Environmental Studies Program


The Environmental Studies Program at Colby was founded in 1971. The program 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. From understanding the impacts of climate change to preventing biodiversity loss and unsustainable use of natural resources, environmental challenges are a national and international priority. Our students and faculty are active locally, nationally, and internationally in studying and helping to solve these 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 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 Jan Plan courses taught by Bigelow research scientists, an increase in student research opportunities, a semester-long in-residence study at Bigelow, and curricular innovations that combine scientific research with economic and social policy analysis.

The Environmental Studies Program offers interdisciplinary majors in environmental policy, in environmental science, and in environmental studies-interdisciplinary computation as well as a minor that can be elected by majors in any discipline. Each major provides a broad-based course of study and prepares graduates to understand and to address the many complex environmental challenges facing society. Our science and policy curriculum benefits 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, 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 studies: science concentration.

Students with a major in biology, geology, or global studies considering a minor in environmental studies should consider electing a double major in biology and environmental studies, geology and environmental studies, or global studies and environmental studies because of the overlap in required courses. Interested students should discuss these possibilities with the Environmental Studies Program director.

Faculty

Director: Professor F. Russell Cole
Program Faculty: Professor F. Russell Cole; Associate Professor Philip Nyhus; Assistant Professors Denise Bruesewitz, Gail Carlson, Loren McClenachan, and Travis Reynolds; Faculty Fellows Alison Bates and Divya Gupta; Teaching Assistant Abby Pearson; Research Scientists Manuel Gimond and Benjamin Neal
Affiliated Faculty: Professors Paul Josephson (History), Whitney King (Chemistry), James Webb (History), and W. Herbert Wilson (Biology); Associate Professor Catherine Bevier (Biology); Assistant Professors Sahan Dissanayake (Economics) and Keith Peterson (Philosophy); Visiting Assistant Professor Bruce Rueger (Geology)


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 courses in environmental science. Diverse electives allow students to explore topics from introductory geographic information systems (GIS) to endangered species policy to environmental and human health. Students complete the Environmental Policy Practicum capstone seminar in the senior year.

Environmental policy majors are encouraged to take Environmental Studies 118 (spring) in their first year and Environmental Studies 233 and 271 (fall) and Environmental Studies 234 (spring) in their sophomore year. Students enrolled in “The Green Cluster” who are interested in this major should enroll in Environmental Studies 118 as well as Economics 133 in the spring semester.

Students pursuing this major should elect Environmental Studies 233 and 271 (if possible) in the fall of their sophomore year. Students must complete at least one course at the 300-level or above selected 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.

I. Required Environmental Studies Core Courses

Biology

  • 131 Biodiversity or
  • 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 or
  • 231 Applied Statistics and Regression Analysis

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

Anthropology

  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power

Economics

  • 341 Natural Resource Economics
  • 476 Seminar: Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Environmental Studies

  • 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
  • 265 Global Public Health
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 297A Marine Wildlife Conservation and Management
  • 297B Resource Conservation, Equity, and Environmental Regulations
  • 297C Climate Change Policy
  • 298 Our Earth: Governing the Commons
  • 319 Conservation Biology (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 347 Tropical Forests and Rural Livelihoods
  • 358j Ecological Field Study (if not used to satisfy IV below)
  • 366 Environment and Human Health (if not used to satisfy IV below)

History

  • 364 Environmental and Health History in Africa
  • 394 Ecological History
  • 446 Global Health History

Philosophy

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

STS

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society

IV. Three of the Following Courses

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 334 Ornithology
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

Chemistry

  • 141 General Chemistry
  • 142 General Chemistry
  • 217 Environmental Chemistry

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214j Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358j 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

  • 493A Environmental Policy Practicum (international emphasis) or
  • 494B Environmental Policy Practicum (domestic emphasis)

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.

