Emily MacDonald '19
Soil Conservationist with the NRCS in Leola, South Dakota
Soil conservationist with the NRCS in the Leola South Dakota.
What are you currently doing for work?
I am a soil conservationist with the NRCS in the Leola South Dakota field office.
The mission is: “NRCS is an agency committed to ‘helping people help the land’ — our mission is to provide resources to farmers and landowners to aid them with conservation. Ensuring productive lands in harmony with a healthy environment is our priority.”
My job is to help support that mission by being a face-to-face contact with farmers and producers. We have conservation goals, and we basically work with producers and suggest more conservation-minded and efficient practices.
I spend time in the field during the summer and do more office-based planning in the winter. I help create plans to improve wildlife habitat, water quality, and soil health among other things.
How are you using what you learned at Unity College?
Unity and EES are very science- and conservation-minded. This gave me a solid natural resources background to work from. A lot of the research at Unity has a human impact purpose. It’s very real-world. We look at science through how it is benefiting people and the planet and how it is best applied to help those groups of people. There is an obvious why we care in every project we do.
Doing research through this lens forces you to look at the business factors, the real-world feasibility, and how it impacts people. My job is to use science and economics to benefit people and the planet, Unity gave me the mindset.
At Unity, I also spent so much time doing project-based learning, which generally includes fieldwork, that it sets you up for any job.
In addition to all of the science and fieldwork I did at Unity College, I’m also using the information and skills I learned in student government, in economics classes and business classes, and those are all playing a role in my current job.
What do you have for advice for students considering Unity College’s EES program?
If you like being outside, it’s the place to be. If you want to be academically challenged, it’s the place to be. It’s not a walk in the park, but I think it pushes you outside your comfort zone and makes you grow. The faculty know what your potential is, and they want you to reach your potential and your individual goals. There is a big focus on independent research that extends beyond the classroom and this allows you to tailor the program to your interests within the field. We also have our own geoscience lab, which is mostly occupied by EES students, and it’s great to have your own space with your major because it creates great camaraderie. If you want a closely-knit major that really focuses on natural sciences and research, it’s the major for you.