Environmental Studies Program


The Environmental Studies Program offers interdisciplinary majors in environmental policy, environmental science, and environmental studies-interdisciplinary computation as well as a minor that can be elected by majors in any discipline

The Environmental Studies Program at Colby was founded in 1971 and has received national recognition for developing an innovative, project-based curriculum and for challenging students to engage hands-on with environmental issues at Colby, in Maine, and around the world. Our students and faculty are active locally, nationally, and internationally in studying and helping to solve diverse environmental challenges. The program encourages and supports student environmental initiatives and activism. Colby was one of the first colleges in the nation to achieve carbon neutrality and uses 100-percent renewable source electricity. Colby also seeks LEED silver certification of all new construction and major renovations and uses sustainably harvested wood biomass instead of oil as its primary fuel for heat and hot water, reducing fossil fuel use by approximately 90 percent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Maine, and other organizations have recognized Colby for its commitment to environmental academics and sustainability. Recent examples of student-led environmental initiatives include establishing an organic garden, organizing activities to reduce carbon emissions on campus, developing a climate change action plan in the local community, raising awareness about the dangers of using hazardous chemicals in personal care products and children’s toys at the state and federal levels, and reducing bottled water use on campus.

A strategic partnership between Colby and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has expanded educational and research opportunities in marine sciences for students. The partnership includes an expansion of the program’s marine sciences curriculum, including a semester of study in residence at Bigelow, Jan Plan courses taught by Bigelow research scientists, an increase in student research opportunities, and curricular innovations that combine scientific research with economic and social policy analysis.

The Environmental Studies Program curriculum emphasizes inquiry-based learning and original research opportunities. Each major is flexible and enables students to pursue their individual academic goals and interests. Each major provides a broad-based course of study and prepares graduates to understand and to address the many complex environmental challenges facing society. The interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum is enhanced by close ties to many departments and programs in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Our science and policy curricula benefit from our Maine location, including access to diverse natural areas and unique access to government, nonprofit, and business institutions. Our graduates are prepared to take leadership positions in businesses, nonprofits, consulting firms, educational institutions, and government agencies. Many of our graduates complete postgraduate work in environmental sciences/studies, ecology, marine science, public health, urban/rural planning, natural resource conservation and management, law, environmental and public policy, and other related areas.

A student may elect only one of the majors offered by the Environmental Studies Program. A student cannot elect both the chemistry: environmental science concentration and the environmental science major with an environmental chemistry focus.

Faculty

Director,  Associate Professor Philip Nyhus
Associate Director,  Professor Whitney King

Program Faculty and Staff: Associate Professor Philip Nyhus; Assistant Professors Justin Becknell, Denise Bruesewitz, Gail Carlson, Loren McClenachan, and Travis Reynolds; Laboratory Instructor II Abby Pearson; Program Coordinator Lia Morris; Research Scientists Manuel Gimond and Benjamin Neal; Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities Christopher Walker
Affiliated Faculty and Staff: Professors Catherine Bevier (Biology), Michael Burke (English, Creative Writing), Jim Fleming (STS), and W. Herbert Wilson (Biology); Associate Professors Karena McKinney (Chemistry) and Keith Peterson (Philosophy); Assistant Professors Greg Drozd (Chemistry), Bess Koffman (Geology), and Chris Moore (Biology); Visiting Assistant Professor Bruce Rueger (Geology); Teaching Associate Sarah Gibbs Staffiere (Biology)


Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Environmental Policy

The interdisciplinary environmental policy major provides an extensive introduction to the study of domestic and international environmental policy. Students combine a foundation course in environmental studies with courses in environmental economics, domestic environmental policy and law, international environmental policy and politics, and environmental science. Diverse electives allow students to explore topics such as introductory geographic information systems (GIS), conservation biology, global food policy, marine and freshwater conservation, public health, and the environmental humanities.

Environmental policy majors are encouraged to take Environmental Studies 118 (spring) in their first year at Colby. Students pursuing this major should elect Environmental Studies 233 and 271 (if possible) in the fall and 234 in the spring of their sophomore year. Students must complete at least one course at the 300 level or above from category III below. No more than one course at the 100 level may be used to fulfill category III. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. AP credit can fulfill core course requirements based on exam performance and coverage. Exemption from Environmental Studies 118 is granted with an AP test score of 4 or 5, allowing advanced placement into other courses. Courses not listed below, such as those offered by some off-campus study programs, may count toward the major pending prior approval by the program director. Up to two courses may be counted toward the major from approved off-campus study programs.

