Body of Knowledge


Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals Body of Knowledge

The Body of Knowledge describes the sum of knowledge with the environmental profession; including knowledge of proven standards and practices that are widely applied as well as knowledge of advanced innovative practices. ABCEP's Body of Knowledge (BOK) is managed on ABCEPs Wiki Site and the entire membership is able to contribute to the BOK. It is a living document that is actively updated on a regular basis. For more information on how you can contribute to the BOK please login to CEP-EXPRESS.

ABCEP’s Certification Review Board (CRB) determines if an applicant for a Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) designation possesses the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities through an evaluation of academic training, and evaluation of work history, a written examination and an oral interview. The discussion below provides background information to potential applicants regarding these requirements and serves as a guide to members of the panels that conduct reviews of candidates for the CEP designation. The discussion addresses the minimum level of skills and training needed by applicants. This Body of Knowledge, with which applicants must be familiar, is presented with sources of information that contribute to the knowledge base.

ABCEP requires that all applicants have a baccalaureate degree from an institution accredited by the Council on Post-Secondary Education or the equivalent. Due to the inter-disciplinary nature of the environmental profession, the degree may be in one of several different fields, including engineering, environmental management, environmental science, and related disciplines. When an applicant does not have a baccalaureate or if the baccalaureate degree is not in a technical area, the CRB reviews any other degrees and/or the professional experience more closely to assure that the applicant has the academic and technical background equivalent to that obtained during study from an environment or engineering related undergraduate degree.

The candidate must have a minimum of nine years of environmental or engineering experience, five of which must be in a position of responsible charge. This is evaluated through their responses to the section in the application on work history (a description of the work that they have done and a listing of reports and publications). The peer recommendations are also part of this evaluation. By requiring a minimum of nine years of work experience, ABCEP exceeds the standards set by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards for our accreditation. Their minimum requirement is eight years of experience for those without an engineering or equivalent degree: “Candidates for certification must hold a baccalaureate degree (accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation) in a field related to engineering (or equivalent) and possess a minimum of four years of practical experience in responsible charge of work in the specialty area. At the discretion of the certifying body, a supplementary examination or four years of related education and/or experience beyond the four-year minimum requirement may be accepted in lieu of an accredited degree.”

The CRB evaluates an applicant’s body of knowledge through a review of responses to essays relating to the applicant's area of expertise. While an environmental professional is expected to be knowledgeable about many areas, the CRB defines an applicant's core of expertise within five functional areas - one of which is where the applicant is employed. The applicant selects the one functional area, and with the peer reviewers concurring, ABCEP grants certification for the functional area.

Definition of the knowledge base within each specialty ('functional') area of certification is based upon the premise that knowledge in our field is dynamic rather than static. Statutes come and go, and agency regulations promulgated to implement statutes change even more quickly. Therefore, an environmental professional must have:
  • Mastery of a core of technical principles and knowledge;
  • Knowledge of potential information sources necessary to elucidate technical developments;
  • Knowledge necessary to utilize found data and emerging research to support decision making, frequently in the context of regulatory; and scientific uncertainty; and
  • Mastery of reasoning and presentation skills necessary to communicate with colleagues and members of the non-technical public effectively, with credibility and persuasiveness, both orally and in writing.
The CRB's procedure for defining knowledge comprising each of the attributes is described below:

A core of technical principles and knowledge:
The CRB certifies only environmental professionals who have demonstrated mastery of a core of principles and knowledge in an appropriate technical area. Documentation of such achievement is required, primarily in the form of official transcripts from an accredited institution of higher learning (a college or university). The transcripts must reflect completion of a technical degree in a study area applicable to the environmental professions, and are approved by the CEP candidate's Certification Review Panel. The CRB conducts an annual review of degrees and subject areas deemed appropriate for CEPs.