Requirements for the Major in Environmental Science

The interdisciplinary environmental science major also begins with the foundation course in environmental studies and is followed by 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 conservation biology, applied ecology, marine science, environment and human health, environmental chemistry, and environmental geology. Students can also propose well-structured alternative focus areas. The senior capstone seminar provides a hands-on approach to environmental science research. Colby’s four science buildings have excellent teaching and research laboratories furnished with the necessary equipment to undertake sophisticated environmental investigations.

Environmental science majors are encouraged to enroll in Biology 163 (fall) and Environmental Studies 118 (spring) in their first year and Environmental Science 271 (fall) in their sophomore year. Students enrolled in “The Green Cluster” who are interested in this major should also enroll in Chemistry 141 in the fall; in the spring they should enroll in Chemistry 142, Environmental Studies 118, and Mathematics 121.

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 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. AP credits also can provide advanced placement in focus areas, but in no case can AP credits reduce the number of required focus area courses below five. Environmental studies majors electing the science concentration should consult with the program director or the advisor for their selected focus area 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

  • 131 Biodiversity or
  • 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 or
  • 145 Honors Chemistry or

Physics

  • 141 Foundations of Mechanics 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

For students electing the conservation biology, applied ecology, environment and human health, or marine science focus area:

Mathematics and Statistics

  • 121 Single-variable Calculus and either Statistics 212 Elementary Statistics or 231 Applied Statistics and Regression Analysis

For students electing the environmental geology or environmental chemistry focus area:

Mathematics

  • 121 Single-variable Calculus and 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

Economics

  • 341 Natural Resource Economics
  • 476 Seminar: Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Environmental Studies

  • 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
  • 265j Global Public Health
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 297A Marine Wildlife Conservation and Management
  • 297B Resource Conservation, Equity, and Environmental Regulations
  • 297C Climate Change Policy
  • 298 Our Earth: Governing the Commons
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 347 Tropical Forests and Rural Livelihoods
  • 358j Ecological Field Study
  • 366 Environment and Human Health

History

  • 364 Environmental and Health History in Africa
  • 394 Ecological History
  • 446 Global Health History

Philosophy

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

STS

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society

IV. Focus Area (Four or five 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 or five depending on the focus area.

A. Conservation Biology (Four courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 319 Conservation Biology or
  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology

Two Courses from the Following:

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 334 Ornithology
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy II above)
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 358 Ecological Field Study

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

B. Applied Ecology (Four Courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology

Two Courses from the Following:

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

Environmental Studies

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis (if not used to satisfy II above)
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 358 Ecological Field Study

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

C. Marine Science (Four Courses)

Biology

  • 354 Marine Ecology

Environmental Studies

  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy or
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology

One course from the following:

Biology

  • 254 Marine Invertebrate Zoology
  • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry

Environmental Studies

  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358 Ecological Field Study

Courses offered by Bigelow Laboratory scientists may help fulfill this focus area requirement. The Bigelow Laboratory semester program will fulfill three focus area courses.

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science

D. Environment and Human Health (Four Courses)

Environmental Studies

  • 366 Environment and Human Health

Three Courses from the Following:

Biochemistry

  • 362 Medical Biochemistry
  • 368 Biochemistry of the Cell II

Biology

  • 275 Mammalian Physiology
  • 348 Pathogenic Bacteriology

Chemistry

  • 241, 242 Organic Chemistry

Environmental Studies

  • 265 Global Public Health

History

  • 364 Environmental and Health History in Africa
  • 446 Global Health History

Mathematics

  • 306 Topics in Epidemiology

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science or 491/492 Independent Study

E. Environmental Geology (Five Courses)

Geology

  • 225 Mineralogy
  • 231 Structural Geology
  • 251 The Record of Life on Earth
  • 254 Principles of Geomorphology

One Course from the Following:

Geology

  • 279 Geology of Bermuda
  • 354 Glacial and Quaternary Geology
  • 356 Sedimentation and Stratigraphy
  • 361 Topics in Geochemistry
  • 372 Quaternary Paleoecology

Environmental Studies

  • 358 Ecological Field Study

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies/Geology

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science or491/492 Independent Study

