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Published November 09, 2010, 08:36 AM

New college program promotes ag, environmental connection

CROOKSTON, Minn. — If you’re interested in agriculture and environmental sciences, Katy Smith has a degree for you. Smith, assistant professor of environmental sciences and biology at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, helped to develop a new degree now offered at the school.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

CROOKSTON, Minn. — If you’re interested in agriculture and environmental sciences, Katy Smith has a degree for you.

Smith, assistant professor of environmental sciences and biology at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, helped to develop a new degree now offered at the school.

One of the goals is “training professionals who can help bridge the gap between what agriculturalists need and the impact of chemicals” they apply have on the environment, she says.

“Frequently, there is a gap between agriculturists and environmental scientists. But I don’t think there has to be,” she says.

The bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences comes with one of five areas of emphasis selected by the student: agricultural environmental stewardship, environmental ecology, water quality, environmental health, environmental toxicology and chemistry.

Students who take the ag environmental stewardship focus will learn about all areas of production agriculture, taking classes in subjects such as crop science and livestock science. A student will have a particular focus on one area of ag, taking more classes in, say, crop science if that’s his or her main interest.

Learning about agriculture and environmental sciences gives students the ability to bridge differences between farmers and environmental advocates, Smith says.

The program, introduced this fall, offers students scientific background and practical skills, training them in the basics of environmental sciences, the scientific method and modern remediation techniques.

The number of entry-level positions in environmental sciences is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

‘Something important’

Beth Walters is one of two students enrolled in the new University of Minnesota-Crookston program.

She worked in health sciences for many years before returning to college to study wildlife. This fall, she transferred to Crookston to study environmental sciences.

“I want to be part of something important. Not that wildlife isn’t important, but I think what I’m learning here can really make a difference,” she says.

Smith, a Jamestown, N.D., native , who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, has a background in both science and agriculture.

Her parents, who operate what she describes as a subsistence farm, both have scientific training.

“We’ve had some interesting discussions,” she says of her family.

Everyone has a stake in promoting agricultural environmental stewardship,” she says.

“Have you heard the expression, ‘We’re all downstream?’ That’s all I need to say. If you impact the environment, it will come back,” she says.

Information: www.crk.umn.edu.

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