We hear about wildfires every year. A wildfire (also known as a forest fire, vegetation fire, grass fire, peat fire, bushfire (in Australia), or hill fire) is an uncontrolled fire often occurring in wildland areas, but which can also consume houses or agricultural resources. Wildfires often begin unnoticed, but they spread quickly igniting brush, trees and homes.
Heat waves, droughts, and cyclical climate changes such as El Niño can also have a dramatic effect on the risk of wildfires. Common causes of wildfires include lightning, human carelessness, arson, volcano eruption, and pyroclastic cloud from active volcano, although, more than four out of every five wildfires are caused by people.
There is a special type of person who works to contain and put out these fires: Wildland Firefighters. While it may seem that putting out fires is simple, there’s actually a whole branch of science designed to put out fires as effectively as possible: Fire Science. It all sounds pretty cool to me! Let’s dig a little deeper:
Fire science is a program that prepares individuals to perform the duties of fire fighters. It includes instruction in fire-fighting equipment operation and maintenance, principles of fire science and combustible substances, methods of controlling different types of fires, hazardous material handling and control, fire rescue procedures, public relations and applicable laws and regulations. Degrees that can be earned include Masters, Bachelors, Associates as well as a Certificate.
Sounds pretty cool, right? So if this is what you’re interested in, here are some tips to get you started on this career path:
Prospective wildland firefighters should focus in two areas: physical and educational. On the physical side, fitness is key. Firefighters are held to rigorous fitness standards both during the hiring process — when they’ll be required to pass extensive strength and endurance tests — and throughout their careers. Cardio training like hiking and running — while carrying weight, if possible — will be especially useful, as it imitates wildfire working conditions. As much of the job occurs in the wilderness, basic outdoorsman and survival skills may also be of use.
Specific educational requirements are set by each agency. Applicants who wish to set themselves apart can enroll in fire science and emergency medical technician courses at local vocational schools and community colleges. Most of these programs will be entirely classroom based, but some may allow students to gain hands-on training in the field.
In addition to physical and educational requirements, all applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent degree. Aspiring wildland firefighters may find that fire departments or other potential employers prefer to hire people with previous firefighting experience. Therefore, part of the early training may be working as a volunteer firefighter to get a foot in the door.
Another way to gain education and experience early is via a degree in fire science. Many fire science programs at both the associate and bachelor’s degree levels incorporate wildland firefighting into their curricula.
Being a firefighter is a well respected career and one that will keep you on your toes! And who knew so much science was involved?
The EPA has made "Food Recovery" the theme for this year's Earth Day. Food recovery is the reduction of wasted food and its associated environmental impacts over the entire life cycle, starting with extraction of natural resources and manufacturing, sales and consumption and ending with decisions on recycling or final disposal.
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society. The amount of food Americans throw away each year is incredible. In 2013 alone, more than 37 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 21 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Americans wasted over one third of the vegetables and fruit bought in 2010.
While this may seem like a problem that is too large to handle, taking simple steps in your everyday life can make a difference in reducing this issue. Reducing wasted food is a triple win; it's good for the environment, for communities, and for the economy.
To help battle food waste, the EPA has created a guide: The Food Recovery Hierarchy. This guide prioritizes actions we can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food. The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
Want more information? Check out the EPA's website. By working together, we can start to reverse the negative impacts and leave the Earth a cleaner place for future generations.
Recently, How Do You Science sat down with a Marine Mammal Biologist working in the Gulf of Maine! Evan is a graduate student working with Allied Whale, a small marine mammal research group based out of the College of the Atlantic. In his interview he shares sea stories, marine mammal encounters and some thoughtful advice to those thinking about Marine Mammal Biology as a career.
Could you please tell us your name, job title, and a fun/nerdy fact about yourself?
My name is Evan Henerberry and I am Assistant Stranding Coordinator for Allied Whale as well as a graduate student researching Humpback Whales. As Assistant Stranding Coordinator I help run the stranding response program. My graduate thesis concerns the impacts of climate change on Humpback Whale breeding grounds. I also have high-fived a seal, not once but twice! Call it a benefit of volunteering for an aquarium.
Cool! How did you get interested in that subject and could you tell us a little about how you got where you are today?
The New England Aquarium (NEAQ) sparked my interest in marine biology at a young age. When I was older I had the opportunity to volunteer as a visitor educator - someone who gives presentations and answers guests questions about exhibits. Organizations like the NEAQ provide a lot of programs for people looking to get involved in science.
