2011-2012 Academic Catalog 
    Jan 23, 2021  
2011-2012 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Science Major

Clark environmental science majors may elect to concentrate in one of three areas: Earth Systems Science, Environmental and Conservation Biology, or Environmental Science and Policy.

Students who have clearly developed interests in environmental science when they arrive at Clark may be interested in satisfying some of their perspectives with environmentally-relevant perspective courses.


Undergraduate Program

The interdisciplinary environmental science major introduces students to physical, biological, geographical and policy aspects of the natural environment. Following a set of common core courses, majors choose one of three tracks: Earth System Science, Environmental and Conservation Biology, or Environmental Science and Policy. The major provides training for those who want to continue on to graduate school or establish management, fieldwork, or laboratory careers in areas as diverse as ecology; conservation biology; teaching; environmental planning, protection, or regulation; water or air monitoring; and policy development.

Advanced students are encouraged to undertake directed research or internships and may do a senior project for honors. Environmental science faculty come from a wide range of Clark’s departments. Most are from Biology, Geography, and International Development, Community and Environment, but faculty with environmental interests are also to be found in departments as diverse as Chemistry, Economics, Government, Management, Philosophy, and Physics. Many of the research faculty of Clark’s George Perkins Marsh Institute are also contributors to the ES major.

Accelerated B.A./M.A. Programs

Accelerated B.A./M.A. programs in biology, environmental science and policy, and geographic information systems (GIS) are available to eligible students. For more information visit http://www.clarku.edu/graduate/prospective/fifthyear/biology.cfm

Visiting Faculty

Verna de Lauer, Ph.D.


A. Environmental and Conservation Biology Track

Environmental biologists explore the ways in which organisms evolve and interact with one another and their environments. Levels of exploration can range from molecular evolution and genomics to ecosystem level function. Conservation biology makes up one component of this field, focusing on the biological knowledge necessary to preserve biodiversity. Because the loss of biodiversity has reached crisis proportions, we offer a focused curriculum that enables students to bring appropriate biological tools and knowledge to efforts to develop conservation strategies and policies.

This track is designed to provide this focus and to allow students to design a curriculum that will prepare them for research and teaching in environmental and conservation biology. The environmental and conservation track carries the following requirements. We recommend that students interested in obtaining both a strong background in environmental and conservation biology and policy consider completing this track and then the accelerated B.A./M.A. degree in environmental science and policy.

Environmental Science Core Courses (3)

These courses are intended to provide all students in the environmental science major with a common, general background and vocabulary in environmental science:

Chemistry (2)

Mathematics (2)

These pairs of courses offer students requisite mathematical and statistical skills for the discipline. The second statistics course must be approved by the ECB track advisor.



  • One Calculus course (e.g.   ) and one Statistics course (e.g.   )

Biology Core Courses (4)

These courses provide students with the knowledge needed for more advanced study in the field.

Research Course in Biology (1)

These are courses that provide students with intensive research experiences that will enable them to develop the background needed to design and carry out their own research. With prior approval, courses in field programs may also satisfy this requirement.

Seminar Course in Biology (1)

Seminar courses provide students with the opportunity to develop the ability to read and evaluate original literature and to develop verbal presentation and discussion skills at the same time they are exploring a new field of biology.

Courses in Environment and Society (2)

Selection of courses from this list will provide students with initial insights into the mutual impacts of the biological systems and human activities, as well as the processes entailed in decision making and policy development relative to environmental issues.

Other recommendations:

Students interested in Environmental and Conservation Biology, whose interests overlap with those of a biology faculty member, and who meet B.A./M.A. academic requirements, should seriously consider participating in the Accelerated B.A./M.A. Degree Program. This program enables students with career goals that include research to develop a much deeper understanding of the field, and of the skills involved in hypothesis development, data acquisition and analysis, and written and verbal presentation skills.

