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Landscape Architect - Designing Nature

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While walking downtown, you see a little green park, full of fountains and trees. Pretty picture, but if you think that it's a magical tree growing out of concrete, or that there's a natural water source underneath that fountain... think again! Each little oasis of greenery in the concrete desert of an urban setting requires plenty of planning and resources. So why the heck would someone spend all that energy to get the "natural" look?

Catherine Berris explains it all to us, since she's a landscape architect - the person who designs and creates habitats in nature. After high school, Catherine hit the books again for four years to get her degree in landscape architecture. She also finished another degree called a Masters, during which she studied everything from architecture and conflict resolution to forest ecology. Catherine's work also includes preservations of natural habitats, which are facing destruction due to littering and peeps destroying nature with boo-boos like oil spills. Landscape architects have been around since ancient times, even before the ancient civilization of Babylon, a society that designed the famous Hanging Garden.

What Do You Need?

Having a taste for decorating and pretty colors is not enough to become a landscape architect. The minimum education at the moment is an undergraduate degree in a landscape architecture program. That's another four years AFTER high school! However, the requirements are currently being reconsidered to include another few years beyond that degree. But fear not because the perks of this career can be worth the study time.

The Perks

When you finally get to make your living working in the great outdoors, those long years of education really do pay off. Catherine says, "The best part of my regular day is that there is no regular day. Every day is different. I spend some time visiting sites, writing and drawing. I really enjoy the variety." The best part of this career is that it combines the creativity of arts through design and the scientific aspect of environmental studies - you get the best of both worlds!

Harmful Results

A landscape architect is not necessarily an environmental hero. "The process of construction of "landscapes" sometimes has negative effects on environmental resources, though I would argue that most competent landscape architects try to protect and enhance the environment where possible," explains Catherine.

Tips From a Pro

So what words of wisdom does a landscape architect have for anyone interested in taking on this career? "An understanding of the outdoor environment is most important, so activities that involve exploration can help, e.g. cycling, hiking, camping, visiting parks and all sorts of public areas," says Catherine. "Learning about natural processes in those places can also help - read the interpretive signs and pamphlets, attend talks by naturalists, etc."

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