Description of the major

A major in environmental science provides students with many opportunities in industry, government, and academia.  For example, graduates are well prepared for careers in environmental consulting, environmental regulation, advocacy, or education.  Students can also pursue graduate studies in a wide range of fields including environmental science, ecology, oceanography, forestry, law, medicine, and toxicology.

Students are encouraged to obtain internship experience in specialized fields of Environmental Science and/or participate in an environmentally oriented study abroad program during their junior year.  Recently, students have served with local educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, state and federal government, and local industries.  Others have spent time in Australia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Canada and other countries.

To be retained as a major, a student must maintain a 2.0 average based on all biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, environmental science, and environmental studies courses attempted.  Majors take the 9 required courses from list A and a total of 5 electives from lists B and C (see the course lists below).  At least 3 elective courses must come from list B and at least 1 course must come from list C.  The last elective can come from either list.  Students interested in teacher certification may also complete additional courses.


BIO 150 (Principles of Biology I)
BIO 151 (Principles of Biology II)
CHM 103 (General Chemistry I)
CHM 104 (General Chemistry II)
MTH 121 (Calculus I) OR
MTH 119 (Intro. to Statistics)
ESC 113 (Environmental Science I)
ESC 114 (Environmental Science II)
ESC 201 (Environmental Geology)
ESC 310 (Environmental Chemistry) OR
ESC 312 (Toxicology)

NOTE:  Students must take a total of 5 elective courses from lists B and C below.

B. SCIENCE ELECTIVES (choose at least 3)

BIO 242 (Entomology)
BIO 255 (Ornithology) 
BIO 260 (Field Botany and Plant Ecology)
BIO 262 (Cultural and Economic Botany)
BIO 268 (Freshwater Ecology)
BIO 270 (Ecology)
BIO 272 (Marine Biology)
BIO 275-279 (Investigations in Field Biology)
(only 1 can be taken for Environmental Science credit)
BIO 460 (Physiological and Behavioral Ecology) 
BIO 465 (Conservation Biology) 
CHM 201 (Organic Chemistry I)
CHM 202 (Organic Chemistry II)
CHM 311 (Analytical Chemistry)
ESC 310 (Environmental Chemistry)
[If not taken as part of A]
ESC 312 (Toxicology)
[If not taken as part of A]
ESC 480 (Special Topics in Environmental Science)
PHY 211 (General Physics I)
PHY 212 (General Physics II)
Other science courses as approved


COM 336  OR  COM 337
(Environmental communication)
ECN 245 OR  ECC 246 (Environmental Economics)
HST 341 (Environmental History of the U. S.)
HST 373 (Environmental History of Latin America)
PHL 246 (Environmental Philosophy)
PSC 216 OR  PSC 217
(Environmental Politics & Policy Making)
PSC 330 OR  PSC 331
(Comparative & International Environmental Policies)
SOC 320 (Environmental Sociology)
SUS 350 Env. & Cultural Cons. in Costa Rica OR
SUS 355 Climate Change & Sustainable Development in Bangladesh
Other courses as approved  

Students may sharpen their focus by rostering additional courses in the sciences.

Students approved by the Environmental Science Honors Committee may register for honors work which requires completing a research project, presenting results orally and writing a formal scientific report.  Based on student performance as judged by the quality of the honors work and by maintaining at least a 3.50 in all environmental science and environmental studies courses, environmental science faculty will determine if honors will be granted.

Teacher Certification
Students seeking certification for the teaching of environmental education must take BIO 260 Field Botany and Plant Ecology, BIO 270 Ecology, and BIO 465 Conservation Biology within the elective science courses.  Students also must complete the following education courses.  Contact the Director of Environmental Science for details.

EDU 101 Foundations of Education
EDU 102 Educational Psychology
EDU 200 Teaching and Learning
EDU 201 Exceptional Learner
EDU 360 Methods in Environmental Education


Description of the minor (minor program only)

Sustainability is most commonly defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.   The field of Sustainability Studies explores and critiques ways to do this in the context of maintaining ecological and environmental health while generating economic welfare and ensuring social justice.  The minor in Sustainability Studies integrates across disciplines with its goal of instilling understanding, appreciation, and thoughtful problem solving skills in students about the relationships and interactions of human society and the environment.  The Sustainability Studies Minor will highlight issues related to sustainability and explore how those issues impact and are addressed at local, national, and global levels.  This minor will provide the interdisciplinary background that is needed to understand many of the complex challenges facing our world, and will equip students with the skills needed to develop solutions to these problems. An additional goal is to build a community of faculty and students with a diversity of perspectives and areas of expertise committed to seeking creative solutions for sustainability.

Minor requirements

Students take 6 courses from throughout the curriculum: 2 theory/representation courses, 2 sustainability in practice courses, 1 course focused at the community level, and 1 course focused on sustainable solutions related to specific problems or issues.