B. Earth Systems Science Track

Clark’s Earth Systems Science (ESS) program examines the structure and function of the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere and the interactions among these subsystems – with the goal of understanding how the Earth system functions and how it is affected by human activities. This integrated science, which focuses on connections among these Earth system components, is at the heart of some of our most pressing environmental, physical science and nature-societal issues, including global environmental change, water availability, and the loss of biological diversity.

The ESS track of the Environmental Science major program incorporates intensive field study, satellite remote sensing analysis, geographical information science (GISc), and computer simulation as tools for understanding, monitoring, and predicting Earth system behavior. The ESS program trains students for a wide range of professional endeavors as well as more advanced studies involving physical geography, forest ecology, landscape ecology, land-atmosphere interactions, hydrology, biogeochemistry, remote sensing, and GISc.

Environmental Science Core Courses (3)

These courses are intended to provide all students in the environmental science major with a common, general background and vocabulary:

Elective Introductory Earth Systems Science Courses (4)

These courses include offerings in physical geography, hydrology, weather and climate, global warming, environmental chemistry and biodiversity.

Research Experience

This can be fulfilled by an appropriate capstone course, an internship, the HERO program (see Clark Web pages), directed research (EN299), or an honors thesis (EN297).

C. Environmental Science and Policy Track

The Environmental Science and Policy undergraduate program prepares students to deal with the complexities of environmental issues in society. The program provides students with an in-depth understanding of how human activity and technology are impacting the natural environment and provides social science and policy perspective on how these impacts can be minimized. The strong emphasis on the natural sciences ensures students understand the technical as well as the social aspects of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

The environmental science and policy track carries the following requirements:

Environmental Science Core Courses (3)

These courses are intended to provide all students in the environmental science major with a common, general background and vocabulary in environmental science:

Statistics (1)

These courses provide analytical and statistical expertise necessary for the discipline.

In some cases the ES&P track director may allow substitution with one of the following.

Disciplinary Introductory Science Courses (3)

These courses provide background in the sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics. Chosen from the following, the courses must draw on at least two different disciplines:

D. Honors

Who is eligible:

Once a student is admitted into the honors program, the student will register for at least two semesters of Honors Research in Environmental Science, EN297. The student will carry out a directed research project under the mentorship of a faculty member or other approved person for at least two semesters and will write an honors thesis, to be submitted to the student’s two member thesis committee by April 10th and also be made available to interested members of the ES program committee. The student will also give an oral presentation of their research at a designated time towards the end of the senior year.

What the Honors Thesis entails:

Honors students must successfully complete a two-semester independent research project conducted under the supervision of a faculty advisor and one additional faculty member (either from the same or different department) who together constitute the student’s Honors Committee. The project should make an original contribution to a body of knowledge. The product of the research will be a written thesis, the size and format of which to be decided jointly by the student and his/her faculty advisor. In addition to writing a thesis, the student will prepare and present a poster at Academic Spree Day in the spring of their senior year.

How to apply:

  • In the spring of the junior year the student presents a short letter of intent, approximately one page in length, to the Director of the ES Major. The letter should state the student’s intention to pursue the honors thesis; report the overall and major-specific GPA; specify the research topic; and name the members of the Honors Committee. Additionally, the letter should briefly describe the research question or hypothesis, and the general methodological approach to the research (for example: laboratory measurement, field measurements, survey, computer modeling, analysis of case studies, policy analysis, technology assessment, economic analysis, and so on).
  • In addition to the letter of intent, the principal faculty advisor should write a support letter to Director of ES. The advisor should state his/her opinion on the student’s readiness to conduct the proposed research, approve the project as conceived, and express willingness to supervise the work.

Admission to honors research:

  • Deadline for the applications is April 1.
  • The Faculty Steering Committee for the Environmental Science Major will review student applications and faculty support letters, and will notify the applicants of their admission to the honors program by May 1.

How to graduate with honors:

In order to graduate with honors the student must successfully conclude her/his research and have his/her thesis accepted by the Honors Committee. Deadline for submitting completed Thesis is Wednesday of the first week in April. The student must additionally present the research results at Academic Spree Day. He/she must also maintain a GPA of 3.25 overall and 3.5 in the major until the end of their senior year.