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Environmental Science

Now more than ever, the world needs more passionate people who want to work in the field of environmental science. If this is something you feel called to, Dordt is a great place to learn.

With a prairie in your backyard, you’ll get the opportunity to study all sorts of plant species and more. Our dynamic professors, off-campus activities, and professional opportunities make Dordt the perfect environment for academic success.

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Program Overview

Study environmental science and learn to investigate and observe the environment around you. Take an array of classes such as chemistry and biology, gaining valuable research tools. And understand how God can use you to help the earth’s environment flourish.

When you study environmental science at Dordt, you’re setting yourself up for a career that allows you to share your passion for the environment with the world around you. Along with an engaging and dynamic curriculum, you’ll have opportunities for internships and jobs in the field. You’ll also learn from high-level professors who are dedicated to helping you grow academically and spiritually through individual attention.

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What You'll Learn

Classes in the environmental science emphasis will prepare you for a career in the fish and wildlife department, a federal natural resource agency, or an environmental conservation organization. You’ll learn about the importance of biology and chemistry as they relate to the environment. Courses will also touch on different areas such as stewardship, conservation, and environmental issues. When you graduate, you’ll be ready to make an impact in the workforce right away.

What You Can Do With An Environmental Science Emphasis

When it comes to an environmental science emphasis, you can choose from several career options, including:

Environmental Scientist

Environmental Scientists protect the environment and human health through their knowledge and expertise of natural sciences.

Environmental Technician

Environmental Technicians use laboratory equipment to monitor and investigate harmful sources in the environment.

Air Pollution Analyst

An Air Pollution Analyst works with different air samples to develop techniques that work to reduce air pollution.

Career Preparation

Dordt University's 2023 Career Outcome Rate was 99.4%! “This data point tells us that Dordt graduates are prepared for the careers of their choosing,” said Amy Westra, director of Career Development. “A Dordt education provides students with industry-relevant courses and connections that make a difference.”

Students who choose the environmental science emphasis will complete various courses from the biology, chemistry, and environmental studies programs in addition to completing the general requirements for an environmental studies degree. Students will also have the choice to take classes from the agriculture, community development, political science, and theology programs. Additionally, students will be required to complete a senior research project or internship. Coursework includes at least seven credit hours of lab work.