Sustainability: Theory and Representation (2 courses) – These courses primarily focus on theory including basic science and social science, the representation of nature and sustainability, and environmental ethics and history.  They provide the framework and context for further work in Sustainability Studies.  Students take 2 courses listed below, one must be in the Sciences (BIO, CHM, ESC), and one must be from the Humanities or Social Sciences (ATH, ECN, ENG, HST, PHL, SOC).

ATH 230 – Native American Ecology
ATH 310 – Human Ecology
ESC 111 – Topics in Environmental Science
ESC 113 – Environmental Science I
BIO  111 – Concepts of Biology: Crisis Earth
BIO 260 – Field Botany and Plant Ecology
BIO 268 – Freshwater Ecology
BIO 270 – Ecology
CHM 101 – Chemistry of the Environment
ECN 245, 246 – Environmental Economics
ECN 249, 250 – Economics of natural resources and sustainability
ENG 260 – Literature and the Environment
ENG 338, 339 – City, frontier, & empire in American Literature
ENG 357 – Native American Literature
HST 341, 342 – Environmental History of the US
PHL 246 – Environmental Philosophy
SOC 340 – Sociology of Development
SOC 370 – Sociology of Food

Sustainability in Practice (2 courses) – These courses have an applied focus, and offer a substantial research or service-learning component related to sustainability and the environment.  Although these courses may also cover theoretical aspects, they are differentiated from the above group by providing both hands-on experiences and more focus on the application of theory and basic science. Students take two courses listed below from two different departments or programs.

BIO 262 - Cultural and Economic Botany
BIO 275-279 – Field Investigations in Biology
BIO 465 – Conservation Biology
COM 336, 337 – Environmental Communication
PSC 216, 217 – Environmental Politics and Policy Making
PHY 180 – Energy and the Environment
SOC 320 – Environmental Sociology
SUS 960 – Internship

Sustainable Communities (1 course) – These courses examine sustainability at the community level. They focus on analysis and problem solving by examining a variety of issues confronted by a particular community, and offer opportunities to work with members of that community to understand and solve problems at the human-environment interface.

SUS 350 – Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Costa Rica
SUS 355 – Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Bangladesh
SUS 365 – Local Sustainability

Sustainable Solutions (1 course) Either through a seminar course or independent research, students focus on a particular issue such as energy, food, or sustainable design and work towards the development of practical solutions.  The focus here is on a specific problem and solutions that might be applied to it on local, national, and global scales. Students are offer opportunities for synthesis and application and actively involve students in the scientific methods of hypothesis development and testing, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and dissemination of results.

SUS 405 – Sustainable Solutions
SUS 970 – Research


350. (formerly EST 350) – Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Costa Rica

Students explore solutions to the delicate problem of environmental and cultural conservation in developing countries with a focus on Costa Rica. During the spring semester, students develop projects and prepare for the two-week study/research/travel experience to Costa Rica at the end of May. This preparation includes study of the area’s ecological diversity; political, cultural and social issues; research skills; and relevant Spanish vocabulary and conversation skills. In Costa Rica, students explore a variety of habitats, live in and interact with members of a small town, and conduct both community service and independent research projects. Research projects focus on the ecology, sociology, culture, sustainability, and public health of the region. One of the objectives of the program is to remove the blinders of specific discipline-based learning and of our own culture to show that if we are to develop sustainable solutions. 

355. Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Bangladesh  

This team-taught course examines the impact of climate change on economic, social and political development by focusing on the nation of Bangladesh.   In addition to introducing students to the science and politics of climate change, the course also examines the specific environmental, economic and social challenges confronting Bangladesh’s political development since its independence; investigates the environmental and social consequences of state-sponsored development strategies, especially recent market-based “neo-liberal” policies; and evaluates new “sustainable development” strategies that are emerging as a response to the challenges posed by climate change.

365. Local Sustainability

This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing sustainability at the local level either in the Muhlenberg community or communities in the Lehigh Valley, and will explore human-environment issues within the context of the relationship among individuals and institutions.  Through readings, presentations, and the development of individual research projects, students will assess current sustainability efforts and develop recommendations for future efforts.  Research projects may include surveying community members about perceptions and attitudes towards sustainability and environmental issues, assessing current sustainability efforts, and interviewing local experts, members of organizations and politicians. Priorities for research will be determined in collaboration with the community, and results and recommendations will be shared.  Prerequisite: Any single course in the Sustainability Studies Minor

405. Sustainable Solutions

An interdisciplinary approach to developing and assessing sustainable solutions to meet the needs of human society and the environment on local, regional, and global scales.  Each offering of this course will focus on a particular issue such as food, energy, green design, or waste production.  Students will read the trade and primary literature as it relates to each specific theme, and then through project-based learning will design and test potential solutions that might help achieve sustainability.  Students will study the issues and focus on design, data collection, and dissemination related to solving the problem being analyzed. 

Prerequisite: Any two courses in the Sustainability Studies Minor

960. (Formerly EST 960) Sustainability Studies Internship

Internships arranged with local, national, and international public or private organizations in the areas of development, environment, and sustainability in practice.

970 (formerly EST 970) - Sustainability Studies Research

Faculty mentored student research focusing on sustainable problem solving emphasizing design, data collection, and dissemination.