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Playing in the Mud with Brian McAninch

Professor, Scientist, and all-around fun guy (according to his students)

Q-  What do you teach?

A-  I’m an associate professor of hydrogeology and coordinator of the environmental technology program.

Q-  OK, first of all what is hydrogeology?

A-  Hydrogeology is basically where water and geology meet. Water is clearly a great resource, we depend on it for drinking, industry, etc. It’s one of those things that we need to take care of, so it’s important to study it.

Q-  What exactly do you and your students study?

A-  Ground water - where it comes from and how it interacts with surface water. Since about the 1970s, the U.S. has had an environmental revolution where we’ve been paying more focused attention to water and the environment. Now, it’s more important than ever.

Q-  How often do you get to go ‘in the field’?

A-  I take my students on field trips as often as possible. Every spring we go to Howe Caverns. But year-round we do what’s called ‘stream gauging’ both on the campus and in other areas in the county. We measure the flow of a stream by actually wading in the water and yes, we do go out in warm and cold weather!

Q-  Where else do you go?

A-  We take field trips to local waste sites, sewage treatment plants and local land fills. We build wells and we collect water samples. We do the analysis back on campus by working with the chemistry department. Every time I do fieldwork with students, it’s a blast. They really get a lot out of it. The classroom is important but the fieldwork is the place where students can really connect with the environment.

Q-  Why is stream gauging important?

A-  It helps us study the impact of pollution on water supplies. For example, parking lots, cars, trash, agriculture, fertilizer, etc., all contribute in some way to polluting or contaminating our water supply.

Q-  What do students learn in your class?

A-  Overall, they learn about the importance of environmental stewardship - what their place is in the environment and how we can use math, chemistry and hydrogeology to develop laws and regulations to better manage our use of the environment.

Q-  What kind of students do well in your classes?

A- People who are very motivated even if they aren’t great at math, they need to be willing to push themselves. There’s a lot of math and chemistry. Also, students who do well with computer operation systems will do well in this program.

Q-  How would your students describe you?

A-  Well, I’m passionate about what I do. I absolutely love teaching and learning from students. I also think I have a good ability to connect with students. I can look at a student and know what it is that interests them, or we can work together to figure it out. On a much lighter note, my students learn quickly to never bring bottled water into my class because I’ll tease them about it all day. They’re paying double what they pay for gas!

Careers with a degree in Environmental Technology: Geoscience:

  • Field Assistant
  • Geologist
  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental consulting (two Onondaga students are currently doing internships with environmental consulting firms)

Many Onondaga grads transfer to

  • SUNY ESF
  • SUNY Brockport
  • SUNY Cortland
  • Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences