Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why an Environmental Biology Degree?
The field of Environmental Biology is very broad. It can encompass areas such as training dolphins for the military to studying the oldest life forms on earth in Australia. Most commonly it is associated with those working on environmental remediation and rehabilitation. Different schools will have different majors that fit into this category as well. Your major may be in environmental biology, marine science, zoology, ecology, etc. Most schools covered in this article have majors entitled Environmental Biology, but not all, due to the broad nature of the major.

Environmental Biology will vary depending on the location and expertise of the school and faculty. Certain schools have Land Grant or Sea Grant status which may allow them to have strong agriculture or aquaculture programs. Others are located near urban or arid regions and may have strong field work in these environments. Although you might not expect to be able to study marine biology inland, some schools have excellent exchange programs or field courses which do allow it.
Typical coursework should include basic biology classes; botany and zoology, biochemistry, ecology, perhaps microbiology and anatomy and physiology, but specialized classes will vary from there. Your major may have extra classes in animal behavior, in geology, chemistry, and conservation, just to name a few specialties.

Job Prospects with a Degree in Environmental Biology
Career options upon graduation are plentiful. Many Environmental Biology majors choose to work in some form of habitat restoration and rehabilitation. They work for their local environmental agencies, The National Park Service, US Forestry Service, Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others. Other Environmental Biology degrees that are more specialized may lend themselves to other types of environmental work, such as someone with a Zoology degree might work in animal rescue centers, and someone with a Botany degree may work in sustainable agriculture.

With this type of major it is important to look at where you think you want to be working after your schooling is complete. If you are from Idaho and want to move home and work successfully in your field upon graduation, marine biology is probably not the best degree choice. If you want to work with your local environment, it may be of great benefit to stay near home, and learn from those with a history in the area already. However, if your passion is in tropical plants, you may have to say goodbye to home and find somewhere with a highly recognized tropical botany program.

Common Divisions/Specialties within Environmental Biology
Conservation Biology
Habitat Restoration
Marine Biology
Sustainable Agriculture
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Environmental Biology Degrees and Overviews
Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Biology

Many schools now offer a major called “Environmental Biology”, while others have various Biology majors that would be applicable to the field (Botany, Ecology, Zoology, etc). In general, your core science courses will be basic biology with additional classes in Ecology, Conservation Biology, and whatever other specialty you may be majoring in. Some schools will offer a dual major in Biology and Environmental Science as a means of meeting the growing trend towards degrees in Environmental Biology. Courses in mathematics through calculus and statistics, geology, chemistry, and physics may also be required.

Most schools require a letter of intent, SAT scores, letters of recommendation, a small application fee, and high school transcripts.

Along with taking 30-60 credits within the Environmental Biology purview, students need to complete core undergraduate college courses as well. Most programs allow a student to graduate with a reasonable workload in 4 years, but some advanced or dual major B.S. degrees may take 5 years to complete.

There is a definite need for more and more teachers to have formal science training, so completing a B.S. degree in a broad reaching science, like Environmental Biology, then earning a Master's degree in Education, would be one path to teaching at the primary and secondary school levels. Environmental Biology majors may find work as field technicians, laboratory technicians, researchers for private or government laboratories, or as independent contractors, to name a few of the professions common to the field. They may work for local or federal government in a variety of roles.

School Spotlight
University of Hawaii - Manoa
The University of Hawaii - Manoa has a few undergraduate programs in Environmental Biology. Perhaps the most obvious is from the Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences department. Another would be from the department of Molecular Biosystems and Bioengineering. UH Manoa also offers B.S. degrees in Zoology and Marine Biology. There are others that could be applicable as well, depending on your future career and schooling choices. Due to the fact that Hawaii is so distant from other US institutions, many of the degree offerings are suitable for students to go straight into the work force. Environmental Biology degrees such as those mentioned may be used to continue onto more specialized paths in graduate school or to look for entry careers with the National Park Service, Hawaii Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, US Department of Commerce Coastal Zone Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, any of the branches of the military, state and local government and park programs, as teachers, and more.

Tulane University
Tulane University's program, in New Orleans, La, in Environmental Biology (ENVB) is for students looking to gain more knowledge in the core fields of human health, conservation and preservation, and public policy. It may be suitable for students intending to proceed to law school as well as graduate school or terminal students. Required classes include ecology, evolution, global change, genetics, and conservation.