2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
    Mar 29, 2023  
2019-2020 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 website.

Major Requirements

Clark environmental science majors may elect to focus 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:

Mathematics (2)

These pairs of courses offer students requisite mathematical and statistical skills for the discipline. The second statistics course must be taken at the 200-level.

Biology Core Courses (4)

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

Chemistry (2)

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.

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:

Introductory Earth System Science Courses (4)

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

Skills GIScience (1)

These offerings allow students to develop the knowledge to use Global and Environmental imaging and information systems.
Note: some of these courses may be listed as ID courses in the catalog as well as GEOG courses (e.g. GEOG 296 may also be coded as ID 296); either code can satisfy this requirement as long at it is the same course.

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:

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:

ES&P Required Courses (2)

Capstone Requirement in Environmental Science

Completion of a capstone is required for the major. The capstone shall be performed during the third or fourth year of study.

To fulfill the capstone requirement, students must earn a 200- or 300-level credit that relates to their specialization. There are several options including:

  • A graduate level course (as indicated by a combined 200/300 level) that includes an independent project and report, or a seminar presentation. Any course that fulfills the capstone in Biology, the ESS area of Geography, or the ES&P area of IDCE (i.e. an EN course) could be taken as a capstone course in the ES major, regardless of the student’s track.
  • Directed Study with a faculty member (DEPT* 299)
  • Directed Research with a faculty member (DEPT* 299)
  • Honors Thesis (DEPT* 297)
  • Internship (DEPT* 298)

*DEPT can be EN, GEOG, BIOL, or IDND/HERO as appropriate


Other research or practical experiences may qualify, at the advisor’s discretion, even if they are not recognized with a formal academic credit. Satisfying the capstone in this way requires submission of (a) a report to the advisor explaining the work performed, (b) a substantive demonstration of the outcome of the capstone experience, and (c) confirmation from the mentor/supervisor of the student’s satisfactory completion of the experience. Examples include:

  • Directed Research during Study Away (e.g. School for Field Studies Directed Research)
  • Summer Research with faculty
  • Internship or Research Experience that does not confer credit (e.g. a NOAA Fellows or NASA DEVELOP internship, an NSF REU)

The student’s faculty advisor is the judge for determining whether any particular credit or experience satisfies the capstone criteria in the area of the student’s specialization. The advisor will make the judgment based on the intent of the capstone and its elements described above. Questions about whether a capstone experience meets the intent may be brought to the ES program Director after first consulting with the major advisor.

Before beginning the qualified activity, the student must obtain on the Capstone Form their advisor’s signed approval of the intended capstone experience, and then deliver the form to the major advisor. It is also the student’s responsibility to coordinate any requirements necessary outside of the department (i.e. internship registration, any other Clark forms that may be needed, etc.).

Upon completion of the capstone, the student must obtain on the Capstone Form the signed approval by the professor/supervisor who oversaw the Capstone credit, and then submit the form to the major advisor. Students shall provide evidence of the capstone outcome if requested by the major advisor to support the advisor’s deliberation and evaluation of satisfactory completion.  The advisor will make the judgment based on the intent of the capstone and its elements as described above, and the awarding of a passing grade (if credit-bearing).

D. Honors

Applying to the Honors Program:


Students must apply in writing before the beginning of their senior year to the Director of the Environmental Science program for admission into the honors program. Normally a GPA of at least 3.0 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 ES Executive 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.
Patrick Derr, Ph.D.
Timothy Downs, D.Env.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Lyndon Estes, Ph.D.
Susan Foster, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Geoghegan, Ph.D.
Elisabeth Gilmore, Ph.D.
Robert Goble, Ph.D.
David Hibbett, Ph.D.
Dominik Kulakowski, Ph.D.
Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Deborah Robertson, Ph.D.
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Christopher A. Williams, Ph.D. - Director of ES program

Environmental Science Courses


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