5 Reasons to Become an Environmental Engineer

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Environmental engineers use science and engineering to help the environment through better design. Multiple fields hire this type of worker, so you won’t have a shortage of job offers anytime soon. If you care about the environment and want to help the planet through a new career or a change from your current one, consider environmental engineering.

1. Protect the Environment

The main reason many enter environmental engineering is the ability to help the planet. In many manufacturing sectors, this position focuses on lessening industry’s impact on the planet. Though solid waste and water management are among the areas in which environmental engineers work, these are not the only ones. In the oil and gas industry, these engineers ensure compliance with regulations concerning pollution reduction and keeping nearby natural resources pristine.

2. Make a Good Salary

Depending on your degree, you can make an excellent salary in environmental engineering right after graduation. Though this varies widely, the average starting salary for environmental engineers is nearly $59,000. As of May 2017, the annual mean wage for environmental engineers is $91,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which means you might expect to earn more with a few years of experience under your belt. If you decide to start a consulting company, as many environmental engineers do, you could earn even more.

3. Job Security and Growth

If you get a degree in environmental engineering, you’re looking at a stable job market and future growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected environmental engineering jobs will grow by 12.4 percent between 2015 and 2024. This growth places it second only to the percentage growth for biomedical engineering among engineering jobs. By 2024, there could be 62,000 environmental engineering jobs.

4. Enjoy Multiple Career Fields

Environmental engineering is specialized, but there are so many applications for it, you could find yourself in a range of diverse fields. Environmental engineers first have chemical or other types of engineering degrees. That allows flexibility when searching for a job. Since so many fields have an impact on the environment, you could find yourself in the oil and gas industry, working at a waste management plant or finding ways to discover the source of pollution.

Waste management and water treatment facilities are other places where environmental engineers have a major impact on people’s lives. Without these fields, disease would run rampant. One of the earliest successes in environmental engineering was the creation of London’s sewer system by Joseph Bazalgette to stop the surging cholera outbreak in the 19th century. Thanks to sanitary waste disposal, such epidemics are uncommon in modern societies.

5. Make a Change for the Good in the Oil and Gas Industry

If you love the environment and lament the impact some industries have on it, become an environmental engineer. These positions help oil and gas companies cut back on the air and water pollution created in the drilling and extraction processes. Environmental engineers can work to prevent contamination of the surrounding environment and promote longevity of drilling equipment.

You may also help the industry reduce their wastewater and air pollution. Thanks to environmentalists’ efforts — including engineers — acid rain, which is the result of air pollution, has dropped up to 70 percent in some areas of the planet. Creating plans for wastewater disposal to prevent damage to the local ecosystem is another way environmental engineers work with the oil and gas industry. Until people discover a workable way to use completely renewable energy, fossil fuels will still prevail. As an environmental engineer, you can help this sector become greener.

Education for Environmental Engineers

Though you can get a job as an environmental engineer with just a bachelor’s degree, you may need further training. Graduate programs that get you a master’s and bachelor’s degree in just five years could be the right choice if you have the time to devote to be a full-time student. You may need an environmental engineering degree, a chemical engineering degree or a degree in general engineering. You will still need classes in chemistry, biology, math and various sciences to earn whatever degree you choose. Not all schools offer these programs. Talk to a counselor about your career and education goals.

Help the Planet and Boost Your Career

With a career in environmental engineering, you can make a true difference in the planet. You’ll be able to help industries that may not have been environmentally conscious in the past change their ways to become better stewards of natural resources. Additionally, you can help with the age-old problems of safe and sanitary waste disposal and water processing. Getting clean water and removing waste will always be vital parts of sustaining a healthy and prosperous society. Environmental engineers help change the planet and people’s lives through their work. And this field will only expand as humans search for more ways to help the Earth.



In A Modern World Can We Learn From Cave Paintings?


The ‘dumb Neanderthal myth’ is continually debunked. With the discovery of prehistoric art galleries on rocks worldwide we see how our extinct human cousins appreciated beauty and life. Advancement in understanding Palaeolithic Europeans and their accomplishments and communications – especially as seen through cave paintings – has opened our eyes to a people that were creative and adventurous. Is there anything that we can learn in our modern lives based on an understanding of cave painting? In particular, what can cave paintings teach us about communication and community?

Painting a picture of community

What message about community do some of the oldest cave paintings have for us today? We can learn from the oldest cave paintings in Spain and recent discoveries in America, that date back 6,000 yearsDiscovering ancient cave images that depict acts of service, celebration or community involvement allude to an understanding of humanity. Today, such things are paramount to our health and well-being. Upper Paleolithic humans understood the importance of community involvement. Today, nine out of ten people report getting a profound ‘emotional high’ from participating in activities that build community cohesion.

The importance of the Magura Cave

The Magura Cave in Bulgaria shows a great example of community. The depiction dating back over 8,000 years, shows women and men engaged in what is thought to be a festival. In the cave art, the community is capturing what is important to them – hunting to provide for the community and a fertility dance. To this day, coming together for important life events is essential human behaviour. The Magura Cave in particular is still a place for the community to gather for music concerts and other events.

