The Enviance team is excited to bring you another installment in our 3 Questions series, where we ask industry experts about their organization’s environmental programs, perspectives on environmental policy, and how they reduce their own environmental footprint.
For this edition, we interviewed Dr. Paul Schwab, Professor of Soil Chemistry in the Department of Agronomy and Director of Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES) Program at Purdue University. Schwab and his students and faculty participated in this year’s Environmental March Madness Tournament for environmental studies, advancing all the way to the Final Four Stage.
Dr. Schwab joined Purdue University in 1997, and was named Director of NRES in July, 2008. He received his B.S. degree in Mineral Engineering from Colorado School of Mines, and completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Colorado State University.
Q: What is the most important skill set the next generation of environmental professionals will need?
A: Young environmental scientists entering the work force will need cutting-edge knowledge combined with classical, everyday skills. Today’s scientists have at their fingertips vast expanses of digital data, and they must know how to access, condense, interpret, and synthesize that information. A functional knowledge of the many facets of Geographical Information Systems is critical and sets apart the well-trained professional. Equally important is the ability to effectively communicate in written and oral form to allow the less technical among us to comfortably comprehend highly complicated networks of facts.
Q: As an educator, how do you stay on top of the most important developments in the environmental science and sustainability fields?
A: Progress in environmental research and generation of new information never ceases. Staying abreast of these advances can be an overwhelming task. I stay current because I chose a long time ago to not abandon my scientific research. Conducting and publishing new studies requires constant awareness of advances in the field. This is aided further by reviewing manuscripts of other authors and serving on editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals. Environmental educators are also fortunate to have access to fantastic textbooks covering a broad range of topics or focusing on a specific discipline.
Q: What steps do you take to curb your own environmental footprint?
A: At an institution such as Purdue University, the students are keenly aware of the fragility of our planet, and they refuse to let anyone forget this critical point, even their professors. As a result, I never stop thinking about the impact of my lifestyle on our global home. As a family, we have made our house energy efficient, conserve water at every opportunity, avoid the production of excessive waste, recycle whenever possible, and force ourselves to be intelligent consumers. At work, we are helping our large university think globally and project into the future. We have a long way to go, but Purdue is making great technological strides in becoming a more sustainable member of the family on Earth.