Courses of Study

Environmental Studies
See course descriptions for this department or program

Director: Professor F. Russell Cole
Advisory Committee: Professors F. Russell Cole (Biology), David Firmage (Biology), W. Herbert Wilson (Biology), Paul Josephson (History), Whitney King (Chemistry), and James Webb (History); Associate Professor Catherine Bevier (Biology); Assistant Professors Philip Nyhus (Environmental Studies) and Fei Yu (Economics); Visiting Assistant Professor Gail Carlson (Environmental Studies); Visiting Instructor Catherine Ashcraft (Government); Mellon Fellow in International Environmental Human Rights Janette Bulkan (Environmental Studies and International Studies); Research Scientists Manuel Gimond and John Palmer

From understanding climate change to preventing biodiversity loss to sustainable use of natural resources, environmental challenges have become a national and international priority. Our students and faculty are active locally, nationally, and internationally in studying and helping to solve these challenges. Colby was one of the first colleges in the nation to use 100-percent renewable-source electricity, and in 2008-09, for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Colby for purchasing a greater percentage of green power (100 percent) than any other school in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. EPA and the state of Maine have recognized Colby for its commitment to environmental sustainability as reflected in our curriculum and our actions. Recent examples of student-led environmental initiatives include development of an organic garden, launching a bike borrowing program, and a College commitment to “Green Graduations.”

The Environmental Studies Program offers interdisciplinary majors in environmental policy and in environmental science as well as a minor in environmental studies 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 our country and the world. Our graduates are prepared to take leadership positions in businesses, nonprofits, consulting firms, educational institutions, and government agencies. Many of our students complete graduate 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 not elect both majors offered by the Environmental Studies Program.

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 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 in their first year and Environmental Studies 233 and Environmental Studies 334 in their sophomore year. Students pursuing this major 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 credits can fulfill core course requirements based on exam performance and coverage. AP credits in a subject cannot replace more than one course in that subject.

Honors in Environmental Studies
Environmental studies majors with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 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 and a faculty reader 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 six to 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 Biology 493 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 Undergraduate Research Symposium, and a successful thesis defense as well as 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 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).

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.
Requirements for the Minor in Environmental Studies
  1. Environmental Studies 118
  2. Either Economics 133 and 231, or Anthropology 112 and either 256 or 355, or History 394 and Science, Technology, and Society 215, or Government 131 and Environmental Studies 334
  3. Either Biology 131 or Biology 164 and Biology 271, or Geology 141 and 142, or Chemistry 141 and 142
  4. Two courses, including one numbered 300 or above, selected from the following group(s):
Group 1: At least one course selected from Environmental Studies core courses: 
  • Environmental Studies 
    • 212 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing
    • 233 Environmental Policy
    • 235 International Environmental Human Rights
    • 236 Tropical Forests and Sustainable Development
    • 266 Environment and Human Health
    • 268 Hazardous Waste and Environmental Justice
    • 319 Conservation Biology
    • 334 International Environmental Regimes
    • 339 Development, Trade, and the Environment
    • 340 Conflict, Cooperation, and the Environment
    • 341 Environmental Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
Group 2: If only one course is chosen from the Environmental Studies core group, then one additional course from*: 
  • Biology 
    • 211 Taxonomy of Flowering Plants
    • 237 Woody Plants
    • 254 Marine Invertebrate Zoology
    • 257j Winter Ecology
    • 259j Plants of the Tropics
    • 352 Advanced and Applied Ecology
    • 354 Marine Ecology
    • 357 Physiological Ecology
    • 358j Ecological Field Study
    • 452 Behavioral and Physiological Ecology
  • Chemistry 
    • 217 Environmental Chemistry
  • Economics 
    • 341 Natural Resource Economics
  • Geology 
    • 254 Principles of Geomorphology
  • Science, Technology, and Society
    • 298 Global Change Science: History and Public Policy
If not used to satisfy the social science couplet: 
  • Anthropology 
    • 256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power
    • 355 Development, Globalization, and Poverty
  • Economics 
    • 231 Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Environmental Studies 
    • 334 International Environmental Regimes
  • History 
    • 394 Ecological History
  • Science, Technology, and Society 
    • 215 Weather, Climate, and Society
    • 253 Energy Presence, Energy Futures
    • 356 The Biography of Oil
    • 358 Climbing the Oil Peak   
*Other courses may be approved by the Environmental Studies Program director. 

Minors also are encouraged to have a “hands-on” environmental activity either of an experiential nature (internship, field experience, student teaching) or an academic nature (research paper or research lab). In many, if not most cases, at least one of these may be required by one of your courses and thus satisfied automatically.

No requirement for the minor may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. AP credits in a subject cannot replace more than one course toward the minor.

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

Also available are environmental science concentrations in biology and chemistry majors. These are discipline-based programs intended to prepare students for positions in firms or government agencies concerned with environmental issues, for graduate study, or for roles as educated citizens in a world increasingly confronted with environmental problems. Students are encouraged to participate in relevant field study or internships to complement their academic work. Requirements are listed in the appropriate departmental section.

A student cannot elect both the environmental studies minor and an environmental science concentration. Also, students cannot elect both the biology: environmental science concentration or chemistry: environmental science concentration and the environmental studies: science concentration.