If anyone is doubtful of the value of a liberal arts education, that person should talk with Alan Jones.
Alan is a Global Regulatory Ecotoxicologist for DuPont Crop Protection. So you might think he has a one-track mind about science. But we asked him what sorts of lessons from Emory & Henry follow him in his current work, he mentioned E&H faculty members who weren’t all about chemistry. “I really don't know where to start with this question. I took so many things that are helpful in both my career and my private life. I think the wonder and care for the environment that was instilled by Drs. Hainsworth, Davis, and Taverner are still with me. The concepts of tropical ecology I learned from Greg McConnell recently came in handy, too. Add to that the musical development I received while in Concert Choir and taking lessons from Anita Coulthard, and there is hardly a day that goes by that I don't rely on something I learned from E&H!”
Alan defines his job like this; “An ecotoxicologist is a person who studies the toxic effects of chemicals in the environment.” His work deals with toxins that are man-made and some that are naturally occurring, but they all have an effect on flora and fauna after sufficient exposure. And when it comes to the evaluation of these factors he says, “it's all done to the best of our abilities.”
Alan is responsible for making sure his company has the required data to prove to regulators that their products are safe to the environment not only in the US, but around the world. And, as we might imagine, rules around the world are not identical.
Also not identical are the environmental mixtures that will affect the results of their products. One farm may have certain spills or crop applications that another does not – making very exacting work very difficult to regulate.
With a background in water quality, Alan knows that nothing happens in a vacuum. “I think my former work helps me understand the dynamics of how pollutants move in environmental systems. It helps to have general knowledge of contaminant flux when you're attempting to understand the potential impacts of a proposed new crop protection product. This even applies to some of the work I did on the Beaver Creek [Bristol, Virginia] project with Dr. Hainsworth”
He also says “chemicals” are under some assault of public opinion. “Sure, humanity has had some challenges when it comes to finding the right balance between safe chemicals and effectively controlling pests. One need not look far to find plenty of examples of chemicals that were once thought safe, and were later found not to be for one reason or another. This knowledge of history sometimes leads to a perception that all chemicals are unsafe. In today’s society, a chemical can be perceived as dangerous, despite the mounds of data that says that it is generally safe to use. So, in this regard, it is becoming more difficult to be environmentally safe, despite many newer compounds having far superior safety profiles than those of previous generations.”