Environmental Science

(en-vahy-ruhn-muhn-tl sahy-uhns) (n.)

The specialty focused on using science to protect the environment. Environmental scientists use their knowledge of natural sciences to reduce, regulate, control and prevent pollution. They test the air, the water, and the land to find pollutants that create hazards in the environment. Environmental scientists work to find solutions for eliminating these toxins, but they must strike a balance between the needs of the planet and the needs of industries that generate pollutants.

Usually, environmental scientists specialize in one aspect of the environment. Specializations include land conservation, groundwater contamination, wildlife preservation and hazardous waste removal and disposal. Also, several specialty fields converge under the umbrella of environmental science. Ecologists study the relationship between organisms and their environments. Chemists investigate the toxicity of chemicals, and determine their impact on plants, animals and humans. Ecological modelers research pollutants and organize information about the ecosystem using mathematical models and systems analysis.

Environmental scientists can work with a number of agencies. Civic groups and political leaders hire environmental scientists to prepare for public hearings or legislative panels on environmental issues. Some environmental scientists work with non-profit or government agencies. These employers, such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of the Interior, conduct environmental impact studies and educate corporations and consumers about the dangers of pollution. Other environmental scientists work for mining, oil or chemical corporations and ensure that these employers cooperate with environmental standards set forth by law.

Environmental scientists must have at least a bachelor's degree in environmental science. This major employs many scientific disciplines, including biology, geology, oceanography and chemistry. Most environmental scientists continue taking courses to keep their knowledge up to date. Modelers must have intimate knowledge of computer systems to succeed, and special courses are available to provide this expertise.

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