Environmental Studies – Albright College

Environmental Studies

Do you care about environmental issues? Learn to think deeply — and help to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

Albright College offers a broad, cross-program “interdisciplinary” approach to Environmental Studies, designed to prepare students for careers in government, public advocacy, consulting, or for graduate study in law or environmental issue fields.

Learn to critically “think through” big issues by studying politics, anthropology, sociology and psychology of the environment as well environmental economics. In addition to a hands-on natural science, students may choose to study ecological history, religion and the environment and/or the application of philosophical ethics to the natural world.

There is an option to get this degree in 3 years.


Soma Ghosh, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics


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


Marsha Green, Ph.D.
Marsha Green, Professor of Psychology


Irene Langran, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of General Education and Faculty Development; Professor of Political Science


Victor J. Forte, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies


Lisa Bellantoni, Ph.D.
Department Chair; Associate Professor in Philosophy


Brian Jennings, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology


John Pankratz, Ph.D.
Professor of History


Barton Thompson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology

Major in Environmental Studies

Required Courses (Only one course, beyond the Quantitative Reasoning Statistics course, can be counted toward General Studies Foundations requirements)

All of the following core courses

  • ESS 101 Introduction to Environmental Issues
  • ESS 400 Environment Seminar
  • ECO 224 Environmental Economics
  • POL 321 Environment Policy
  • ANT 365 Ecological Psychology
  • SOC 291 Environmenal Sociology
  • ESS 325 GIS

One general course:

  • ANT 101 Introduction to Anthropology
  • ANT 285 The Human Animal
  • ANT 303 Food & Cultural

One environmental science course:

  • BIO 152 General Biology II
  • BIO 211 Ecology
  • BIO 214 Botany and Plant Taxology
  • BIO 246 Conservation Biology
  • ESS 205 Physical Geology
  • ESS 310 Pollution
  • ESS 315 Watersheds
  • SPP J51 Protecting Endangered Species: Hawaiian Humpback Whale

One humanities course:

  • HIS 280 Ecological History
  • PHI 270 Environmental Ethics
  • REL 280/SYN 380 Religion & the Environment

One additional course from either the environmental science group or humanities group above.

One experiential learning course:

  • ESS 280 Martinique Studies
  • ESS 282 or POS 399 Internship
  • ESS 298 Ecological & Anthropological Methods in Peru (if not taken as methods course)
  • SPP J51 Protecting Endangered Species: Hawaiian Humpback Whale

Another off-campus experience, independent study or internship that relates to environmental issues and that is approved by an affiliated instructor or an additional course approved by the director of the Environmental Studies Program.

One statistics course  (satisfies General Studies Foundations Quantitative Reasoning requirement):

  • ECO 207 Economics Statistics
  • MAT 110 Elementary Statistics
  • POL 207 Research Methods
  • PSY 200 Research Design I (must be taken in combination with PSY 201)
  • SOC 211 Social Statistics

One methods course:

  • ESS 298 Ecological & Anthropological Methods in Peru
  • PSY 201 Research Design II (must be taken in combination with PSY 200)
  • SOC 210 Research Methods

Combined Major in Environmental Studies

Required Courses:

  • ESS 101 Introduction to Environmental Issues
  • ESS 400 Environment Seminar
  • ECO 224 Environmental Economics
  • POL 321 Environmental Policy
  • ANT 365 Ecological Psychology
  • SOC 291 Environmental Sociology
  • ESS 325 GIS

One of the following courses:

  • HIS 280 Ecological History
  • PHI 270 Environmental Ethics
  • REL 280/SYN 380 Religion & the Environment
  • ANT 303 Food & Culture

One statistics course (satisfies the General Studies Foundations Quantitative Reasoning requirement):

  • ECO 207 Economics Statistics
  • POL 207 Research Methods
  • PSY 200 Research Design I (must be taken in combination with PSY 201)
  • SOC 211 Social Statistics
  • MAT110 Elementary Statistics

It is recommended that students take one of the following science courses to satisfy the general studies natural science requirement:

  • BIO 152 General Biology II
  • ESS 205 Geology
  • SPP J51 Protecting Endangered Species: Hawaiian Humpback Whale

Students interested in environmental studies should contact Professor Barty Thompson, Director or Professor Brian Jennings.

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 Studies?

Experience your education
Students majoring in environmental studies also receive credit for experiential learning that may consist of study abroad, an internship or independent study arranged with an affiliated instructor.

Contact us
Students interested in the Environmental Studies Major should contact Professor Barty Thompson (Sociology-Anthropology) or Professor Brian Jennings (Sociology-Anthropology).