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Jim Ippolito

USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho

Where do you work? How long have you worked there? What do you do?

My responsibilities are to solve or improve environmental issues as related to agriculture in the US Pacific Northwest. My most recent work has focused on the use of biochar to help offset CO2 emissions, improve soil fertility, and sequester heavy metals from the environment.

How is your profession related to Environmental Science?

Directly. As a research soil scientist, my current and past research has focused on improving environmental quality by reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions with various agricultural practices and soil amendments, protecting source waters by increasing our understanding of off-site nutrient movement and thus preventing nutrient movement, and improving soil fertility status (using materials that otherwise would go to waste) to improve crop growth and nutritive status.

What are the most rewarding aspects of managing your career?

If you love making a difference you will love being a soil scientist. You help solve real-world problems, work with a great group of intelligent people who make you strive to be your best, and at the PhD level the sky is the only limit. Did I fail to mention a very flexible work schedule?

How has your BYU education benefited your career and would you recommend any specific course background for your field?

I could not do what I do without a PhD. For professor or scientist positions you need at least a PhD to be considered. A post-doc doesn’t hurt either. In terms of specific courses for a soil scientist, I would recommend taking as many soil and chemistry courses as possible. And don’t be afraid to repeat a course if a) it has been a while since you have been exposed to course material, or b) if it is the same course title but a different teacher; you’re bound to learn something new.

What changes do you see or expect in your profession in the near future?

Tighter funding opportunities and thus less opportunities for individuals.

There is a common misconception of lumping environmental science with environmental activism. How can our department best address this perception problem with our students and employers?

Activism is a good thing as long as the activist is armed with solid knowledge. Educate your students to think scientifically before they become activists. Perhaps a course that touches on scientific principles or thought processes would be good.

How can students best network within your profession in order to gain employment or internships? Does your company have internships that may be of interest to our students?

Students need to make connections to gain employment with the USDA-ARS. With that being said, a great network is already in place at BYU – have your students talk with their professors. In my field everyone knows everyone because we are a relatively small, tight knit community. This is true for many professions. Depending on what and where a student wants to work, professors in the college should have a contact for that student.

Does your company have internships that may be of interest to our students? Who should they contact?

As far as I know we don’t have internships at my station. We typically hire summer help which would be for a 40 hour work week. If interested, the student should contact Dr. Dave Bjorneberg (my station’s research leader).

Do you have any general advice for our students or our faculty with regard to your profession?

I love what I do, and I am fortunate that I found a portion of the environmental sciences appealing at a young age. I would advice students to try and find what they think they would love to do and pursue it. If it doesn’t fit right, change your major and try something else that is appealing. You should figure that as an adult you’ll spend about ½ of the time you are awake at your job. You need to love being there … and to be honest it won’t feel like work. For your faculty, continue to be excited about what you do as it can be contagious for those students who will follow in your footsteps.

What other professionals do you know who might also be helpful resources for the students (alumni or not)? Please offer any information that would be relevant.

I would suggest that your students also talk to others that have MS or BS degrees. Getting a PhD is not for everyone, and landing a job with an MS or BS can be just as rewarding. You can have your students contact any of the technicians at my ARS location

Environmental Science & Sustainability in the News
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Air pollution costs Utahns billions annually and shortens life expectancy by two years

November 18, 2020 09:13 AM
New study led by ESS undergraduate Isabella Errigo reveals the cost of air pollution for Utahns’ health and pocketbooks
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BYU researchers help test wastewater for COVID-19 infection rates in Utah

May 18, 2020 09:58 PM
ESS professor Zach Aanderud and his team of students use cutting-edge molecular methods to track COVID-19 in municipal wastewater.
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How You Can Have a Positive Impact on the Climate Change Emergency

November 23, 2020 07:20 AM
COVID-19 isn’t the only worldwide emergency affecting billions of people—climate change continues to threaten us with devastating implications. Here are some ways to help.
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Studying climate change at opposite ends of the Earth

ESS undergraduate Natasha Griffin has presented at conferences in Europe, ridden in a helicopter and visited both the North and South Poles to figure out how humans are affecting the Earth.
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The price of air pollution

We all know intuitively that polluted air isn't good for our bodies or communities, but just how much is air pollution costing us? ESS undergraduates and faculty led a statewide study to answer just that.
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Influencing Environmental Change from Iran to Utah

April 08, 2020 10:36 AM
ESS PhD student Sara Sayedi wanted to use science to improve policy in her home country of Iran, but politics limited her work in the public arena. Now at BYU, she is influencing policy at a global scale.
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After a mega fire: how waterways are impacted by wildfires

BYU team investigates ecosystem resilience to wildfire, linking plants, streams, climate, and society
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Tree Heart Attacks: Aspen Clones Dying

Professor Sam St. Clair from the Environmental Science & Sustainability program takes the vitals of one of North America's keystone tree species.
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How environmental justice affects all of us

June 24, 2021 12:30 PM
Environmental degradation harms every individual by causing pervasive decline of life on Earth, but it doesn’t impact everyone to the same degree. ESS professor Ben Abbott shares three ways to improve your understanding on how environmental justice affects you and your community.
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Saving the world's water (and humans) one little stream at a time

January 16, 2018 10:00 PM
ESS professor Ben Abbott presents a new tool to fight nutrient pollution. Streams can be “sensors” of ecosystem health, allowing both improved water quality and food production.

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Fighting bad air quality with ... dance?

September 11, 2018 10:00 PM
Dance professor Keely Song and ESS professor Ben Abbott teamed up to promote BYU's free UTA passes to students, employees, and their families.
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Dr. Gary Booth: A Lifelong Legacy

July 03, 2020 03:29 PM
While at BYU, Dr. Gary Booth taught a wide range of subjects. Students and faculty alike appreciated Booth and his impact on the college.
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BYU analysis of 115+ studies: Masks powerful & cost-effective in combating COVID-19

July 23, 2020 09:56 AM
After reading 115 studies on COVID-19, ESS faculty and students published non-technical report on the effectiveness of masks at slowing the spread.
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Why are aspen dying?

June 27, 2013 10:00 PM
If Utah’s quaking aspen appear to be quaking more than usual this summer, the trees have reason to tremble, says a Brigham Young University biologist. In dappled forests across the West, aspen trees are battling deadly killers from heat stroke to bud-nipping predators to tree “heart attacks.”
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Permafrost Collapse and the Global Ecosystem

March 17, 2020 11:10 AM
ESS professor Ben Abbott co-authored a study in Nature on the permafrost climate feedback. Working with an international team, he found that abrupt permafrost collapse could double carbon release.
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Water cycle diagrams are giving us a false sense of water security

June 10, 2019 10:00 PM
A new study in Nature Geoscience led by ESS professor and students found that the global water cycle is incorrect even in modern papers and textbooks. 85% of diagrams show no people, despite human domination of water at a global scale.
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Plant & Wildlife Sciences Across the Map

June 29, 2020 02:18 PM
Professors and students from Environmental Science & Sustainability lead research projects from Antarctica to Alaska.
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Study finds bedrock is teeming with microorganisms protecting water quality

February 03, 2019 10:00 PM
The solution to nutrient pollution could be right below out feet. Literally. New study reveals the active and dynamic world of groundwater microbes.
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Interdependence and Stewardship: Piecing Together Humanity’s Relationship with the Earth

By Carlee Reber
June 05, 2019 01:06 PM
Will we show up in the geologic record in millions of years? The Anthropocene suggests the answer is yes: collective human impact on the environment will leave a definitive mark in future bedrock.
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