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Jackie Fahrenholz in Indonesia for student research.

Environmental Studies

As the political debate over climate change rages, the need for highly trained environmental specialists has never been more urgent. McDaniel’s Environmental Studies major offers multiple tracks, so you’ll be equipped to fight this battle on many fronts.

Degree Types
Major , Minor
Complementary Programs
Distinctive Requirements
Spaces for Research

The Environmental Studies degree at McDaniel College prepares you to become a leader, problem-solver, and environmental professional. With a focus on experiential learning and the scientific method, you’ll delve into the interdisciplinary study of human-environmental relations with a focus on human influences on the environment and environmental problem-solving.

There are three specializations within the major: Environmental Policy and Management, Environmental Biology, and Earth System Science. As an Environmental Studies major, you’ll explore contemporary environmental issues and develop professional competencies through innovative courses. Program graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to address socio-ecological challenges and create a better world.

Future Career Paths

Environmental Studies students will be well prepared for graduate study and to pursue careers as:

  • Policy analysts
  • Science researchers
  • Environmental consultants
  • Environmental health specialists
  • Urban or regional planners
  • Science educators
  • Naturalists

Distinctive Courses

ENV 1131 - Environmental Problem Solving

This course is the introductory course for environmental science. An interdisciplinary study of environmental problems that considers world populations, energy, air and water pollution, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and environmental health. Class discussion will center on solutions including technical and human behavioral modifications that can lead to the sustainable use of our environment.

ENV 2151 - Sustainability

Sustainability in its simplest form is the continuation of a process. When proposed for human and natural systems, sustainability aims to meet the needs of the present while considering the needs of the future. To achieve this vision sustainability requires navigating many of the social and environmental challenges faced in our contemporary era. Within this course we will explore these challenges alongside the myriad of opportunities available to develop new solutions and scale-up those solutions already available. To achieve these course goals, this class combines interactive lectures, discussions, and individual and team-based assignments that examine sustainability globally, locally, and personally.

ENV 3110 - Climatology

Understanding processes that have affected climate in the past will help us predict future global warming. In this course, we will explore how the climate of the Earth has changed in the past, what caused past climate changes, and how we know. We will investigate concepts such as Faint Young Sun, Milankovitch Cycles, and “snowball Earth” and the connections between Earth’s systems and its climate.

ENV 3114 - Wetland Ecology

Wetlands have been greatly maligned as wasted land and mosquito breeding grounds for centuries; however, these delicate environments have been shown to provide essential ecosystem services, including filtering of nutrients and sediments, bird and fish habitat, and attenuation of floods. Because of this, many environmental agencies and non-profit groups are working to restore wetlands. In Wetland Ecology, we will explore the characteristics and function of wetlands, what sorts of organisms live in wetlands, and how humans can improve their interactions with wetlands in both in the classroom and through field and laboratory experiences. We will develop an appreciation of these critical ecosystems.

Special Opportunities

There are three tracks to choose from in Environmental Studies. Our core courses cover a range of environmental issues, but choosing a specialized track provides detailed training in specific fields. 

Environmental Studies — Policy and Management Specialization

For students who want to understand the relationship between policy and the environment.

Environmental Studies — Environmental Biology Specialization

For students who want to better understand the biological science of the environment.

Environmental Studies — Earth System Science Specialization

For students who want to understand how complex systems interact to affect various aspects of life on our planet.

The McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Experiential Learning

Two seniors majoring in Environmental Studies were awarded top prizes at the Maryland Water Monitoring Council’s Annual Conference

Environmental Studies seniors awarded top prizes at annual statewide environmental conference Research in Action

Class of 2024 seniors Garrett Tucker and Olivia Sunde were awarded top prizes at the Maryland Water Monitoring Council’s Annual Conference held Nov. 17 at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Their research involved collaborations with the community to explore issues of water monitoring in the local region.

Jackie Fahrenholz (left) and Kathryn Dixon during their Jan Term study trip to the Bahamas

Environmental Studies major immerses in real-life experiences around the globe Developing Skills

The Hill has become a home base of sorts for Jackie Fahrenholz's adventures in experiential learning. Nature is the McDaniel senior’s classroom in remote locations all over the world.

Beth Lang, Environmental Studies and Biology Major Senior Capstone

Environmental Studies and Biology major Beth Lang talks about her senior capstone — her study on restoring the ecosystem on the Singleton Matthews Farm as the culmination of her Environmental Studies and Biology training at McDaniel.

Environmental Management students at MEC

With you and the Hill, our world can become: McDaniel Environmental Center Greener | More sustainable | A better place for all

The McDaniel Environmental Center supports the college’s mission and has become a student-powered hub for collaborative and experiential learning opportunities. Since McDaniel College acquired the property in the late 1980s, it has transformed into a creative space for our students to make an impact from removing invasive species and planting native species to growing food that goes straight to those in need. 

In addition to Environmental Studies students, hundreds of McDaniel students have gained firsthand experience at the center through Biology, Ecology, Environmental Management, and Sustainable Agriculture courses over the last four years. 

Kylie Baker Class of 2023

Meet Our Students Class of 2023: Kylie Baker Get to Know a Green Terror

As an Environmental Studies and Political Science dual major and Food Fellow, Kylie Baker has spent a lot of time outdoors with her hands in the dirt. Her time spent in the campus gardens ties into her passion for environmental policy and researching food insecurity on a local and international scale. She also founded Sunrise McDaniel and connected with like-minded Green Terrors on campus. "The community that I’ve been a member of at McDaniel has been one of the most supportive, close-knit, and loving bonds that I’ve ever known."

Erik Yanisko '19 majored in Environmental Studies

Meet an Alum Class of 2019: Erik Yanisko

Erik Yanisko went to the Peruvian Amazon as part of a Jan Term study abroad trip titled, “The Forest Online” with a group of 15 students who ventured deep into the Amazon to create a multimedia research project consisting of interviews with indigenous people who have communities in the region, and researchers who are living there doing various projects.

Recent News for Environmental Studies