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

School of Earth and Sustainability

Environmental Sciences and Policy, Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

The Master of Science in Environmental Sciences and Policy (MS ES&P) is an interdisciplinary degree program that combines natural and social science core courses with a breadth of specialized classes from across the University. Lasting solutions to most environmental problems are likely to be found at the nexus of the natural and social sciences. The MS ES&P program provides applied, cross-disciplinary training to prepare students to solve environmental problems using the scientific method combined with an in-depth knowledge of relevant socio-political systems. Students gain this knowledge through their individual thesis research and coursework in quantitative research methods, natural sciences and social sciences.

This two-year degree program has two distinct emphasis areas: Environmental Sciences and Policy, and Paleoenvironmental Sciences. The core courses for both emphases include: 1) The Environmental Science-Policy Interface (ENV 555), 2) two research methods seminars (ESS 605, 606), 3) one current research seminar, 4) one or more quantitative data analysis courses, 5) thesis credits. All ES&P students work closely with a faculty advisor to design and implement individual thesis research. Students in the Environmental Sciences and Policy emphasis generally focus their coursework and research on the science-policy interface and may examine a wide range of environmental problems such as issues related to food security, pollution, or resource management. Students in Paleoenvironmental Sciences emphasis generally analyze ancient environments to gain insights to help predict future environmental dynamics, particularly related to climate change.

The MS ES&P program's rigorous training in the natural and social sciences prepares graduates for successful environmental careers in industry, government, and the non-profit sector. Our graduates can successfully communicate across multiple disciplines and negotiate scientifically and politically sound solutions to the wide range of environmental problems that currently challenge our society. The ES&P curriculum trains students how to assess the costs and benefits of various public policies and actions. The research skills gained by ES&P students help them continue to expand their knowledge long after they graduate from the program. This training and experience helps our graduates assume leadership roles in environmental fields. Finally, the MS ES&P program prepares students for entry into Ph.D. programs in environmental sciences and other related fields if they choose to continue in an academic track.

Student Learning Outcomes
  • Use data, perspectives and theories from the natural and social sciences to develop an integrated understanding of environmental challenges.
  • Examine the generation of scientific knowledge and how that knowledge is presented, evaluated, framed, and applied as political forces shape environmental policy.
  • Understand the ethical dimensions of scientific inquiry and interpretation in affecting policy process, and apply this knowledge to develop ethical approaches to the integration of scientific inquiry and interpretation to the policy process.
  • Develop relevant policy and management recommendations to address environmental challenges.

In-depth examination of research methods, modes of inquiry, and quantitative and qualitative methods, including but not limited to:
  • Effective integration of experimental design and laboratory and/or field instruments
  • Design and use of observational and/or experimental field methods
  • Application of appropriate analytical methods to evaluate qualitative and/or quantitative data
  • Application of mathematical, spatial or qualitative models to better represent environmental and/or related social processes
Write thesis proposals and theses addressing environmental and policy issues including the following:
  • Design a research study of personal and professional interest and importance including: planning, organizing and executing a project with guidance and input of the thesis committee
  • Conduct a thorough literature review related to the thesis area that identifies knowledge gaps
  • Analyze, interpret, and explain findings using quantitative and/or qualitative methods appropriate to the research design
  • Succinctly articulate these new insights, tools, or approaches in oral presentations and polished writing aimed at Environmental Science and Policy professionals as well as the general public
  • Conduct a thesis defense delivered to an audience of environmental science faculty and peers
  • Effectively communicate (e.g. oral presentations, writings, posters) with environmental scientists, policymakers, resource managers, and the public (i.e. technical and non-technical audiences).
  • Effectively communicate major theories, areas of agreement and controversy, significant challenges, and leading edges of environmental science and how social forces shape environmental policy and management.
Paleoenvironment Emphasis Learning Outcomes
  • Develop an interdisciplinary understanding of paleoenvironmental systems through coursework and thesis research.
  • Examine Quaternary geology including glaciation, hydrology, stratigraphy, geomorphology, and paleoclimatology.
  • Elucidate major theories and methods in reconstructing terrestrial and aquatic biotic communities of the past.
  • Examine and understand how and why the climate system responds to natural changes and human impacts.
  • Use archeological analysis to examine the impacts of humans on past climate and environments.
Science & Policy Emphasis Learning Outcomes
  • Develop an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental systems through coursework and thesis research.
  • Students will work closely with their research advisor to develop a personal plan of study and research, in which the student applies a core body of methodological and theoretical knowledge to a thesis in the student’s individual area of research interest.
  • In the Science & Policy Emphasis, students’ core body of methodological and theoretical knowledge revolves around a scientific examination of natural resources (physical and biological) and integration of this natural science knowledge with an examination of the human dimensions of environmental problems through the study of social sciences, policy, and management.

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