Environmental policy majors are encouraged to work with their advisor to develop a curricular pathway that includes both depth and breadth of study. Recommended thematic groupings selected from electives in category III and category IV below include: conservation and resources, energy and climate, environmental humanities, food and agriculture, public health, and water resources (marine and freshwater). See the Environmental Studies Program website for details on suggested courses for these groupings. Students are welcome to develop additional thematic pathways (e.g., environmental justice, green building, urban and regional planning).

I. Required Environmental Studies Core Courses

Biology

  • 163 Cellular Basis of Life
  • 164 Evolution and Diversity

Environmental Studies

  • 118 Environment and Society
  • 271 Introduction to Ecology

Economics

  • 133 Principles of Microeconomics
  • 231 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

II. All of the Following Courses

Environmental Studies

  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy

Statistics

  • 212 Introduction to Statistical Methods

III. Humans and the Environment (three courses, at least two from environmental studies)

Anthropology

  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power

Environmental Studies

  • 151 Landscape and Meaning
  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing (if not used to satisfy IV below) or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 244 Marine Communities (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 276 Global Change Ecology (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 319 Conservation Biology (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 358 Ecological Field Study (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice, and Health
  • 366 Environment and Human Health (if not used to satisfy IV below)

History

  • 248 Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
  • 364 Environmental and Health History in Africa
  • 394 Ecological History

Philosophy

  • 216 Philosophy of Nature
  • 243 Environmental Ethics
  • 328 Radical Ecologies

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society

IV. Three of the Following Courses (at least one from environmental studies)

Biology

  • 197A Biochemistry of Food
  • 225 Immunology
  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 246 Parasitology
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 275 Human Physiology
  • 277 Vertebrate Natural History
  • 334 Ornithology
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 382 Ecological Modeling

Chemistry

  • 141 and 142 General Chemistry I and II or
  • 147 Comprehensive General Chemistry (cannot be counted with Chemistry 141 and 142)
  • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis

Economics

  • 278 Joules to Dollars

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R
  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 338 Forest Ecosystems
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358 Ecological Field Study
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

Geology

  • 141 Earth and Environment or
  • 142 Deep Time Planet Earth

Physics

  • 141 Foundations of Mechanics or
  • 143 Honors Physics
  • 145 Foundations of Electromagnetism and Optics

V. One of the Following Capstone Courses

Environmental Studies

  • 493 Environmental Policy Practicum or
  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science (with permission of director)

VI. Senior Colloquia

Environmental Studies

  • 401, 402 Senior Colloquium (one credit for the year)

Environmental Studies 401 and 402 provide one credit for the senior year and typically are taken in addition to a normal four-course semester.

Students are strongly encouraged to participate in relevant on- and off-campus opportunities, including research projects, public policy and/or humanities experiences, field studies, or internships in the discipline to complement their academic work. Environmental studies majors may apply for Environmental Studies Program financial assistance to participate in relevant research or internship opportunities.

Requirements for the Major in Environmental Science

The interdisciplinary environmental science major includes foundation courses and core courses in environmental economics, biology and ecology, chemistry or physics, geology or GIS, and mathematics. Students select a focus area to explore in depth. Current focus areas include aquatic sciences (freshwater and marine), conservation biology, ecosystem ecology, energy and climate, and public health. Students may also petition the Environmental Studies Program director to propose well-structured alternative focus areas. The senior capstone seminars provide a hands-on approach to environmental science research in freshwater or marine ecosystems.

Environmental science majors are encouraged to enroll in Biology 163 (fall) and 164 (spring) and Environmental Studies 118 (spring) in their first year, and Environmental Science 271 (fall) in their sophomore year. Students interested in the environmental science major with a marine science focus should consider the Bigelow Laboratory Changing Oceans semester program in their junior year.

Majors must complete at least two courses at the 300 level or above selected from categories III and IV below. No more than one course at the 100 level may be used to fulfill category III. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. AP credits may also provide advanced placement in biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and microeconomics. Environmental science majors should consult with their advisor as early as their first year at Colby to identify any courses beyond the major requirements that may be desirable to meet their postgraduate goals, especially graduate or professional school.

I. Required Environmental Studies Core Courses

Biology

  • 163 Cellular Basis of Life
  • 164 Evolution and Diversity

Environmental Studies

  • 118 Environment and Society
  • 271 Introduction to Ecology

Economics

  • 133 Principles of Microeconomics
  • 231 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

II. Required Science and Mathematics Courses

Chemistry

  • 141 and 142 General Chemistry I and II or
  • 147 Comprehensive General Chemistry

OR

Physics

  • 141 Foundations of Mechanics or 143 Honors Physics and
  • 145 Foundations in Electromagnetism and Optics

Geology

  • 141 Earth and Environment or 
  • 142 Deep Time Planet Earth

OR

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or 
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis

Mathematics and Statistics

  • Mathematics 121 Single-Variable Calculus and
  • Statistics 212 Elementary Statistics

Students electing the energy and climate focus area are encouraged to also take Mathematics 122 Series and Multi-Variable Calculus.

