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Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and control of water and air pollution. They also address global issues, such as safe drinking water, climate change, and sustainability. Show Details

Duties

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of the hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government develop regulations to prevent mishaps.

Some environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and other specialists, such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and sustainability. For more information, see the job profiles on environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, lawyers, and urban and regional planners.

Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future. Show Details

Duties

Geoscientists typically do the following:

  • Plan and conduct field studies, in which they visit locations to collect samples and conduct surveys
  • Analyze aerial photographs, well logs (detailed records of geologic formations found during drilling), and other data to locate natural resource deposits and estimate their size
  • Conduct laboratory tests on samples collected in the field
  • Produce geologic maps and charts
  • Prepare written scientific reports
  • Present their findings to clients, colleagues, and other interested parties
  • Review reports and research done by other scientists

Geoscientists use a wide variety of tools, both simple and complex. In a day in the field, they may use a hammer and chisel to collect rock samples and then use sophisticated radar equipment to search for oil underground. In laboratories, they may use x rays and electron microscopes to determine the chemical and physical composition of rock samples. They also use remote sensing equipment to collect data and advanced geographic information systems (GIS) and modeling software to analyze data.

Geoscientists often supervise the work of technicians, both in the field and in the lab. They also usually work as part of a team with other scientists and engineers. For example, they work closely with petroleum engineers to find and develop new sources of oil and natural gas.

Many geoscientists are involved in the search for and development of natural resources and minerals such as petroleum. Others work in environmental protection and preservation and are involved in projects to clean up and reclaim land. Some specialize in a particular aspect of the Earth, such as its oceans.

The following are examples of types of geoscientists:

Engineering geologists apply geologic principles to civil and environmental engineering. They offer advice on major construction projects and help in other projects, such as environmental cleanup and reducing natural hazards.

Geologists study the materials, processes, and history of the Earth. They investigate how rocks were formed and what has happened to them since their formation.

Geochemists use physical and organic chemistry to study the composition of elements found in groundwater, such as water from wells or aquifers, and earth materials, such as rocks and sediment.

Geophysicists use the principles of physics to learn about the Earth’s surface and interior. They also study the properties of Earth’s magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields.

Oceanographers study the motion and circulation of ocean waters; the physical and chemical properties of the oceans; and how these properties affect coastal areas, climate, and weather.

Paleontologists study fossils found in geological formations to trace the evolution of plant and animal life and the geologic history of the Earth.

Petroleum geologists explore the Earth for oil and gas deposits. They analyze geological information to identify sites that should be explored. They collect rock and sediment samples from sites through drilling and other methods and test them for the presence of oil and gas. They also estimate the size of oil and gas deposits and work to develop sites to extract oil and gas.

Seismologists study earthquakes and related phenomena like tsunamis. They use seismographs and other instruments to collect data on these events.

For a more extensive list of geoscientist specialties, visit the American Geological Institute.

People with a geosciences background may become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

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