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    Hope College
    Aug 18, 2022  
2022-2023 Catalog 
2022-2023 Catalog

Environmental Science

The environmental science program focuses on scientific approaches to solving environmental problems. Students can earn an environmental science minor that complements any major, or they can complete an environmental science major with a concentration in biology, chemistry, or geology.

About The Program

In the most basic terms, environmental science is the scientific study of the environment, particularly with regard to implications for humans. Environmental science therefore is broad in scope and interdisciplinary in nature. It draws on principles from throughout the sciences to understand and improve the ways that humans and the environment interact with one another. It uses systems thinking to help reduce complex natural phenomena into manageable subsets that can be studied and understood. It also incorporates ideas of sustainability as it considers the future of humans in the environment.

Our ability to modify our environment has increased dramatically over the last century, and we now recognize that many of those modifications have negative consequences. A growing number of scientists seek solutions to environmental problems as they work to improve our understanding of the causes, processes and consequences of environmental change. “Typical” environmental scientists specialize in one of the traditional disciplines such as biology, chemistry, geology, physics or engineering. However, they generally have a broad scientific understanding of environmental systems that goes beyond the confines of their discipline, including an understanding of how environmental issues affect and are affected by politics and economics. An environmental scientist will often work in a team with professionals from other fields to study and solve environmental problems.

At Hope College, programs in environmental science are administered within the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. Descriptions of the GES courses can be found under the Geology  section. Students with primary interests outside the sciences should compare the environmental science programs listed here with the Environmental Studies Minor , which has a greater focus on humanities and social science aspects of environmental issues.


The Environmental Science major equips students to take a rigorous scientific approach when developing and evaluating effective solutions to environmental problems. It does this by combining four elements:

  • a foundation in an environmentally-focused science discipline (biology, chemistry, or geology)
  • broader interdisciplinary experiences and systems concepts that enable students to work and communicate across disciplines
  • an understanding of political, economic, and regulatory aspects of environmental decision-making
  • an outlook informed by tenets of sustainability.

The Environmental Science major supplies students with background knowledge, skills, and intellectual tools that are fundamental to addressing complex and multifaceted environmental problems. Solutions to these problems, however, demand both breadth and depth of knowledge, so students planning a profession in environmental science are strongly encouraged to take courses in one or more science disciplines beyond those required for an Environmental Science major, as well as to choose environmentally-related courses throughout the curriculum.

Students completing the environmental science major choose from one of three concentrations: biology, chemistry, or geology. Students with interests in computer science, engineering, physics, or other fields in which there is not a designated concentration are strongly encouraged to combine a major in their field of interest with the environmental science minor. All environmental science major degrees are awarded as Bachelor of Science degrees.