Information sources to elucidate technical developments:
Acquiring information in technical fields is typically accomplished via standard methods. Such methods include reading books and periodicals, attending seminars, participating in professional organizations, and in forums and other activities characterized by an exchange of information and viewpoints among participants. One essay question each candidate is required to answer is to describe how he or she keeps up with developments in his or her field. Candidate responses to this essay question have evolved, increasingly citing activities on the internet. The CRB has incorporated this category of activities into its judgment of CEP candidate responses. The CRB is receptive to other developments in information acquisition practices, as may be communicated from CEP candidates, CEPs outside of the CRB, CEPs within the CRB, and from other sources as we become aware of them. A list of these sources can be found at the end of this document. The CRB conducts an annual review, updating the list of those information sources that are the foundation of our profession.

Utilizing data and emerging research to support decision making:
The ability of a CEP candidate to utilize data and emerging research to support decision making is indicated via responses to essay questions, and quantified via their evaluation by Certification Review Panel members. Our examination philosophy recognizes that each CEP candidate has a unique professional role that determines the specific type(s) of data and emerging research with which the candidate will be familiar. However, our examination philosophy also recognizes that, notwithstanding such uniqueness, each CEP candidate reasonably can be expected to know how to reason objectively, and how to utilize relevant evidence to make findings and draw conclusions. CEP candidates are expected to understand the concept of hypothesis testing, default assumptions, burden of proof, shifting of the burden of proof based upon the weight of evidence, and other forms of scientific and otherwise objective reasoning. These skills are widely if not universally recognized, and are unlikely to change substantially.

Reasoning and presentation skills for effective communication:
The ability of a CEP candidate to persuade colleagues, regulators, and members of the non-technical public via reasoned presentation of arguments both orally and in writing are skills addressed by our exam. Written exposition of each candidate’s analysis of technical issues is demonstrated via responses to essay questions, and quantified via their evaluation by Certification Review Panel members. Oral communication skills also are revealed, most notably via interviews with candidates conducted by their Lead Reviewers.


Certification by ABCEP as a CEP requires the candidate posses a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited institution of higher learning (a college or university). Appropriate degree areas for CEPs include:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • City and Regional Planning
  • Civil Engineering
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Law and Policy Studies
  • Physical Sciences
  • Physics
  • Planning
  • Public Administration
  • Social Sciences
  • Urban Studies
  • Water Resources Planning

Examples of technical and scientific peer-reviewed journals and other periodicals useful for CEPs:

American Fisheries Society Publications:
  • Journal of Aquatic Animal Health
  • North American Journal of Fisheries Management

American Geophysical Union Publications:
  • Eos
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Journal of Geophysical Research
  • Reviews of Geophysics
  • Water Resources Research
American Industrial Hygiene Assn Journal
American Journal of Botany
American Naturalist
American Planning Association Journal
American Scientist
American Zoologist
Animal Conservation
Annals of Botany
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Applied Vegetation Science
Aquatic Botany
Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management
Arctic and Alpine Research
Basic and Applied Ecology
Behavioral Ecology
Biodiversity and Conservation Online
Biological Conservation
Biological Invasions
Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society
Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Climatic Change
Community Ecology
Conservation Biology
Conservation Ecology
Earth Interactions
Ecological Abstracts
Ecological Bulletins
Ecological Economics
Ecological Engineering
Ecological Indicators
Ecological Research
Ecological Society of America (ESA):
  • Ecology
  • Ecological Monographs
  • Ecological Applications
  • Ecological Archives
Ecology of Industrial Regions
Ecosystem Health
Environment and Development Economics
Environmental Conservation
Environmental Engineering and Policy
Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Impact Assessment Review
Environmental Modeling and Assessment
Environmental Pollution
Environmental Practice
Environmental Technology
Environmental Toxicology
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science
Estuaries and Coasts
Forest Ecology and Management
Functional Ecology
Global Change Biology
Global Ecology and Bio geography
Global Environmental Change
Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal
International Journal of Plant Sciences
Journal of Animal Ecology
Journal of Applied Ecology
Journal of Arid Environments
Journal of Avian Biology
Journal of Biogeography
Journal of Chemical Ecology
Journal of Ecology
Journal of Environmental Assessment, Policy and Management
Journal of Environmental Hydrology
Journal of Environmental Management
Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning
Journal of Environmental Quality
Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Journal of Environmental Science and Health
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Journal of Industrial Ecology
Journal of Marine Research
Journal of Marine Systems
Journal of Theoretical Biology
Journal of Tropical Ecology
Journal of Vegetation Science
Journal of Zoology
Landscape Ecology
Limnology and Oceanography
Marine and Freshwater Research
Marine Biology
Marine Ecology Progress Series
Marine Ecology
Marine Environmental Research
Marine Pollution Bulletin
Marine Technology Journal
Molecular Ecology
Natural Areas Journal
Natural Science
New Scientist
Northeastern Naturalist
Northwestern Naturalist
Ocean and Coastal Management
Plant and Soil
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Remote Sensing of Environment
Researches on Population Ecology
Risk - Health Safety and Environment
Risk Analysis
Sciences of Soils
Scientific American
Scientist The
Soil and Sediment Contamination
Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Soil Science Society of America Journal
Southeastern Naturalist
Southwestern Naturalist
Systematic Biology
Theoretical Population Biology
Trends in Ecology and Evolution
Urban Ecosystems
Water Air and Soil Pollution
Wetlands - Journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists

