What is Environmental Science?
Environment is an evergreen subject because it matters a lot to our daily lives. It’s where we live, eat, breathe, and bring up our children. Our life support systems entirely rely on the well-being of every organism living on planet earth. This is why a lot has been written and spoken about protection and conservation of the environment. There are even high-value courses dedicated to the study of environment. A typical example is environment science.
Environmental science is a field that deals with the study of interaction between human systems and natural systems. Natural systems involve the earth itself and life. Human systems are primarily the populations of the earth.
Environmental science is the academic field that takes physical, biological and chemical sciences to study the environment and discover solutions to environmental problems. Sciences used in environmental science include geography, zoology, physics, ecology, oceanology, and geology. Environmental science also branches out into environmental studies and environmental engineering. It provides integrated and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental problems.
- Environmental studies are the study of social sciences to understand human interactions with the environment.
- Environmental engineering is the focus on analyzing and deducing problems with the environment and the effect of man-made programs on the environment, and for finding solutions to help protect and preserve the environment by disposing of pollution in the air, water, and land.
Environmental science involves different fields of study. Most often, the study of environmental science includes the study of climate change, natural resources, energy, pollution, and environmental issues. In environmental sciences, ecologists study how plants and animals interact with each other, chemists study the living and non-living components of the environment, geologists study the formation, structure and history of earth, biologists study the biodiversity, Physicists are involved in thermodynamics, computer scientists are involved in technical innovations and computer modelling and biomedical experts study the impact of environmental issues on our health and social lives.
The growing complexity of environmental problems are creating a need for scientists with rigorous, interdisciplinary training in environmental science. Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They must have a solid background in economics, sociology and political science.
Importance of Environmental Science
To realize that environmental problems are global
Environmental science lets you recognize that environmental problems such as climate change, global warming, ozone layer depletion, acid rains, and impacts on biodiversity and marine life are not just national problems, but global problems as well. So, concerted effort from across the world is needed to tackle these problems.
To understand the impacts of development on environment
It’s well documented and quantified that development results in Industrial growth, urbanization, expansion of telecommunication and transport systems, hi-tech agriculture and expansion of housing. Environmental science seeks to teach the general population about the need for decentralization of industries to reduce congestion in urban areas. Decentralization means many people will move out of urban centers to reduce pollution resulting from overpopulation. The goal is to achieve all this sustainably without compromising the future generation’s ability to satisfy their own needs.
To discover sustainable ways of living
Environmental science is more concerned with discovering ways to live more sustainably. This means utilizing present resources in a manner that conserves their supplies for the future. Environmental sustainability doesn’t have to outlaw living luxuriously, but it advocates for creating awareness about consumption of resources and minimizing unnecessary waste. This includes minimizing household energy consumption, using disposals to dispose of waste, eating locally, recycling more, growing your own food, drinking from the tap, conserving household water, and driving your car less.
To utilize natural resources efficiently
Natural resources bring a whole lot of benefits to a country. A country’s natural resources may not be utilized efficiently because of low-level training and lack of management skills. Environmental science teaches us to use natural resources efficiently by:
- Appropriately putting into practice environmental conservation methods
- Using the right tools to explore resources
- Adding value to our resources
- Making sure machines are maintained appropriately
- Thorough training of human resources
- Provision of effective and efficient supervision
- Using the right techniques to minimize exploitation
- To understand behavior of organisms under natural conditions
Behavior is what organisms manifest to respond to, interact with, and control their environment. An animal exhibits behavior as the first line of defense in response to any change of environment. So, critical look at organism’s behavior can offer insightful information about animal’s needs, dislikes, preferences and internal condition providing that your evaluation of those observations firmly hinge on knowledge of species’-natural behavior.
To shed light on contemporary concepts such as how to conserve biodiversity
Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. The present rate of biodiversity loss is at an all-time high. Environmental science aims to teach people how to reverse this trend by:
- Using sustainable wood products
- Using organic foods
- Embracing the 3R’s, reduce, reuse, and recycle
- Purchasing sustainable seafood
- Supporting conservation campaigns at local levels
- Conserving power
- Minimizing consumption of meat
- Utilizing eco-friendly cleaning products
- To understand the interrelationship between organisms in population and communities
Organisms and humans depend on each other to get by. Environmental science is important because it enables you to understand how these relationships work. For example, humans breathe out carbon dioxide, which plants need for photosynthesis. Plants, on the other hand, produce and release oxygen to the atmosphere, which humans need for respiration. Animal droppings are sources of nutrients for plants and other microorganisms. Plants are sources of food for humans and animals. In short, organisms and humans depend on each other for survival.
To learn and create awareness about environmental problems at local, national and international levels
Environmental problems at local, national and international levels mostly occur due to lack of awareness. Environmental science aims to educate and equip learners with necessary environmental skills to pass to the community in order to create awareness. Environmental awareness can be created through social media, creating a blog dedicated to creating awareness, community centered green clubs, women forums, and religious podiums.
Components of Environmental Science
Ecology is the study of organisms and the environment interacting with one another. Ecologists, who make up a part of environmental scientists, try to find relations between the status of the environment and the population of a particular species within that environment, and if there is any correlations to be drawn between the two. For example, ecologists might take the populations of a particular type of bird with the status of the part of the Amazon Rainforest that population is living in.
