Environmental Science

In today’s world, environmental action requires understanding of more than just the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. Broaden your exploration at Albright.

Gain hands-on natural science knowledge across a variety of areas including animal and plant ecology, land management or hydrology while learning how these merge with other fields to address environmental challenges. At Albright, students and faculty collaborate on research topics such as wetland restoration, watershed studies, vertebrate ecology, land conservation and forest management.

Join us, and find your meaningful career in natural resource management through government, research, and consulting — or pursue graduate study in advanced fields of environmental science and biology.

What Can I do With a Major in Environmental Science?

environmental-science

Stephen G. Mech, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
610-921-7743
smech@albright.edu

environmental-science

David T. Osgood, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
610-921-7726
dosgood@albright.edu

environmental-science

Brian Jennings, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology
610-921-7892
bjennings@albright.edu

environmental-science

Barton Thompson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology
610-921-7593
bthompson@albright.edu

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.

Requirements:

Environmental Science majors must take:

ESS 101 and 400

Seven courses within the science/math core:
– BIO 152 and either BIO 151 or BIO 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 389, BIO 491, BIO 494, ESS 298
– Physical Science Group: BIO 312, BIO/ESS 315, ESS 205, ESS 310
– Socio-Political-Cultural Group:  ANT 365, ANT 285, POL 214, 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 a study abroad field course (BIO 389 – Tropical Field Ecology of Costa Rica, ESS 298 – Ecological and Anthropological Field Study in Peru or a similar study abroad experience approved by the Biology Department). Students interested in the Environmental Science major should contact Professors Osgood or Mech in the Biology Department.


ANT 265
Ecological Psychology
The objectives of this course are to understand the psychological origin and scope of current environmental problems and how they relate to our values, attitudes and behaviors; to study human experiences and behavior in their environmental, political and spiritual context; to question the human institutions and values that lead to environmental problems; and to explore the role of humans within the larger ecosystem. (Cross-listed as IDS 265 and PSY 265)

ANT 285
The Human Animal
What are humans and how did we get to be the way we are? How do we live? What makes us act the way we do? Are we moral? How do we affect other species and the world around us? These are the questions we shall investigate in this course, and to answer them we will take an interdisciplinary approach drawing on the disciplines from both the natural (biology, ecology) and social (anthropology, sociology) sciences to provide insights into the heart and soul of the human species. After examining the process of natural selection we will explore how it forged modern Homo sapiens over the last 5 million years. We will then look at the finished product in terms of our mental and physical characteristics. We will complete this investigation by examining how we (humans) tend to interact with other species and our surrounding environment. It is hoped that many of the complexities and confusion about who we are will become more clear as we develop an understanding of both our capabilities as well as our limitations. Overall, students should gain a more complete comprehension of who they are as a member of the human species. (Cross-listed as IDS 285)


BIO 151
General Biology I: Structure and Function
This course introduces students to cellular biology, metabolism, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and development. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. General Studies Foundations Natural Science

BIO 152
General Biology II: Systematics, Ecology, and Evolution
An introduction to plant and animal systematics, plant physiology and ecology, this course includes a major laboratory project and report. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. General Studies Foundations Natural Science

BIO 200
Biometry
This course teaches biology students how to design an experiment in a format that leads to a statistical analysis which tests the desired hypothesis. Students learn how to recognize and apply statistical analyses most appropriate for a given data set, focusing on real examples from recent or on-going research. Emphasis is placed on some of the more commonly used statistical methods in biology in order to provide a framework for exploration of more advanced methods. This is an applied course with emphasis on using computer programs effectively. Three hours lecture and two hours laboratory per week. Offered fall semester of odd years.

BIO 203
Introduction to Genetics 
An introduction to classical genetics, molecular genetics and population genetics, this course includes a major writing project designed to explore specific topics in genetics and evolution. Three hours lecture per week. Offered fall semester.