Journal Citations
Barnosky, A.D., et. al.. 2012. Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature 486, 52-58 (07 June 2012).

Kemp, W.M. and W. R. Boynton. 2012. Synthesis in Estuarine and Coastal Ecological Research: What Is It, Why Is It Important, and How Do We Teach It? Estuaries and Coasts 35:1–22.

Examples of reference books and information sources about utilization of data and emerging research to support scientifically valid decision making include the following:

Ashford, Nicholas; and Claudia Miller. Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, Second Edition. New York City, John Wiley & Sons, 440 pages, 1998.

Bailer, A. John; et al.. Uncertainty in the Risk Assessment of Environmental and Occupational Hazards. New York City, The New York Academy of Sciences; Annals, volume 895, 377 pages, 1999.

Cairns, John; Kenneth L. Dickson, and Edwin E. Herricks. Recovery and Restoration of Damaged Ecosystems. Charlottesville, Virginia; University Press of Virginia, 531 pages, 1977.

Caldwell, Lynton K. The National Environmental Policy Act: An Agenda for the Future, Indiana University Press, February 22, 1999.

Carnegie Commission. Risk and the Environment: Improving Regulatory Decision Making. New York City; Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government; 150 pages, June 1993.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Riverside Press, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston; 368 pages,1962.

Dixon, Wilfrid J.; and Frank J. Massey, Jr. Introduction to Statistical Analysis, Third Edition. New York, City, McGraw0Hill Book Company, 638 pages, 1969.

Futuyma, Douglas J. Evolutionary Biology. Sunderland, Massachusetts; Sinauer, 565 pages, 1979.

Govindarajulu, Z. Statistical Techniques in Bioassay. New York City, Karger, 166 pp., 1988.

Jain, Ravi K., et al. Environmental Assessment. New York City, McGraw-Hill, 526 pp., 1993.

Meyer, Paul L. Introductory Probability and Statistical Applications, Second Edition. Reading, Massachusetts; Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 367 pages, 1970.

NRC. Science and Judgment in Risk Assessment. Washington, DC; National Research Council, Academy Press, 651 pages, 1994.

Odum, Eugene P. Fundamentals of Ecology, Third Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; W. B. Saunders; 574 pp., 1971.

Ostle, Bernard. Statistics in Research - Basic Concepts and Techniques for Research Workers, Second Edition. Ames, Iowa; The Iowa State University Press, 585 pages, 1963.

Porter, Alan L.; and John J. Fittipaldi. Environmental Methods Review: Retooling Impact Assessment for the New Century. Atlanta, Georgia; US Army Environmental Policy Institute, 309 pages, 1998.

Sax, I. N.; and R. J. Lewis. Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Seventh Edition. New York City, Van Nostrand Reinhold; 3 volumes; 3,527 pages; 1989.

Sneath, Peter H. A.; and Robert R. Sokal. Numerical Taxonomy: The Principles and Practice of Numerical Classification. San Francisco, California; 573 pages, 1973.

Sokal, Robert A.; and F. James Rohlf. Biometry - The Principles and Practice of Statistics in Biological Research. San Francisco; W. H. Freeman & Company, 776 pages, 1969.

