Pittsburgh International Airport

MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONALS

MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONALS

As scientists and leaders tackle new issues relating to climate change, water conservation, pollution and more, you ask yourself, how does the next generation of environmental professionals get jump-started? 

According to Kevin Gurchak, Vice President of Sustainability and Natural Resources at Pittsburgh International Airport, it’s hands-on exposure to the environmental challenges that we face every day. 

“Students spend many hours sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures and theories, but how much time do they actually get to spend “in the field” observing, learning, and collecting data,” he asks.

That’s why airport officials have worked with Dr. Robert Whyte, Chair of the Biological and Environmental Sciences Department at California University of PA since 2009 to expose students to the environmental challenges of an airport – proper disposal of chemicals, preventing fuel spills, protecting land and streams around the airfield, to name just a few.

Gurchak helps students explore the abandoned mine drainage (AMD) treatment system, naturally occurring and constructed wetlands, and different water quality features on airport property. Officials have also given tours of site remediation efforts to middle and high school Earth Sciences teachers, and annually assist the Allegheny County Conservation District with its Envirothon for local high schools.

Getting the opportunity to observe airport efforts on-site, interact with airport professionals, physically conduct water quality testing and plant identification, and understanding how systems work together greatly impacts learning, Gurchak says.

“It prevents culture shock, and gives students valuable hands-on, real-life experience as they start their environmental careers,” he said. “At Pittsburgh International, we are pleased to provide these opportunities for the next generation of environmental leaders.”