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Two female students in field with wildflowers

Environmental Science Alumnus Works to Restore Groundwater Quality

  • By: Sarah Wordhouse
  • Published:
Benj Morris in front of grass and trees

Editor's Note: Recently, Morris was accepted to the MS graduate program in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University. He will have field courses over the next two summers in Bozeman, Montana, and the Yellowstone Plateau, but most of his coursework will be online to allow him to continue his job. The OEPA is paying for most of his tuition and he received a Professional Master’s Fellowship, granted to “exceptionally qualified applicants,” which will offset the rest of his tuition at MSU. (April 29, 2022)

Taylor, students passionate about caring for God’s creation and being good stewards of the earth can pursue an Environmental Science major. This curriculum integrates biology, chemistry, and geology, with environmental laws, policies, economics, and ethics for an interdisciplinary understanding of the earth, stewardship, and sustainability. 

After graduating in 2020, Benj Morris decided to chase down his passion for Creation by caring for drinking water in Ohio. 

Delighting in God’s Creation and Creativity

Morris likes everything about being outside—even the way the earth feels under his feet, which is why he does not wear shoes, not even while riding a bike. “One of the reasons I always love being outside is because I grew up as a Christian, so I always knew (that it) is really cool to get to spend time like God gave us gifts,” he said. “God didn't have to make it beautiful—we don't have to have the Grand Canyon; it's not necessary. But He chose to. I'd always thought it was really cool that He chose to make nature really complex and interconnected.”

Morris knew he wanted to major in Environmental Science at Taylor, but he also had a creative gift for music, so he pursued a major in both. However, he eventually had to choose one or the other, and found his answer with his Environmental Science courses and professors. 

“I was taking geology in the spring with Dr. Guebert, and I just absolutely fell in love with it,” Morris said. With Environmental Science, Morris was excited to learn more about God and His art through His creation. Morris also went on to be the president of the Stewards of Creation Club, served as a Sustainability Assistant in the campus apartments, and worked as a geology teaching assistant for Dr. Guebert. 

Morris was still able to develop his music skills and share his passion with others in the Taylor Chorale and by becoming the part-time worship director at Mercy Baptist Church in Marion. Music allowed Morris to connect with a church and the local community. 

“There are people in the real world that want to invest in you, want to see you grow, and want to push you,” Morris said. “The pastor and I would meet every other week. He'd come to campus or I'd go to his house, and we'd meet and have lunch or coffee, and he would just disciple me. We'd go through Scripture, and he'd asked me questions and I'd asked him questions, and he held me accountable for things. That grew me massively.”

Educating Business Owners on Preventing Contamination

Morris graduated during the height of Covid-19 restrictions, which made getting a job right out of college difficult. By a connection he made through Taylor professors Jan and Rob Reber, his instructors in his summer field course in the Black Hills, he was hired for an internship in South Dakota working in a fish hatchery.

Morris working at his internship at the South Dakota fish hatchery

However, after restrictions began lifting, he quickly applied for government jobs, which is how he landed in Ohio working as an Environmental Specialist II for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He now specializes in groundwater remediation. 

Currently, most of Morris’ work is from home due to Covid-19 regulations, but he remains busy keeping companies up to code, checking for contamination leaks, and working to clean up pollution spills. Surprisingly, the most leaks come from small businesses who are simply unaware of proper procedures, so education is a big part of his job. 

One of the serious situations Morris dealt with involved a laundromat that had been dumping chemicals down a storm drain, instead of into a drain that went to a water treatment plant. The chemicals were going directly into a nearby ditch that resulted in polluting the town’s water supply for two years. 

In order to reverse polluted water, proper chemicals must be added to treat or neutralize the pollutant, but cleaning groundwater can take years, which is why avoiding contamination is always the easiest course of action. 

Professional and Vocational Training in Every Class

As an Environmental Science major, Morris gained hands-on experience through labs every semester of his college career, which helped prepare him for the job he has now. 

“The Environmental Science Department is so good at making sure you're not just learning information,” Morris said, “Every single class that I took was specifically geared towards a function of a possible profession that we could have—every single class was vocational training. My whole degree was entirely group projects and presentations, and that's what this entire job is.”

Prior to going to Taylor, Morris knew he wanted a small school where he could personally know professors, which is why he put Taylor at the top of his list. 

“The professors are not just there to teach you—they want to see you succeed in your career, life, and faith. They are there to push you. So really, the best advice I would have for anybody that's going to study Environmental Science at Taylor is make friends with those professors because they're awesome.”

Trusting God’s Plan

Morris’ education, experiences, and vocational development at Taylor have led him on a winding path to what he now considers his dream job, and even though he encountered challenges, he would not change a thing. 

“Everything that's happened in my life has brought me to where I am now,” Morris said. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Environmental Science major and the hands-on education it provides, click here!