F. Environmental Chemistry (Five Courses)

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • 241, 242 Organic Chemistry
  • 331 Chemical Methods of Analysis

One course from the following:

Biochemistry

  • 367 Biochemistry of the Cell

Chemistry

  • 332 Instrumental Methods of Analysis
  • 341 Physical Chemistry
  • 411 Inorganic Chemistry

Culminating Experience:

Environmental Studies

  • 494 Problems in Environmental Science or

Chemistry

  • 481/482 Special Topics in Environmental Chemistry

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 such as: Biology 259, Environmental Studies 358, Geology 279, and the Semester in Environmental Science at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. Students electing the marine science focus area are strongly encouraged to consider a semester of off-campus study through programs offered by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, School for Field Studies, the Duke University Marine Laboratory, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and other approved programs. An internship or research project in the discipline is strongly recommended. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in research projects, relevant field study, or internships to complement their academic work. Limited financial assistance is available to help environmental studies majors participate in 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 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. Required Environmental Studies Core Courses

Biology

  • 131 Biodiversity or
  • 164 Evolution and Diversity

Environmental Studies

  • 118 Environment and Society
  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy
  • 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
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology

III. One Course Selected from the Following:

Environmental Studies

  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 366 The Environment and Human Health

IV. Required Computer Science Courses:

Computer Science

  • 151 Computational Thinking
  • 231 Data Structures and Algorithms
  • 251 Data Analysis and Visualization
  • 341 Systems Biology I or 361 Object-Oriented Design
  • 365 Computer Vision

V. Capstone Courses

Environmental Studies

  • 491 or 492 Independent Study

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.

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. Before the end of spring registration, students should secure a faculty sponsor for their research project. Students who are studying abroad in the spring should try to make initial contact with a potential sponsor in the spring via e-mail, but may complete their proposal in the fall at the beginning of the academic year. The student must then petition the program for permission to undertake honors work. With approval from the program, students can register for Environmental Studies 491. Students wishing to change their honors project topic must petition the program for approval of the new topic. Honors research projects will be a total of eight credits and will be conducted during the student’s last two academic semesters (and may include Jan Plan). 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.” The decision whether or not the student will be approved to convert her or his seminar or independent study project to an honors project in the spring semester (or in Jan Plan and the spring semester) and continue in the Environmental Studies Honors Program by enrolling in Environmental Studies 484 will be made at the end of the first semester. 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. 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.

  1. Environmental Studies 118.
  2. AP credit in a subject allows advanced placement but does not reduce the number of courses required for the minor.
  3. Either Economics 133 and 231, or Anthropology 112 and 256, or Environmental Studies 233 and 234
  4. Either Biology 131 or 164, and Environmental Studies 271; or Geology 141 or 142, and one additional geology course; or Chemistry 141 and 142
  5. Two 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

  • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or
  • 214 Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy
  • 242 Marine Conservation and Policy
  • 265j Global Public Health
  • 276 Exploring the Anthropocene: Human Impacts on Global Ecosystems
  • 297A Marine Wildlife Conservation and Management
  • 297B Resource Conservation, Equity, and Environmental Regulations
  • 297C Climate Change Policy
  • 298 Our Earth: Governing the Commons
  • 319 Conservation Biology
  • 343 Environmental Change
  • 344 Marine Fisheries Management
  • 346 Global Food Policy
  • 347 Tropical Forests and Rural Livelihoods
  • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology
  • 356 Aquatic Ecology
  • 358 Ecological Field Study
  • 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:

Biology

  • 237 Woody Plants
  • 259 Plants of the Tropics
  • 354 Marine Ecology
  • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

Chemistry

  • 217 Environmental Chemistry

Economics

  • 341 Natural Resource Economics
  • 476 Seminar: Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Geology

  • 254 Principles of Geomorphology

Philosophy

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

STS

  • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society
  • If not used to satisfy the social science couplet:

Anthropology

  • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power

Economics

  • 231 Environmental and Resource Economics

Environmental Studies

  • 233 Environmental Policy
  • 234 International Environmental Policy

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.