Department Information

Environmental Science

Professors Wissinger (Chair), Bensel, Bethurem, Bowden, Bradshaw-Wilson, Carbone, Choate, Davis, Eatmon, B. Haywood, Pallant. Shaffer, Waggett, Utz,

Environmental Science is the study of interrelationships between human activities and the environment. Environmental Science is an unusual academic discipline in that it requires scientific knowledge about the natural world as well as an understanding about ways in which humans interact with the natural world. We examine effects of human actions on the environment and the means by which policies, regulations, and decisions influence human actions. We also examine human behavioral, cultural, and sociological interactions that affect the environment. Thus, the department is truly interdisciplinary and exemplifies the liberal arts approach to education. Courses offered within the Department of Environmental Science integrate various disciplines and thus reflect the interdisciplinary nature of environmental concerns and problem-solving. Departmental courses examine ecological systems; interactions of human perceptions, ideas, and technologies; and social, political, economic, and technological methods to preserve environmental quality. Faculty in the department believe that environmental specialists in the natural sciences must have a broad understanding of the social aspects of environmental problems. Likewise, a professional whose expertise is in environmental policy, management, or communications must also have a strong understanding of the scientific basis of decision-making in those fields.

Two majors are offered in the department: Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. A set of core courses is required of all majors that together lay necessary foundations in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities while providing opportunities for interdisciplinary analysis of environmental issues. In addition to these core courses, students must complete courses in a defined concentration developed in consultation with a faculty member from the department.

In the Environmental Science major, core courses include biology, chemistry, geology and mathematics. Upper-level courses synthesize and integrate basic sciences and apply that knowledge to analysis and solutions of current environmental problems. Upper-level courses are rich in lab and field experiences. Environmental Science majors often pursue graduate studies and careers in field, laboratory or applied science settings. Students typically work and study at research institutions, regulatory agencies, or private consulting firms that highlight environmental quality. The Environmental Science major prepares students to work in terrestrial, marine, or aquatic arenas; land use assessment; agriculture; forestry; resource management;, or pollution assessment and control.

In examining the concept of sustainability, Environmental Studies majors integrate environmental, economic, and social concerns and explore both desirable future conditions and transitions needed to reach them. The basic tenet of the Environmental Studies major is that progress toward a sustainable future depends on the creative application of interdisciplinary thinking that spans disciplines across the traditional college divisions while striving for both depth and breadth. We seek to inspire creativity and combine passion with critical thinking skills in students who one day will be the citizens working to convert the world to more sustainable systems.

For the purposes of fulfilling college-wide liberal studies requirements, both the Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors are considered interdivisional. Because these majors are interdivisional, students may complete any minor or second major (with the exception of the other major in this department) to satisfy the college requirement that the major and minor be in different divisions.

The minimum GPA for a student to graduate with a major in Environmental Science or Environmental Studies is 2.0. All courses required for the Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors (including Allegheny off-campus courses for which a letter grade is posted on the Allegheny transcript) are counted in the calculation whether they are Environmental Science courses or courses listed outside the department. Courses required by the major are expected to be taken on a letter-grade basis. Exceptions must be approved by an Environmental Science department advisor.

Students who matriculated before Fall, 2016: Some Environmental Science courses may be used to satisfy the college distribution requirements that apply to students who matriculated before Fall, 2016. Courses carrying Natural Science credit include: ENVSC 110ENVSC 210ENVSC 305ENVSC 315ENVSC 321ENVSC 332ENVSC 335ENVSC 344ENVSC 346ENVSC 370 and ENVSC 415. Courses carrying Social Science credit include ENVSC 250ENVSC 340ENVSC 350ENVSC 352ENVSC 360ENVSC 380ENVSC 425ENVSC 427, and ENVSC 585. Internships may carry Natural Science or Social Science credit—see an Environmental Science faculty member for assistance.

Majors in the Department of Environmental Science

The department offers two majors, Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. A set of core courses (24 credits) for each major includes: ENVSC 110ENVSC 210FSENV 201ENVSC 585ENVSC 600, and ENVSC 610.

Career Planning

Both Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors must develop areas of concentration related to their major areas of interest in conjunction with a major advisor. Examples of concentrations include, but are not limited to, Environmental Philosophy; Environmental History; Communications and the Environment; Ecological Economics; Environmental Law; Environmental Policy; International Sustainable Development; Culture and the Environment; Art and the Environment; Environmental Education; Community Development; Conservation Biology; Terrestrial Ecosystems; Aquatic Ecosystems; Landscape Ecology; Environmental Toxicology; Environmental Geology; and Environmental Chemistry. All students are advised to consult an Environmental Science Department faculty member early in their careers for course planning.

Off-Campus Courses and Internships

The department encourages off-campus study and internship experiences for both Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors. Courses taken at the Duke Marine Biological Laboratory, the Arava Institute in Israel, the School for Field Studies in Costa Rica, the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, or any other departmentally approved off-campus study location may substitute for some or all of the required courses for either major. In addition, internships may also be acceptable substitutes for these courses. Substitutions must be approved in advance by your Department of Environmental Science advisor.

Internships

The department offers credit-bearing internships with local organizations; these are described below under the course numbers ENVSC 518 – ENVSC 528. Interested students should speak with the department’s Internship Coordinator well in advance of the semester they plan to take part in an internship. Internships change from semester to semester and new ones may be available that are not yet listed in the Bulletin. An application is required prior to registering for an internship and students with insufficient coursework or low GPAs may be ineligible.

Off-Campus Study

Allegheny College is affiliated with several off-campus study programs that are relevant to either Environmental Science or Environmental Studies majors. Students interested in studying off-campus should speak with their advisors about the possibility of using off-campus courses in lieu of on-campus major requirements. Each program has different eligibility requirements. More complete descriptions of the off-campus programs and requirements may be obtained from the Environmental Science faculty or from the Director of International Education, but brief descriptions are provided below:

  • Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, Israel
    A semester or year-long program in sustainable development and peace, in cooperation with students from the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Professor Pallant is the liaison. Students receive Allegheny grades.
  • School for Field Studies, Costa Rica
    A one-semester program in sustainable development in the tropics. Professor Pallant is the liaison. Students receive Allegheny grades.
  • Duke Marine Biological Lab, North Carolina and Bermuda
    A one-semester program in marine, coastal and oceanographic biology, chemistry, policy and environment. Professor Wissinger is the liaison. Students receive Allegheny grades.
  • Semester in Environmental Science, The Ecosystems Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
    A one-semester program in coastal and terrestrial ecology, environment, and ecosystem processes. Professor Bowden is the liaison. Students receive Allegheny grades.