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Agricultural Engineering - Emphasis Area: Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering

Agricultural Engineering offers a unique perspective on environmental management that cannot be gained through other engineering or agricultural programs. Our agricultural training provides us with insight into the many issues and problems faced by food producers and those who protect the environment. As engineers we are uniquely trained to analyze problems, review options, and design site-specific solutions.

We deal with both point and non-point pollution sources. Point sources are contaminant releases that tend to be concentrated, easily recognizable, and located at a specific point. Examples include wastewater flowing from a pipe, a leaking underground fuel tank, odors from a livestock operation, and a pesticide spill. Such pollution sources are common to food production facilities and other manufacturers, including forest plantations and farming operations. These industries can have large waste management problems that require considerable engineering skill and ingenuity.

Nonpoint pollution tends to be less concentrated and enter the environment over a considerably wider area. Many of the environmental impacts of agriculture are due to nonpoint sources. Examples include soil erosion from fields leading to sedimentation problems in surface waterways, and surface runoff and leaching of nutrients, chemicals, and bacteria to the water system.

In environmental and natural resources engineering, you learn about the natural processes being affected - the water system, nitrogen cycle, biological systems and other ecosystems. You will also gain the background in chemistry and biology necessary to understand the influences of contaminants on the environment. Basic engineering principles are applied to avoid, reduce, and correct adverse environmental impacts on a wide variety of fronts including soil and plant environments, surface and ground water quality, air quality, animal environments, and food safety. Solution methods explored make use of some of the newest technological approaches including finite element analysis, sensor design, geographical information systems, and global positioning systems.

The program prepares graduates for exciting careers in many different settings including:

  • Federal, state, and local government agencies (examples: bioremediation techniques to reduce river bank erosion; design practices to reduce stream bank erosion)
  • Environmental engineering consulting firms (examples: use a geographic information system to select the best site for a manure lagoon; run advanced hydrologic models to predict flooding for emergency planning)
  • Food processing industries (example: develop cost effective methods of utilizing waste from a cheese processor; design a constructed wetland for waste processing from a food processor)
  • Agriculture industries (examples: design stable waterways for drainage/irrigation water; design equipment for manure land application that produces less odors which is compatible with no-till farming practices

Many of our recent graduates have been hired by equipment firms looking at environmental and natural resources issues.