Environmental Studies


Dr. Richard Peterson (Chair)

Degree name
Bachelor of Science with a major in Environmental Studies


The Department of Environmental Studies strives to increase awareness and appreciation of human connections with the rest of nature, and to stimulate advocacy for sustainable behaviors. The curriculum stresses sound interdisciplinary understanding of natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities disciplines in order to explore past, present, and potential ways of living on the earth. We are concerned with environmental issues at local, regional, national, and global levels, and we especially desire to help individuals and communities practice sustainable living by means of our research, teaching and service. Faculty and students collaborate in active and critical learning through community discourse, personal inquiry, and experiential learning. We intend that our students develop a personal aesthetic awareness of the earth, and that they engage in the inquiry, discovery, critical thinking, and debate that characterize the study of environmental issues.

Major Description

The department offers majors in environmental science and environmental studies. Both build upon a sound foundation in basic science, and both provide broad explorations of human interaction with the environment.

During the first two years, course requirements are nearly identical. The difference between the two majors emerges during the final two years in course selection: environmental science emphasizes scientific aspects of environmental questions, while environmental studies emphasizes humanistic, social, and political aspects.

During the first year, both majors take courses in Environmental Issues, Biology, Literature, Nature & the Environment (or appropriate substitute), and Economics in Context (or appropriate substitute). This two-semester program, called the Green Learning Community (GLC), provides an interdisciplinary framework to explore fundamental themes of environmental studies. Moreover, it develops academic, social and affective skills necessary for successful college learning and collaborative professional work.

During the second year DES students look more deeply into the nature of environmental issues by taking courses in Population, Conservation and Preservation, and Environmental Policy. In addition, the Conservation Field Lab teaches conservation field skills as well as data analysis and environmental communication arts. In the Environmental Sustainability Lab students apply classroom learning as they propose, research and bring about a sustainability project on the campus or the larger community. These interdisciplinary core environmental courses ensure a broad understanding while preparing students for more advanced study.

In their third year, students in both majors take BIO 350 - Ecology. In their third and fourth years, aided by a faculty advisor, students choose advanced courses according to their interests and career plans. Environmental science majors choose science electives in biology, chemistry, physics, marine biology, and psychology, as well as in environmental science. Environmental studies majors in the third and fourth years choose advanced courses from the following distribution groups: Conservation, Preservation and Restoration; Environmental Policy; Arts, Humanities, and Values; Global Ecology and Social Justice.

In both majors, the advanced courses not only stress deeper understanding, but also involve problem solving. Some courses examine the ways that human attitudes affect our environment, while other courses deal with hands-on tasks such as designing a conservation area, restoring a natural ecosystem, or considering technologies to reduce pollution. In order to ensure an intense direct experience of the natural world, the department offers a variety of field study courses. The curriculum culminates with the Senior Capstone in Sustainability in which students apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired to an in-depth study of the concept..


Because the study of environmental issues requires knowledge from a wide range of subjects, DES maintains a firm commitment to interdisciplinary education in our curriculum. DES Core courses utilize knowledge and concepts drawn from the basic sciences as well as from the humanities and social sciences. Upper-division DES courses investigate environmental questions through disciplines such as literature, anthropology, economics, biology, political science, chemistry, physics, and ecology. Through all four years, our curriculum develops the skills necessary for dealing with environmental problems: writing, speaking, critical thinking, computing, research techniques, and media arts. The Environmental Studies Program prepares students to become informed citizens, competent professionals, and lifelong learners.

The Green Learning Community

As mentioned above, all entering first-year environmental students participate in a year-long learning community focused on the fundamental themes of environmental studies. The Green Learning Community integrates courses as follows: 8 credits of biology, 3 credits of literature (or an appropriate substitute), 3 credits of economics and 3 credits of environmental issues for a total of 17 credits over two semesters. This interdisciplinary approach enables students to understand more clearly the complexity of environmental issues and at the same time improve skills in critical thinking, writing, oral communication, research, and use of computers. Experiential learning activities are central.

