The Department of Environmental Studies

Students may be awarded either a Bachelors of Arts or a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies with a concentration in one of the following:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Education
  • Environmental Policy
  • Sustainable Forestry
  • Sustainable Agriculture

Majors may also design their own concentration in consultation with an Environmental Studies advisor. Upon completion of the bachelor’s degree, graduates of the Environmental Studies program at Warren Wilson College are prepared for both advanced studies and various environmental related jobs.

The Department of Environmental Studies at Warren Wilson College was established in the late 1970’s by members of the Biology Department, who began leading the campus community in conservation efforts and offering new courses related to energy and conservation. With the understanding that the solutions to modern environmental problems require the collaboration of many disciplines, the department has grown to include faculty members from across Warren Wilson’s academic community. This collaboration provides students with an environmentally focused, interdisciplinary major that investigates environmental issues from a natural science, social science, and humanities perspective.

The mission of the Environmental Studies Department, an interdisciplinary learning community, is to prepare leaders who are able to critically assess, develop, and promote sustainable futures for life on Earth.

The Environmental Studies major, through academic courses, abundant natural resources on and near campus, and related work crews, balances theory, first-hand knowledge, and field experiences. Internships are also strongly encouraged as a way to acquire experience and to apply academically acquired knowledge. This program aims to graduate students with a strong foundation in the natural sciences and an understanding of the social, political and ethical implications of environmental problems and solutions. This allows them to critically analyze environmental issues they encounter in their professional and personal lives and to make educated, responsible decisions.

Courses are offered in the natural and social sciences and there are abundant natural resources on and near campus. Courses and work crews give Environmental Studies students the balance of theory, first-hand knowledge, and field experience. Internships off campus are also encouraged.

Interests of students majoring in Environmental Studies vary from forestry, agriculture, conservation biology, environmental chemistry, and soil science to economics and business, environmental policy, education, park interpretation, community activism, journalism, art, and urban gardening.


JJ Apodaca – Ph.D. in Conservation Biology
Mark Brenner – Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and Science: Applied Aquatic Ecology
Mary Bulan – Ph.D. in Agronomy
Dave Ellum – Ph.D. in Silviculture and Forest Ecology
Liesl Peterson Erb, Ph.D. – Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Robert Hastings – MS in Geology
Susan Kask – Ph.D. in Economics
Amy Knisley – Ph.D. in in Philosophy (Values and Social Policy); Masters in Environmental Law and Policy
Mallory McDuff – Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation/Environmental Education

Student Research

Natural Science Undergraduate Research Sequence

NSURS student Laura Miess sampling for invertebrates in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
NSURS student Laura Miess sampling for invertebrates in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Students pursuing degrees in the Natural Sciences gain undergraduate research experience through Warren Wilson College’s Natural Science Capstone Program. The Natural Science Capstone Program is comprised of a three-semester sequence. In the capstone program, students gain first-hand experience in scientific investigation and scientific communication in a dynamic, collaborative research environment. Each student is matched individually with a Warren Wilson College faculty mentor, who provides training, mentorship, and support during the research process. In addition to a primary faculty mentor, each student selects two faculty members to serve as on their research committee. Committee members provide additional feedback and expertise during the research process.

During their junior and senior years, students in the capstone program take the following sequence of courses:

  • Research Design (SCI 390) – In this course, students attend weekly meetings, special seminars, and explore the scientific research process. Students in this course focus primarily on identifying faculty mentors, identifying a research topic, familiarizing themselves with the peer-reviewed literature in their chosen field, and developing an independent research project.
  • Natural Science Research (SCI 486-489) – During this semester, students implement their research projects while working closely with their faculty mentor. The aims of this semester include gaining proficiency with appropriate data collection methods, data visualization, and quantitative data analysis.
  • Natural Science Seminar Communication (SCI 493) –  This semester provides the forum for the presentation and evaluation of student research. Each student presents a 20-25 minute oral presentation on his/her research project and submits a formal thesis for the College archives.

Special Opportunities

Honors in Environmental Studies

Honors in the Environmental Studies major is possible for students who qualify. For more information on course requirements see the Warren Wilson Catalog section