Explore the science that will enable you to study how ecosystems function and the policy alternatives that will allow you to examine solutions to maintain environmental quality.
Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future.
Environmental issues such as climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss are significantly affecting the earth and human societies. As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you will study the science underlying environmental problems as well as the policy strategies that will enable you to develop solutions to these problems.
But you won’t just stay in the classroom. Faculty and students conduct field research at Wild Basin Creative Research Center, the Spicewood Ranch ecolab in the rural Hill Country and in tropical forests in Costa Rica. Apply your research skills to projects like examining the environmental impacts of electric scooters, testing Travis County residents’ water for lead contamination or examining whether paying Costa Rican and Ugandan farmers to not cut down their forests helps reduce deforestation.
Environmental issues are inherently interdisciplinary. Integrating science and policy allows our graduates to acquire the research, analytical and technical skills necessary to acquire positions in a wide range of environmental careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
What do our graduates do?
Environmental Science and Policy majors go on to a variety of careers and graduate schools from St. Edward’s. Here’s a sample.
- Environmental health and safety consultant for Loureiro Engineering Associates
- Environmental scientist at AECOM, a civil engineering firm
- Program associate for the Energy Program at the Environmental Defense Fund
- Community organizer for the Texas Campaign for the Environment
- Program Manager, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- Environmental Educator, Austin Youth River Watch
- Master’s students at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Program of the European Union.
The Classroom and Beyond
As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you’ll learn about both the natural world and the world of government and politics. In both settings, you’ll get plenty of hands-on education in the field. You may study and work at Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, the St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch, the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve next to campus, Waller Creek in downtown Austin, the State Capitol, state parks, and locations overseas.
Your courses will take you all over Central Texas, as you visit parks and preserves and conduct research in the field. Your classes will also feature guest speakers from local environmental organizations, helping you learn about potential career paths and start to build your network.
Introduction to Sustainability is the first course you’ll take in your major. You’ll apply the sustainability concepts you learn to campus projects like planting and maintain the campus garden. You’ll also research sustainability initiatives to pitch to school officials for potential adoption on campus.
Natural Resource Conservation and Management emphasizes the real-world challenges of natural resource conservation and management. You’ll go on 10 outings to parks, preserves and private lands throughout Central Texas to learn about different resource management techniques and meet professionals in the field.
In Chemistry in the Environment, you’ll practice applying chemistry techniques to environmental issues. In a recent semester, students collected water samples from local residents and tested for lead and other contaminants.
In Environmental and Ecological Field Methods, you’ll learn different methods natural and social scientists use to collect data for research. Students in this course recently studied how dockless scooters were affecting traffic and safety in central Austin and whether scooters are helping people drive less. They also measured the diversity of species in Blunn Creek, a preserve next to the St. Edward’s campus, comparing patches of forest that were mostly native trees and patches that had been taken over by invasive species.
Learning about environmental issues overseas can help you develop perspective on the problems American cities and states are trying to solve. In recent semesters, St. Edward’s has offered environmental-themed study abroad programs in France, Costa Rica and South Africa, although this is not an exhaustive list of places you can study abroad. As part of your international education experience, you may conduct research about other countries’ environmental strategies, ecotourism plans, conservation practices and agricultural techniques.
In the Sustainable Development in Costa Rica source, you’ll take on a community service project; the program includes a study tour of Costa Rica, where you’ll explore issues of sustainable development and ecotourism.
Students for Sustainability educates the St. Edward’s community about eco-friendly practices and works with the St. Edward’s administration to implement environmental initiatives. Members help maintain the campus garden, organize the campus Earth Day festival and initiate numerous sustainability measures on campus, including composting and reusable plates and silverware in the dining halls, clothing swaps and water-bottle-filling stations throughout campus.
The St. Edward’s Office of Sustainability offers internships and welcomes volunteers who help coordinate Earth Week and maintain the office’s blog.
You can apply the research skills you learn inside the classroom to hands-on projects in Austin or other locations. You may start by assisting professors who teach Environmental Science and Policy with their research. You can also conduct your own field research projects at Wild Basin Creative Research Center, a preserve in West Austin, or the more rural St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch. Some students are able to conduct research while studying abroad.
Then, present your research at a professional conference, like the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration. Attending such conferences helps you network, develop speaking skills, learn about the research conducted at other universities, and build your resume for graduate school or a career.
Top students complete Research Experiences for Undergraduates at universities across the country. These summer experiences, funded by the National Science Foundation, introduce you to research with different mentors and help you evaluate whether a research career is right for you.
In addition to on-campus service projects led by Students for Sustainability, Environmental Science and Policy majors have volunteered at
- Urban Roots, an Austin urban farm and youth development program
- Blunn Creek Nature Preserve near campus, where trails need to be cleaned up and invasive species removed
- Wild Basin Creative Research Center, where trails open to the public require maintenance
You’ll complete at least one internship, which could focus on data collection in the field, political advocacy, communications work or helping young people get involved in environmental activities. Your internship might be in Austin, in Washington, D.C., or abroad. Our students recently have completed internships at these organizations:
- Sierra Club
- Austin Environmental Justice Coalition
- City of Austin Youth Forestry Council
- Colorado River Authority
- Mexican American Leadership Caucus
- Nature Conservancy
- U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva’s Washington office
Major Requirements: The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy requires 57 hours of major courses, which include a combination of environmental science and policy, political science, biology, chemistry and economics. In addition to the required courses, each student will concentrate in a science or policy field by selecting 9 additional hours in one of the above listed natural or social science disciplines.
