College student Eric Lawton said he discovered more in two days at Savannah River Site than he would have in a semester of classroom study.
But that's the point of the Savannah River Environmental Sciences Field Station. Minorities from 22 historically black colleges and seven other Southeast institutions are able to go outside and soak up the environmental sciences first-hand.
Statistics show environmental science is a career dominated by white males. Many historically black colleges don't have the resources to offer classes specifically in that area, said Dr. Ambrose O. Anoruo, the field station director and a professor at South Carolina State University. Therefore, many of their graduates don't meet requirements to compete and qualify for those jobs.
For seven years, though, the field station has obtained funding to offer free classes that can be transferred for college credit. It improves a student's rsum and opens doors for federal jobs and graduate school, Dr. Anoruo said.
Through the field station, professors from across the Southeast teach courses such as wildlife ecology, chemistry and engineering, marine science, soils and hydrology, and land use and conservation.
Mr. Lawton, a rising junior at Albany State University, dealt with 90-degree heat Friday as he measured samples of a constructed wetland at SRS. The biology major is one of a dozen students taking a three-week course on aquatic and wetland ecology.
His dream is to become either a pharmacist or optometrist, Mr. Lawton said. But after beginning the ecology course, he is not as sure.
"I might make this another option," he said.
Fabian Faulknor, a sophomore at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., was back for a second year of classes at SRS.
He has a heavy interest in biological remediation and used the SRS program to learn more.
"This definitely prepares you for the federal jobs," he said.
Mr. Faulknor said he will be ready next year for a research job at SRS.
Since 1997, 20 students who attended the program have gone on to pursue graduate programs in environmental science and natural resource management.
More than 30 others now work for private companies or government agencies in environment fields.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.