Environmental Sciences

Students in our Environmental Sciences program at Paul Smith’s College have a rare opportunity to directly study ecosystems and environmental issues within the Adirondacks.

The campus is surrounded by lakes, streams and forests, making it a prime location to learn about ecosystems, environmental issues and the collaboration among people who work together to make a better environment. In your first days on campus, you begin your journey by working in the field, immediately learning about field techniques through active participation. You’ll continue with field studies in your upper division courses. The program allows students to tailor their coursework to their interests within this broad field of science. You’ll have the following opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills you need to enter the growing field of environmental science:

  • Participate in biological and habitat surveys of forests, lakes, wetlands and streams.
  • Study environmental issues related to soil and water conservation, land uses and water quality.
  • Analyze data and present the findings through written or verbal communications.
  • Work closely with faculty on senior capstone research projects.
  • Participate in long-term ecological studies at our Smitty Creek Watershed project.
  • Work with the Adirondack Watershed Institute on research, citizen outreach and hands-on stewardship to preserve water quality and manage invasive species.

Our faculty are dedicated to helping our students engage in a breadth of activities that will make them ready for employment. Our standard eight-semester sequence provides opportunities for summer employment, internships and study abroad. Environmental Sciences requires proficiency in science and math as a foundation for conducting research.

Key Facts
  • B.S. degree
  • 120 credit hours (minimum) required

Pairs well with the following minors:

Career Options

Environmental issues are of increasing concern, and the environmental profession is becoming increasingly important. Typical jobs include:

  • Environmental scientist
  • Environmental specialists
  • Soil and Water technician
  • Biological technician
  • Environmental compliance

Graduates can find employment with government agencies, non-governmental organizations and private consultants.

Program Objectives

At the end of the program students will be able to:

  • Foundation 1. Developing Scientific Skills, Knowledge and Competencies. The emphasis is on integrating ecosystem knowledge, technical skills, and statistical methods in scientific research designed to gain reliable knowledge about natural and impacted systems.
    • Describe the physical environments and biological communities that characterize terrestrial and aquatic environments.
    • Describe the physical, chemical and biological processes that govern the flow of energy and material resources in air, water, and soil.
    • Apply science as a body of knowledge and as a method of inquiry in research.
    • Apply basic statistics to problem solving and hypothesis testing.
  • Foundation 2. Applying Science to Environmental Issues. The emphasis is on the application of science to gain and report reliable knowledge on the physical, chemical and biological effects of human population growth and exploitation, air and water quality, land use and habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change on environmental quality.
    • Be able to access and synthesize scientific literature to gain a comprehensive understanding of issues on environmental quality.
    • Develop a scientific rationale for assessment of problems effecting environmental quality.
    • Apply assessment and monitoring techniques to data collection, quality assurance & quality control, and analyses.
    • Articulate scientific findings in oral and written forms.
  • Foundation 3. Implementing Environmental Solutions (Management). The emphasis here is on humans working together to protect, maintain or restore our environment: approaches, the environment and the process, policy and law, and skills.
    • Describe management approaches that appropriately address environmental issues (e.g., adaptive management, ecosystem management, best management practices).
    • Delineate influential factors in environmental management (e.g., ecological, economic, political, and socio-cultural) and delineate the basic steps in the management process (e.g. assessment, implementation of action, and evaluation).
    • Articulate the role of law and regulatory process in the protection, maintenance and restoration of the environment (e.g., clean water act).
    • Develop the skills needed to effectively work with a variety of stakeholders in an interdisciplinary management setting as an integrated team.
Required Courses

Program Planning Guide »

Program Core Requirements

  • Foundations of Environmental Science
  • Biology I & II
  • General Ecology
  • Chemistry I & II
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Conservation Biology
  • Statistics
  • Politics of the Environment
  • Introduction to GIS
  • Senior Capstone Research

Program Electives

  • Ecosystems: Atmospheric Science
  • Soils and Hydrology
  • Landscape Ecology
  • Limnology
  • Stream Ecology and Management
  • Watershed Management
  • Wetlands Ecosystems and Management
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Biologic Effects of Toxins
  • Geographic Information Systems: Introduction to Remote Sensing
  • Advanced GIS Techniques
  • Environmental Policy and Planning: Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Law and Regulatory Processes
  • Sustainable Development

More information (College Catalog) »


Paul Smith's receives five Best Colleges distinctions, including the No. 1 ranking for Most Innovative Schools. Continue reading »


Curt Stager, professor of natural sciences at Paul Smith’s College, was featured in The New York Times’ Sunday Review for his research of the soft mud below Walden Pond and what it can reveal about both past and future. Read »

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