2016-2017 Academic Catalog 
    May 30, 2024  
2016-2017 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Science Major

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Environmental Science Overview

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, Political Science, Management, Philosophy, and Physics. Many of the research faculty of Clark’s George Perkins Marsh Institute are also contributors to the ES major.


For more information, please visit the Environmental Science Department’s website.

Major Requirements

Clark environmental science majors may elect to concentrate in one of three areas: Earth System 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.

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.

Natural Science Electives (3)

Selection of one or more courses from this list will enable students to broaden their backgrounds in environmental and conservation biology. At least two of these courses should be in the natural sciences (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) or in Math and Computer Science. At least one course must be at 200 level. This is not an exhaustive list. The ES director can approve other courses. Courses listed under research or seminar course options can also fulfill this elective.

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.S. academic requirements, should seriously consider participating in the Accelerated B.A./M.S. 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 System Science Track


Earth System Science uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the complex, interacting physical and biological components of the Earth’s land surface, atmosphere, cryosphere and oceans, placing an emphasis on observing, understanding and predicting global environmental changes. 

The ESS track of the Environmental Science major program incorporates intensive field study, satellite remote sensing analysis, geographic information science (GISci), 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 GISci.

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 System 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:

Mathematics (1 semester of statistics)

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

Applying to the Honors Program:


Students must apply in writing by April 15th of their junior year to the Director of the Environmental Science program for admission into the honors program. Normally a GPA of at least 3.4 will be required for admission into the honors program. The application should include a brief cover letter describing the proposed honors research and the name of the faculty member who will be the primary research advisor. An unofficial transcript should be included in the application. Upon admission to the honors program the student (with the approval of the primary advisor) must find one other member of the ES program faculty who will serve on the student’s honors thesis committee. With the approval of the Steering Committee, one member of a student’s committee (even the primary research advisor) may be a qualified person who is not a member of the faculty at Clark.

Admission to the Honors Program:

The Steering Committee will decide who is admitted into the honors program based on a student’s GPA, course of study, plan for an honors project, and the recommendation of the faculty member who will act as research advisor. Admission to the honors program does not guarantee the award of honors.

Honors Requirements

Once a student is admitted into the honors program, the student will register for at least two semesters of Honors Research in Environmental Science, EN 297. 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 of the senior year,. The thesis will also be made available to interested members of the ES faculty. The student will also give an oral presentation of their research at a designated time towards the end of the senior year. All faculty members of the ES program committee will be invited to attend these presentations, and the presentations will be open to the Clark community. After all the student honors presentations have been given and all the honors theses have been read by the respective two-member committees and other interested ES faculty, the Steering Committee will decide on the level of honors to be awarded based on the recommendation of the student’s committee and Steering Committee members.

Criteria for Honors:

The category of honors (no honors, honors, high honors, highest honors) awarded in ES will be based on the following criteria (listed in order of importance):
(a) the honors research and the honors thesis,
(b) the oral presentation and response to audience questions,
(c) the recommendation of the student’s advisory committee,
(d) a student’s overall grade point average and grades in individual ES-related courses.

Environmental Science Faculty


Charles Agosta, Ph.D.
John Baker, Ph.D.
Philip Bergmann, Ph.D.
Halina Brown, Ph.D.
Patrick Derr, Ph.D.
Timothy Downs, D.Env.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
William Fisher, Ph.D.
Susan Foster, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Geoghegan, Ph.D.
Robert Goble, Ph.D.
Frederick Greenaway, Ph.D.
Dale Hattis, Ph.D.
David Hibbett, Ph.D.
Dominik Kulakowski, Ph.D.
Todd Livdahl, Ph.D.
Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Deborah Robertson, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Christopher A. Williams, Ph.D. - Director of ES program

Environmental Science Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years


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