College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

School of Earth and Sustainability

Environmental Sciences, Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

The Environmental Science program at NAU constructs an interdisciplinary base of knowledge and skills to explore and develop real-world solutions to environmental problems.

Our program provides a firm grounding in the natural and social sciences to ensure all students understand how chemical, physical and biological processes maintain life, and the complex relationships among humans and the environment. Students work together and individually in the classroom, field and laboratory to practice applying the scientific method to address environmental problems and explore creative solutions that apply cutting-edge technologies.

The broad range of emphases available within our program allows students to delve deeper into a specific knowledge base, then work individually and often together in Environmental Science courses to solve problems by applying the perspectives and knowledge they developed in their emphasis with students from other emphasis areas. To culminate the learning in the program, students develop an individually designed research project or internship addressing an environmental issue of importance to them, which in turn, is expected to further prepare students for a range of professional or graduate opportunities.

Student Learning Outcomes
  • Examine how the Earths’ natural systems interact and change over time and the effects of anthropogenic resource use and management on these systems, including feedbacks and impacts to ecosystem services, through the use of basic ecological experimental design and data collection.
  • Apply the scientific method and critical thinking to address environmental problems, integrate historical perspectives, and explore solutions across a range of spatial-temporal scales.
  • Use statistics and models to analyze environmental data with the following goals:  quantitatively describe processes, assess uncertainties, test hypotheses, measure trends; reveal spatial and temporal patterns, explore relations among variables, and create sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
  • Analyze topographic maps and remote sensing images using GIS tools to identify the geologic framework, ecological community types, and human environments and make recommendations to resource managers.
  • Apply information about basic reservoirs and fluxes of the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, rock, and water cycles to develop recommendations for resource management that would reduce human impacts on climate change.
  • Use basic water, air and soil sampling methods to explore various management methods to improve water, air, and soil quality.
  • Identify and effectively communicate environmental issues and sustainable solutions using both natural science and social science principles.
  • Investigate the effects of resource management within linked natural and social systems and develop potential ecosystem service solutions that resolve imbalances.
  • Apply knowledge of the policy cycle, official and unofficial policymakers, the science-policy interface and important environmental legislation (such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, General Mining Law, Kyoto Protocol, NEPA, Endangered Species Act, and others) to strengthen the use of data in policy decisions.
  • Participate in community, NGO, or business environmental activities, or in environmental research.  Learn the skills to apply environmental science concepts to advance science and to facilitate the development of science and policy decisions to better address and resolve environmental issues.
  • Incorporate environmental science data into interdisciplinary policy decision-making endeavors, with the goal of generating innovative ideas that go beyond obvious and predefined solutions.
Climate Change Emphasis
  • Examine and understand how climate has changed in the past and how climate is anticipated to change into the future in response to both natural and human factors. 
  • Understand and be able to explain natural climate dynamics and the modes of variability within the climate system. 
  • Explore and understand the social, political, and/or cultural factors that shape how society understands and responds to climate change. 
  • Explore and analyze potential pathways to mitigate climate change and minimize the impacts of a changing climate system. 
Environmental Geology Emphasis
  • Quantify selected aspects of the Earth system using foundations of mathematics and physics.
  • Explore Earth system concepts, such as plate tectonics, the rock cycle, and geologic hazards on geologic time scales, and through collaborations with those of other disciplines and viewpoints, apply this information to generate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
Applied Statistics Emphasis
  • Apply statistical techniques to find innovative ways of understanding environmental problems.
  • Explore advanced math, computer programming, bioinformatics, and geographic information systems, and through collaborations with those of other disciplines and viewpoints, apply this information to generate solutions to environmental problems.
Biology Emphasis
  • Quantify selected aspects of biological systems using foundations of mathematics and physics.
  • Explore core concepts in biological sciences such as the unifying molecular, cellular, ecological and evolutionary principles for life on Earth. Gain appreciation for the importance of multiple scales of biological diversity. Understand the foundations of ecology and the principles of conservation biology. Practice collaborations with those of other disciplines and viewpoints, apply this information to generate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
Chemistry Emphasis
  • Understand the composition of air, water, and soil to determine how chemicals enter and cycle through the environment, what effects they have, and how human activity affects their cycling.
  • Explore natural phenomena that may transport and alter chemicals from human sources including processes causing as air, soil, and water pollution, which result in environmental contamination, ozone depletion, and ocean acidification.
  • Understand the sources and extent of pollution, and ways to promote sustainability, conservation, and protection of public health and the environment in the private and public sectors.
Environmental Administration and Policy Emphasis
  • Explore the basic principles of the organization and management of public organizations, policy-making, theories and practices of human resource management, environmental movements, and political ecology, and through collaborations with those of other disciplines and viewpoints, apply this information to generate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
Environmental Communication Emphasis
  • Understand environmental processes and problems as well as the nature, concepts, and process of communication.
  • Learn how to communicate environmental concepts in written and oral form, through diverse media, to audiences of diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and perspectives. 
Environmental Management Emphasis
  • Explore the basic principles of conservation of biological diversity and ecology, multicultural perspectives on environmental management, adaptive management, and the implementation of environmental regulations and through collaborations with those of other disciplines and viewpoints, apply this information to generate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

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