HCS Alumni Spotlight: Amber Emmons

June 12, 2023
Amber (far left) doing some field work.

Meet Amber Emmons | OSU HCS Alumna Class of 2019

Amber Emmons is currently a Water Quality Extension Associate (WQEA) for The Ohio State University.

While here as a student, she received her Bachelor of Science (2019) in Sustainable Plant Systems with an Agronomy specialization. Even outside of the classroom, Amber was highly engaged with the agronomy community, she was an active member of the Crops and Soils Club where she was able to help out with Farm Science Review and participate in weekly meetings; where in her own words: "we learned about real life experiences and careers in agriculture [that] exposed me to so much more than just learning in the classroom. The club helped me find my first internship with OSU Extension and I made many friends in the same field as me."

Thankfully, Amber had the time to elaborate on what working in extension is like, how her experiences as an intern helped shape her career decisions + some advice for students considering agronomy:

How’d you first become interested in agronomy?

I grew up in a rural community where agriculture is huge part of that community. I worked on a farm throughout high school and was involved in 4-H throughout high school. All of these things led me to be interested in how farm operations worked, how did they know what to grow or what to do to help their plants, and what was soil really?

How’d you find your way to the SPS Agronomy major? 

I started as an Undecided Sciences major. I knew I liked working outdoors and working with plants but did not know what I specifically wanted to do with that. I job shadowed a couple times my first semester which then led me to become an SPS Agronomy major.

How’d your time at Ohio State help prepare you for your career?

The classes and professors in HCS were great at connecting Amber working on field workclassroom learning with real experiences in agriculture. Dr. Alex Lindsey, Dr. Kent Harrison, Bruce Ackley and Dr. David Barker, all helped me to get where I am today. We were given real experiences by having labs out at Waterman with hands on activities. We also were given assignments to go out and interview to real farmers to learn from them and see what their day-to-day experiences were. Plants and pests were brought to us in the classroom to get a firsthand experience ourselves rather than just learning from a presentation. From all of these experiences I found my passion for Weed Science which lead me to completing my Master’s Thesis on Herbicide Resistance and Seed Dispersal of Italian Ryegrass. 

How was your experience interning?

I had an internship with Ohio State Extension where I was split between Paulding and Putnam County’s ANR Educator’s along with Glen Arnold, Field Specialist in Manure Nutrient Management Systems. My second internship was with Corteva Agriscience in Grand Rapids, Ohio. I wanted to see both the Extension and Industry sides of working in Agriculture. I was not sure what I wanted to do but I enjoyed the science behind agriculture and the relationships that we build with farmers. After both internships I knew I wanted my career to be in Extension because I loved the outreach and research side of Extension. I created many meaningful relationships and learned how to interact with farmers to build their trust in us. With Glen I also got a taste of the On-Farm Research side of Extension where I learned research does not just come from our Research Farm but can be done in collaboration with farmers in the community.

Were there any obstacles on your journey to become a Water Quality Extension Associate (WQEA)?

The hardest part in my path to becoming a WQEA was starting my Masters in January of 2020 and having to complete a thesis and research all during the pandemic. I knew I needed a Master’s to work in Extension so that was my first step in having a career in Extension, where it would be a County ANR Educator or a Specialist position. I started my graduate studies thinking I knew how the next 2 years would go while I worked to earn my degree at the University of Kentucky but it ended up looking entirely different. I was still able to finish my Master’s in 2 ½ years through Covid and UK’s research farm being destroyed by a tornado. I enjoyed learning how they farmed and how their operations could look very different from Ohio’s farms. Even with Covid I still was able to conduct my On-Farm Research and present at local Extension Field Days which gave me the skills I needed for a career in Extension.

Amber Emmons posing with a group in a field

What’s a normal day look like for you?

A normal day for me can be working in the office with data from our On-Farm Research to standing in a ditch collecting tile outlet samples! My job can be so diverse depending on the season. My focus for the Water Quality Team leans towards our On-Farm Research and our water monitoring of the Little Auglaize River. I love the fact that not everyday I am in the office. I collect soil samples, plant tissue samples, tile outlet water samples throughout the year for our research trials. Outside of the growing season, I do a lot of outreach showcasing our results and helping teach FERT’s and PAT’s.  

What have been a few highlights of your time so far in extension?

One highlight so far has been receiving my Certified Crop Advisor (CCA). I passed both of my tests within my first year of being a WQEA and just this April received my CCA. Another highlight of being part of OSU Water Quality team has been completing research posters for our Harmful Algae Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) trials and receiving 2nd and 3rd place in the NACAA Applied Research Category. This is one of our largest projects and to see our team rewarded for the work we are doing helps continue to motivate me that the work we are doing is important.

What would you tell a student considering studying agronomy?

If you don’t know what you want to do exactly after college, that’s ok! Agronomy is such a diverse field of careers all relating to agriculture. Internships and job shadowing can help you navigate the field and find exactly what you want to do with your agronomy degree.

You can keep up with Amber on Twitter!