What is an Environmental Scientist?

Environmental ScientistAn environmental scientist is a technically trained professional who uses the natural sciences to research, monitor and protect the environment. Keep reading to learn about what they specialize in and where they work.

Environmental Scientists

Environmental scientists monitor, evaluate and research environmental problems in order to develop helpful solutions. They tend to work on specific research projects or focus on certain high risk areas. However, all environmental scientists must determine their data collection parameters and collection methods. Their work must be scientifically sound and carefully planned in order to be accepted by peers and clients. Depending on their project, they will collect air, water and soil samples that will be used to extrapolate date and identify environmental threats. However, sometimes they collect different materials, such as food, plants and natural made products. Once their research is finalized, they must develop corrective action goals and plans to fix the problem. However, this will require time-consuming coordination with landowners, businesses, government officials and the public. In order to communicate findings and persuade people of the research validity, environmental scientists must have excellent verbal and written communication skills that allow them to prepare highly technical reports and clearly explain their findings.

Where Do Environmental Scientists Work?

Many environmental scientists work in regular offices or science labs. However, many will spend most of their time in the field gathering data, monitoring conditions and interviewing people. This is especially true for entry-level environmental scientists or those who work in remote areas studying a specific phenomenon. Keep in mind that fieldwork is very physically demanding. For example, an environmental scientist may be required to enter rough terrain and handle cumbersome equipment all by themselves. Because of this, environmental scientists may work in all types of weather. Keep in mind that environmental samples must be consistently collected according to schedule for scientific validity, regardless of the current weather conditions. Therefore, their work hours may be long or irregular. Environmental scientists also must travel to attend meetings, conferences and public events. Many environmental scientists work for engineer consulting firms. However, others work for non-profits, the government and even for themselves as an independent consultant.

What are Common Environmental Science Specializations?

Many environmental scientist perform general duties and study common phenomena. However, other environmental scientists choose unique specializations. For example, climate change analysts study how changing climate and weather patterns effect ecosystems and environments. Many climate change analysts focus on global warming and thus are called upon to support education outreach programs for businesses and the public. On the other hand, environmental health specialists research how specific environmental factors negatively impact human health and well-being. For example, they may work for the government and perform comprehensive soil and water risk assessments for companies who wish to set up business in the area. Thus, they would assess and predict the negative environmental impacts of an industrial company hoping to move into a target area. However, companies that are proactive about environmentalism will hire industrial ecologists to increase their operational efficiency and processes in order to reduce negative environmental impacts. They analyze the costs, impacts and benefits of different business programs. Alternatively, environmental restoration planners assess polluted areas in order to determine the necessary costs and procedures for clean-up. Many environmental restoration planners either work for the Environmental Protection Agency or for private consulting companies.

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On the whole, environmental scientists are at the forefront of conservation and sustainability. The research and data produced by environmental scientists are used by businesses and the government to protect citizens and communities.