Environmental Science

The interdisciplinary nature of the environmental science major allows students to address a wide range of contemporary questions through the natural sciences of biology, ecology, earth sciences, chemistry and the social sciences including political science, sociology, economics, psychology and philosophy. The concentration is designed for science students wishing to pursue careers in environmental research/technology and resource management or pursue graduate study in an environmental field.

Students interested in this concentration should contact Professors David Osgood, Ph.D. or Stephen Mech, Ph.D. in the Biology Department.


Stephen G. Mech, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology


David T. Osgood, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology


Brian Jennings, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology


Barton Thompson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology

The interdisciplinary nature of the environmental science major (see interdisciplinary studies) allows students to address a wide range of contemporary questions through the natural sciences of biology, ecology, earth sciences, chemistry, the social sciences including political science, sociology, economics, and psychology and the humanities of history and philosophy. The major is designed for science students wishing to pursue careers in environmental research/technology and resource management or pursue graduate study in an environmental field.


Environmental Science majors must take:

ESS 101 and 400

Seven courses within the science/math core:
– BIO 152 and either 151 or 203
– BIO 200 (fulfills general studies quantitative reasoning requirement)
– BIO 211
– CHEM 105 (fulfills general studies natural science requirement)
– CHEM 106 and 207

ESS 325

Two courses from each of the following three groups:
– Biological Group: BIO 214, BIO 220, BIO 246, BIO 318, BIO 319, BIO 337, BIO 491, BIO 494, ESS 298
– Physical Science Group: BIO 312, BIO/ESS 315, ESS 205, ESS 310
– Socio-Political-Cultural Group:  ANT/PSY 265, ANT/IDS 285, POL 214, POL 320, POL 321, ECO 224, HIS 280, PHI 270, PSY 350, REL 280, SOC 291, ESS 260, ESS 298

Two of the four choices from the biological and physical science groups must be field-based laboratory courses. Students should be aware that some graduate programs in the environmental fields also require a semester of calculus and physics and two semesters of organic chemistry. Students are also encouraged to participate in an overseas field course (ESS 280 – Martinique StudiesESS 298 – Ecological and Anthropological Field Study in Peru; SPP J51 – Protecting Endangered Species: Hawaiian Humpback Whale; IDS J61 – Subtropical Ecosphere). Students interested in this major should contact Professors Osgood or Mech in the Biology Department.

ESS 101
Introduction to Environmental Issues

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental concentrations. Students are familiarized with the present quality of the environment from a natural science perspective. The causes of environmental problems are discussed and analyzed. Students are exposed to the political and socioeconomic aspects of environmental problems. Throughout the course, an integrated approach to addressing and solving environmental problems is emphasized. Satisfies general studies interdisciplinary requirement.

ESS 205
Introduction to Physical Geology

This course introduces students to the composition, structure and internal processes of earth: classification and distribution of materials at the earth’s surface; and provides opportunities to interpret geologic data. General studies lab science credit or physical science elective for environmental concentrators.

ESS 260
Environmental Science of Latin America and the Caribbean

This course addresses environmental topics as they pertain to Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. Topics include deforestation, agriculture, conservation of biodiversity, wetland loss, coral reef degradation, ecotourism and others. Emphasis is placed on merging Latin American and Caribbean culture with environmental management and policy. Prerequisite: EVS 101 or permission of instructor

ESS 280
Martinique Studies

This interim course introduces students to the people and lands of the French-speaking, Caribbean island of Martinique through an intensive and structured visit to the island. After reading and assessing a series of preparatory articles in early January the class will fly to Martinique where they will be guided by accompanying faculty to a series of activities that will enlighten them to many aspects of Martinique life. These undertakings include lectures at the university, field trips to various parts of the island and a variety of directed events, which will encourage them to participate in many facets of Martinique culture.

ESS 298
Ecological and Anthropological Field Study in Peru

The course introduces students to the basics of field studies within the anthropological and ecological disciplines. The study culminates in student projects focused on a communal reserve in the Amazon region in Peru. Specific topics include techniques in biological surveys with emphasis on cataloging species diversity, habitat assessment, quantifying human influence, and evaluating efficacy of wildlife management techniques. Anthropological/sociological methods include survey and demographic data collection, interviewing, direct observation and participant observation followed by methods of assessment including both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Students will be required to propose and conduct group projects during a field component in Peru. No prerequisite.

ESS 310
Pollution: Environmental Effects and Remediation

Sources of environmental pollution have changed substantially over the last several decades as has the technology used to remedy damaged ecosystems. This course addresses the sources of a variety of pollutants and their fate in the natural environment. Ecological effects of different forms of pollution are discussed across a number of environments (atmosphere, surface water, groundwater and soil). Large-scale pollutant impacts (watersheds, climate change) are addressed. Emphasis is also given to techniques applied to assess and remedy environmental damage. Prerequisite: ESS 101 (BIO 202 is recommended)

Wetlands Ecology

This course covers the ecology of freshwater and saltwater wetlands systems. Linkages between the plants, animals, microbes, hydrology, and chemistry of various wetland types are emphasized. Wetland delineation, functional assessment of wetlands, and wetland creation and restoration are among the topics discussed. Field trips and laboratory sessions focus on quantitative evaluation of the hydrology, soils, and plant and animal communities of various wetland types. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Prerequisite: BIO 202 or permission of instructor

Watershed Hydrology and Water Resources

Water is perhaps our most vital resource, yet its availability is often taken for granted. This course covers the principles of hydrologic processes that govern water distribution within a variety of landscapes. The influence of land use (e.g. rural, agricultural, urban) on water availability and quality are addressed. Watershed management issues and practices are also discussed. In the laboratory portion of the course we use field techniques to quantify hydrologic processes and water quality in surface waters and groundwater. The use of biological indicators to assess ecosystem health are also employed. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is utilized to analyze field measurements on a landscape scale. Prerequisite: ESS 101 is recommended

Conservation Biology

This course is the study of preserving and restoring nature and ecosystem processes. It introduces students to the anthropogenic problems facing ecosystems and some of the possible solutions. Theory and application pertaining to biodiversity, species extinction, biological invasions, land management, and other topics are discussed. Three hours lecture per week. Prerequisite: BIO 201, BIO 311 recommended

ESS 325
Geographical Information Systems

This course introduces students to many of the concepts and methodologies used in geographic information systems (GIS). Students learn where to obtain existing data, how to convert and analyze that data, and the applications of GIS to environmental and other fields of study. Students also learn how to use a global positioning system (GPS) to collect field data and integrate it into a GIS. They will apply their new tools to real-world situations. Previous examples include cataloging and categorizing the Reading Riverfront for urban revival efforts and determining the relationship between incidence of cancer and proximity to industrial plants based on health surveys from Pottstown, Pa. This course includes a one-hour lab each week immediately following one of the lecture periods. Physical sciences elective for environmental sciences.

ESS 400
Environmental Capstone Seminar

This course seeks to integrate the experiences of environmental concentrators around an investigation, theme or project. The character of the course depends on student and faculty interests as well as the nature of current events relating to the environment. This capstone seminar emphasizes problem-solving, critical thinking and direct application of the diverse backgrounds of students concentrating in environmental areas.

What Can I do With a Major in Environmental Science?