What Does An Environmental Scientist Do?

"I want to a career that would enable me to do my share in saving the environment. My teacher suggested that I should become an environmental scientist—an occupation that I haven’t heard about before. What does an environmental scientists do?"

asked by Terry M. from Woonsocket, Rhode Island

We only have one planet and we need to protect it. While every human being should share this concern, this is the daily battle cry of environmental scientists. Using their extensive understanding of the natural sciences, they work to increase environmental awareness, clean up pollution, improve people’s health and collaborate with industrial players to minimize waste. In a nutshell, their work revolves around analyzing problems about the environment and coming up with appropriate solutions for them.

Environmental scientists do research, undertake investigations and conduct surveys about the myriad of issues affecting Mother Earth. They determine what methods to utilize to collect data for these endeavors. Depending on the study they are doing, environmental scientists can collect data from air, water, soil and food samples.

They would bring these to the laboratory for analysis to determine if contamination is present and if it is hazardous to both human health and the environment. They would then present the findings of their research in comprehensive technical reports.

They come up with plans and strategies to control or fix environmental threats like water pollution, chemical waste and oil spills. Environmental scientists also act as consultants to federal, state and local governments, companies and organizations, giving them advice on how they can minimize the impact of their projects or manufacturing practices to the environment. If certain activities or undertakings pose a threat to health and safety, they also make sure that the authorities and those concerned are told about it. For instance, they may tell companies not to proceed with the use of certain chemicals because they can harm the water supply.

Environmental scientists typically work for state and local governments. In this capacity, they are responsible for ensuring that regulations and ordinances on safe water, clean air and dangerous materials are followed. As such, they see to it that companies observe the restrictions placed on industrial development. For example, most jurisdictions don’t allow development to take place in areas close to wetlands and other sensitive ecosystems. Some firms hire environmental scientists to ensure that they don’t run afoul of these rules.

The work of environmental scientists can take place in the office and on the field. In the office, they undertake planning and development programs, permitting and compliance monitoring activities. They study local, state and federal regulations to ensure that permit requirements for projects are met. They may also be tasked with managing and evaluating the budget and analyzing costs of a particular project. They would also meet and talk with clients and other stakeholders of various projects in their office.

In the field, environmental scientists may conduct investigations to find the extent of contamination of air, groundwater and/or soil using various methods. They may employ observation, gather samples, make excavations and others using various tools and equipment and subject these to the necessary laboratory tests in order to come up with the needed results.

Career Spotlight: Environmental Scientist

Environmental Scientist

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists determine dangers to the Earth’s environment, which include pollutants and hazardous practices. Their goal is to decrease the impact of these dangers and to work to eliminat[...]

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