Why study Environmental Science at UNH?
The Environmental Science program at UNH is geared towards teaching students how to understand how various types of ecosystems work, how people are influencing these ecosystems, and how to solve major environmental problems of the day. Students are trained by professors who are internationally recognized for their research in forests, soils, streams, agroecosystems, urban ecosystems and watersheds, using cutting edge technologies. UNH is ideally located near mountains, coasts, fields, and cities, offering opportunities to visit and work in forests, streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, agroecosystems, and urban ecosystems. We emphasize interdisciplinarity, not just within the environmental science major but across other study areas, including geology, climate, policy, environmental engineering, spatial science, and social science. Such interdisciplinarity is critical for solving problems and for achieving sustainability.
What types of jobs or careers do most Environmental Science majors pursue?
There are four career paths that most of our majors move along once they graduate with an Environmental Science degree: consulting firms, government agencies from local to the federal level, non-profit organizations, and graduate school. Recent graduates have gotten jobs with New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, the US Geological Survey, Triumvirate Environmental, Normandeau Associates, the National Ecological Observing Network, City of Portsmouth Public Works Department, the Appalachian Mountain Club, AECOM, Loureiro Engineering Associates, and Energy Source LLC, among others. Examples of where are students recently attended graduate school include the University of North Carolina, Northern Arizona State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Colorado, Utah State University, the University of Nebraska, Colorado State University, and UNH.
How big is the Environmental Science major?
We have between 70 and 80 total majors in any given year, with seven core faculty.
How many students are typically in Environmental Science classes?
Once you reach the core environmental science courses during junior and senior year, typical class sizes are about 20 students. These include labs that take you outside, mostly led by the faculty themselves. Early introductory environmental science courses during freshman year tend to be larger, but are still mostly less than 50 students.
How often do Environmental Science majors get to go in the field? In what sorts of ecosystems?
Often! We have ready access to ecosystems on campus (College Woods, Oyster River, College Brook), just off campus (e.g., forest and fields at Thompson Farm, the UNH Organic Dairy, Lamprey River, Great Bay Estuary) and around the state for field trips (e.g., Hubbard Brook and Bartlett Experimental Forest in the White Mountains, Plum Island Wildlife Refuge, and Harvard Forest in Massachusetts). Courses emphasize field experiences, including measurements, experiments, monitoring, and independent research projects.
Are there opportunities to work closely with faculty?
Yes! Each of our faculty works closely with undergraduates both in terms of academics and research. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who helps guide the student through their academic program based on their career and subject interests. Students typically have the same advisor for all four years of their program. Faculty often hire undergraduates initially to work in their labs to help out on research projects. Many undergraduates eventually conduct independent research projects that they lead themselves in collaboration with their faculty mentor. They then have the opportunity to present their research findings at our annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Many undergraduates also participate directly in the faculty’s weekly lab meetings.
Are there opportunities to study abroad within the Environmental Science major?
Our department hosts one of the premier Study Abroad Programs at UNH, which also attracts students from other universities around the country: the EcoQuest program in New Zealand. You have a choice of going to study the environment of New Zealand during Spring, Summer, or Fall semesters. The academic program is completely integrated into the major, so a semester abroad checks off a semester worth of environmental science classes.
Can first-year students do research?
Yes! We encourage students to reach out to faculty in their field of interest as soon as they get to campus. First-year students take NR 400 (Perspectives in Environmental Science) in the Fall as soon as they get on campus to learn directly from faculty about their research. Students can learn about research areas that interest them most and are encouraged to reach out to those faculty members.
Can students get paid for the time that they spend doing research?
Many of our faculty have externally funded research, which includes funds to support undergraduates to help with research. So yes, funding is often available to pay students to work in labs and to conduct research. The University also has a program (the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) that supports student research by providing a stipend and funds to cover research costs. Students can apply to do work in a lab on campus or to conduct independent field research around the U.S. or internationally.
What kind of internship opportunities are available for students to get experience in their area of interest?
UNH has a number of paid summer or semester research fellowships through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate research. These provide stipends, as well as supply funding, that supports undergraduates to conduct research over a ten-week period. These are competitively awarded based on a proposal, often written in collaboration with faculty, postdoctoral researcher, or graduate student mentors. Our faculty also obtain Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) fellowships from the National Science Foundation on research projects. Because faculty are also part of wider national and international research networks such as the Long Term Ecological Research network, National Estuarine Research Reserve program, Critical Zone Observation network, and National Ecological Observing Network, they are often made aware of and write recommendations for internship opportunities available in ecosystems around the world, ranging from the tropics to the arctic, and everywhere in between.
Other than office hours, are professors open and accessible?
Professors are generally available to meet with any student regarding courses, research, or career questions at least by appointment, and many have open-door policies. Students doing research in a professor's lab are encouraged to participate in weekly lab meetings.
Is it possible to add a double major, dual major or minor and still graduate on time?
The Environmental Science major provides an unusual level of flexibility because of the number of free credits that it makes available to students. After taking the required general (Discovery Program) and major (Environmental Science) courses, there are between 19 and 23 free credits (depending on whether you are in the Ecosystems or Soil and Watersheds option). This provides a lot of flexibility for a minor (typically 20 credits) or to achieve a double or dual major. Our philosophy in making these credits available is that Environmental Science is inherently interdisciplinary, interacting with the economy, politics, society, journalism, or the arts. The ability to work with and integrate these other fields can, therefore, be very helpful if not critical.