First Monday

ATEEL (The Advanced Technology Environmental Education Library): Advancing Technician Program Resources into the New Millennium

The field of environmental technology education is a rapidly changing, multifaceted field that requires students to have access to a rich, reliable, and up-to-date resource base of information. Nearly all 1,200 community colleges in the U.S. offer some type of environmental courses. Over 100 community colleges offer one-year certificate or two-year associate degree programs in environmental technology.

The constant change in federal, state, and local environmental, health, and safety regulations impacts and quickly dates the curricula in environmental programs. New regulations, discoveries, and emerging technologies change the nature of the knowledge and skills required of environmental technicians. Community college libraries have fixed budgets that may curtail purchasing the wide array of supplemental materials that are current with developments in the field. This problem is drawn into even sharper focus as increasing numbers of colleges offer environmental programs via distance learning. ATEEL is an innovative, online library designed to serve the specialized needs of community college environmental technology students, instructors, and workers throughout the nation.




While the environmental industry did not exist before 1970, it now accounts for more than a million jobs and $180 billion in annual revenue. Born of U.S. legislation designed to clean up pollution, environmental jobs were among the fastest-growing for almost two decades (Miller, 1997). The demand for environmental technicians is constant and surpasses the ability of postsecondary education to supply adequately trained personnel. Much of the training is driven by the certification requirements of governmental agencies, and there are many more jobs in the U.S. than there are certified workers to fill them. The market for environmental products and services is evolving from pollution control, waste management, and remediation to those associated with resource productivity and environmental improvements (Canning, 1999). According to the New Complete Guide to Environmental Careers, one wildlife biologist with the state of Michigan stated, "Eighty to 90 percent of jobs that will exist in the environment field five years from now haven't been created yet."

The National Science Board (NSB) Task Force on the Environment in its interim report, Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation stated, "Scientific understanding of the environment, together with an informed scientific literate citizenry, is requisite to quality of life for generations to come." Jane Lubchenco, Chair of the Task Force on the Environment, stated, "It is absolutely clear that our future well-being, health, and prosperity are going to depend on understanding the environment in which we live and how it is changing." In 1998, the State Education and Environmental Roundtable conducted a nationwide study focusing on the effects of learning and instruction using the environment as an integrating context in K-12 schools. Evidence gathered from participating schools indicates that students learn to read, write, and do math, science and social studies more effectively within an environment-based context than within a traditional educational framework (Lieberman and Hoody, 1998).

The ATEEL project represents a national collaborative effort by a number of organizations that are leaders in the environmental technology field. Leading the effort is the Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center (ATEEC) - a National Science Foundation supported Center of Excellence.

The vision of the Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center (ATEEC) is to create a national network of community colleges, supported through public-private partnerships, that prepares and maintains an environmental technology workforce to address industry's needs and to promote the transfer of secondary students to higher education.

ATEEC was established to build a strong educational infrastructure that assists the nation's community colleges in the development of quality environmental technology education programs. To achieve this, the Center's mission incorporates three goals: to advance environmental technology education through curriculum development, professional development, and program improvement in the nation's community colleges and secondary schools.

To build this infrastructure, ATEEC has used the strengths of its partners, the Hazardous Materials Training and Research Institute (HMTRI), the Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE), and the University of Northern Iowa's (UNI) Center for Environmental and Energy Education.

As we progress in the new millennium, ATEEC is continuing to strengthen the necessary infrastructure to support and complement environmental technology education in secondary schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. To enable these institutions to cooperatively build quality programs, an innovative online library is being designed to serve the specialized needs of environmental technology students, instructors, and workers throughout the nation. The realization of ATEEL - the Advanced Technology Environmental Education Library - is being made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the services of a local public library, Davenport Public Library.


There are numerous online libraries available on the Internet. What sets ATEEL apart from the others is its focus on instructor and student resources. Most environmental technology programs are small, one-person departments. Sharing of resources at the local level is not always possible. Trying to stay current with continual changing regulations is a grueling and monumental challenge. ATEEL brings to the instructor and the student juried, relevant information that can be readily used in the classroom.

In 1995 a national forum was held to address critical issues relevant to environmental technology education in the nation's two-year colleges. The resultant report, Partnering to Build A Quality Workforce: Critical Issues in Environmental Technology Education at Two-Year Colleges states, "The environmental technology field lacks a clear definition of what constitutes the environmental workforce." Based on this input, a Defining Environmental Technology workshop was held in 1996. The results of the workshop were published in the Defining Environmental Technology report, which breaks the environmental field into 11 separate occupational categories, technician-level occupational titles, and representative broad job functions. This document has become the framework for ATEEL.

Based, in part, on the Defining report, the online library is divided into 12 occupational categories or "sectors." Each sector is headed by a "Sector Lead." Through the ATEEC/PETE network, a national search was conducted to identify qualified individuals to serve as Sector Leads.

Sector Lead responsibilities include:

Many of the Sector Leads are past National Science Foundation ATEEC Summer Institute participants who have a particular expertise in one of the identified areas.

