By Jessica Kaufman ‘05

Jason Kelsey, assistant professor of environmental science, Melissa Koberle '05, Chris Martin '05 and Stephanie Zettel '05 work on a greenhouse experiment with squash plants to clean up DDE, a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT. Thegroup was specifically interested in environmental factors influencing the ability of this plant to extract the pollutant from soil.

Before 1993, students were able to take interdisciplinary classes in environmental science, but graduating with a degree in environmental science was not an option. The environmental science major, originally conceived by Dr. Donald W. Shive, head of interdisciplinary sciences, is a fairly recent addition to the college as a major field of study. The environmental science major is supported by faculty members in all of the departments in the science division. This small but intensely focused group of students, roughly five to 10 graduates per class year, are led by soon-to-be retired director Dr. Patricia T. Bradt, biology, and upcoming director Dr. Jason W. Kelsey, chemistry.

The environmental science program was developed in 1982 under the direction of Dr. Carl Oplinger, emeritus professor of biology, and Dr. David Stehly, professor of chemistry. As time passed and anticipation of student interest in the field grew, discussions arose about the creation of an environmental science major rather than just the existence of a program. According to Shive, these discussions occurred almost simultaneously with the arrival of an endowment given to the College by long-time supporter of the sciences, David Long ’51. The Donna and David Long Jr. Chair in Environmental Science allowed for the hiring of a professor to head up the brand-new major.

What Environmental Science Students
Do After Graduation

Alumni have gone on to receive a master’s of science from the following universities:

  • Pennsylvania State University - Pollution Control
  • University of Hawaii - Botany
  • East Stroudsburg University - biology
  • Johns Hopkins University - environmental science
  • Villanova University - environmental engineering
  • Nova Southeastern University - marine science
  • Boston University - energy and environmental policy
  • Lehigh University - science education, political science/sociology (2)
  • Rutgers University - environmental science
  • West Chester University - water resources/planning

Graduates have pursued Ph.D.’s from:

  • University of Wisconsin - aquatic ecology
  • Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies - aquatic ecology
  • Yale University - molecular biology

Others have gone on to study at Villanova Law School and Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine.

After graduating with a major in environmental science, students have taken positions as teachers, wildlife specialists, water specialists, laboratory technicians and environmental consultants. Still others are employed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections, and some have jobs in business.

In 1993, after the major was approved, Bradt, who was already teaching part-time at Muhlenberg, was chosen to step into this newly-created position and teach the introductory course, officially beginning the major in 1994.

The professors in this discipline teach with a keen understanding of the importance of community involvement and education. Bradt (who has been involved for over 30 years with the Bushkill Stream Conservancy, doing biological research and working to protect the stream) is not only personally active in the community, but she also brings her classes into the community to view sewage treatment plants, take samples of local streams for analysis and even go to the local wildlife center, for what she calls “a student favorite”- visiting the wolves.

Kelsey is just as enthusiastic and passionate about getting students into the community for a hands-on approach to environmental studies. His classes tour the Allentown Sewage treatment center as well as Pennsylvania Power and Light’s Coal Powered Plant. On his own, Kelsey is also involved with the community and recently gave a presentation to the Allentown Rotary on how tsunamis are generated and the effects they can have on us, even locally.

Beyond the local impact that Bradt, Kelsey and their students currently have on the local and global community, the science division is looking ahead to further increase consciousness of environmental issues—and what better place to do that than the public school system? It is anticipated that, in the future, an environmental science teaching certification will be offered through the education department. There is a new push for biology teachers to take state PRAXIS exams in environmental science, in order to be certified to teach both types of courses in secondary schools. Laurie Rosenberg, who teaches courses in both biology and environmental science, is the director of environmental education outreach and is the professor associated with the teaching certification program.


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