  • General Zoology: A study of the anatomy, physiology, ecology, taxonomy, and economic importance of the invertebrate and chordate animals. Three lectures and one laboratory period of three hours per week.
  • Cell and Molecular Biology: An introduction to molecular mechanisms in living organisms. Topics include structure and functions of cellular components, gene structure and expression, and recombinant DNA technology. Concepts of reductionism and evolutionary theory will be addressed. Three lectures and one laboratory period of three hours per week.
  • General Botany: An introductory study of the anatomy, physiology, taxonomy, and ecology of the major plant groups. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.
  • Principles of Chemistry: A study of the fundamental principles of chemistry and an introduction to foundational issues in science. Topics include atomic and molecular structure, chemical equilibria, chemical kinetics, chemical thermodynamics, and electrochemistry. An introduction to laboratory safety and chemical hygiene is included in the laboratory. This is the first course in chemistry for majors in the physical and life sciences. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period per week.
  • Environmental Chemistry: A study of the nature and transport of chemical species—both natural and human-introduced—in the natural environment (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere). Three lectures per week.
  • Environmental Chemistry Laboratory: This lab will include methods of sampling and analysis of samples from natural and/or human influenced environments.
  • Organic and Biological Chemistry: Organic molecules and their functional groups and biomolecules and their function in living cells will be studied. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period per week. The laboratory will include experiments in organic and biological chemistry.
  • Chemical Analysis: An in-depth study of the theory and practice of quantitative methods of chemical analysis. Includes discussion of proper laboratory techniques, theory of operation of common laboratory equipment, discussion of various analytical methods, sampling and sample preparation, and discussion of statistical methods for evaluating and interpreting data. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period per week.
  • Organic Chemistry: Structure and Mechanism: In this foundational organic chemistry course, students will learn the foundational topics and problem-solving skills needed to understand the plethora of chemical reactions that involve compounds containing carbon. A working knowledge and application of topics such as nucleophiles, electrophiles, acids, bases, stereochemistry, mechanism, kinetics, substitution reactions, elimination reactions, carbonyl chemistry, and conformational analysis will be developed. Through a detailed understanding of the chemistry, an honest discussion of ethical implications, and a thoughtful interaction with the material we will develop an understanding of how God reveals himself through his creational structure.
  • Instrumental Analysis: Optical, electrical, and chromatographic methods of quantitative analysis and theoretical study. The class meets for three lectures per week for the first two-thirds of the semester; laboratory experiments are performed during the last one-third of the semester.
  • Flora of North America: Welcome to the flora of North America! This is a course in field biology and taxonomy of vascular plants. Our study will focus on the native vegetation of the tall-grass prairie landscape with its associated gallery forests and wetlands. We will be comparing local studies to plant complexes from other geographic locations. Two lectures and one laboratory period per week. This course includes extensive field work and potentially several weekend field trips.
  • Avian Biology and Conservation: The identification, natural history, ecology, and stewardship of birds. Topics include morphological and physiological ecology of birds, habitat selection, communication, migration, reproductive ecology, territoriality, taxonomy, and conservation. The connections between avian ecology and creation stewardship will be explored. Recognition of a diverse set of birds by sight and sound is an important component of the course. Two lecture/discussion sessions and one three-hour lab per week. Field work will concentrate on local birds, but at least one trip to a distant site will be included.
  • Wildlife Ecology and Stewardship: Advanced examination of animal (especially terrestrial vertebrate) populations, communities, and habitats, particularly as such analysis is applied to the manipulation and exploitation of animal populations and communities to regulate their abundance and distribution and/or to restore them. Considerable exploration and critique of the development and practice of wildlife management, particularly as it compares to biblical principles for creation stewardship. Two lecture/discussion sessions and one three-hour lab per week. Additional activities include an overnight field trip and attending a wildlife conference.
  • Nature and Properties of Soils: A comprehensive introduction to the field of soil science with an emphasis on scientific principles and their application in solutions to practical soil management problems. Two lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.
  • Agroecology: An introduction to the principles of agricultural ecology with an emphasis on Christian stewardship of God’s world. Topics include the development and characteristics of agroecosystems, ecological disturbance and succession, diversity, pest management, nutrient cycling, environmental quality, energy use, climate change, social capital, conservation practices, and global food production. The interaction of agroecosystems with surrounding ecosystems is studied, and the utilization of ecological principles in agroecosystem design and management are examined. Two lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.
  • Introductory Geology and Physical Geography: A general introduction to the physical nature and structure of the solid Earth, including, briefly, its physical geography and a more detailed look at its geology. The environmental implications of these subjects are detailed. Three lectures and one laboratory period of three hours per week plus one overnight field trip and one or two shorter trips.
  • Meteorology and Climate Change: Provides a general introduction to meteorology and weather. Climate and climate change in Quaternary times to the present are also considered. The implications of an anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse effect will be addressed, with particular attention given to the impact of these changes on the structure and function of ecosystems. Includes one or two field trips to relevant sites in the region.