Center for Sustainable Communities

The Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) is an internship and service-learning program that creates mutually beneficial partnerships between students and environmental organizations in the communities surrounding the Biddeford and Portland campuses. Through hands-on involvement with local governments, non-profit organizations, and community groups, students are able to field test academic learning in situations that make tangible the challenge to "think globally, act locally." The most significant partner organization is the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. Its mission, research and education about coastal environments, attracts DES faculty researchers as well as student interns.

Internships and Careers

Internships provide students with an opportunity to practice learned skills in an actual work environment with the guidance of the CAS internship coordinator, who helps students match their interests with a work experience that might take place locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally. Internships provide career exploration, and can help establish professional networks that lead to career opportunities upon graduation. The interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies is reflected in the wide variety of careers open to graduates, such as air and water resource management, ecological restoration, education, habitat conservation, park management, toxicology, field research, journalism, environmental advocacy, environmental impact assessment, law and regulation, and environmental health. Our graduates enter both masters and doctoral programs in several of these fields.

Curricular Requirements

Since 1991 the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences has defined environmental awareness as a major theme in the College's Core Curriculum, and asked the Department of Environmental Studies to deliver the course Introduction to Environmental Issues to all undergraduates regardless of major. The UNE College of Arts and Sciences is one of the few in the nation that requires formal instruction in environmental studies as a requirement for graduation. 


CAS Core Requirements

Program Required Courses including Green Learning Community (First Year) 17
ENV 100 & 101 - Introduction to Environmental Issues  3
BIO 105/105L - Biology I : Ecology/Evolution  4
BIO 106/106L - Biology II : Cellular/Molecular 4
LIT 121 & 122 - Literature, Nature and the Environment  3
BUEC 104 & 105 - Economics in Context  3
CHE - Any college level Chemistry course w/ Lab 4
MAT 150 - Statistics for Life Sciences  3
Interdisciplinary Environmental Issues Courses (Second year) 13
ENV 200 - Population and the Environment 3
ENV 220 - Conservation and Preservation 3
ENV 220L - Conservation and Preservation Lab 2
ENV 240 - Environmental Sustainability Lab 2
ENV 250 - Environmental Policy in Comparative Perspective 3
BIO 350/350L - Ecology (Third year) 4
Environmental Science Elective
After consulting with their academic advisors, ENV Studies Majors will choose 3 - 4 credit hours of an upper-division science course from the Department of Environmental Studies, or from the Departments of Biology, Marine Science, Chemistry/Physics or Psychology. (This course should be taken during third or fourth years.)
3 - 4
Environmental Studies Distribution Requirements** (Third and fourth year - See listing below) 
One course from each of the 4 Distribution Groups in the list of Environmental Studies Distribution Requirements, and additional credits chosen from any of the groups to total 21 or more credits.
21 - 28
ENV 295 or ENV 495
3 - 9
Senior Capstone in Environmental Studies
ENV 499
Open Elective Courses (needed to reach 120 credits) variable 
Minimum Required Total Credits 120