CategorySector Lead/State
AirCheryl Stith/California
EnergyRoger Ebbage/Oregon
Environmental Management SystemsBill Engel/Florida
Field ServicesJeff Bates/Ohio
Information Management SystemsBob Welch/Michigan
Laboratory ServicesKen Chapman/Virginia
National Resources ManagementSusie Kelly/Oregon
Pollution PreventionRick Yoder/Nebraska
Regulatory AffairsDave Foss/Iowa
RemediationVince Kelly/Alaska
Safety and HealthBob Treloar/Arizona
Solid and Hazardous WasteKelly Bringhurst/Utah
Water and WastewaterAnthony Gordon/Maine

The Sector Leads provide leadership in identifying content for each of their sectors and receive an annual honorarium for their efforts. Input of resources can be received by non sector Leads. Individuals who have content information are encouraged to submit that information to the Sector Leads. These individuals will receive appropriate credit for their contribution.

ATEEL's sector sections will be divided into the following areas:

Under "Teacher Resources" links will include: professional development opportunities, learning activities, PowerPoint and other presentations ready for use in the classroom, technical research resources, and a subject bibliography. For example, an instructor who teaches a program in Wastewater may enter the site and find pending legislation in this sector. He or she may then access a PowerPoint presentation that could be used in class to explain the legislation, as well as learning activities for the students. Topics in the "Student Resources" section include: regulations and legislation, associations and organizations, industry, basic information to specific research for each of the sectors, and student-oriented activities. For example, a student may enter the site looking for resources on Pollution Prevention. He or she will access basic information, legislation, industries heavily involved in pollution prevention; and, associations to contact for more information. The student could also directly contact the Sector Lead for additional guidance.

ATEEL also has numerous features to enhance networking and learning. In addition to the instructor and student resource sections, the site map will also include an "About Us" category. This section will give an overview of ATEEC and its partners; links to organizations, and access to ATEEC News, an online newsletter.

Another section of ATEEL will be the "Calendar of Events" section, which lists regional and national activities in the environmental arena and hot links to upcoming events.

A "Careers and Employment" section will be offered which gives students a direct link to the Environmental Career Center (ECC). The ECC is a specialty niche employment and training database serving the environmental, health, safety, and sustainability labor market. This integrated skills-matching system will provide a number of unique services including 1) attribute profiles (profiles of skill sets, job requirements, and course learning outcomes using industry-specific attributes, bridging the communication gap caused by a myriad of job titles currently used to describe the industry); 2) a dialog center for informal networking; 3) a trends report area where employment trend data is collected to help align curricula with future jobs; and, 4) a career landscaping area where users can explore employment opportunities within a variety of industry sectors, identify missing skill sets, locate appropriate training programs, and ultimately find new and fulfilling employment. In a nutshell, students can post their resumes on the system and employers can post job openings.

Also included in the "Careers and Employment" section will be the narrative of interviews with technicians currently employed in each of the sectors. These narratives will be extremely beneficial to students interested in the field. An alumni database and special databases/directories will also be available.

A "Links" section will highlight links to EPA and OSHA as well as to other government agencies and professional organizations. Also available will be current information for those working in the environmental field (e.g., changing regulations).

Finally a "Policy" section will be included that will assist the user in areas of copyright, collection development, use, and forms.


ATEEL will not only improve access to information in the environmental technology arena, but also will serve as a model for national electronic libraries in all fields of advanced technology education. It is the goal of ATEEL to actively encourage the development of similar national electronic libraries in technical fields common at community colleges. Such libraries could be developed to serve areas as diverse as healthcare, advanced manufacturing technology, printing and graphic arts technology, and automotive/autobody repair. Students, workers, and instructors in each of these fields would benefit from access to quality, juried material in an online library that would supplement resource materials available locally. ATEEL, leveraging and connecting quality expertise and resources, will add significant, measurable value to students, workers, and instructors in advanced technology fields.

About the Authors

Dr. Ellen J. Kabat Lensch is the Director of the Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center (ATEEC). She has over 13 years of community college administrative experience. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Iowa State University, a M.B.A. from St. Ambrose University, and a PhD. in Higher Education from the University of Iowa.

Kay Kretschmar Runge, a native of Davenport and the Director of Davenport Public Library since October, 1985, is well know throughout the country for her enthusiasm, energy, and love of libraries. She belongs to many civic organizations and is President Elect of the Public Library Association. Kay's educational background includes earning a B.S. in History Education from Iowa State University and a Master's Degree in Library Science from the University of Iowa.


K. Canning, 1999. "Consultants take on new roles," Pollution Prevention, volume 31, number 4, pp. 38-40.

Environmental Careers Organization, 1999. The complete guide to environmental careers in the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Anonymous, 1999. "Environmental research should be high priority at National Science Foundation," EOS Transactions (American Geophysical Union), volume 80, number 32, p. 1.

F. Liberman and L. Hoody, 1998. Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning. Poway, Calif.: Science Wizards.

J. Miller, 1997. "Finding green in the green movement," Techniques: Making education and career connections, volume 72, number 2, pp. 20-23.

Advanced Technological Environmental Education Center, 1995. Partnering to build a quality workforce: Critical issues in environmental technology education at two-year colleges. Bettendorf, Ia.: ATEEC, and at

Editorial history

Paper received 1 May 2000; accepted 10 May 2000.

Contents Index

Copyright ©2000, First Monday

ATEEL (The Advanced Technology Environmental Education Library): Advancing Technician Program Resources into the New Millennium by Ellen J. Kabat Lensch and Kay Kretschmar Runge
First Monday, volume 5, number 6 (June 2000),