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What is Environmental Studies?

Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary program that investigates interactions between humans and their environments. This involves the study of physical and biological aspects of natural environments and connections with human-built environments like cities and farms. In addition to the natural sciences, environmental studies includes dimensions of the social sciences and humanities. The home of environmental studies at Shepherd University is the Department of Environmental and Physical Sciences. However, many other disciplines and departments including biology, chemistry, geography, sociology, mathematics, and Appalachian studies contribute to the curriculum and the intellectual richness of environmental studies. Read more about our program and courses below or explore the following links.

Students on the south rim of the grand canyon during the summer of 2011.

Students on the south rim of the grand canyon during the summer of 2011.

The Environmental Studies Curriculum

The Department of Environmental and Physical Sciences offers a wide variety of courses in environmental studies and the physical sciences and has the following five degree programs. Links are given for downloadable flyers detailing each program.

Environmental Studies Comprehensive, B.S.
Prepares students for environmentally-focused careers or graduate studies with a balanced curriculum spanning biological, physical, technological, and social dimensions of environmental studies. Program Flyer

Environmental Studies: Aquatic Sciences, B.S.
Prepares students for careers in industry and government that involve monitoring or restoring aquatic habitats, and graduate studies in a range of disciplines including aquaculture, fisheries management, and ecology. Program Flyer

Environmental Studies: Sustainable Resource Management , B.S.
Prepares students for careers relating to environmental sustainability and natural resource conservation. This includes careers with state and national parks, environmental advocacy groups, and enterprises concerned with cultural and physical resource management. Program Flyer

Environmental Studies:  Environmental Geomatics, B.S.
Prepares students for careers that rely upon geographic information systems and remote sensing to study geospatial environmental problems that have social, economic, physical, and biological dimensions. Program Flyer

Environmental Studies: Sustainable Food Production, B.S.
Prepares students to launch successful sustainable agriculture enterprises or for careers in the organic and sustainable food industry including careers with government and non-government agencies that promote sustainable food production. Program Flyer

Use the link below to take a more detailed look at our academic degree programs in the University’s catalog.

Sustainable Energy students at a solar installation near Middletown, MD in the fall of 2015.

Sustainable Energy students at a solar installation near Middletown, MD in the fall of 2015.

Environmental Studies Laboratories

Geographic Information Systems Laboratory

Located in Snyder Hall, the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory allows students and faculty to analyze geospatial and geographic data. A geographic information system (GIS) can be used to study myriad problems in diverse fields including ecology, urban planning, natural resource management, criminology, and public health. The laboratory is equipped with 25 desktop computers running ESRI ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online. The lab also has numerous Trimple GPS units capable of centimeter accuracy, drones for remote sensing applications, Agisoft software for digital image processing, and a large-format printer.

Environmental Science Laboratory

Located in the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center, the environmental science laboratory is dedicated to both teaching and research, enabling faculty and students to study soils, agriculture, hydrology, wetland ecosystems, forestry, and renewable energy. The laboratory is equipped with numerous pieces of forestry and plant survey items, microscopes, water-quality assay kits, soil particle size analysis equipment, various soil chemical analysis equipment, and compost analysis equipment.

Aquatic Sciences Laboratory

Located in Snyder Hall, the aquatics laboratory is dedicated to the study of aquatic ecosystems. The laboratory includes microscopes, fish tanks for raising live specimens, equipment like waders, YSI meters, and a Marsh-McBirney Flow Meter for field work, and other high-tech electronic instrumentation for measuring both the physical and the biological health of aquatic environments.

Aquaponics Laboratory

Located at Shepherd University’s Tabler Farm, the aquaponics laboratory is dedicated to research involving the integration of aquaculture (growing fish in a controlled environment) with hydroponics (growing vegetables in a soilless environment). The facility has several 1000 gallon fish tanks, high-tech LED grow lights, and is powered in part by renewable energy.

Sustainability Site

Located outside the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center is the Sustainability Site. This is a demonstration site for various renewable energy technologies and innovative agricultural systems. The site has several kWs of solar photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine, a biodiesel processor, and a small greenhouse with a demonstration aquaponics system.

Geological Sciences Laboratory

Located in the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center is the Geological Sciences Laboratory. This is a teaching and research facility used for both lecture and lab activities. The room contains research equipment used in classical geology, paleontology, mineralogy, and geomorphology. The room is equipped with a variety of equipment including petrascopes, rock saws, analytical fume hood, and miscellaneous other microscopes. The laboratory also has an enormous rock collection from around the world.

Physics Laboratory

Located in the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center, the Physics Lab is used for both lecture and lab activities. The laboratory contains a variety of instruments including eight iMac computers and electronic sensors for exploring phenomena in mechanics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, and optics. There are also instruments used for designing and building electronic systems for environmental monitoring and microscopes for studying the physics of the microscopic realm.

Shepherd University Observatory

Located on the roof of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies is the Shepherd University Observatory. The Observatory features a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (equipped with a CCD camera and spectrograph) housed in a 15-ft diameter dome, and provides opportunities for coursework use, undergraduate research, and public outreach.

Astrophysical Science Laboratory

Located in the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center is the Astrophysical Science Lab, which is a dedicated teaching facility used for both lecture and lab activities. The room contains equipment suitable for explorations of problems in astrophysics, including topic areas such as mechanics, fluid dynamics, and optics. This lab also contains dedicated research space and equipment, allowing faculty, staff and students to conduct original research in subfields such as cosmology, observational astrophysics, historical astronomy, and computational astrophysics.

General Physics students with the rockets they built and flew during the fall of 2015.

Research Opportunities

Environmental Sciences

Faculty focused on Environmental Studies conduct research in a wide variety of areas. The research they conduct is interdisciplinary in nature, and students in the department are nearly always involved in faculty research projects. These experiences are valuable in building career skills make students more competitive in the job market. Examples recent student-faculty projects include paleontological quantification and classification, evaluation of archeological and historical sites using drone technology, monitoring aquatic habitats in local waterways, and exploring innovative ways to mitigate invasive species.