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New graduate degree will focus on water and soil resources

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is now offering a master’s degree in environmental resource science.

The Louisiana Board of Regents approved the new degree program in December.

“This interdisciplinary degree program complements the discipline-specific graduate programs offered in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences and is slated to begin in August 2017,” said Dr. Azmy S. Ackleh, dean of that college. It will be available through UL Lafayette’s School of Geosciences.

The new graduate program will produce highly trained environmental scientists who will address challenges primarily related to water and soil resources. Its focus is strategic for Louisiana and aligned with the state’s workforce needs.

Dr. David Borrok, director of the School of Geosciences, noted that “Louisiana’s core economic sectors are direct reflections of the natural resources available in our state, and some of our most critical resources are water and soil.”

Dr. Durga Poudel, a professor in the School of Geosciences, noted that “our Gulf Coast setting in the hub city of Louisiana is the perfect location to study water and soil resources. With a strong agricultural industry, the petroleum industry, and the fact that our state hosts 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater wetlands, there is no shortage of local research and career opportunities in environmental science.”

Freshwater wetlands are critical to the seafood industry and mitigate coastal flooding and erosion, according to the University’s proposal for the creation of the new program that was approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents. “Like water, soil resources are fundamental to Louisiana’s agriculture and to coastal restoration efforts. Louisiana has 44 soil and water conservation districts that are dedicated to sustaining and conserving soil stability, croplands, woodlands and wetlands, and water quality of waterways throughout the state,” the proposal states.

Local businesses and governmental agencies related to environmental fields have provided letters of support for the program.

Substantial job growth in the environmental sector is expected in Louisiana. Job growth nationally is predicted to be around 11 percent over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in a related scientific or engineering field can apply for admission into the program. The 35-hour curriculum includes thesis and non-thesis options. In addition to required core courses, students can choose from a variety of elective courses offered in the College of Sciences and the College of Engineering.

“This provides a great deal of flexibility for students as they can be actively engaged in tailoring the program to fit their interests and needs,” Borrok said.  

Environmental resource science is a priority research area for UL Lafayette. The new master’s program will contribute to the University’s environment, energy, coastal, and water areas of excellence and will play an important role in Louisiana’s economic development efforts.

Ackleh said this program will “further advance Louisiana as a national leader in environmental research and development.”

For more information on the master’s degree in environmental resource science, contact geosciences@louisiana.edu.

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