  • Entomology and Pest Management: An introduction to entomology and insect-pest management including insect biology, taxonomy, ecology, life cycles, and integrated pest management. Three lectures per week.
  • Microbiology: A study of the form, structure, and classification of microorganisms, including an introduction to viruses. The course will emphasize bacteria, general laboratory techniques, culturing and control of microbial growth. A substantial portion of the course will deal with immunologic processes: antibodies and antigens, host-antigen reactions, T & B cell response mechanisms, and non-specific host defense mechanisms. Three lectures and one laboratory period per week.
  • Advanced Microbiology: An upper-level course in the study of microbes, their history, their cell biology, and inter-organism (symbiotic) processes. Topics will include and build on pro- and eu-karyotic distinctions, in-depth study of viruses and plasmids, anaerobic metabolism, biofilms, endosymbiosis, antibiosis, antibiotic resistance, disease mechanisms, how host immune responses develop and adapt. Laboratory work will include basic microscopic observation, culturing, and identification. Isolation and characterization of bacteria, viruses, and potential antibiosis will be featured as “unknown” work. Intended for biology majors and pre-medical students.
  • Advanced Genetics: A study of the relationship between genetic information and the organism. Topics include population genetics, selection, speciation, recombination, mutations, epigenetics, and systems biology. A variety of bioinformatics tools will be used for genomic analyses. Laboratories will involve crosses and analysis, molecular techniques, and computer applications. Includes discussions of God’s providence and evolutionary theory. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.
  • Helping Communities Flourish: Christians are called to love their neighbors and can do so by working to strengthen communities in North America and throughout the world. In this course we will examine community development strategies and practices (historical and current) used in domestic, international, urban, and rural settings. Our goal will be to identify those that fit well with a Christian view of the world and are likely to help communities flourish in the long term. We will also explore how these practices and strategies can be successfully implemented.
  • Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment: A study of economic aspects of Christian stewardship in relation to the environment and use of natural resources. Major topics include biblical norms on creation, property rights, economic justice, the economic dimensions of current environmental problems and trends in resource use, institutions and social structures that affect environmental policy, economic theories related to resource use and environmental quality, and evaluation of current and proposed policies from a Christian point of view.
  • Public Policy: Provides a general introduction to the public policy process in the United States, including an exploration of the socioeconomic and cultural context, the defining characteristics of the political system, and various phases in the policy process. Special attention is given to selected policy issues such as energy and the environment, criminal justice, poverty, health care, and immigration.
  • Christian Ethics: What does it mean to pursue the good life and how do we so as faithful disciples of Christ? What do we owe to God, neighbor, stranger, and enemy? Answers to these questions are more difficult to come by than we might expect – or hope. We live in a world rife with sin, corruption, and moral disagreement. Even faithful Christians can arrive at profoundly different moral judgments about life in the church and the world. This course aims to equip students with theological and ethical tools that they can use to reflect critically on what it means to live faithfully in contemporary society.
  • Christian Mind and Heart: In conversation with great thinkers of the past, we will discuss the biblical foundation for Reformed thinking, the responsibility of humans to fulfill our mission as image-bearers in God’s world, and the development of a Reformed world and life view for actual Christian thinking and living. Students will explore significant issues of Christian life through personal and group projects that engage particular aspects of their major studies or life vision.
  • Introduction to Biological Research: This is a mini-course designed to prepare students for directed senior research. The course will introduce the idea and practice of biological research. It will include the nature and scope of a research project, how to conduct literature searches, and how to design methods and protocols for problem solving. The class will meet weekly in seminar or tutorial format. Students will make weekly presentations of their progress, finalize their proposal for Environmental Studies 380, and (if appropriate) begin the work for the directed research project. Graded on a pass/no record basis.
  • Directed Senior Research: Focuses on identifying a stewardship problem and bringing rigorous analytical and critical thinking to bear in examining the problem, reporting on it, and making recommendations for its resolution. The research project will be chosen and conducted under the guidance of a faculty mentor and may investigate a problem from a natural science perspective in the field and/or laboratory or from a social science perspective. With approval, the research may be conducted at an off-campus location.
  • Environmental Studies Internship: Students apply the principles of environmental science and/or policy in an off-campus setting working with businesses or non-profit organizations. Students will spend at least 120 hours at their placement site. Learning goals relevant to each situation will be developed and assessed. Weekly logs, a final written paper, and a poster or formal presentation are required. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing in the Environmental Studies Department.

See the course catalog for more information.

Ready to take the next step?

Science and Technology Center

As an environmental science major, you'll have the opportunity to spend time in Dordt's Science and Technology Center. Informally known as the "Science Building," the Science and Technology Center is home to a lab devoted to work in environmental studies.

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Student Stories

Dordt students and alumni use their gifts to make a difference in the world. Check out their stories to see how Defender Nation lives out our mission to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.

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