This book was originally developed to introduce environmental engineers to biology. However, we have realized that it will also fulfill a need for environmental scientists who specialize in nonbiological areas, such as chemists, physicists, geologists, and environmental planners. Much of what we say here about engineers applies also to these other specialists as well.
Those people coming from a biological science background might be surprised to discover that most engineers and many chemists and physicists do not have a single biology course in their bachelor's degree programs. Even environmental engineering students often receive only a brief exposure to sanitary microbiology, with a vast range of biological issues and concerns being neglected almost completely. Environmental chemists may study aquatic chemistry with little knowledge of biological activity in the aquatic system, and meteorologists studying global warming may have only a rudimentary understanding of the ecosystems that both affect and are affected by climate. However, the growth of the environmental sciences has greatly expanded the scope of biological disciplines with which engineers and scientists need to deal. With the possible exceptions of biomedical and biochemical engineering, environmental engineering is the engineering discipline that has the closest connection with biology. Certainly, it is the only engineering discipline that connects with such a wide range of biological fields.
The need to make engineers literate in biological concepts and terminology resulted in the development of a new graduate-level course designed to familiarize them with the concepts and terminology of a broad range of relevant biological disciplines. The first one-third of the semester introduced basic topics, covering each of the general biology topics in the first 10 chapters of the book. A college-level general biology text was used for this portion of the course, but no single text provided adequate coverage of the range of topics presented in the other chapters. This is the focus of and motivation for this book, which covers a much wider range of biology than has traditionally been taught to environmental engineers and scientists. Our intent in doing so is to strike off in a new direction with the approach to be used for training environmental professional in the future.
Specialists in every field have learned not to expect their colleagues trained in other areas to have certain basic knowledge in their own areas. This book aims to break one of these barriers of overspecialization. The objectives of a course based on this book will have been met if an engineer, chemist, or geologist who studied it is meeting with a biologist to discuss a situation of environmental concern, and the biologist at some point turns and says: "How did you know that?'' It should not be a surprise that any well-educated person possesses some specialized knowledge outside his or her own profession.
The information herein is not limited to what environmental engineers or scientists "need to know'' to do their jobs. The nonbiologist may occasionally need to read technical material written by biologists and should not be confused by the use of terminology standard to such material. Engineers and scientists who may eventually move to management positions of diversified organizations should be especially concerned about this.
A secondary need that this subject meets is the necessity for any technically literate person to be familiar with biology. Exposing nonbiologists to this field broadens their knowledge of the living world around them and of their own bodies. The biologically literate engineer or scientist will better understand and cope with the impact of technologically driven changes in the world. This understanding should encompass not only environmental issues such as pollution effects, ecosystem destruction, and species extinction, but also issues bearing on agriculture and medicine. Rapid progress in genetic engineering and medical technology makes it more essential to have such an understanding because it forces many societal and individual choices.
No single book can completely cover all biological topics relevant to environmental engineers and scientists. By design, this book has more information than could be covered in a single semester. Students should leave a course with a sense that there is more to know. It also gives students and instructors the choice of which topics to explore in more detail.
The first nine chapters are intended for use as a study guide and a summary of information that otherwise would have been learned in a course in general biology. Thus, they could be skipped in a course for, say, environmental science students who have already taken general biology. The rest of the chapters contain information that is specific to environmental applications. In broad terms, the important areas are traditional sanitary microbiology (health and biological treatment), ecology, and toxicology.
To play to the strengths of engineers, mathematical techniques are emphasized, as this was the initial focus of the book. Examples include population dynamics, microbial growth kinetics (focusing on batch systems, and stopping with the chemostat, short of treatment process models), pharmacokinetic models of toxicity, ecosystem modeling, statistical approaches to epidemiology, and probabilistic modeling of bioassay data. Other specialists, including biologists, could benefit from this treatment, as biology is becoming more and more quantitative. Nevertheless, the mathematical discussions can be skipped if time does not permit their development.
Familiarity with basic environmental concepts is assumed, such as the sources and types of pollutants, an understanding of acid-base relationships, oxygen demand, and other basic chemistry concepts.
There is sufficient information in this book for a two-semester course. We recognize that many programs have only a single semester to devote to this topic. Therefore, we offer the following as an outline on which to base such a course. The balance of the book will then be supplementary and reference material that instructors may draw from based on their special interests. The instructor may also consider assigning a research paper to be based on a topic from the book not included in the course.
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