Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 11:05 AM


STEWART, Robert A., ARCADIS US, Inc, 160 Chapel Road, Suite 201, Manchester, CT 06042,

With the advent of Superfund and RCRA in 1980 and the subsequent increasing concern about human impacts upon climatic change, college and university geology programs have become increasingly interdisciplinary. This change has accompanied the concurrent shift in employment opportunities for geologists, away from traditional employers (mining, petroleum), and toward the environmental field (regulatory agencies, consultants). Based on my personal experience in the academic and private sector over the last 28 years, and reviewing applications for professional certification, an unfortunate outcome of this change has been a de-emphasis of, and/or lack of interest in traditional geology courses that contribute a wealth of knowledge applicable to environmental consulting. The reasons probably include student and faculty perceptions, changes in funding to departments, and faculty demographics. A few examples follow.

(1) Environmental science degrees, even if offered through geology departments, commonly take on the character of a major program consisting of too many introductory courses in too many fields. (2) Although numerical modeling of groundwater flow and contaminant transport has many important applications, courses that deal with aquifer materials are equally important. (3) Surficial geology, in particular geomorphology, soils, and glacial geology, are essential to properly conduct environmental investigations, and should be considered essential components of geology curricula. (4) Any study of the behavior of many organic and inorganic pollutants must include consideration of the same concepts implicit in courses dealing with ore deposits, petroleum geology, and geochemistry, for instance, the nature of background levels of certain metals, stratigraphic and structural controls on contaminant transport, and water-rock-microbe interactions. (5) Air photo interpretation and basic surveying techniques taught at field schools are critical to many environmental site investigations that do not require more sophisticated forms of remote sensing. Inadequate training can lead to flawed site investigations, resulting in wasted resources, litigation, and job loss.