Environmental Studies Distribution Requirements List

Group One: Conservation, Preservation, Restoration Credits
ENV 275 Environmental Studies Colloquium 1
ENV 309 Sustainability & Ecological Restoration 3
ENV 312/312L Wetland Conservation and Ecology 4
ENV 313/313L Wetland Restoration: Science and Policy 4
ENV 314/314L Restoring Coastal Habitats in the Gulf of Maine 4
ENV 315 Land Conservation Practicum 3
ENV 316/316L Land Conservation Practicum with Field Lab 4
ENV 317 Case Studies in Preserving Biodiversity and Protected Areas 3
ENV 318/318L Advanced Field Methods in Avian Ecology & Conservation 4
ENV 398 Topics in Environmental Studies (3 credits) 3
ENV 399 Topics in Environmental Studies with Lab (4 credits) 4
Group Two: Environmental Policy and Management  
ENV 275 Environmental Studies Colloquium 1
ENV 321 Environmental Communication: Expert Practices for Ecosystem Management 3
ENV 324/BUEC 390 Environmental Economics 3
ENV 328 Environmental Pollution: Ecosystems, Wildlife & Human Health 3
ENV 357 Sustaining Water 3
ENV 372 Forest Landscape Ecology and Management 3
ENV 398 Topics in Environmental Studies  3
ENV 399 Topics in Environmental Studies with Lab  4
BUEC 395 Ecological Economics 3
Group Three: Arts, Humanities, and Values  
ENV 275 Environmental Studies Colloquium 1
ENV 331 Women and the Environment 3
ENV 332 The Literature of Nature 3
ENV 333/333L The Nature Writers with Field Lab 4
ENV 334 Contemporary Nature Writing 3
ENV 334L Contemporary Nature Writing Lab 1
ENV 335 Environmental History of New England Seminar 3
ENV 336 Seminar on Edward Abbey 3
ENV 337 Outdoor Environmental Education 3
ENV 398 Topics in Environmental Studies 3
ENV 399 Topics in Environmental Studies with Lab 4
Group Four: Global Ecology and Social Justice  
ENV 275 Environmental Studies Colloquium 1
ENV 340 Environmental Movements and Social Change 3
ENV 341 Indigenous Ecology, Conservation Biology, and the Politics of Knowledge 3
ENV 344 Environmental Ethics 3
ENV 348/348L Environment, Health, and Community Development in East Africa 4
ENV 376 Caribbean Sustainable Development 3
ENV 398 Topics in Environmental Studies  3
ENV 399 Topics in Environmental Studies with Lab  4

Secondary Education Certification

The department offers environmental studies majors the opportunity to select all of the EDU secondary education certification courses (listed below) as their electives in order to become middle school or high school teachers (grades 7-12) in the area of science. While providing a solid foundation in environmental studies and science, this program includes extensive coursework in education, which, when combined with the secondary teaching internship, will meet standards for State of Maine teacher certification upon completion of the degree program. This program is approved by the State of Maine Board of Education.

Education Courses  
EDU 105 - Exploring Teaching 3
EDU 110- 21st Century Learning Through Technology 3
EDU 202 - Curriculum & Assessment 3
EDU 220 - Exceptionality in the Classroom 3
EDU 385- Diversity and Social Justice 3
EDU 382- Literacy Research-Based Instructional Methods 3
EDU 437 - Teaching Secondary Science 3
EDU 488 - Secondary Education Practicum 3
EDU 498 - Secondary Internship 12
EDU 405- Inclusive Methods and Data Based Decision Making 3
Education Total Number of Credits 39

Academic and Technical Standards

All courses that fulfill a degree requirement must be completed with a grade of C- or higher. 

Learning Outcomes

All graduates will achieve the following learning outcomes: 
I.     Intellectual Flexibility - Students will possess the intellectual flexibility necessary to view environmental questions from multiple perspectives, prepared to alter their understanding as they learn new ways of understanding. 
II.    Problem Solving - Students will solve problems systematically, creatively, and reflexively, ready to assemble knowledge and formulate strategy. 
III.   Interdisciplinarity - When encountering environmental problems students will assess necessary scientific concepts and data, consider likely social dynamics, and establish integral cultural contexts. 
IV.   Research - When faced with questions that lie beyond their current knowledge base, students will actively research data, concepts, histories, and narratives necessary for adequate consideration of the issue. 
V.    Communication - Students will communicate with precision, effective art, and 
         sound rhetoric in writing, in speech, and in digital media. 
VI.   Values - Reflecting upon their internalized values system, students will continue to evolve an individual vision of harmonious and sustainable interaction among humans as well as between humans and the rest of the natural world. 
VII. Knowledge – Students will have mastered foundational knowledge enabling them to make sound life decisions as well as enter a career in an environmental profession or graduate school. 
To deal with environmental issues one must understand not only scientific concepts, but also the social interactions by which humans behave and the cultural values that underlay behaviors. Therefore, our Environmental Studies and Environmental Science programs lead to learning outcomes involving many different disciplines, or ways of knowing. We have organized our more detailed learning outcomes according to the three traditional academic categories: social sciences, natural sciences, and the humanities. 

