MISSOULA – The University of Montana has created a new undergraduate degree program: Environmental Science and Sustainability.
Housed in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, the ESS program provides an innovative, interdisciplinary education focused on environmental science and a range of problem-solving skills to prepare students for careers in this growing field. This Bachelor of Science degree connects science and practice, so students graduate with the knowledge and skills to solve complex environmental problems and advance sustainability.
The new program brings together courses and expertise from all four departments in the forestry college, building on its 100-year history of teaching and practicing environmental science and sustainability. Students take courses across relevant disciplines, learning from experts in ecology, environmental planning, climate science, environmental policy, natural resource conservation, water management and more.
“Montana’s Constitution includes ‘the right to a clean and healthful environment,’ and the state’s leading industries, from agriculture to tourism, depend on sustainable use of natural resources,” said Chad Bishop, interim dean of the college. “Environmental science supports evidence-based practices that ensure we manage and use resources in ways that sustain our communities, economies, resources and ecosystems.
“As the state of Montana’s only college of forestry, we are uniquely positioned to deliver coursework focused on the most important environmental and natural resource issues in the state,” Bishop said. “The courses in this curriculum and the research conducted by our faculty build the capacity of the state to tackle key issues such as energy and natural resources, fire and rural communities, land and water management, and drought and agriculture.”
Connecting science to management and policy is at the heart of environmental science and sustainability, and ESS graduates will be trained to understand and use science to address fundamental societal challenges.
ESS students can specialize in ecosystem science and restoration, environmental policy and planning, climate science and environmental change, sustainable livelihoods and communities, and water resources. Or they can use the highly flexible resource conservation option to work closely with a faculty adviser to design an individualized program of study based on their interests and goals.
Students in the program also can specialize by completing a minor or certificate in the Franke College in fire science and management, geographic information systems, geography, outdoor leadership, wilderness studies or wildlife biology. ESS students participate in field labs, field courses, internships, study-abroad programs, capstone projects and independent research to better understand how science and practice come together to build a more sustainable world.
“Environmental science and sustainability is a growth area across the U.S., with the number of programs and courses at the university and high school levels on the rise,” said Laurie Yung, ESS program director. “The demand for students with the training to connect science to sustainability challenges is also growing. The ESS program will provide students with the skills to connect scientific evidence to problem-solving for the betterment of communities in Montana and beyond.”
ESS merges two existing Franke College programs into one degree, the B.S. in Ecosystem Science and restoration and the B.S. in Resource Conservation. This change will not impact students currently enrolled in Ecosystem Science and Restoration or in Resource Conservation degree programs. ESS now is enrolling its first cohort of students for fall 2021.