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Spring 2004 - Environmental problems

Destination Purdue > Spring 2004 - Environmental problems

Purdue students tackle environmental problems

By Todd Kissel

Imagine being able to have fun outside while making money. This is possible for anyone majoring in natural resources and environmental science (NRES). Developed in 1970, it is one of the oldest environmental science programs in the United States.

Gordon and Latour

Photo by Todd Kissel

Adam Huffmeyer, senior in NRES, checks water clarity.

Lindsey Gordon, an animal sciences major from Granger, Ind., decided she wanted to do more than just learn in class; she wanted to get involved in one of the many research projects going on at Purdue. "I've always been interested in science, and going through the thought process of trying to figure things out like you do in research has always appealed to me," Gordon said.

"NRES is flexible and technically oriented," said John Graveel, director of NRES. The flexibility of the program lets students specialize in one of the following areas: air quality, water quality, land resources and environmental economics and policy.

When specializing in air quality, students develop better ways to improve the air we breathe everyday. One way this is accomplished is by monitoring air quality. Students involved in the air quality option work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local governments as environmental consultants to monitor and develop ways to reduce smog, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, ozone and radon in the atmosphere, Graveel said.

Students interested in water rather than air may wish to focus on water quality. Students in NRES obtain samples of water from nearby creeks and lakes. They then perform tests to check for e-coli, dissolved oxygen and nitrates, Graveel said. This field of study offers a considerable number of job opportunities. Many of the alumni from the NRES program at Purdue work with environmental consulting firms. They create wetlands, handle hazardous wastes, reclaim mining sites and restore brownfields, intercity areas that have been abandoned due to contamination.

"You can do many things with NRES, and you do get paid to work outside," Graveel said. And how much money can a NRES graduate expect to make? The average starting salary ranges from $28,000 to $36,000. Also, graduates of the program often advance rapidly in position and salary.