Susser, Mervyn. Causal Thinking in the Health Sciences. New York City, Oxford University Press, 181 pages, 1973. CRB Procedures page 33 updated May 24, 2010.

Examples of agencies and institutions publishing standards, guidelines, and other reference publications useful for CEPs:

AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science
ACGIH American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
ACS American Chemical Society
ACT American College of Toxicology
AIHA American Industrial Heath Association
ASTM American Society of Standards and Materials
NAS National Academy of Sciences
NAEP National Association of Environmental Professionals
NFPA National Fire Protection Association
NIH National Institutes of Health
NIOSH National Inst. of Occupational Safety and Health
NIST National Institute of Standards and Technology
NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission
NSF National Science Foundation
NTSB National Transportation Safety Board
NYAS New York Academy of Sciences
SOT Society of Toxicology
SRA Society of Risk Analysis
UN EP United Nations Environment Programme
US AID Agency for International Development
US DHHS U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
US DOA U. S. Department of Agriculture
US DOC U. S. Department of Commerce
US DOD U. S. Department of Defense
US DOE U. S. Department of Energy
US DOI U. S. Department of the Interior
US DOL U. S. Department of Labor
US DOS U. S. Department of State
US DOT U. S. Department of Transportation
US EPA U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
US HUD U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Websites established by federal, state, regional, and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and private industry contain useful environmental information.

Global - World Bank's Sustaining Water for All in a Changing Climate (2010) -

Federal/National - Brekke, L.D., Kiang, J.E., Olsen, J.R., Pulwarty, R.S., Raff, D.A., Turnipseed, D.P., Webb, R.S., and White, K.D., 2009, Climate change and water resources management—A federal perspective: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1331, 65 p.

Federal Energy Management Program (DOE) - Water Efficienty Resources -

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -

U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA - Coastal Zone Management Act, Coral Reef Conservation, Estuarine Research, Land Acquisition, and Marine Protected Areas, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, and Nonpoint Pollution -

Coastal and Estuarine Research Foundation -

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries and Beaches:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Recommended Water Quality Criteria -

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Science and Technology -

Mitigation that Works - Landscape based planning and mitigation - Washington State Department of Ecology

Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA, Landscape Planning Programs -

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2009. Landscape Planning for Washington’s Wildlife: Managing for Biodiversity in Developing Areas. 88 Pp + App. Olympia, Wa. Download document and appendices here:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Critical Habitat Portal -

NOAA Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. Fisheries Data: Critical Habitat -


Mining information provided by the U.S. Geological Survey:

Agricultural information provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service using the 2007 Census of Agriculture:


United Fish and Wildlife Service -

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service -

NOAA Fisheries - Marine Mammal Protection Act, ESA, Office of Protected Resources -

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species Protection and Management System - NatureServe -

Important Bird Areas -

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -

Department of Energy -

U.S. Energy Information Administration -

State energy departments (Varies) and local public utility departments or private regulated utility companies

Private venture capitalists (varies) which may require engineering advice or regulatory review

Project Planning Step by Step Guide

Practical Project Management & Tracking Using Microsoft Project -

Land ownership data:

Cadastral Records - National BLM - OR and WA - Land Status and Cadastral Record Viewer -

MAPPING, GIS: The Nature Conservancy -

Council on Environmental Quality: Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force Recommendations:

National Ocean Policy -

National Ocean Council Implementation Plan -

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory

Pew Oceans Commissions (Pew Charitable Trusts) -

NOAA - National Climatic Data Center -

EPA - Climate change, greenhouse gas regulation, Clean Air Act -

National Environmental Policy Act:

NEPA Procedures for federal agencies:

US Army Corp of Engineers Publications:

US Department of Energy Compliance Guide:

US Environmental Protection Agency EIS Database:

US Government Printing Office Code of Federal Regulations online:

U.S. Green Building Council -

NRDC explains LEED -

Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard -

Executive Order 12898 (Clinton, 1994) - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. Explained by the EPA at

Population information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau:

State and county facts:

Socioeconomic information provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Department of Defense, Economic Resource Libary

Federal Highways Administration Environmental Procedures:

Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute (U.S. Code):

U.S. Government Printing Office, Federal Digital System -