CALS Alumnus Highlight: Ben Grubbs
University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumnus Ben Grubbs graduated in 2019 with his degree in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources (EMANR). He is currently a site/contract manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
What brought you to CALS?
The summer after my freshman year, I worked two different jobs: one for a construction company and another working in an office for a law firm. I realized I liked having a position where I could get outdoors and out of the office. I began looking for majors that would allow me to do that, which brought me to CALS.
Was there particular CALS faculty or staff that were influential in your career path?
Yes, there were several. Ms. Susan Curry and Mr. Michael Sisk were my academic advisors. I met with several departments while considering new majors, but I enjoyed the meeting with them the most and ultimately decided on the environmental management major.
Dr. Xin Zhao, Zack Black, and Dr. Rao Mylavarapu were also very influential because of the work I did for them in their laboratories. I worked at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra with Dr. Zhao and Zack and got incredible experience learning about and working on all kinds of different crops. With Dr. Rao, I got to work on creating a guide for the Certified Crop Advisor Exam, which gave me great experience learning how to write about agricultural and environmental topics.
What do you find to be the best part of your job?
I currently work as a Site/Contract Manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. I enjoy the problem solving aspect of the job that comes with how to clean up each site that I manage. For example, I’ll review the latest data and figures for a site and use them to decide which wells we need to sample next or where we may need to conduct an excavation. I like to treat it as if I’m solving a mystery sometimes.
What are some exciting projects you have worked on in the course of your career?
I specifically enjoy working on projects that involve soil excavation. They’re very complex, and sometimes include removal of parts of roads or sidewalks. It’s really impressive seeing all the work that goes into it and getting to be a part of that process.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in the same major as you?
What I really appreciated about the environmental management major was that I got to take courses not only on environmental topics but also on agricultural topics. I wasn’t sure exactly which path I wanted to take when I started, so it was good getting some experience in both fields. There’s also a good bit of overlap between the two (e.g., studying what chemicals affect the soil and how), so you get a lot of complimentary knowledge that can help. I work in environmental cleanup now, but there’s certain knowledge about chemicals and groundwater flow that I have from studying agriculture that I can apply in my current work.
Is there something that you would like to share that we did not ask?
One piece of advice I’d like to share from my experience both as a student and a professional is to always try and solve as much of any problem by yourself as you can before asking others. This helps you in two ways. First, you help yourself by learning more about the topic/issue, and more often than not you find the solution along the way. Second, when you do have to ask a colleague, they’ll appreciate that you want their expertise and not that you want them to do your job for you. You’ll gain more knowledge and a better reputation among your fellow students or co-workers.
Using an interdisciplinary approach, students in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources develop the scientific and technical foundation needed to integrate and communicate the diverse environmental issues associated with urban, agricultural, and natural ecosystems. Students study hydrology, soil science, pest management, water resources, ecology, and natural resource policy. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website. Questions for Ben Grubbs regarding his experiences in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources should be directed to Benjamin.Grubbs@FloridaDEP.gov.