The ecologists will study and may or may not come to the conclusion that the bird population is increasing or decreasing as a result of air pollution in the rainforest. They may also take multiple species of birds and see if they can find any relation to one another, allowing the scientists to come to a conclusion if the habitat is suitable or not for that species to live in.
Geoscience concerns the study of geology, soil science, volcanoes, and the Earth’s crust as they relate to the environment. As an example, scientists may study the erosion of the Earth’s surface in a particular area. Soil scientists, physicists, biologists, and geomorphologists would all take part in the study.
Geomorphologists would study the movement of solid particles (sediments), biologists would study the impacts of the study to the plants and animals of the immediate environment, physicists would study the light transmission changes in the water causing the erosion, and the soil scientists would make the final calculations on the flow of the water when it infiltrates the soil to full capacity causing the erosion in the first place.
Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth’s atmosphere. It analyzes the relation of the Earth’s atmosphere to the atmospheres of other systems. This encompasses a wide variety of scientific studies relating to space, astrology and the Earth’s atmosphere: meteorology, pollution, gas emissions, and airborne contaminants.
An example of atmospheric science is where physicists study atmospheric circulation of a part of the atmosphere, chemists would study the chemicals existent in this part and their relationships with the environment, meteorologists study the dynamics of the atmosphere, and biologists study how the plants and animals are affected and their relationship with the environment.
Environmental Chemistry is the study of the changes chemicals make in the environment, such as contamination of the soil, pollution of the water, degradation of chemicals, and the transport of chemicals upon the plants and animals of the immediate environment. An example of environmental chemistry would be introduction of a chemical object into an environment, in which chemists would then study the chemical bonding to the soil or sand of the environment. Biologists would then study the now chemically induced soil to see its relationship with the plants and animals of the environment.
Environmental science is an active and growing part of the scientific world accelerated by the need to address problems with the Earth’s environment. It encompasses multiple scientific fields and sciences to see how all interchange and relate with one another in any of the above four components.
Top 5 Environmental Science Careers
An environmental scientist performs research to pinpoint, minimize the grave impacts of, or get rid of hazards and pollutants to the environments or the health of the globe’s population. His or her main aim is to protect and conserve Mother Nature. The average annual salary of an environmental scientist is $67, 400. Environmental scientist jobs are normally full time, including working over 40 hours a week. Their main workplaces are laboratories and outdoor field works. You need impeccable skills set to be an environmental scientist including communication skills, reading comprehension, and self-discipline.
An environmental engineer finds solutions to problems in the environment by leveraging his or her knowledge of soil science, engineering, biology, and chemistry. His or her area of focus includes control of pollution, recycling, and Public health aspects. A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is required to become an environmental engineer. Environmental engineers take home an annual salary of about $83,360. An environmental engineer should be able to:
- Offer suggestions for maintaining and beefing up environmental performance
- Find out, evaluate and apply storm water good management practices for municipal, industrial and construction stormwater programs
- Evaluate environmental regulations and seek counsel with applicability determination
- He or she should document all environmental incidences
- Develop and keep in line environmental management systems to conform to air and permit regulations.
- Lead from the front in the negotiation and of permit applications
- Liaise with regulatory bodies, prepare required documentation, organize any testing sessions and provide more follow-up documentation needed.
An environmental biologist deals with ecosystem and wildlife that reside in it. However, environmental biologist focuses a lot on the biological side of any ecosystem, which means his or her duties are more inclined to biology. To qualify as an environmental biologist, you need a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology. The duties of an environmental biologist include:
- Administering biological and project schedules using scientific techniques, statistical tools and in-depth knowledge in the domain
- Scheduling and conducting biological experiments and follow up with field and laboratory operating processes
- Pinpoint project technicalities and counteract them effectively without compromising resources and time
- Bring up findings of experiments to colleagues and stakeholders
- Ensure scientific integrity by working with a team in conjunction with peer review data
Environmental geology is a field of study that blends the main cornerstone of environmental science and puts more emphasis on geology and how to apply it in real world scenario to solve environmental problems. An environmental geologist goes beyond interest in environment and correlation between humans and wildlife in it. He or she also focuses on fossil fuels, non-renewable resources, minerals and the earth’s crust.
An environmental geologist will spend most of his or her work life serving as a consultant, assisting in the mitigation of soil and ground water contamination by determining the right location for new landfills and drawing up a plan for underground waste disposal. He or she also ensures water supplies and soils that are responsible for growing food stay clean and uncontaminated without affecting or limiting accessibility to any organism or animal that relies on them for survival. The average annual salary for an environmental geologist is $89 700.
This professional synchronizes engineering and biology to create and utilize procedures that correct contaminated sites. For instance, there is a wide range of bacteria, microbes, and fungi that are able to consume pollutants and later break them down into safe elements over time. An environmental biotechnologist finds out, utilize and create necessary microbes for correcting a specific area and the pollutants unique to it. Contaminated soil might be corrected or remedied on site or loaded into containers and transported for treatment. Environmental biotechnologists perform the following duties:
- Develop plant-based bioplastics
- Transform plants into biofuels
- Draw up correction plans for specific sites that abide by environmental regulations
- Develop procedures to convert waste into biogas or other cleaner sources of energy
- Develops cleaner industrial processes by substituting chemicals with biological processes
- Utilize GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to pinpoint contaminated sites and distribution of pollutants
Typically, one needs to have master’s and doctorate degrees to qualify as an environmental biotechnologist. However, the exponential growth of the domain has opened up a whole lot of opportunities for those having bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.
Image credit: flickr
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