Using art to communicate

Cave paintings illustrate the human need to communicate. This communication takes its form in leaving a mark for the future- to help guide, or communicate something so important that it needs a permanent representation. That is why the Altamira Cave in Spain is of major importance. Believed to be over 35,000 years old it mainly depicts bison. It goes beyond what you may have seen in ancient cave art. Instead, with these artworks the creators took into account the rock formations so that they could communicate the viscosity of the animal. The artist used the protruding rocks to exaggerate the features of animals and make them appear as though they were three dimensional. This experimentation shows an understanding of how to communicate effectively using visual prompts.

Pride and persuasion in cave paintings

Effective communication is particularly important when symbolism is used. The human beings ability to communicate symbolically has long been linked with our ‘humanness’.  Modern studies on how the brain responds to stimulus shows that humans have a powerful response when an image is distorted. In the Altamira Cave bisons are distorted according to the meat that they offer. Almost like an image in a butcher shop window that advertises the best organic meat available. This shows us that pride and persuasion were big parts of communication when cave painting.

We should not underestimate the importance of visual communication and how it shapes what we see as important. We can question the images we are presented with and endeavour to understand what they represent to us as a community member. Representing our lives via a set of symbols is nothing new. The hashtag movement, children under 12 ‘dabbing’ and a blue thumbs up for liking a youtube clip are all ways that we communicate today. Imagine what people will make of that in 35,000 years!

Death by Plastic Ingestion Is Increasing Among Sea Creatures

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Research suggests that around eight million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans each year — enough to fill five plastic bags for every foot of coastline on the planet.

This plastic has a more significant impact than just being unsightly though. It’s killing growing numbers of marine creatures. One of the most comprehensive studies of the issue to date, conducted by researchers at Plymouth University, found that documented cases of floating debris affected as many as 700 different species, with plastic making up 92 percent of cases they studied.

How Plastic Affects Marine Life

The plastic that ends up in the ocean impacts sea creatures in a variety of ways. One of the most harmful is plastic ingestion. A wide range of sea creatures eat plastic, either by happenstance or because they mistake it for food.

Research into the impacts of plastic ingestion is ongoing, but both anecdotal and scientific evidence show that it can be extremely harmful. In the worst cases, it can lead to death. It could also have impacts on things such as animals’ metabolism and reproduction.

Impacts All Animals

Plastic ingestion can harm all sorts of marine creatures from the largest to the smallest.

A sperm whale recently washed up onto the coast of Spain. The 33-foot-long whale had more than 65 pounds of plastic in its stomach. It could not expel the plastic, so its digestive became infected.

Research has recently confirmed that anchovies are also eating plastic debris. The debris they ingest is known as microplastic that’s less than five millimeters in length and is made up of partially broken down pieces of plastic.

This doesn’t only affect anchovies though. When larger fish eat the anchovies, they also ingest the plastic. This pattern continues up the food chain and could even eventually make its way to humans.

Surface to Lowest Depths

Plastics also impact creatures from the ocean’s surface down to some of its lowest depths. Turtles tend to eat debris floating near the surface with a translucent appearance, such as bags or balloons. This may be because it looks similar to jellyfish. Seabirds also eat plastic, likely because it collects algae and takes on a smell that’s similar to the food these birds eat.

Researchers have also found microplastics at deep ocean depths. One way it can get there involves tiny ocean invertebrates called larvaceans. The plastic ends up in their fecal pellets, which sink quickly into the deep ocean.

Ingestion isn’t the only way that plastic debris harms marine life either. It can also entangle them and cause damage to their habitats.

Ongoing Projects

The growing amount of research and publicized events, such as the death of the sperm whale off the coast of Spain, has inspired various projects that aim to clean up the oceans.

The sperm whale incident led local officials to launch a public awareness campaign of the plastics issue that included 11 beach cleanup events and 19 public forums. Similar events and campaigns are going on around the world.

Several technological solutions are also making headlines. One of the most promising ideas came from an 18-year-old from the Netherlands named Boyan Slat. He founded an organization called the Ocean Cleanup in 2013 based on a passive plastic collection system.

The system floats and moves with the currents the same way that plastic debris does. A drift anchor keeps the system moving slower than the plastic, however, which enables it to catch it in its solid screen. The organization estimates that it could reduce the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 50 percent in just five years with full deployment. It expects to deploy its first system in mid-2018.

How You Can Help

You don’t necessarily have to be a scientist, engineer, inventor or public official to help protect marine animals from the harm caused by eating plastic.

Perhaps the most effective thing you can do is simply use less disposable plastics. If you do use some disposable plastic, ensure that it gets recycled or reuse it.

Another way to help is to find volunteer activities or participate in cleanup events. Even spreading the word about the plastics issue can also have a profound effect.