Electives: Students complete 15 hours of elective courses in any area of study they choose. These courses do not have to relate to the major.
General Education Requirements: The degree requires 48 hours of general education courses that students complete over four years in addition to their major courses and electives.
View the full degree plan (PDF).
A few examples of courses students in this major take:
- Climate Change – explores the issue of global climate change through an interdisciplinary lens, covering the science, impacts on the environment and human populations, and management and policy responses
- Chemistry in the Environment - students learn about how nutrients and toxic chemicals move through the environment and what we can do to reduce their impacts, and participate in a hands-on service-learning project testing lead in tap water of at-risk homes in Travis County
- Environmental Politics and Policy – examines the political process through which environmental decisions are made and the different regulatory and market-based policy alternatives for achieving environmental goals.
- Research Experience in Environmental Science and Policy – students train in research methods and design and conduct a guided research project on an environmental topic of their choosing.
"I teach environmental science and policy because it gives me the opportunity to work with students who are passionate about making their world a better place. Austin is an ideal location for this as its vibrant environmental community offers numerous opportunities to apply these lessons to examine issues affecting our campus and community."
– Peter Beck, Professor and Coordinator of Environmental Science and Policy
"I employ a diversity of research methods, including ecological field trials, greenhouse experiments, stakeholder interviews, and policy analysis to measure impacts of global change on plant communities and ecosystems and to test the effectiveness and feasibility of land management approaches. Through outreach activities and close collaboration with researchers and practitioners from a range of different backgrounds, I work to translate my scientific results to conservation action."
– Amy Concilio, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy
"I teach because I love learning. The day I stop learning is the day I stop teaching. I’m passionate about my research projects on the environment, air quality, climate change, and physics education research and work to make sure that they are accessible to undergraduates. Engaging in such hands-on research projects is a demonstratively effective way for students to learn and graduate with a degree in their chosen field.”
- Gary A. Morris, Professor of Environmental Science and Physics
The research interests of Dr. Peter Beck, Environmental Science and Policy Coordinator, involve examining policies that seek to integrate environmental and development goals internationally and campus sustainability in the United States. He has conducted research in Kenya, Uganda and Costa Rica and currently has a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of different conservation incentives at conserving tropical forests. Through this grant, ENSP students have the opportunity to spend three months conducting field research in Costa Rica, Panama and Uganda. Dr. Beck also has developed international field courses for St. Edward’s students in Costa Rica, Chile, South Africa and France. Read more about Dr. Beck's Costa Rica research HERE.
Dr. Amy Concilio is an ecologist with research interests in global environmental change, invasive species biology and management, and ecosystem restoration. She has worked on research throughout the US west exploring the impacts of climate change on shrubland and grassland ecosystems, and approaches to restoration and land management in an era of global change. Current projects include evaluating the effectiveness of a restoration effort at an urban park from both social and ecological perspectives, studying the response of the plant community and ecosystem function to extreme drought in Texas grasslands, and investigating land management approaches that increase carbon sequestration in forests and grasslands of the Texas Hill Country. Dr. Concilio welcomes student participation in her field research and has advised ENSP students on their Honors Thesis research, McNair research, and ENSP culminating research experience.
Dr. Gary A. Morris earned a Ph.D. in Space Physics and Astronomy from Rice University (1992, 1995) before serving as a National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Washington, DC (1994–97). In 2004 he established the Tropospheric Ozone Pollution Project (TOPP) which flies weather balloons to measure ozone pollution and meteorological data. TOPP has engaged more than 150 students (mostly undergraduate), produced the largest urban ozonesonde database in the U.S. for Houston, and flown from more than a dozen sites in the USA (including, presently in Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, and Galveston, Texas) in addition to international sites in Panama, Costa Rica, and Japan. His Fulbright Scholar Project in Japan during 2008 - 2009 examined the influence of Chinese pollution on air quality in Japan before, during, and after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Most recently, he has co-developed a new technology for inexpensive measurements of SO2 on a balloon sonde (patent pending). Dr. Morris currently serves on the Assessment of Standard Operating Procedures for Ozonesondes Panel, commissioned by the World Meteorological Organization of the United Nations to update protocols and recommendations for preparing, calibrating, and flying ozonesonde instruments on balloons. He is also interested in the way students learn physics, collaborating with Harvard physicist Eric Mazur on two publications and implementing Dr. Mazur’s project based introductory physics approach in the classrooms of St. Edward’s in collaboration with Dr. Paul Walter (NSCI, physics).
Student, Alumni and Faculty Accomplishments
Victoria Edwards ’19 and Grace DeLucia ’19, Environmental Science and Policy majors, are now working as environmental specialists for SWA Environmental Consultants in Austin, Texas.
Andrea Calderon, Outsanding 2020 Graduate, was named the Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, a McNair Research Scholar, and a Princeton Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. She studied abroad in Costa Rica, Italy, Argentina and South Africa and interned at the Austin City Hall and in Washington, D.C. for Rep. Raul Grijalva. She is currently a staff assistant for U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-AL) in Washington, D.C.
Olivia Rome ’20, Yeji Kang ’20 and Jack Rippel ’20 received prizes for their research at the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference.
Congratulations to ENSP faculty member Amy Concilio for receiving the SEU Distinguished Teaching Award for 2020!
About the Minor
Whether you are interested in environmental consulting, research management, or simply adding an environmental perspective to your prospective field of interest, a minor in Environmental Science and Policy can help you prepare for a more sustainably mindful career.
- Introduction to Sustainability
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Geology
- Environmental Politics and Policy
- Two other upper-division ENSP courses