What is Environmental Science?

Environmental science is the study of the interaction of the living and non-living components of the environment with special emphasis on the impact of humans on these components. Environmental science is a very dynamic area of research and involves many different fields of study.

In the sciences, for example, biologists study biodiversity, and ecologists study how plants and animals interact with their environment. Geologists study the formation, history, structure, and physical composition of the earth. Chemists study the composition of both living and non-living material, and the reactions controlling the distribution of material. Physicists contribute expertise on physical laws, such as thermodynamics, governing both biotic and abiotic components of the environment. engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists are involved in important technical innovations as well as computer modeling. Biomedical expertise is required to assess health implications of environmental problems, such as pollution and disease.

Environmental science also looks at the impact that humans are having on the environment, and these have important economic as well as socio-political ramifications. Thus, an effective environmental scientist also must have a solid background in economics, sociology, and political science. Political scientists and economists study how we use and interact with our environment, and how to make policy and communicate with government. Sociologists and anthropologists are needed to address issues of societal impacts and social justice. Philosophy and religious studies are important in examining how we value our environment and how we make connections to it. Journalists work to publicize important results of environmental research, and artists describe and interpret our environment.

All of these areas of study, and others as well, are necessary in order to gain a full and objective understanding of our environment, including the causes of and possible solutions to our current environmental problems. Because our program is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, it is called the Environmental Science and Policy program.