Developing Sustainable Solutions
For students interested in learning about sustainable
living and environmental practices, Northern Arizona University's
"campus" extends far beyond its bricks and mortar. Bill Auberle, retired
professor of civil environmental engineering, utilized all the resources across
the Colorado Plateau to teach his classes—and then some.
"I had the chance to take my students to a solar
energy plant, a wind energy farm, and a large coal-fired power plant all in one
day, to show how electricity is made and the environmental consequences of
that," he says. Students also have the opportunity to visit the Grand
Canyon, where they have some of the most sophisticated environmental monitoring
systems in the world. "It's a great place for us to expose students to all
environmental challenges," he says.
Auberle retired in 2011, but he remains in touch
with the Northern Arizona University community as a guest lecturer and event
speaker. His company, EN3 Professionals, also employs students to help them
gain professional experience.
Auberle also remains active in the Institute for Tribal
Environmental Professionals. Established in 1992, the institute acts as a
catalyst among tribal governments, research, and technical resources at Northern
Arizona University, the federal, state, and local governments, and the private
sector in support of environmental protection of Native American natural
resources. Auberle was one of the first to be involved in the institute, and
helped to get it off the ground. He now serves on the advisory board.
It's come a long way since then. Currently the Institute
has 23 grants or contracts with private foundations, the Environmental
Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy to offer various programs
and technical assistance to Native Americans across the country. Specifically,
Auberle is involved in a new five-year project to help tribes clean up sites
contaminated by uranium, chemicals, oil and gasoline tanks, or abandoned
Department of Defense bombing ranges.
"Our fundamental mission is to help tribes build
their capacity to manage their own environmental and natural resources,"
Auberle says. "In many cases, the tribes simply haven't had the people and
equipment and the know-how that it takes to do a good job to look after their
In the right place
While the work Auberle focuses on for the institute is
national, he believes there's really no place like home. Northern Arizona
University is in a unique location that serves as a teaching and research
laboratory, he says, and it provides economic benefits for the region as well,
through wind farms and the potential for developing solar-powered facilities.
"There is an awful lot going on in Arizona in terms
of developing renewable energy–and it's about time," he says. "We are
well-positioned; we just haven't been quite smart enough to take advantage of
it so far, but we're doing better."
Sustainable energy solution development is one
aspect of Auberle's contributions to the field of environmental engineering. He
also serves as a member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act
Advisory Committee. Relied upon as a resource for statewide and national
environmental policy development, his expertise is also valued by the Arizona
Department of Environmental Quality as a member of the Children's Environmental
Health Advisory Committee. Auberle's service on behalf of the environment has
earned him many accolades, including U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Leadership Awards, and the Northern Arizona University President's Award.