than 20 years, marrying in 2006.
“He’s really funny. I think his sense of humor is my favorite part of him,” Genevieve Perreault said.
She also noted how hardworking he is. While they lived in Seattle, she said he would wake up at 5 a.m. to work a construction job, go to school during the day, then go to his evening job for an environmental nonprofit.
“I don’t think he ever slept because then he had to do homework things that he had to do for school,” she said. “So he was working two jobs and going to school full time and it was a lot — and he’s always been that way.”
The schedule seems to have stuck. For the past four years, John Perreault drives in to his office at KUAC before 5 a.m. to go to work. His desk holds a barometer and a stained glass turtle lamp, which stays lit while he’s in the office to signal others that he’s in the building. He divides his time between hosting, managing on-air traffic and listening in to what’s going on in the world.
Genevieve Perreault describes her husband as a bit of a renaissance man. He’s got a wide array of interests.
Between radio and pursuing his geology career, John Perreault is on the borough planning commission. He likes curling and softball. He has a growing collection of Mariners merchandise a friend keeps gifting him: bobbleheads sit on the shelf over his desk alongside Star Trek stamps that he can’t quite bring himself to put on a letter.
He also enjoys acting, and he does voices for his kids when he reads them bedtime stories.
Genevieve, John, their son, Theo, and their twin daughters, Nell and Lula, make up their family of five. Genevieve said that, even though he’s pursuing his dream, the transition has been a bit tough, because they love listening to him on the radio and she knows he enjoys working at the station.
John Perreault has always loved radio, too. Radio was a constant companion growing up, he said.
“I had my grandfather’s tape recorder that had a little microphone to it, so I could record songs off the radio and then do my own pretend DJ breaks in between,” he said.
So, moving forward, he said he may be changing jobs but the Perreaults are planning to continue being part of the station. After all, Theo, 8, is the voice of Kid’s Club, and his family often visits the station.
It just so happens another dream job has come his way.
“Volcanology jobs don’t come open super often, so the opportunity to work for the Alaska Volcano Observatory was one that I did not want to pass up,” John Perreault said.
He got a tip from a friend that the position was open and took the chance applying.
“I love this job, so if I didn’t get it, nothing would change, and if I did, off into the brave new world,” he said.
He’s entering his new job with enthusiasm. Ask John Perreault about geosciences and he’ll talk about how there are ocean beds in the Canadian Rockies. He’ll talk about the earthquakes in California and Anchorage and Denali, being able to see changes to the planet in real time.
“It’s the real opportunity for us to perceive the forces at play in our earth on scales that we can both measure and view and, in timeline, comprehend,” he said.
He said he considers some of the people who work at the observatory as “rock stars of volcanology” and he’s humbled to be working with them.
“I do feel extraordinarily lucky and fortunate to have been able to work here and be a part of KUAC and this family, and then to follow that up with an opportunity to work at another dream job as a volcanologist at AVO, it could have gone a lot worse in life, in career life,” he said. “I’m a simple man: I love my wife, I love my kids, I go to work.”
So, true to Perreault’s character, he’s off to work.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMLocal.