Across the country, companies are scrambling to conform to tighter environmental regulations. Governmental agencies are sending out research teams to track pollution. Recycling is in.
For Kansas University environmental studies majors, this boom in environmental awareness means jobs. Lots of them.
"It's a good career," said John Clark, interim director of the KU vironmental studies program. "The environmental field has really broadened its horizons in the past few years."
Recent KU environmental studies graduates, Clark said, have landed jobs at organizations and agencies including a chemical consulting firm in Seattle and the Chicago Transit Authority.
THAT BOOM in student interest, however, is difficult for the program's modest faculty to handle, Clark said.
Including Clark, five professors are teaching classes in the program:
Frank DeNoyelles, a former director of the program who specializes in aquatic ecology and the effects of pesticides.
Steven Hamburg, acting director of the program, on sabbatical for the 1991-92 school year, who researches ecosystem ecology, historical ecology and nutrient cycling.
Edward Martinko, who studies remote sensing of natural and disturbed communities and insect community structure. Remote sensing is the collection of information without physical contact, through satellites, aerial photography and other methods.
Paul Rich, whose interests include plant ecology and evolution, conservation biology, tropical ecology, digital image analysis and remote sensing.
MOST OF THESE instructors, Clark explains, split their time between environmental studies and other areas, making time a problem for them.
Martinko, for example, is an associate professor of environmental studies, and also teaches biology and works at the Kansas Biological Survey and the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program.
Environmental studies officials hope to remedy the teaching shortage by getting more funding in the future, Clark said. In the meantime the program will make do with its small office in Haworth Hall and its handful of graduate teaching assistants.
Clark said getting through the program is no easy task. Students must endure a heavy load of math and science classes including physics, chemistry and biology before they begin to specialize in one of two emphases: science or policy.
"Those who choose science will do things like gather algae in streams, and the others (who study policy) will track legislation and look at the social impacts of environmental issues," Clark said.
MARTINKO, who teaches a senior-level environmental impact course in the program, also runs the environmental studies internship program.
In the past, students have worked for agencies and organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In the internship program, students work with a member of the program's faculty as well as officials at their respective agency or organization.
Martinko said internships are an integral part of a student's education.
"It gives them a chance to apply what they've learned in class to a real-world situation," Martinko said.
As part of the environmental studies curriculum, students also complete fieldwork classes, which offer benefits similar to those provided by internships.
THE KU environmental studies program has a strong foundation in ecology, which Martinko said provides students with a good base for future environmental study.
Currently, a bachelor of science is the only environmental studies degree offered. The department plans to lobby this semester for a master's program, Clark said.
Clark said many environmental studies majors "tend to have an idealistic streak. They want to do something that is good for society." And without these students to help improve the environment, the situation is only going to get worse, he said.
"Before you know it, we'll be walking around with designer oxygen masks and we won't even notice because we'll be used to it," he said. "We need to get conscious before it's irreversible."