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ABET Accreditation FAQs

AEES has been working alongside the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to develop criteria for accrediting academic programs in Ecological Engineering through ABET. Accreditation ensures academic programs meet defined standards and work to continuously improve student learning. In addition, graduating from an ABET-accredited program is generally the first step in becoming a licensed professional engineer.

 

As part of the approval process for any new engineering program criteria, feedback is solicited from the public on the need for a degree program and the specific content of the educational criteria. View the proposed Ecological Engineering criteria and provide comments at this link. The deadline to submit comments is Saturday, June 15, 2024.

1. What is ecological engineering?

Ecological Engineers apply ecological principles and processes to engineering designs, incorporating considerations of self-organization, uncertainty, sustainability, resilience, the role of humans in ecosystems, and system-scale impacts and benefits to both humans and the environment.

2. What types of problems do ecological engineers solve? 

Ecological engineering explicitly applies ecological science in design. This ranges from food and fiber production systems, through pollution management to habitat remediation and restoration.  Example applications include the following:

 

  1. The design and management of regenerative agriculture (agroecology) systems aims to improve soil health, recycle nutrients, restore soil carbon, sequester atmospheric CO2, reduce erosion, improve surface water quality, and enhance biodiversity while supporting sustainable agricultural production. 

  2. Integration of diverse prairie vegetation into agricultural conservation buffers, such as grassed waterways or filter strips, requires consideration of fluid mechanics, biogeochemistry, soil physics, and wildlife ecology. Designs consider multiple ecosystem services including habitat provisioning for wildlife and insects, runoff conveyance, and pollutant removal.

  3. Highway wildlife passage designs aim to reduce vehicle accidents and remove migration barriers that otherwise isolate wildlife populations, reducing genetic diversity and resilience. Design of these structures requires a detailed understanding of migration patterns and behavioral ecology as well as a strong foundation in engineering design.

  4. Successful mine reclamation plans take into account establish the hydrology and geomorphology of the reclaimed site while also considering landscape and wildlife ecology and culturally meaningful ecosystems for First Nations/indigenous land users.

  5. The design of open water marshes or constructed wetlands to treat wastewater or stormwater considers what system is appropriate for the location, meets habitat goals, and achieves pollutant reduction targets. 

  6. Stream restoration design develops resilient channel and/or floodplain configurations that allow channels to self-design in response to vegetation growth and the dynamic water, sediment, and large wood inputs from the watershed. 

3. What core knowledge is required by Ecological Engineers?

Ecological engineers apply a systems approach to design that incorporates ecological principles. The ecological engineering toolbox includes self-designing ecosystems and the biological species of the world; this is a central tenet and distinguishing feature of ecological engineering practice. As such, ecological engineers require knowledge of engineering science and design, mathematics, earth sciences, biogeochemistry, ecological science, and a holistic approach to problem-solving.  Additional detail of core knowledge needed by ecological engineers is provided in this paper.  

 

4. How does the core knowledge of Ecological Engineering differ from Environmental Engineering?

Ecological Engineering encompasses a set of core principles, tools, ways of thinking, and approaches to defining problems and designing solutions that distinguishes it from environmental engineering. In this context, environmental engineering solutions can be considered controlled by design, deterministic, and static for their design life.  In contrast, ecological engineering solutions can be considered guided by design, probabilistic, and dynamic given the self-organizing nature of ecological systems. The holistic approach of ecological engineering solutions typically requires integrative thinking and multidisciplinary teams.

5. Why is an Ecological engineering degree needed?

As environmental engineering grew out of civil engineering, ecological engineering has developed from both biological engineering and environmental engineering.  Engineers with a foundation in both ecological science and systems thinking are increasingly needed to develop nature-based solutions to infrastructure needs, to restore critical ecosystems, and to provide sustainable solutions using circular bioeconomy principles. For example, Engineering with Nature (EWN) has become a core program area for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The development of ABET-accredited ecological engineering degree programs will ensure graduates have the knowledge, skills, and disciplinary framework necessary to address these new challenges.   

 

6. What is accreditation?

According to ABET, “accreditation is a review process to determine if educational programs meet defined standards of quality.” To gain accreditation, programs must demonstrate that they meet defined standards of educational quality through an assessment process. Educational programs must also demonstrate how they use the results of their assessment process to guide continuous improvement of the program. The accreditation process sets the standards to ensure that graduates from a program are prepared to enter the workforce in their field. 

 

7. How were the program criteria developed?

Program criteria outline the core knowledge areas needed by graduates of a specific academic program to be competent in their field. Accordingly, the ecological engineering program criteria were developed by identifying a set of ecological engineering application areas and working backward to identify the core skills and knowledge needed for a student to successfully design systems in those application areas. Ecological engineers in academia and industry worked with colleagues in AAEES, ASABE, and ASCE to develop the criteria and ensure that these criteria were distinguished from environmental, biological, and civil engineering criteria. 

 

8. What is ABET?

ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, is a federation of professional and technical member societies that provides accreditation review to over 4,600 programs in engineering, technology, computing, and science across the globe. ABET facilitates collaboration among its member societies to define standards of educational quality for their respective academic programs. ABET accredits college and university programs through a voluntary peer-review process in which experts from industry, academia, and government serve as program evaluators, commissioners, and board members within ABET to evaluate and review programs seeking accreditation. 

 

9. What is the benefit of having an ABET-accredited engineering degree?

Graduates of an ABET-accredited program have a direct and defined pathway to professional engineering (PE) certification through the PE licensure process throughout the United States. As educational programs are developed, they adhere to consistent and rigorous requirements that meet common educational standards.

 

10. Can a college or university near me start an ecological engineering program?

Any college or university can develop and accredit an Ecological Engineering program, as long as they have qualified faculty and the appropriate facilities and equipment to develop and teach the subjects outlined in the criteria.  The program can be administratively located within any department, but would most likely reside in a biological systems, civil/environmental, or ecological engineering department. 

 

11. How do I comment?

You may provide comments at the following link.

Core Principles of Ecological Engineering.PNG
1. What is ecologcal engineering?
2. What types of problems do ecological engineers solve?
3. What core knowledge is required by Ecological Engineers?
4. How does the core knowledge of Ecological Engineering differ from Environmental Engineering?
5. Why is an Ecological engineering degree needed?
6. What is accreditation?
7. How were the program criteria developed?
8. What is ABET?
9. What is the benefit of having an ABET-accredited engineering degree?
10. Can a college or university near me start an ecological engineering program?
11. How do I comment?
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