New Face Aims to Use Civil Engineering to Protect and Enhance Nature

February 25, 2016

Micah Strauss is passionate about wildlife. But he also respects the value of the built environment. Seeking to combine the two, he might be on to something big.

“There is immense overlap between both of those fields,” Strauss said. “Development and natural-resource management can coexist.”

Strauss, S.M.ASCE, a student in civil engineering and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has been selected as one of ASCE’s 2016 New Faces of Civil Engineering – College.

“We’re in a pivotal moment where climate change is no longer being debated,” Strauss said. “From the local level up to the national level, the conversation has moved to ‘What is going to be done in the face of climate change?’ and ‘How is our infrastructure going to adapt to a changing climate?’ That awareness has really just skyrocketed.

“I believe innovation needs to be applied to civil infrastructure.”

Strauss began his studies with a focus on the nature side of science – specifically disease ecology in small-animal populations.

He was turned on to civil engineering during an internship in the fisheries of the Hudson River Valley. Strauss saw the way old, nonfunctioning dams were negatively affecting migratory fish. But he also noted how vital the river and its tributaries were to the neighboring human populations.

“I immediately saw the intersections between civil engineering and the fisheries,” Strauss said.

Strauss is now completing an internship with OptiRTC to study how stormwater ponds can be used to increase water quality before entering the sewer system.

“I think it’s a critical time for civil engineering to adapt,” Strauss said. “It’s really exciting to be working in water resources management and trying to address issues that overlap with civil engineering. I’m really excited about working in any industry that combines sustainability issues with water resources engineering.”

ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering recognition programs highlight the next generation of civil engineering leaders. By showcasing young, diverse, talented engineers the program shows that engineering is an exciting profession open to everyone. Ten honorees are selected by ASCE in each of two divisions: collegiate and professional.

Honorees receive recognition during National Engineers Week, which runs through Feb. 27, and at ASCE’s annual Outstanding Projects And Leaders (OPAL) Gala, March 17, in Arlington, VA.

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