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Environmental Geologist


Description

Over-consumption, waste and chemical pollution are a few of the rapidly growing environmental problems facing our society. Yet what happens to all of our chemical waste, such as batteries that you throw into the garbage? What about shampoo and conditioner once you rinse it out of your hair? When you see black smoke pouring out of the chimney at an industrial complex, what impact is it having on the atmosphere? These are the types of questions studied routinely by environmental geologists. The fate and effects of wastes and pollutants on the physical environment are all matters of increasing concern to those specializing in the management of our environment.

Environmental geologists assess the environmental impact of the development or use of mineral, land and water resources, and assist in restoring disturbed land back to its original condition or to a more valuable land use. They are involved in the application of geological data and information for people's needs and the improvement of our environment. Included in environmental geology studies are such topics as landslides, landfills, potable water supplies, flooding, mineral resources, and earthquakes.

Most environmental geologists would probably describe themselves more specifically by the work they do. This may be collecting and analyzing mineral and water samples, developing remediation programs, changing production processes to ones that yield a more environmentally friendly product, advising on safety and emergency response, or dealing with government regulations and compliance issues.

Accordingly, many environmental geologists conduct research, design systems, processes and equipment for water and soil quality control, solid waste disposal, and the remediation of contaminated soil, air and water. They develop strategies to reduce pollution at the source and treat wastes that cannot be eliminated. Applying geology theories, they calculate the impact of human activity on the environment and seek to design methods of environmental sustainability, conservation and protective efforts and reparations if necessary.

Environmental geologists investigate the sources, fate, control and effects of chemicals in the natural and engineered environment. They are responsible for environmental protection and industry regulations. Environmental geologists also coordinate with other disciplines and sub-disciplines such as geochemistry, limnology, oceanography, toxicology, hydrogeology, health and safety and environmental engineering. Some of their duties may include responding to environmental emergencies, reviewing permit applications, monitoring stream contamination, assessing pollution potential, providing technical advice regarding hazardous waste disposal and treatment methods, and evaluating risk potential of wastes.

Environmental geologists try to clean up yesterday's waste and prevent tomorrow's pollution. It is common for environmental geologists to work with environmental engineers, planners, hazardous waste management technicians and other engineering specialists as well as lawyers and bankers.
 
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Ashford University
You've found Ashford University, where school comes to you. Earn your bachelor's or master's degree online.
Programs Offered:
  • BA/Environmental Studies

 

 



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$36,580
 
Median Salary:
$67,470
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$133,310

  Interests and Skills  
What characteristics and skills does it take to become an environmental geologist? Besides caring deeply about the environment, they should have good communication skills, an open, inquiring, analytical mind, along with an aptitude for mathematics and science. Environmental geologists should also have logical decision-making skills.

Environmental geologists must be able to work both independently and in a team environment. They must be flexible because they have to work in isolated locations, often under harsh conditions. Environmental geologists should enjoy a mixture of office and research work and being outdoors working in the field. Their work requires a great deal of precision along with problem solving, developing innovative approaches, and taking charge of situations.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare reports on the environmental impacts of activities such as mining, forestry and agriculture
  • Develop ways to repair damaged areas of the environment
  • Provide technical advice to clients, members of the public, interest groups, regulatory bodies or local government authorities
  • Prepare applications for resource consent on behalf of clients
  • Conduct theoretical and applied research to extend environmental knowledge of surface and subsurface features of the earth and the polluting factors that are now controlling its evolution
  • Collect and interpret rock samples and cores from field studies and test for pollutant materials
  • Classify and identify fossilized life forms and minerals, chemicals and biological composition to assess depositional environments and geological age
  • Study the effects of erosion, sedimentation and tectonic deformation
  • Conduct environmental geological surveys and field studies
  • Assess the movement of ground and surface waters and advise in areas such as waste management, route and site selection and the restoration of contaminated sites
  • Prepare geological maps, cross-sectional diagrams and reports from field work and laboratory research
  • Supervise the work of technologists and technicians
  • Most environmental geologists spend a great deal of their time working in an office doing research. However, fieldwork is commonly required as part of educational and professional development activities. A few environmental geologists spend three to six months each year doing fieldwork, living and working in remote areas, and covering large areas on foot, all-terrain vehicles, boats, helicopters or airplanes. Collecting samples may also involve covering considerable distances on foot. Some spend their time advocating various environmental issues, lobbying government groups and raising money for charities.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Environmental geologists work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed by environmental organizations, petroleum and mining companies, non-profit environmental groups, and geology, geophysics and engineering consulting firms. Some geologists are self-employed and own their own environmental research and consulting businesses. In the public sector they work for all levels of the government, especially environmental agencies and also teach at postsecondary institutions.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Environmental geologists with master's degrees and PhDs will have no problem advancing in the field of environmental geology and with experience, they will move on to bigger research projects, supervising other entry-level geologists or students. Some may become full-time, tenured professors and continue to advance in the academic world. Other environmental geologists may decide to specialize their focus in other areas of the geology field, such as paleontology or oceanography.

Environmental geologists with extensive field experience could work as expediters, people who provide geological expeditions with equipment, supplies, maps and other necessities. Others may decide to go into other environmental issues and become full time advocates in non-profit organizations or NGOs.
 

  Educational Paths  
The minimum education requirement for environmental geologists is a BS honors degree in geology or environmental science. A master's or doctoral degree specializing in environmental geology may be required for employment as a postsecondary teacher or environmental geology researcher. Geologists are eligible for registration within their professional organizations, following graduation from an accredited educational program and after several years of supervised work experience and, in some areas. after passing a professional practice examination.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Ashford University
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Programs Offered:
  • BA/Environmental Studies

 
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