A. Social Sciences 

  1. Students will be able to articulate the basic structure, functions, and processes of key social systems affecting the environment. 
  2. Students will be able to apply specific models of social system processes derived from various social science theories to explain environmental issues (including current and past conditions), and to propose future solutions to environmental problems 
  3. Students will be able to identify, interpret, and apply basic measures (metrics and formulae) of social system variables to assess socio-environmental conditions. 
  4. Students will be able to articulate basic understanding of various social science theories/frameworks and how they apply to environmental issues. 
  5. Students will be able to explain how various paradigms or worldviews and their implicit and explicit assumptions and values shape the viewer’s perception of environmental problems and solutions. 

B. Natural Sciences 

  1. Students will understand key concepts in the life and physical sciences, and will apply them to environmental issues. 
  2. Students will understand and apply the scientific process, as well as appreciate both the potential and limitations of the process. 
  3. Students will be able to locate, evaluate and synthesize information from the scientific literature. 
  4. Students will analyze data using appropriate statistical methods, and will be able to evaluate the use of statistics by others in a variety of contexts. 
  5. Students will apply knowledge of the sciences within an interdisciplinary context in solving environmental issues such as environmental health, food and agriculture, energy, waste and pollution, climate change, population, resource management, and loss of biodiversity. 
  6. Students will carry out an applied research project in the natural sciences. 
  7. Students will be able to communicate science effectively through written work and oral presentations to a variety of audiences. 
  8. Students will apply the tools commonly used in field research, particularly in the study of plants, animals and soils; and will find their way on the landscape using map, compass and GPS technology, and use spatial analysis software such as GIS, Google Earth and Google Maps. 

C. Humanities 

  1. Students will articulate historical epochs and concepts relevant to the evolution of environmental consciousness and policy.  
  2. Students will analyze and evaluate ideological and philosophical approaches used to understand environmental relationships. 
  3. Students will be aware of and able to analyze the potential of literature and fine arts to communicate assumptions of value about human relations with the biosphere. 
  4. Students will articulate a coherent philosophy of the environment, & consider ethical bases for responding to environmental questions. 

The 3rd and 4th year curriculum of the Environmental Studies/Science majors build on the core learning outcomes through a process of intensification, adding depth and sophistication to students’ learning of the concepts and skills specified above. For students majoring in Environmental Studies, the outcomes listed under “Social Sciences” and “Humanities” are emphasized, while the outcomes listed under “Natural Sciences” are emphasized for students majoring in Environmental Science. 

Double Major

It is possible for DES students to add a second major or a minor in areas such as marine biology, medical biology, political science, history, sociology, and English. DES students interested in a double major should consult with their DES faculty advisor, who in turn will coordinate with an advisor from the second department.


Minor in Environmental Studies

A student with a major in another department may minor in Environmental Studies with the approval of the Environmental Studies Department Chair. A minimum of eighteen hours of approved course credit in the following courses is required:

ENV 100/101 or ENV 104 - Introduction to Environmental Issues 3
ENV 200 - Population and the Environment 3
ENV 220 - Conservation and Preservation 3
ENV 250 - Environmental Policy in Comparative Perspective 3
Two courses chosen from upper level Environmental Studies or Science courses 6

Minor in Geographic Information Systems

A student with a major in the Department of Environmental Studies or another department may minor in Geographic Information Systems with the approval of the Environmental Studies Department Chair. A minimum of eighteen hours of approved course credit in the following courses is required:

GIS 161 - GIS I: Fundamentals of Geospatial Science & Technology 3
GIS 162 - GIS II: Application of Geospatial Science & Technology 3
GIS 224/224L - Remote Sensing/Remote Sensing Lab 4
GIS 265 - Global Positioning Systems (optional) 2
GIS 364/364L - Spatial Analysis/Spatial Analysis Lab 3-4
GIS 495 - GIS Internship 3+

Honors Program

We offer qualified students the option of participating in our Honors Program and graduating with Honors. This includes significant research, scholarship or creative activity under the direction of a faculty member.

Financial Information

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees for subsequent years may vary. Other expenses include books and housing. For more information regarding tuition and fees, please consult the Financial Information section of this catalog.