Make the earth your classroom

  • 2017 ENE226 Class at Shenk's Ferry

Program Overview

The Environmental Science major at Franklin & Marshall College is a multidisciplinary science major that involves faculty, courses, and student research in three of the College’s strongest departments; Earth and Environment, Biology and Chemistry. The major prepares students to evaluate and solve key environmental problems. Fieldwork, laboratory work and independent research are important components of the major.  

Students gain discipline specific knowledge in the core science areas, Biology, Chemistry, and Geoscience and in quantitative and field methods. They then progress to advanced study in one or more of the disciplines through intensive, research-based upper-level courses and independent research.

Skills Development

The Environmental Science curriculum is designed enhance the following skills in students who complete the major:

1. Critical thinking and reading, scientific research, and writing (ranging from guided to independent).

2. Collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data in field, lab, and experimental contexts. Various courses address scientific uncertainty and the use of informatics approaches.  Opportunities exist for students to undertake research.

3. Working individually and in groups, students learn how to collaborate and contribute to an overall understanding of a problem based on its constituent parts.

4. Communicate orally and in writing to diverse audiences, ranging from the general public to specialists in a variety of disciplines. Engage in respectful discourse in class discussions, lead discussions, give presentations, and provide thoughtful peer review.

Learning Outcomes

Environmental Science majors utilize their skills to achieve the following learning outcomes:

1. Develop an interdisciplinary understanding rooted in biology, chemistry, and geology for the interactions between humanity and natural environmental systems in the past, present, and future. 

2. Be able to describe various indicators of environmental change, including but not limited to global, regional and local change (including climate change), water and air quality, ecosystem resilience, biodiversity, natural resource use, and human population. 

3. Evaluate real-world applications of scientific analysis to study environmental challenges, and understand how such analyses inform policy responses to human-induced environmental change.

The skills and knowledge our majors develop facilitate critical science-based decision making to address environmental issues and human impacts (past, present, and future) such as land use; the conservation of endangered species; habitat degradation; the impacts of global change on animals, plants, and humans; water and energy resources; and pollution.

Student-Faculty Research

Faculty involved in the program are expert researchers working on a wide array of environmental topics. Faculty involve students in one-on-one research opportunities that provide valuable hands on experience. Research topics include but are not limited the following examples:

  • Trace metal cycling in the marine environment (Morford)

  • Environmental change and extinction in modern and ancient marine environments (de wetHarnik)

  • Understanding and predicting responses of aquatic communities and organisms to environmental change (Fields, Fischer, OlsonThompson)

  • Soil biogeochemistry, carbon cycling and global change (Williams)

  • Plant physiology and ecophysiology (Gotsch, Sipe)

  • Organism-environment interactions of plants, birds, and mammals (Ardia)

  • Environmental applications of  remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) (de Wet, Bechtel)

Our Environmental Science program provides exciting learning opportunities in diverse settings, access to state-of-the-art laboratory, field instruments, software, and many opportunities for student research projects during both the academic year and the summer.

Off Campus Study

Off campus study, in the U.S. and internationally, is encouraged. Our students have studied recently at field stations and laboratories in Woods Hole MA, the Australian rain forest, and the savanna of Kenya, among other locations.

Career Outcomes

Many graduates of the Environmental Science program obtain entry-level positions in the environmental and geotechnical consulting field and as sustainability analysts or consultants. A majority (61%) of our graduates also go on to advanced study in graduate school. Since the inception of the major, 49% have completed or are enrolled in Masters Degree programs (e.g., M.S., M.A., M.B.A.). Likewise, 18% have completed or are enrolled in doctoral programs in science, medicine or law. Our graduates have completed their advanced degrees at highly-ranked universities in the United States and abroad.

Career outcomes for our graduates are diverse. For example our alumni have held positions such as: applied science consultant, associate chemist, biology teacher, biological science technician, energy industry analyst, energy technology program specialist, environmental analyst, environmental consultant, environmental engineering professional, environmental scientist, food, environment and society researcher and educator, GIS analyst, GIS technician, geophysicist, global sustainability manager, hydrologist, lawyer, marine biology researcher, marine chemist, public health researcher, naturalist program coordinator, resident naturalist, senior associate geologist, strategic planning analyst, sustainability analyst, sustainability certification analyst, sustainability planner, water quality technician, wolf monitoring technician

Curriculum and Courses

Study of the Earth draws on all traditional disciplines. As we learn how the Earth works, we must develop the means and the political will to manage it appropriately.

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