Environmental Science

What is Environmental Science?

Environmental Science draws on basic knowledge of the physical, chemical, biological, and quantitative aspects of natural systems. The knowledge of how natural systems work is applied to solving problems largely created by human activities. Often these problems are represented by disturbances in the functioning of natural systems as humans alter their own life-support systems — the air, the water and soil. The scale of disturbance ranges between molecular and cellular to individuals, populations, ecosystems, and regional and global levels.

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Environmental Science at Western

Western’s Environmental Science program is committed to creating a space for students to value, change, and study the environment. Students in the program gain proficiencies in applying quantitative and critical thinking skills to environmental issues, writing and speaking effectively to professional audiences about issues in the field, using theoretical knowledge of environmental sciences in real world applications, and incorporating multiple disciplines into environmental sciences.

The Department of Environmental Sciences is affiliated with three research institutes:

These institutes support and promote Western’s instructional and research programs in the Environmental Science Department, providing access to laboratory facilities, instruction, and specialized research equipment for Huxley students and others within the scientific community.

Western’s Environmental Science Department is part of Huxley College of the Environment.

Locations Offered

Huxley College on the Peninsulas offers a BA in Environmental Policy or a BS in Environmental Science.

Programming and curriculum may vary by location. Please continue to the college page or contact Western’s Environmental Science program for details.

I’m currently in a class that is exclusively field-based, meaning we’re learning hands-on nearly all the time. On the second day of class we drove up into the mountains and learned how to set up carnivore detection devices, and we’re learning how to conduct our own wildlife research projects from start to finish. So far it’s been an invaluable experience.

Anna Freedman-Peel
Students walk along a road and a field doing eelgrass Research at Padilla Bay.

Huxley College of the Environment is all-encompassing. You get a grounding in basic science classes, but also have classes tailored toward Policy and Natural History. Whatever we learn in lectures is applied directly in the field. Every week we get to go out and sample from interesting habitats around Anacortes, this week we are headed out the San Juan Islands!

Allegra LaFerr

Explore Courses

  • ESCI 491 - Oceanography of the Salish Sea
  • ESCI 404 - Indigenous Resource Management in the Salish Sea
  • ESCI 410 - Habitat and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout
  • ESCI 423 - Paleoclimate and Paleoecology
  • ESCI 445 - Marine Geochemistry
  • ESCI 454 - Science and Management of Contaminated Sites
  • FAIR 330E - Ethnobotany

What it's like to be a Environmental Science major

Student work is well received and recognized from national and statewide organizations for the use of field, laboratory and computer modeling approaches combined with quantitative reasoning and critical thinking skills to solve multidisciplinary problems. Students routinely present their scientific work at regional and national conferences.

Huxley hosts the Huxley College Speaker Series, which brings guest lecturers to Western’s campus to address topics of contemporary environmental concern in the region and beyond. The speaker series is intended to bring together environmentally-minded members of the Western and Bellingham communities.

Environmental Science students gain experience solving real world problems through capstone courses, participation sustainable cities projects, environmental challenges, and work on contaminated sites in Washington State. Students also designed and implemented the first waste audits at Western, which were used to inform waste management on campus.

Darby Finnegan on beach

I hope that I can use components of my research and apply it to our efforts to restore and preserve marine ecosystems. I want to answer some of the major ecological questions that we have.

 Darby Finnegan
2019 Barry Goldwater Scholarship award winner

Career List

  • Wildlife Biologist
  • Naturalist
  • Endangered Species Biologist
  • Environmental Inspector
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Fisheries Biologist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Safety and Health Specialist
  • Park Ranger
  • Aquatic Toxicologist
  • Wetlands Ecologist
  • Biological Survey
  • Water Resources Specialist
  • Environmental Chemist
  • Soil Conservation Specialist
  • Field Researcher
  • Restoration Ecologist
  • Natural Resource Scientist
  • Environmental Specialist

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