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Lithium Mining in the West


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#31 Foy

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 05:44 PM

 

Full disclosure, this is coming from a practicing atmospheric scientist and recovering engineer. 

 

I'm entirely grateful for your boots-on-the ground perspective!  My view of the matter is restricted to undergraduate ES programs only, so your quote concerning 60 hours of physical science, econ, and social science dovetails with what I've read of some Eastern schools' curriculum, one of which requires only 12 hours of physical science and plus 15 hours of social science.  With but 12 hours (4 three hour courses?) spread out among chemistry, physics, biology, and geology, my own perspective is that the graduate has little claim to being a scientist, no more than my own claim to be a chemist because I passed 2 semesters of chem, a physicist because of 2 semesters of physics, or an economist because I earned a minor (15 hours) in economics.  I'm none of those in that I am a geologist, having earned 29 semester hours in geology courses in addition to the chemistry, physics, biology, and general college social science credits. MS and PhD graduates are a whole different group, again IMHO.

 

Thanks again!

 

Foy


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#32 rando

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 07:03 PM

There is a difference between core requirements, breadth requirements and electives.  I don't know which specific program you are speaking of, but even if their core undergraduate requirements are 12 credit hours of physical science,  that doesn't mean that a graduate from that program didn't elect to take 50 credit hours of biochemistry, geology, hydrology, limnology, economics, policy analysis or what ever specific field they are interested in.     They still require 120-130 credit hours to graduate with a BSc.

 

Environmental Science (it is sometimes called Environmental Studies) is a broad field and graduates work in all sorts of roles, from conducting fish surveys in streams, performing policy and regulatory analysis for fortune-500 companies, preparing air quality permit applications for mining companies, working as interpretive rangers, working with communities to address environmental concerns and I am sure a good number end up working at Starbucks as well.    A graduate from one of these programs also may or may not consider them selves to be physical, social or political scientists, depending on the selection of courses they took and the career path they chose. 

 

Demeaning an entire program of study based on skimming a course catalog is not a fair or accurate assessment. 


Edited by rando, 20 July 2021 - 07:04 PM.

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#33 Foy

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 01:12 PM

It was not my intent to demean any program or any individuals involved with any program.  I'm sorry my comments were perceived as such.

 

My classmates and I engaged in far more analysis of ES undergraduate programs than "skimming a course catalog" can describe.  Two of us had personal first-person exposure to the processes of the morphing of undergraduate geology departments into ES departments at the University of Virginia and at Duke University.  We also critically reviewed undergraduate ES curricula from each of the state supported universities in Virginia and in North Carolina in addition to a small handful of private Eastern universities in addition to Duke.

 

What we saw, and still emphatically believe is is the case, is the embracing of ES effectively spells the beginning of the end of classical undergraduate training in geology.  Whether that's problematic or not is a matter of personal and professional perspective.  One might imagine Sheldon from the "Big Bang Theory" sitcom might say "so what?" One of my colleagues recently retired from 42 years in oil and gas exploration and over the last dozen to 15 years of his career he regularly lamented the poor training received by BS degree holders from ES or combined ES/Geology programs in the East as compared to the undergraduate programs in the Mountain States, Texas, and Louisiana. It's easy to assume his observations are the result of the dumbing down of geology degrees triggered by substitution of social sciences for physical sciences. Review of curricula supports this notion. Anecdotal observations include comments from retired faculty at UVA, Duke, and our own BS program and all lean heavily in the direction of frustration about the poor quality of undergraduate training.

 

Nowadays, we see on a daily basis exhortations to "follow the science" and sharp criticism/vilification/"cancellation" of any who dare to question local, state, or national government policy which purports to "follow the science".  We feel like it's entirely legitimate to learn more about how the scientists our government leaders are (blindly?) following were trained. For our parts,  we're far more comfortable with scientific leadership arising from those with rigorous undergraduate and graduate training in hardcore physical sciences than from those with more credit hours in social sciences than in physical sciences.  That's not meant to be demeaning, instead it's just a statement of preference.

 

Once again I thank you for providing your valuable perspectives.  Even in my late 60s, I earnestly try to learn something each and every day.  This discussion has provided lots of food for thought.  

 

Foy


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#34 rando

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 02:50 PM

Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying, but on the surface it does seem that you are implying that graduates of Environmental Science departments are somehow inferior or 'poor quality' relative to 'classical' geologists.   That is a broad and unfair assessment. 

 

However, it does appear that this may be a straw man argument.   If the concern is about the education of 'government scientists', you will be relieved to know that the standard bar for entry as a research scientist at a government or academic institute is a Ph.D. (usually from an R1 university) and 3-5 years of post doctoral study (roughly equivalent to residency in an MD program) and a successful track record of research and peer reviewed publications.   

 

It maybe informative to browse the qualifications of some of the NASA,  NOAA, NCAR  scientists before casting dispersions.

 

However, as a 'hard core physical scientist' I am not sure we want leaders and policy makers only listening to 'hard core physical scientists' , as we only have a relatively narrow view point and field of expertise and are not always the best at communicating our ideas to lay people.   This is where the folks who have a broader skill set with enough training in physical science to understand the scientific output, but also training in economics to be able to understand the economic impact of policy, and social sciences to be able to understand the societal impacts of both climate change and policies to address climate change come in.   Many of these folks may have graduated from Environmental Science or Environmental Studies programs. 


Edited by rando, 21 July 2021 - 02:57 PM.

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#35 AWG_Pics

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 03:32 PM

During the last 11 years of my working life I managed a small group of scientists that included usually a couple of PhDs, and several professionals with Masters degrees. Additionally I worked closely with an Independent Scientific Advisory Board, whose purpose was to look at broad ranging science questions related to ecosystems, fish and wildlife related challenges in the Columbia River Basin. I also worked with an Independent Scientific Advisory Board whose charge was to review the scientific efficacy of hundreds of fish and wildlife restoration projects, usually related to habitat restoration and fish rearing in the Columbia River Basin. Both these Independent Science groups are comprised of senior scientists nominated by the National Academy of Sciences. I also developed tasking for an Independent Economic Advisory Board, comprised of senior economists with natural resources experience.

 

We regularly engaged with tribal and State and Federal government scientists during project review and issue document preparation.

 

As a result of this very close association with working scientists, young and old, I reject any argument suggesting current science education is somehow not as rigorous as it was in "the good old days." It is a silly argument that cloaks the realization among most practicing scientists that we as a society and as a species are trying to understand and confront some deeply complex issues. No one, except politicians, will waste time on red herring arguments that 'things haven't really changed' or 'climate science is still uncertain'.

 

Serious scientific investigations are now focused on how to mitigate environmental problems that have non-stationarity attributes.

 

I am grateful for the great number of highly trained scientists, mostly young, some old, working on these issues. My biggest concern is the political process will not be up to the job.


Edited by AWG_Pics, 21 July 2021 - 10:51 PM.

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#36 Foy

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 04:49 PM

Gentlemen,

 

Great, great stuff, and much appreciated.

 

Foy


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