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  • College of Arts & Sciences

    • Science Division
    • Kirkbride Hall, Room 323
    • tel: 610-499-4003
    • fax: 610-499-4496
  • Dr. Stephen R. Madigosky

    • Chair, Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability
    • Kirkbride Hall, Room 206
    • tel: 610-499-4269

Curriculum, Environmental Science and Sustainability

The environmental science curriculum is founded solidly on the traditional sciences of biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, and physics, yet provides considerable breadth of experience in environmental science areas in addition to unique study abroad opportunities.

Students take required electives in any of the sciences or in civil engineering, so that they can emphasize an area of particular interest.

Since the major does not have a narrow focus, students are prepared for a wide range of jobs or graduate study.

Sample Courses

View a selection of courses students may take as an environmental science major.

ENVR 172 Principles of Sustainability Science

This course addresses the cultivation, integration, and application of knowledge about our planetary environment from a dimension that considers the dynamics of human-centered environmental activity and systems. This approach is taken to facilitate the evaluation and implementation of essential interventions that not only promote sustainability but also help arrest conditions that we as a global society must resolve over the next several decades. This course requires that students engage in real-world, problem-solving activities and student presentations. 

ENVR 180 Sustainable Development: Service Learning in Tropical America

This course introduces students to the concept of sustainable resource development by allowing them to work closely with community members in tropical America that traditionally harness biological resources as a source of income. Students explore how people form a different culture using biological resources to create an income stream that is both continuous and sustainable. Students provide service to the community by helping members develop and refine biological resources for the purpose of augmenting their income.

ENVR 201 Environmental Geology

This course details treatment of the structure of the Earth’s crust, its igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, their kinds, origin, and importance. This course covers such topics as erosion processes, mountain building, development of continents and land forms, volcanism, earthquakes, glaciation—a survey of the geological past. Lab includes studies of rocks, minerals, fossils, geologic and topographical maps, aerial photographs, and local field work.

ENVR 261 Geographic Information Systems

This course provides a skill that is cross-disciplinary and applicable to the interpretation of any data that has a spatial relationship. Of particular interest are environmental data sets that are collected within a geographic context. The lecture portion introduces the basic principles of using and interpreting data within a computerized Geographic Information System (GIS). The lab component integrates lecture material into a GIS assessment. An important component of the lab is the collection of digital data using global positioning system (GPS) equipment and uploading the data to the GIS system. Students are required to develop and demonstrate a working knowledge of the GPS/GIS techniques through an independent research project that they will present orally to the class. Lab students are required to submit a final written project report.

ENVR 301 Introductory Ecology 
This course teaches ecological and environmental literacy. Participants will understand the physical, biological and evolutionary processes that determine ecosystem structure and function and the process of ecological inquiry which is the scientific method, through which natural phenomena are observed, interpreted and reported. This course also teaches how to read global environmental signposts (climate changes, ozone depletion, and biodiversity loss), recognize our role in causing those trends, and evaluate the courses of action, in terms of our consumer and disposer decisions, we all must make to sustain ourselves. 

ENVR 304 Environmental Pollution

A critical examination of the integral processes that affect Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere with regard to man’s activities. Topics addressed include chemistry of the atmosphere, soil, and water chemistry, waste disposal and treatment, regulatory strategies for air, water, and soil pollution abatement, principles of wastewater treatment, solid and hazardous waste management, thermal pollution, and mining and reclamation.

ENVR 340/342 Tropical Ecology and Tropical Ecology Laboratory
The lecture portion of this course examines the nature, evolution and structural and functional components and relationships that exist within tropical rain forests worldwide. A broad range of topics covering the physical, biological and chemical aspects of tropical environments are explored. Specific topics include forest succession and architecture, tropical microclimate, vertical organization of canopy biota, evolution of tropical plants, tropical parasites, decomposition and nutrient recycling, plant/animal interactions, survival strategies and the evolutionary history of tropical forests. Students design and carry out a research project that is completed during a one-week fieldtrip in a tropical forest environment. Students present their findings to the Widener community or at a regional or national meeting.

ENVR 401 Physiological Ecology of Extreme Environments: Life at the Edge

This course focuses on the evolutionary adaptation of physiology to the problems posed by the biophysical extremes of this world including warm deserts, arctic and alpine environments, freshwater and saline wetlands, deep sea environments, and human disturbed environments. An important message is that all environments are variable and the rules at the extremes apply everywhere–life is always at the edge. The laboratory experience allows students to conduct original research on a variety of plant/animal based systems.

For more information about courses and requirements for environmental science, please refer to page 73 in our course catalog