Professor Brian Fath works with Pat Brady on her graduate thesis.
What inspired you to enroll in TU’s graduate program?
"I worked as a laboratory technician for more than 20 years, then decided that I wanted to make a contribution in an environmental field. I earned my undergraduate degree in computer science, but I’ve always been interested in environmental issues. I visited TU’s campus and heard good things about its graduate program in environmental science, so I was thrilled when I was accepted as a full-time student."
How did you become involved with Baltimore County’s Office of Sustainability?
"My involvement came about as the result of a thesis project suggested by Dr. Brian Fath, associate professor of biological sciences, who had been investigating the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities Campaign as part of the Commission on Environmental Quality. The Cool Cities Campaign encourages political jurisdictions—cities, counties, townships, etc.—to undertake greenhouse gas emissions inventories. Dr. Fath thought TU’s environmental science graduate students could work with local jurisdictions to gather this useful information. Of course the jurisdictions would also benefit from the inventories. I told Dr. Fath that I’d be happy to participate—it was a great opportunity."
So how does one conduct a greenhouse gas emissions inventory?
"The work involves collecting data from various activities such as energy use and waste production and interpreting it with software developed for greenhouse gas emission inventories. I completed inventories at both the county level and for county government operations. David Carroll, director of the Baltimore County Office of Sustainability, gave me access to needed departmental data. For example, county staff provided data on county-owned vehicles and building energy usage. We found that total county emissions are 11.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent, with transportation and residential energy use the top two emitters. County government operations account for just over 1 percent of this total, with building operation and wastewater pumping the largest contributors. These values are similar to other jurisdictions that have completed inventories."
Then you’re actually helping to lay the foundation for environmental change?
"I hope so. Once we have a baseline, we are also able to make projections of future emissions, allowing the county to see what will likely happen under conservation versus “business as usual” scenarios. If, for example, Baltimore County wants to reduce emissions by 10 percent by 2012, we can identify what they could do to achieve that goal. Reducing the largest emitters, such as transportation and electricity, would go a long way to achieve that goal. We might also see an impact on quality-of-life issues like mass transit or renewable energy. You can’t manage what you haven’t measured, and this inventory represents the beginning of measuring."
What kind of support have you received from the faculty?
"I’m so pleased with the enthusiasm I’ve found in the graduate faculty. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field, so I’ve been able to work with people from several departments. They’re not only concerned about how well you do in their courses, but also with the opportunities available to you in your career. Drs. Jane Wolfson, Steve Lev and Ryan Casey are a few who come to mind, as does Dr. Fath, my thesis adviser. They’re all great advocates for students."
What are your post-graduation plans?
"Environmental science seems to be expanding in all directions. I hope I’ll have an opportunity to do consulting work with universities, corporations and governments to help them bring their sustainability programs into operation. I think my maturity, work ethic and teamwork experience will serve me well."