BIO 211
Ecology
This course studies the relationships between animals and plants and their natural environments. Factors shaping the distribution and abundance of organisms, populations and communities are discussed. Specific emphasis is given to factors such as competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, physiology, climate, energy flow, and biochemical cycles that influence species adaptations and, in turn, patterns of distribution and abundance. The laboratory is designed to provide experience in the field using several techniques for monitoring both plant and animal populations, as well as environmental parameters in a variety of habitats. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Offered fall semester.
Prerequisites: BIO 151, 152

BIO 214
Botany and Plant Taxonomy
Principles of identification and classification of land plants are discussed in this course. Plant keys and digital photography are used in the field and photomicroscopy in the lab complements field work. This course includes a survey of major vascular plant families and field study of local plants and vegetation types. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Offered even years in the fall.
Prerequisite: BIO 152 or permission of the instructor

BIO 220
Evolution
This is a lecture class focusing on the role of evolution in shaping biological organisms. Major topics include natural selection, adaptation, evolution of life histories, population genetics, and the processes of speciation and macroevolution. Occasional discussions will center on reading current and seminal papers examining the important advances in evolutionary theory. Three hours lecture per week. Offered spring semester of odd years.
Prerequisites: BIO 152 and BIO 203

BIO/ESS 246
Conservation Biology
The study of preserving and restoring nature and ecosystem processes are covered. This course 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. Offered fall semester of even years.
Prerequisite: BIO 152, BIO 211 recommended. General Studies Connections-Global

BIO/ESS 312
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 evaluations of the hydrology, soils, and plant and animal communities of various wetland types. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Offered fall semester of even years.
Prerequisite: BIO 152

BIO/ESS 315
Watershed Hydrology and Water Resources
Water is perhaps our most vital resource, yet its availability is often taken for granted. This class 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, as well as watershed management issues and practices. In the laboratory portion of this course, field techniques are used to quantify hydrologic processes in surface waters, groundwater and wetland soils.

Water quality is also assessed within lake and river environments. Modern tools, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), are used to connect landscape properties to water availability and quality. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Offered fall semester of odd years.
Prerequisite: ESS 101 is recommended

BIO 318
Marine and Aquatic Science
Over 70 percent of the world is covered by water with about 97 percent of it in the oceans.  Despite this, much of these aquatic environments are not well explored or understood.  This is a problem since even though the underwater world may seem alien and distant, we are irrevocably interconnected with this ecosystem.

From fisheries to deep ocean carbon dioxide pumping humanity’s future is tied with the aquatic world.  In this course you will be introduced to the general concepts of oceanography, limnology (the study of freshwater systems), and aquatic ecology. Through a series of fieldtrips and lab exercises, you will gain firsthand experience with the tools and techniques used to discover the secrets under the waves. This course includes a trip to a marine research lab during which you will run self-designed surveys and experiments to truly become aquatic scientists. Three hours lecture and three hours lab per week. Offered spring semester of odd years.
Prerequisites: BIO 211 and CHE 106

BIO 319
Vertebrate Natural History
This course is a survey of the natural history of the vertebrates. Students learn the ecology, evolution and the natural history of the major vertebrate classes including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Laboratory focuses on taxonomic identification of vertebrates native to Pennsylvania and on various field techniques used to study and survey vertebrates. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. At least one field trip will be over a weekend. Offered spring semester of even years.
Prerequisite: BIO 152

BIO 337
Comparative Animal Physiology and Ecophysiology
This course will explore the interplay between the physiological mechanisms of organisms and the ecological responses of populations to environmental stress. Topics covered will include basic physiological mechanisms, the effect of natural and human-induced environmental change on animal physiology, the special adaptations that allow organisms to survive in a variety of aquatic habitats, and the ecological implications of physiological responses to stress and environmental change. Three hours lecture and three hours lab per week. Offered spring semester of even years.
Prerequisites: BIO 151 and 152, CHE 105

BIO 389
Tropical Field Ecology of Costa Rica
This course begins with meetings in the fall semester to introduce tropical ecology. In January, we will travel to Costa Rica where we will focus on observing and identifying the organisms of Costa Rica and their adaptations for their environment. We will begin by visiting some of the nature preserves in Costa Rica with a local guide. We will then travel to Río de Sueños – Albright College Costa Rica, the college’s property located in southern Costa Rica. While there, we will focus on projects developed by the students during the fall semester. The course concludes with an Experience Event presentation to the campus about the student projects.  Group I

BIO 491
Seminar on Special Topics
Discussions and written assignments provide an opportunity for exploration of specific topics in depth using a seminar format. Emphasis is placed on development of communication skills and ability to read and evaluate original scientific literature. Seminar topics include such areas as cell ultrastructure, immunobiology, neurobiology and environmental issues.

