A new degree at the University of Wyoming aims to offer students an interdisciplinary perspective on environmental science.
The Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources is offering a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Systems Science for the first time this semester. The degree is the first to be housed at the Haub School, which also offers a concurrent major and three minors.
Doug Wachob, interim dean of the Haub School, said the degree is collaborative in nature, pulling from expertise across a range of departments.
“That’s where we feel the real value of this degree is for students,” he said. “They have areas of specialization in which they become experts, but they are integrated across a suite of disciplines.”
According to the degree program, students begin their studies by taking courses in earth, biological and physical sciences. They also study the human, atmospheric and biological realms of the earth system. Another area of focus is called the lithosphere, or the geology and hydrology of the surface of the earth. Additional classes allow students to gain technical skills in areas such as data analysis and geographic information systems.
Students are required to complete a minor in another discipline, and an internship offers a culminating experience.
Classes within the program take students to a variety of departments, including botany, geology, geography, chemistry, life sciences, math, anthropology, atmospheric science, sociology and more.
“That is meant to provide students with experience across the ranges of different disciplines and across the knowledge of different disciplines, but also to get used to working with people in various disciplines,” Wachob said.
He said the degree was possible only because of faculty collaboration.
“The environmental issues and environmental problems of today and the future are simply not being solved by a single discipline,” he said. “Students have to have this breadth of experience.”
The new degree came into being after a faculty committee started meeting several years ago to revise a degree called Earth System Science. That old degree didn’t have a college or department to call home.
“That created a really challenging scenario for students and faculty,” said Maggie Bourque, student advising coordinator at the Haub School.
Wachob said students with the new degree will be prepared for careers in a variety of fields. Technical skills are valued by employers, as is experience thinking critically and working with people from different backgrounds.
Recent graduates with the Haub School’s concurrent major in environment and natural resources have found jobs with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private companies and in education.
Bourque said students would also be prepared for graduate school.
“It’s also a good stepping-stone for students who might be interested in graduate school in the sciences who want to have a broad base in multiple areas, and thinking about the intersections between the sciences,” she said.
Since the degree opened this semester, about 20 students have declared or are in the process of declaring, she said.
The Haub School also offers minors in environment and natural resources, outdoor leadership and sustainability.
A kick-off film screening to celebrate the new degree is set for 7 p.m. today at the Gryphon Theatre, 710 Garfield St. “Our Local Epic” is a film about the effort to designate the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River as a Wild and Scenic River.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act aims to preserve certain rivers in their free-flowing condition for future generations. The Clarks Fork was considered for a dam project before the designation in 1990, making it the first Wild and Scenic River in the state. Bourque said the film includes science, conservation and recreation and offers a look at how they can work together.
“It’s really an opportunity to think about those systems,” she said.
The screening is free to the public.