The Environmental Studies department has long recognized the importance of the integration of teaching and research on the part of faculty, and in recent years has more fully integrated research into student learning as well. Assessments reveal that this emphasis has enhanced significantly the critical thinking, collaborative, and discovery-based learning skills of our students. The Environmental Studies department is strongly committed to the principle that making connections to “real” research problems is invaluable to experiencing in depth the discipline in which students are working. In addition, the Problems in Environmental Science course (BI 493) and our Environment and Society Course (ES118) have received acclaim and have generated both faculty and student presentations at national meetings, invited workshops, and book chapters. ES department faculty have also been campus leaders in incorporating service-learning opportunities into the Colby curriculum.
Our introductory course (ES118) has a strong interdisciplinary emphasis and is team-taught by faculty from the social and natural sciences. All lectures and discussion sections are designed to stress interdisciplinary linkages and the course also incorporates a significant research component. A comparative case study approach is used to investigate an environmental issue chosen from a student and faculty generated list. This approach helps students to appreciate the importance of gathering relevant evidence, evaluating its quality, and interpreting the results. Students report on their analysis of the research question in writing and orally. We believe that the new research component of this introductory course better prepares students to evaluate evidence and to undertake later research projects including the senior capstone.
Capstone Course for the E.S. Science Major
The Problems in Environmental Science course takes a different lake in the region each year and analyzes the condition of that lake and the forces that are changing that condition. The students make heavy use of GIS methods in putting together their final report and presentation. The results are presented in a public forum to the members of the lake association and any other interested parties. Lake associations have found these reports to be so successful that they have funded student research assistantships during the summer to help implement the study recommendations. See the course website for more information.
Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Environmental Studies
The Mellon Distinguished Fellowship in Environmental Studies provides an opportunity to bring world-recognized environmental scholars, activists, writers, and leaders to Colby College to engage Environmental Studies majors, campus, and the community in lectures and discussions around important environment themes. For the 2014-2015 academic year we hosted Terry Tempest Williams. Students gain exposure to an environmental leader, allowing them to refine their thoughts about themes of science and policy while developing professional skills. Past fellows include Frances Moore Lappé and Dr. Carl Safina.
GIS Across the Curriculum
The Environmental Studies (ES) department has been a campus leader in developing and using geographic information systems (GIS) in its teaching and research. The ES department offers a course in GIS and remote sensing; students in both the environmental science and environmental policy capstone courses use GIS for their projects. ES faculty have collaborated with other faculty in a growing number of departments and programs (e.g., economics and chemistry) to help provide access to specific GIS software and expand use the of GIS in teaching and in research. Department faculty have been leaders in raising awareness about GIS on campus and in designing an all-college GIS lab planned for the new Diamond Building. The ES department is also working closely with the Library and Information Technology Services (ITS) to build our capacity to organize, manage, and disseminate data and maps.
Colby College Liberal Arts Symposium
In addition to curriculum development for the department, the Colby ES faculty have been heavily involved in the creation and administration of the annual Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium. Each year a high proportion of Environmental Studies students participate in the symposium as a result of required student projects in ES118, our introductory course, ES 493, our capstone seminar, or independent studies and honors theses. For more information, visit the Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium website.
Andonova, L.B. and Renzo M.C. 2008. Andonova, L.B. and Renzo M.C. 2008. The Next Climate Treaty? Pedagogical and Policy Lessons of Classroom Negotiations.. International Studies Perspectives (2008) 9, 331–347.Firmage, D.H., T. H. Tietenberg, and F. R. Cole. 2005. Research-based Learning in an Introductory Environmental Studies Course. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly 25:191-200.
Firmage, D. H. and F. R. Cole. 1999. Service Learning in Environmental Science at Colby College. Harold Ward, Editor. Pages 25-37. In Acting Locally: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Environmental Studies. published by American Association of Higher Education, Washington, DC.
Nyhus, P. J., F. R. Cole, D. H. Firmage, D. Tierney, S. W. Cole, R. B. Phillips, and E. H. Yeterian. Environmental studies- Interdisciplinary research on Maine lakes In Understanding Place: GIS and Mapping across the Curriculum (eds. D. Sinton and J. Lund). ESRI Press, Redlands, CA.
Nyhus, P. J., F. R. Cole, D. H. Firmage, and P. S. Lehmann ’02. 2002. Enhancing Education through Research in the Environmental Science Laboratory- Integrating GIS and Project-Based Learning at Colby College. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 23:34-40.
Nyhus, P. J., F. R. Cole, D. H. Firmage, and E. H. Yeterian. 2002. Enhancing the Integration of Research and Education Using an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Symposium. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 23:16-23.
Nyhus, P. J., F. R. Cole, D. H. Firmage, and E. H. Yeterian. 2004. Teaching Fellows: An Innovative Approach to Facilitate the Integration of Research and Education at Colby College. In Linda Kauffman and Janet Stocks (eds), Reinvigorating the Undergraduate Experience through Research and Inquiry-Based Learning, Council of Undergraduate Research.
Nyhus, P.J., F.R. Cole, and D.H. Firmage. 2007. Tigers, Wolves, and Moose, Oh My! Challenges and Opportunities for Promoting Undergraduate Research in Environmental Studies with GIS. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly 27:97-102.