BIO 494
Mammalian Evolution
A seminar concerning the evolution of mammals.  Lectures present an overview of mammalian evolution, interspersed with student presentations based on readings from current literature in the field. Students also design, develop, and provide a written proposal of a research project addressing some aspect of mammalian evolution. Three hours of lecture per week. Offered spring semester of odd years.
Prerequisite: BIO 220 or BIO 319


CHE 105
General Analytical Chemistry I
This course is an intensive study of the main concepts of chemistry, and covers qualitative and quantitative descriptions of matter and reactivity. The description of matter includes the atomic and subatomic scale (atomic structure, bonding, geometry and intermolecular forces) and the macroscopic scale (phases of matter and solutions). Reactivity topics include basic patterns of reactivity, reaction stoichiometry and thermochemistry. Both conceptual learning and quantitative problem solving are emphasized. The laboratory program consists of an introduction to scientific methods and observation specifically involving inorganic synthesis and qualitative analysis. Observations are based on data rooted in a material explanation of the natural world.  Analysis of data includes an inductive reasoning approach. Four hours lecture and four hours laboratory per week. This course satisfies the General Studies Foundations-Natural Science requirement typically for students planning to major in chemistry, biochemistry, biology or a related field. Facility with algebra is assumed.

CHE 106
General Analytical Chemistry II
This course is a continuation of CHE 105 covering kinetics, equilibrium, spontaneity and an introduction to inorganic chemistry. Within these topics, acid-base (proton transfer equilibrium) chemistry, electrochemistry (electron transfer equilibrium) and solubility (solid-ion equilibrium) are discussed. The introduction to inorganic chemistry includes descriptive chemistry of metals and nonmetals, coordination chemistry, nuclear chemistry and environmental chemistry. The laboratory program focuses on quantitative analysis with an introduction to the use of chemical instrumentation. Facility with algebra is assumed. Four hours lecture and four hours laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: CHE 105 (The Department strongly recommends a C- or better in the prerequisite course)

CHE 207
Organic Chemistry I
This course studies the chemistry of carbon and other nonmetals (including hydrogen, boron, nitrogen, phosphorous, oxygen, sulfur and the halogens) as grouped into characteristic classes of organic compounds. Topics include the structure, bonding, physical properties and reactivity of covalent and ionic molecules as well as organometallic species. Paradigms of stereochemistry, reaction mechanism, reaction kinetics and thermodynamics, and structure/ property correlation are considered. Laboratory work is devoted to the synthesis and characterization of organic compounds, the study of molecular modeling and the study of reaction kinetics and thermodynamics. Emphasis is placed on proper laboratory technique; experiment design; and laboratory data collection, reporting and interpretation. Three hours of lecture, one hour of conference group, and four hours of laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: CHE 106


ECO 224
Environmental Economics
The application of economic principles to a variety of environmental problems. Attention is given to the economics of resource depletion, waste disposal, population growth and economic growth.


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)

ESS/BIO 312
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

ESS/BIO 315
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

ESS/BIO 316
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.


HIS 280
Living on Earth: An Ecological Approach to the American Past

This course brings a wide range of new ways of making sense of more than 500 years of American history. Much more than a chronicle of the environmental movement, the course considers the interrelationships among various lifeforms- plant, animal, microbial – in particular landscapes and climates, human strategies and technologies for wresting a living from the Earth, and value systems that have long promoted or, more recently, questioned economic developments, the basis for the American Dream. Particular themes include the impact of disease on American demography; conflict between Indian and European uses of land; the introduction of exogenous species and the extinction or near-extinction of indigenous ones; development of industrial-capitalistic modes of resource exploitation in the 19th century; and the social costs of that exploitation in our time.  General Studies Global Connections-Humanities.