III. Humans and the Environment (two courses, not taken from the same discipline unless that discipline is environmental studies)

Anthropology

  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power

Environmental Studies

  • 151 Landscape and Meaning
  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing Studies (if not used to satisfy II above) or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy II above)
  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 358 Ecological Field Study
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice, and Health
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

History

  • 248 Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
  • 346 Global Health History
  • 394 Ecological History

Philosophy

  • 216 Philosophy of Nature
  • 243 Environmental Ethics
  • 328 Radical Ecologies

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society

IV. Focus Area (four courses, depending on the focus area chosen, and an additional culminating experience chosen in consultation with advisor)

The Environmental Studies Program will consider well-structured proposals for additional focus areas. Advanced Placement credits can provide advanced placement in focus areas but cannot reduce the number of required focus-area courses below four.

A. Aquatic Sciences (Freshwater and Marine) (four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology

Two Courses from the following:

Biology

  • 254 Marine Invertebrate Zoology
  • 354 Marine Ecology

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis or 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 358 Ecological Field Study

The Bigelow Laboratory Changing Oceans semester program will fulfill three courses in the Aquatic Sciences focus area.

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

494 Problems in Environmental Science

B. Climate and Energy (four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 276 Global Change Ecology

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry

OR

Economics

  • 278 Joules to Dollars

Two Courses from the following:

Biology

  • 382 Ecological Modeling

Chemistry

  • 241 Organic Chemistry I
  • 242 Organic Chemistry II
  • 217 Environmental Chemistry (if not used above)
  • 278 Joules to Dollars (if not used above)
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis
  • 341 Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Kinetics
  • 342 Physical Chemistry: Quantum and Statistical Mechanics

Environmental Studies

  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis inR
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice and Health

Geology

  • 363 Paleoceanography

Physics

  • 312 Physics of Fluids

The Bigelow Laboratory Changing Oceans semester program will fulfill up to two courses in the Climate and Energy focus area.

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science


C. Conservation Biology (four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 338 Forest Ecosystems

Two Courses from the following:

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 277 Vertebrate Natural History
  • 334 Ornithology
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 382 Ecological Modeling

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy II above)
  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis inR
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358 Ecological Field Study

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

D. Ecosystem Ecology (four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 338 Forest Ecosystems

Two Courses from the following:

Biology

  • 382 Ecological Modeling

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis

Economics

  • 278 Joules to Dollars

Environmental Studies

  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology

Geology

  • 225 Mineralogy
  • 363 Paleoceanography

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

E. Public Health (four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

Two Courses from the following:

Biochemistry

  • 362 Medical Biochemistry or
  • 367 Biochemistry of the Cell I

Biology

  • 225 Immunology
  • 246 Parasitology
  • 275 Mammalian Physiology
  • 278 Biomedical Genomics and Bioinformatics
  • 348 Pathogenic Bacteriology

Chemistry

  • 241 Organic Chemistry I

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy II above) or 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice and Health

Statistics

  • 306 Topics in Epidemiology

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 493 Environmental Policy Practicum or
  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

V. Senior Colloquium

Environmental Studies

  • 401, 402 Senior Colloquium (one credit for the year)

Environmental Studies 401 and 402 provide one credit for the senior year and typically are taken in addition to a normal four-course semester.

Students are encouraged to consider field courses offered by Colby or other approved programs. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in research projects, relevant field studies, or internships in the discipline to complement their academic work. Environmental studies majors may apply for Environmental Studies Program financial assistance to participate in relevant research or internship opportunities.

Requirements for the Major in Environmental Studies-Interdisciplinary Computation

The major in environmental studies-interdisciplinary computation provides an introduction to environmental studies as a discipline as well as training in computational techniques used in environmental policy and science. Students will become familiar with quantitative tools used to investigate environmental problems, especially GIS and remote sensing. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Advanced Placement credits can fulfill core course requirements based on exam performance and coverage. Students interested in this major should try to take Computer Science 151 or 152 in their first year (fall or spring) and Computer Science 231 (fall) and 251 (spring) in their second year. Students should consult with the Environmental Studies Program director or their computer science advisor when planning their capstone independent-study project.

