Environmental Sciences

Environmental Science (ES) is an interdisciplinary major that spans the physical, biological, geographical, and management and policy aspects of the natural environment. Students majoring in environmental science will take courses in all areas of the major, but will choose one of the three tracks below as a primary focus. The Environmental Science major integrates the scientific training that is valuable in the growing array of environmental careers. 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)

    Once declaring the ES major, students will decide which of these three tracks they will pursue. All three tracks involve the so-called "hard" sciences but with different orientations toward themes within biology and the geosciences. A Q&A below offers more details on the three tracks. Requirements overlap to some degree but are also distinct: See ES&P requirements, ESS requirements, and EBC requirements.

    Some students interested in studying the environment may be interested in an alternative major, the Global Environmental Studies major offered through the Geography Department and descried on this website. The Environmental Science major is more scientific and technical than the Global Environmental Studies major.
Q: What courses should be taken during the first year?
Students should take BIOL-101, GEOG -104, and EN-101 in their first year of study, or as early as they can. These are the three "core" 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 consider taking 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 and GEOG-104 typically does as well. 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” or the ES&P track “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?
Incoming first-year students will typically be advised by the instructor of their First Year Intensive course, but those interested in the ES major are encouraged to seek additional advice from the ES Program Chair. Following the first year and upon declaration of the major, students will be pointed towards advisors within their chosen tracks as soon as their ES track choice is evident. The program director or administrative support staff can assist students with finding an advisor. Students should also feel free to approach one or more prospective faculty advisor(s) of their choosing to ask if he or she would be willing and able to serve in this way.
Q: What are some of the differences between the three tracks of the ES major and the careers that they may lead to?
Earth System Science (ESS) Track: examines the physical and biological processes that shape environments across the globe, and explores how global environmental changes are altering natural resources and the sustainability of our planet. ESS students are prepared for a range of professional endeavors and advanced studies involving geosciences, physical geography, natural resource planning, and GIS. ESS students interested in an accelerated B.A./M.S. degree may pursue the master's in Environmental Science and Policy.
Environmental Conservation Biology (ECB) Track: explores the ways in which organisms evolve and interact with one another and their environments, ranging from molecular evolution and genomics to ecosystem level function and composition. ECB students interested in the B.A./M.S. degree may pursue the master's degree in Biology or in Environmental Science and Policy.
Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) Track: prepares students to address the complexities of environmental issues facing society today, spanning toxicity and health risks to resource management and environmental policy. Students are provide in-depth exposure to how human activity is impacting the environment and how the environment affects human health, livelihoods, and the natural resources on which we depend. ES&P students engage with both natural and social perspectives for managing and mitigating these human-environment relationships.
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 more commonly do more formal research. Students engaging in an internship or research experience may be encouraged by their advisors to take a "299" credit as appropriate. These experiences are more common in the junior or senior years, to provide specialized thinking and experience with regard to 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. This can leave students wondering about 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”;  and for ES&P track students IDCE  (International Development Community and Environment) 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 part, as well as Statistics.
Q: What are the guidelines for students wishing to pursue any related Accelerated Degree Program (fifth year) option?
ES majors who qualify may be accepted into a 5th year program in Biology, ES&P, or GIS offered by the Biology, IDCE, or Geography Departments, respectively.
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, but 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 Political Science; 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. Christopher A. Williams
ECB Track, Dr. Philip Bergmann
ESS Track, Dr. Karen Frey
ES&P Track, Dr. Timothy Downs