Long August days got you wishing you could escape from the office and jump into the nearest lake?

Maybe you should become a limnologist like William M. Lewis Jr., a scientist who specializes in inland bodies of water.

Lewis, 60, serves as director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research has taken him to some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the world, including projects in Laos and Venezuela. The work is collaborative, and the ability to work well in multiple languages is a big plus. Lewis, for instance, says he "can deal with" Spanish, German, French and English.

Limnology is an interdisciplinary field, which means those who wish to work in it need a broad scientific education as well as interest. "You can't avoid chemistry, you can't avoid physics," Lewis said.

Most research and teaching jobs in limnology require a doctorate in a related field. Funding for projects comes from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency and state departments of natural resources. The research is often the basis of policy decisions.

Lewis predicts that humans will soon face a water crisis, including problems with obtaining sufficient fresh water as well as protecting the general environmental quality of rivers and lakes.

"A limnologist is right at the center of those problems," he said.

-- Mary Ellen Slayter