PHI 270
Environmental Ethics
Contemporary environmental challenges – including resource use, food production, population growth, species extinctions, rising sea levels, ocean pollution and modern energy demands – all raise important questions about how we should live in relation to our natural surroundings. What obligations do we have concerning the environment? What justifications can we give for the protection of wildlife, land and water? Does nature have value apart from human needs? What do we owe future human beings? Are some parts of nature more valuable than others? This course examines various responses to these and other questions about our place in nature and our proper role, if any, in preserving it. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES


POL 214
Public Policy
Students in this course study how policies are made by governments. Half of the course is devoted to a comparative analysis of three major policy perspectives or ideologies, along with a description of popular models of the policymaking process. The other half of the course uses this theoretical background to focus on policy case studies from fields including economics, health care, education and the environment.

POL 321
Environmental Policy
After a brief history and discussion of the theory behind environmental policy, this class will devote its time to an extended description and critical discussion of specific environmental policies. This discussion is broken into two main categories: policies dealing with pollution and public health (including waste and air and water pollution), and policies dealing with land management and the public realm (including agriculture, public lands and sprawl).
Prerequisite: POL 101 or 214 or permission of the instructor


PSY 350
Animal Behavior and Cognition
An evolutionary approach to the study of human and animal behavior with emphasis on animal minds, including perception, attention, conditioning, representation, concept and rule learning, tool use, communication, self-awareness, awareness of the other, ecological significance, and adaptive function. The methods, research and theories of comparative psychologists, ethologists, and sociobiologists are discussed in relation to reproductive strategies, social behavior, aggression, and especially cognition. Includes discussion of the evolution of behavior as determined by selection pressures in the organism’s environment, the role of genetics and the environment in the development of behavior, and the pros and cons of ethological method of studying behavior in a natural environment versus a laboratory setting. Prerequisite: PSY 200 or permission


REL 280
Religion and the Environment
This course examines how the teachings and practices from various world religions have affected the human understanding of our relation with the natural world. It examines both the positive and negative impact of religious communities on ecological communities. In doing so, the course attempts to clarify to what extent, if any, we might turn to religious systems as a foundation for environmental stewardship.


SOC 291
Environmental Sociology
This course will focus on the interconnections between social systems and ecosystems. Cultural, economic, social and environmental paradigms will be examined as to their effect on a wide range of ecosystem scales. By using a sociological focus to examine complex environmental issues, students will gain a deeper understanding of how these issues can be resolved in a fair and equitable way. Specific topics covered will include consumption, global warming, environmental movements, international and domestic development, food and agriculture, etc. All topics covered in the course will maintain a specific focus on their effects on the environment and the role that social systems play within them.  General Studies Connections

This interdisciplinary major helps prepare students for careers in government, consulting, private industry or for graduate study in fields such as environmental science, ecology and evolution or resource management. The major can be combined with our Marine and Aquatic Science minor for students interested in careers related to natural resources of aquatic environments. See Biology requirements for more information on the Marine and Aquatic Science minor.

We emphasize experiential learning. Lab courses typically involve field work within a diversity of local habitats and weekend field trips for more intensive field study. We also prioritize hand-on learning with sample processing, lab analyses and statistical analysis. Recent student-faculty research collaborations include study of small mammal ecology, forest management practices, wetland restoration studies within state and municipal parks, surveys for endangered bat species, effect of pollutants on freshwater invertebrates and barrier island salt marsh ecology.

Students may also participate in internships with institutions including the PA Department of Environmental Resources, US Fish and Wildlife and local land conservancy organizations. Recent graduates have entered graduate programs at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Villanova University, University of Minnesota and many other institutions. Graduates also find work outside of school at environmental consulting firms, environmental education facilities, engineering firms, state and local parks and arboretums and governmental offices (Environmental Protection Agency, PA Department of Environmental Protection, US Department of Agriculture).

Students interested in this major should contact professors David Osgood or Stephen Mech.