Environmental Sciences

Students interested in environmental majors in general should be aware of two different options: There is the Environmental Science major which has three tracks:
  1. ES&P (Environmental Science and Policy)
  2. ESS (Earth System Science)
  3. ECB (Environmental and Conservation Biology)
There is also the Global Environmental Studies major offered through the Geography Department and described elsewhere on this website. The Environmental Science major integrates the scientific training that is valuable in the growing array of environmental careers, so it is more scientific and technical than the Global Environmental Studies major. Once students declare their major they have to decide which of these three tracks they will pursue. The three tracks have some overlapping and some different requirements: See ES&P requirements, ESS requirements, and EBC requirements.
Q: What courses should be taken during the first year?
students should take BIOL-103 in the fall and EN-101 (The name of this course may change to Introduction to Environmental Science and Policy) in the spring. Students should plan on taking GEOG-104 in the fall of their sophomore year (since this fall course is almost always full by the time incoming freshmen register). If there are openings, well-motivated students could consider this course in their first semester. These are the three “core” ES courses that all students must take. In addition to fulfilling the “core” requirement, these courses introduce students to each of the three tracks within ES, so they are invaluable in helping students to choose the appropriate track within ES.
Students interested in the ES major should also take one or two of the other introductory required science courses during their first year (there is quite a choice among chemistry, physics or biology). Click here to see Chemistry course availability, here to see Physics course availability, here to see Biology course availability, and here to see Environmental Science course availability.
Q: What courses should first year students steer clear of?
Students should be aware that 200 or 300 level courses may not be appropriate for first year students. Students can also talk to professors for guidance if they want to defer their math or statistics requirements of their ES track until later.
Q: If key introductory courses are filled, are there good alternatives?
BIOL-103 should always have space. Beyond this, the answer depends on the track and the student. Each ES track requires at least two courses that integrate environment and humans (“Human-Environment Courses”; ES&P electives; “Environment & Society Courses”). These are usually fine for first-year students. Most other courses have prerequisites, or are more suited to students in subsequent years.
Q: Is there a preferred sequence of courses students should follow?
In ES, getting the 3 cores done early is a good idea. After that, most advanced courses are open. This is where the advisor is critical – at Clark a student can build a totally unique course collection.
Q: How and when are advisors determined for declared majors?
All (potential) ES majors will be advised by Biology faculty, and will also receive additional information from the ES Program Chair. Following the first year, students will be pointed towards advisors within their chosen tracks as soon as their ES track choice becomes evident.
Q: What are the guidelines for internships and/or directed readings?
This is somewhat track-specific for internships and/or summer research. ES&P-track students more frequently do internships, while ECB-track students mostly do more formal research. ESS-track students do both. Students are usually encouraged by their advisors to take “299” credits as appropriate, usually in their junior or senior years, to get specialized thinking/experience in a specific topic.
Q: What courses in related departments do your majors usually take?
ES is a Program rather than a department. It draws courses and faculty from almost every part of the campus; thus, almost nothing is “related”, almost everything is “a part of” ES. This truth notwithstanding, incoming students will be totally confused about this point, and will wonder what department they “belong to”. So let me give you some idea of how this might work out, for a hypothetical student. For ES-ECB track students, Biology will be their nominal “home”; for ES-ESS track students, Geography will be their “home”; for ES&P track students IDCE might be their home. For an ES major following the ECB track (Environmental & Conservation Biology), many of their courses will be from Biology. Some of the more “popular” courses they would consider in other departments are the various field courses in Geography, such as Forest Ecology, Hydrology, and Landscape Ecology. Many ES majors are also finding that 1-2 courses in GIS (taught within Geography) would be appropriate for their career path. Within Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry is the most popular choice; with the recent hiring of an environmental chemist, the course offerings for ES students in the Department of Chemistry should increase.
Q: What are the guidelines for students wishing to pursue any related Accelerated Degree Program (fifth year) option?
Currently, ES has no 5th-year program. ES majors who qualify can do the 5th year in Biology, ES&P or GIS.
Q: What is the preferred mix of courses for someone considering this major (e.g., lecture vs. lab vs. discussion vs. seminar)?
No general guidelines are possible, since there are three tracks and the course mix is completely student-dependent. All other factors being equal, a mix of all types of classes would be suggested.
Q: What should be taken into account when considering a minor (e.g. complementary majors, timing and sequence of courses, etc. )
ES students seldom do a minor – if a student would like to consider one, the advisor is the best person to fine-tune these kinds of things. General statements probably only lead to confusion, but for example, an ES&P major with a strong interest in regulatory issues might get a minor in Government; a student with keen interests in green technology might minor in Management, etc.
Q: Where should students or faculty go for more information?
Students and faculty can contact:
Program Chair, Dr. John A. Baker
ECB Track, Dr. Susan A. Foster
ESS Track, Dr. Karen Frey
ES&P Track, Dr. Jennie Stephens