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4 Action-Packed Green Jobs for the Adventurer

Monterey Bay Aquarium-Randy WilderWhen green jobs come to mind, you might immediately think of installing solar panels  on a triple-digit day or growing strains of plastic-eating bacteria in a petri dish. But if you're looking for a more adventurous career — one that incorporates a love of trekking, scuba diving, climbing, or spelunking — then by all means, prepare your resume. Here are some outside-the-box, pulse-pounding gigs for the sustainable-minded thrill seeker.  

Find That Happy Place

What's more satisfying than bagging a fourteener in the Rockies in a single weekend? For adventure therapists, it's all about seeing the patient reach the top. All over the country, adventure therapists trade the proverbial couch and scented candles for moraines and alpine air. By prescribing activities like rock climbing, whitewater kayaking or mountaineering, these outdoorsy shrinks help their clients overcome addiction or depression. They can also provide outlets to youngsters struggling with ADHD or Asperger's. 

Usual Requirements: B.S. or B.A. in Psychology, or B.A. in liberal arts; First-Aid/CPR certification; Strong outdoors skill set

Annual Pay: $30,000-$40,000

Clean The Big Tanks

Every day brings a new challenge for the aquarist. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the day always begins with a routine 7:30 am window cleaning — inside the exhibit! Aquarists, also called "fish keepers," don their fins, wetsuit, and scuba equipment to wipe down the tank windows, monitor pH levels in the oceanic environ, and scrub the gravel floors. Though cleaning an aquarium exhibit might lose its romance after a few months, aquarists do get to use their scuba training and passion for conservation out in the bay nearby, collecting invertebrates like gumboot chitons, bright-orange bat stars, and apple anemones for petting exhibits, or even planting kelp stalks to give the indoor biome a little feng shui. 

Usual Requirements: B.S. in Biology, Marine Biology or Zoology; PADI or NAUI rescue certification

Annual Pay: $18,000-$50,000

Spelunk for Endangered Species

It's hard to make a vocation out of caving. National Parks and private environmental firms, however, hire cave scientists who specialize in spelunking to research fragile cave ecosystems by drawing out maps of cavern labyrinths, taking inventories on endangered cave dwellers — like the Texas blind salamanders that make their homes in Edwards Aquifer cave systems near San Marcos, Texas — and tracing groundwater flows for pollutants that could be harmful to the light-absent habitat. 

Usual Requirements: M.S. in Geology- or Biology-related fields; Field experience in caving 

Annual Pay: $35,000-$70,000  

Climb Every Turbine

There's nothing quixotic about climbing windmills. Armed with climbing gear (dynamic climbing ropes, harnesses, and assisted-braking belay devices), power tools, and household cleaning products (wash rag, a spray bottle of Simple Green), wind turbine technicians combine their technical training in mechanical maintenance with big wall-climbing chops and rope know-how. In this burgeoning niche-market gig, these technicians inspect everything from the engine down to the fan blades for signs of erosion and weather damage, all while dangling several stories above the earth.      

Usual Requirements: 2-year degree in wind technology or experience in a trade skill; Rope access certification

Annual Pay: Competitive

 --Image courtesy of Randy Wilder, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Scott Donahue is an intern at Sierra. He was a high school freshman in Mr. Hancock's English class when he first read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Now, he's currently working on a graduate thesis composed of travel essays. Topics include substitute teaching kindergartners in Nepal, drinking rice beer with a Tibetan porter, and running a marathon from Everest Base Camp.   


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