Environmental Science Careers

Environmental Science career role model
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Environmental Science Careers (4:46)

“A lot of the rewarding things that I get to do is just being outside and protecting and preserving the outdoor recreational opportunities and the wildlife. It’s something bigger than me. It’s something that will be there beyond my career. And I feel like I’m a steward and it’s my job to take care of these places and these wildlife species for the next generation.”

Video Transcript

I believe that we should all have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and to have communities that are walkable and bikeable, that have great parks. Those require advocacy. Those require people to work together and to compromise and to pass laws and to fund programs. And that’s the kind of work that I do.

One of the most rewarding things about being an environmental engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency is our mission to protect human health and the environment. And it’s so rewarding to be a part of that mission and know that the work I’m doing is contributing to the protection of human health and the environment.

One of the great things about my work as a civil engineer is that I am allowed to be an instrumental component in delivering safe drinking water.

As an environmental geologist, I go out and I take air samples, I take groundwater samples. What we’re basically trying to do is make sure that the air that we breathe and the water that we drink complies with the standards that are set by EPA or state agencies.

We can connect our passion to the environment in many careers. I think it starts with asking yourself a simple question, what is most interesting to you?

I am an ichthyologist, so I study fishes. And I work primarily in the Congo, which is a huge part of Central Africa. And the Congo River is just this enormous river system that runs through the heart of Africa. And it’s really poorly known ichthyologically. I mean, people depend on the fishes of the Congo. People have been eating fishes in the Congo for millennia, but scientists haven’t really had a chance to get in there and start studying the fish. So every time I go to Congo, I discover new species of fish.

I study mesopelagic fishes. If you took a column of the ocean and the surface being 0, and then you went 200 meters beneath the surface, the 200 to 1,000 meters beneath the surface, that strip of water, it’s called the mesopelagic zone. And then I also work for the government. I work for the NOAA Fisheries. And our job is to help sustainably manage commercial fisheries. So things you and I eat, we try to manage those in a more responsible way so that we don’t fish everything out of the ocean tomorrow.

What I study is the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is out in the middle of the Northern Pacific Ocean. It’s kind of north of Hawaii. I study that area because I study plastic pollution, and that is where a lot of plastic accumulates in the ocean. So the plastic just sits out there, and it ages by the sun and by the way of turbulence and just gets into smaller and smaller pieces. And so what I study is the really small stuff, when a plastic bottle kind of breaks down into tiny confetti-sized pieces and how those confetti-sized pieces get eaten by fish and by plankton.

I conduct research in a lab on corals and how corals are affected by a phenomenon in the ocean called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the gradual rise in acidity of the seawater from the absorption of carbon dioxide into seawater, and that’s primarily caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

I work at the National Eye Center. They monitor sea ice for the Arctic and Antarctic. They produce sea ice charts, and it helps them to determine how old ice is. It helps them to determine the thickness of the ice and things like that.

My research, the overarching goal is to develop high-resolution maps of the seafloor. Understanding the terrain on the seafloor can help for search and rescue and finding sunken ships or plane crashes. It can also help predict weather patterns more accurately and things like this. But I think that once we’re able to efficiently map the seafloor, it’ll open up avenues for a lot more discoveries and science and technology.

Meteorology is a very interesting science because there are a lot of things that involve physics, both on a very small scale level and also very big. There’s also a lot of life science in meteorology.

A lot of the rewarding things that I get to do is just being outside and protecting and preserving the outdoor recreational opportunities and the wildlife. It’s something bigger than me. It’s something that will be there beyond my career. And I feel like I’m a steward and it’s my job to take care of these places and these wildlife species for the next generation.

Discussion Guide

Independent Learning Guide: This all-purpose guide can be used by educators, parents, and mentors to jumpstart a lively discussion about careers in environmental science.

Classroom Lesson Plan

Do you want to study and care for our planet? Are you interested in helping to protect animals, plants, and our natural resources? A career in environmental science could be a great fit for you!

Classroom Lesson Plan: This step-by-step lesson plan is available to guide a more in-depth “before, during, and after” learning experience when viewing the video with students. This lesson plan is also suitable for use in after-school programs and other educational settings.

Fun Page Activity

Environmental Science Careers Fun Page Activity: Use this activity page with students to reinforce and expand on concepts discussed in the video.