I continued to pursue this interest by attending the University of New England. After college, I got an internship with Allied Whale and later, Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Education has always been a major part of my life (my parents are both teachers and most of my career has been focused on educating others). I want to continue their legacy by combining research and education in my professional career. I have worked at several environmental education institutes from the Florida Keys to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My environmental education work culminated when I returned to the New England Aquarium to work as an instructor in their summer camp.
Take us through an average day - how do you science?
Stranding response doesn’t exactly have a typical day. A lot of my time is spent around the office, organizing equipment and helping with reports. I need to make sure that all of this is in place because, once the phone rings, my job becomes a lot more hectic. Going into the field is always an interesting experience. The most exciting thing about my job, and science in general, is that anything can happen, and often does.
Allied Whale responds to a large area of the Maine coast. If an animal is reported anywhere in our response region we go out to inspect it. If a marine mammal is not in good condition, and there is space in a rehabilitation facility in the region, we may transport the animal. This can involve a long road trip to bring the animal to a properly equipped facility. Typically, we only choose to bring an animal to rehab center if there are signs that it has had a “human interaction”, such as entanglement in fishing gear.
Sometimes when we respond, the animal is dead. While this is sad to see, dead animals provide us with an unique learning opportunity. Allied Whale can perform a dissection or necropsy to help us understand why the animal might have died. These necropsies are powerful teaching tools and a chance for people outside Allied Whale to “get their hands dirty” scientifically speaking.
What is some advice you have for people interested in pursuing your line of work?
Volunteering is the best way to get involved with Marine Biology. While the work is never particularly glamorous, volunteering equips you with the skills you’ll need to succeed. It is also a great way to find out if you are really interested in the field. Science, and marine mammal science in particular, is not for everyone and it’s better to find that out early before you put in a lot of time and effort. Networking is a powerful tool as well. If you make a good impression, a letter of reference can carry a lot more weight than a GPA or a resume.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself?
To be honest, I’m not really all that special. I’ve gotten where I am by working hard and having a good attitude. Before I got accepted to be an intern at Allied Whale I applied and was rejected 4 times. If you really have a passion for something don’t give up on it, with time you will find a way to make it work.
Final question: can our readers contact you?
Feel free to email me at email@example.com, I’m always happy to answer questions!
Thank you so much for your time, Evan! It's been a pleasure getting to know about the amazing world of Marine Mammal Biology. Looking for more information? Check out these websites:
Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Opportunities at the NEAQ
NMFS: Pursuing a Career in Marine Mammal Science
The Society for Marine Mammalogy
New England is waking up and spring is here. The signs are evident: birds are chirping, perennials are blooming, and all of our allergies are swinging into gear which means … the gardeners and landscapers are preparing for their busy season! Workers in these ‘green’ positions have many things in common: they like the feel of dirt on their hands and sunshine on their backs as they work in the great outdoors, and couldn’t begin to imagine being tied to a desk all day. Does this sound like you? Read on to learn about this field.
Professional gardeners work in private and public landscapes to create, design, maintain and manage gardens. They are often employed by botanical gardens, parks, landscaping firms, garden centers, estates and private residences, and some will go into private business as a gardener for several clients. Professional gardeners are responsible for all aspects of plant care for annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. Working outdoors in all types of weather conditions is often required, as well as physically strenuous labor.
Having an interest in the outdoors and nature is a great place to start when considering a career as a gardener. Having a “Green Thumb” can help, a term given to those that have a natural ability to grow plants. But there is much more to gardening; jobs in horticulture involve science, math, English and art. Nursery and landscape careers require a strong academic foundation of literacy, chemistry, biology, mathematical and analytical skills, not to mention creativity, problem solving, coordination, and most importantly, passion! These skills can often be gained through a 2- or 4-year college degree.
To gain work experience, it is helpful to acquire an internship with a professional gardener. Experience can also be gained through volunteer involvement with community gardening clubs. These offer opportunities for networking through work parties, special events, community service projects and community education.
Professional gardeners with work experience and certifications can advance their career by moving up in their company from an assistant position to a managerial position. They may become the head of the department for local parks, or the director of a botanical garden. Those who pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in horticulture can open their own business as a gardener or detail gardener providing consultation and design services to residential clients, and overseeing garden laborers. You can earn a great living as a nursery and landscape industry professional! Wages may vary by region, but depending on which career path you choose, you could make more than $100,000 a year and even open your own business.
If you are interested in this skilled trade, many opportunities exist throughout the country with positions available in every state. Working in the nursery and landscape industry can give you tangible results and immediate satisfaction and offers the perfect opportunity to see something that you've created everyday.
Become a Professional Gardener
How Do I Become A Gardener?
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.