I. Environmental Studies Core Courses

Biology

  • 163 Cellular Basis of Life
  • 164 Evolution and Diversity

Environmental Studies

  • 118 Environment and Society
  • 271 Introduction to Ecology

II. Required Environmental Studies Courses

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R

III. Three Courses Selected from the following:

Environmental Studies

  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 338 Forest Ecosystems
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice and Health
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

IV. Required Computer Science Courses:

Computer Science

  • 151 Computational Thinking: Visual Media or
  • 152 Computational Thinking: Science
  • 231 Data Structures and Algorithms
  • 251 Data Analysis and Visualization
  • One additional course numbered 200 or above

One Course from the following:

  • 341 Systems Biology I
  • 363 Robotics
  • 365 Computer Vision
  • or other approved course

V. Capstone Courses

Environmental Studies

  • 493 Environmental Policy Practicum or
  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

VI. Senior Colloquia

Environmental Studies

  • 401, 402 Senior Colloquium

Environmental Studies 401 and 402 provide one credit for the senior year and typically are taken in addition to a normal four-course semester. Environmental studies majors may apply for Environmental Studies Program financial assistance to participate in relevant research or internship opportunities.

Requirements for Honors in Environmental Studies

Environmental studies majors with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5 at the end of the January term of the junior year or with special program approval are eligible to apply for the Environmental Studies Honors Research Program. Interested students should contact a faculty sponsor during the spring semester of the junior year to discuss a project. Students who are studying abroad in the spring should try to make initial contact with a potential sponsor in the spring via email, but may complete their proposal in the fall at the beginning of the academic year. If the faculty sponsor approves a proposed project, students will register for ES491 (Independent Study) in the fall of their senior year. During the fall, students must write a thesis proposal, have it approved by the environmental studies faculty, and make progress on their research. Students may continue working on their project by registering for Environmental Studies 291 (Independent Study) during Jan Plan. Students approved by the environmental studies program will continue their research during the spring semester in Environmental Studies 484 (Honors Project). Upon successful completion of honors, Environmental Studies 491 and 291 will be converted to honors credit. A maximum of eight credits for honors research is allowed for the entire year.

Also, students enrolled in Environmental Studies 493 or 494 may petition the program to expand their independent study for these courses into an honors project to be conducted in January and the spring semester.

Successful completion of the honors program will include an approved thesis, an oral presentation at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium, a successful thesis defense, and the completion of the required course work for the major. The student fulfilling these requirements will graduate with “Honors in Environmental Studies.” In cases where requirements for honors have not been fulfilled at the end of the spring semester, Environmental Studies 484 (Honors Research) will revert to a graded Environmental Studies 492 (Independent Study).

Requirements for the Minor in Environmental Studies

The environmental studies minor is designed to introduce students to environmental issues and their ramifications in the context of the social and natural sciences. Course requirements provide flexibility, allowing students to study in areas of most interest to them. AP credit in a subject allows advanced placement, but it does not reduce the number of courses required for the minor. Courses not listed below, such as those offered by some off-campus study programs, may count toward the minor pending prior approval by the program director.

Requirements include

  • 118 Environment and Society

and

  1. Either Economics 133 and 231; or Anthropology 112 and one of 256 or 253 or Global Studies 255; or Environmental Studies 233 and 234; or Environmental Studies 265 and either 364 or 366; or Philosophy 243 and either 216 or 328;
  2. Either Biology 163 or 164; or Geology 141 and one additional geology course; or Chemistry 141 and 142, or 147 and one additional chemistry course; or two courses from Bigelow Ocean Science Semester
  3. Two additional courses, including one numbered 300 or above, selected from the following group(s):

Group 1: At least one course selected from the environmental studies core courses:

Environmental Studies

  • 151 Landscape and Meaning
  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 218 Exploratory Data Analysis in R
  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 244 Marine Communities
  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 276 Global Change Ecology
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 338 Forest Ecosystems
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358 Ecological Field Study
  • 364 Climate Change, Justice and Health
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

Group 2: If only one course is chosen from the environmental studies core group (Group 1), then one additional course from:

Anthropology

  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power
  • 253 Goods, Gifts, and Globalizing Consumers

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 277 Vertebrate Natural History
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 382 Ecological Modeling

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis

Economics

  • 231 Environmental and Resource Economics
  • 278 Joules to Dollars

Geology

  • 254 Principles of Geomorphology

History

  • 248 Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
  • 346 Global Health History
  • 394 Ecological History

Philosophy

  • 216 Philosophy of Nature
  • 243 Environmental Ethics
  • 328 Radical Ecologies

Science, Technology, and Society

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society

Minors also are encouraged to have a hands-on environmental activity either of an experiential nature (internship) or an academic nature (research project). In many if not most cases, at least one of these activities may be required by one of the courses selected and satisfied automatically.  No requirement for the minor may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory.