A Day in the Life of an Environmental Scientist

While I work on writing proposals or editing our website, I can look out my window and watch visitors and staff come and go from our building.  I’ve become accustomed to seeing my co-workers walking out with drawings or hard hats under their arms.  But, when I see our environmental scientists walk out with boots, waders, buckets, and coolers, it always makes me wonder what they are doing with all that stuff.

I sat down with Heather Lacey, an LJB environmental scientist, to find out what her work is really like. She explained that much of what our environmental science staff does is assist clients with state and federal environmental regulations compliance.  And, they perform studies and investigations to protect organizations from risk of future environmental liabilities. 

That explanation sounded a little dry, until I found out some of what they do within those services.  As part of wetland delineations qualitative assessments, they go out in the field and trap amphibians and collect grasses or other plants that require closer evaluation.  Now, the jars of tadpoles and pressed grasses on their desks make a lot more sense.  

As part of my education, I toured their lab space to see even more of what they do.  In there, I learned that the coolers I had seen them toting so many times were used to keep groundwater and soil samples cool until they can be analyzed in a laboratory. 

Now I have a better understanding and appreciation for what our environmental scientists do, what all the equipment is for and why there are always weeds on their desks. I can see real-life applications for the science classes I dreaded back in high school. For example, for many of their projects, the scientists monitor the conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration and pH of the water—just like in chemistry class.  And, they use microscopes (just like biology class) to see features on larval salamanders, or to make distinctions between very similar plant species. 

Although my curiosity initially got the best of me, it also opened the window to an area of our business that I didn’t completely understand. Now I know that the things that seemed unusual to see at the office are actually all in a day’s work for an environmental scientist.

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