I have been amazed at all the different careers available at the EPA, and I have barely touched the surface! I recently sat down with Carolyn Bury who is a Project Manager in a program I had never even heard of at the EPA. It is great to know there are so many positions for all types of people who are interested in protecting the environment.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am an Environmental Scientist. My role is Project Manager in the Resource Conservation Recovery Act Corrective Action program which is an environmental remediation program. I oversee the cleanup of hazardous wastes at the facilities which are under our jurisdiction.
Do you have prior work experience that has helped you here?
I have worked in three different programs at the EPA. Everything I have done at the EPA has helped with my current position. In addition, before the EPA, I worked as a forester for the US Forest Service, where I did environmental assessment work, vegetation surveys, timber sales and outreach. I spent a lot of time in the field which I loved.
What is a typical day like for you?
On a typical day I am reading, writing, and talking on the phone. I review technical documents like sampling and analysis work plans for soil, water, sediment, etc, environmental data from the sampling events, and proposed remedies. In our program we do a lot of negotiations with companies regarding how the environmental investigations are conducted, how data is interpreted, and what the significance of the data is in terms of risk to people and ecological receptors like wildlife and plants.
What is the best part of your job?
I am never bored! That is my main criterion for a job. There is always something new and different to do, with no lag time. There is a lot of work, but it’s all interesting work. I am currently working on six sites and each has its own set of circumstances and personality. In addition, I like my coworkers a lot and the environment of the EPA.
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
Yes, I did. Back in high school I helped start one of the first recycling programs and was involved in a small environmental club. I was caught up in the 70’s save the earth movement. However, I did not have much guidance on what to do in college, so I did not take environmental courses until I met a forestry major in college.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
I majored in Forest Ecology with a Spanish minor. I took many courses that help me on the job today. These include watershed management, soil science, GIS, hydrogeology, chemistry, and technical writing. In addition, all of the ecology courses have helped me as well.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
I advise anyone to pursue what they are really interested in. It is a misconception that you need a specific degree to get a certain job. You never know what an employer is really looking for so it would be a mistake to assume that you have to major in a field you don’t really like to get your dream job (usually) Get a good education and study what you are passionate about!
Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends