Jessica Toledo

Jessica Toledo

Farquhar College of Arts & Sciences

Environmental Science/Studies Majors Seek Careers as Agents of Change

Jessica Toledo decided after one course that she would major in environmental studies.

"I fell in love with learning more about the environment," said Jessica Toledo, a sophomore at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences who is pursuing a minor in marine biology.

"I want to help conserve some of the wildlife habitats that currently need protection," Toledo said. "The Florida Everglades, John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, and the Florida Keys are a few of the places environmental science/studies majors learn and do hands-on research. Independent studies offer students hands-on experience in the field."

The environmental science/studies program is one major with independent tracks for environmental science and environmental studies.

"Environmental studies and science are interdisciplinary degrees that focus on issues that arise at the confluence of the natural world with the designed world," said Paul Baldauf, Ph.D., associate professor at the college, who serves as chair of the major.

"The programs provide students with a rigorous background in science and include courses in ethics and public policy," Baldauf said. "Courses emphasize strong written and oral communication skills, collaborative learning, and critical thinking. We hope that with a background in the natural sciences and an emphasis on collaboration with policy makers, our students will see themselves as agents of change in a future full of environmental challenges."

Graduates of the program can develop expertise in environmental issues, enter graduate programs, or move into careers through which they can make a positive difference in the natural world around them.

"Environmental studies students are best prepared to continue in law and policy studies, recreation and tourism, or education," Baldauf said, adding that graduates may find jobs in parks and recreation, public policy, environmental advocacy, or environmental enforcement.

"Environmental science majors are better prepared to continue studying natural science at the graduate level," he said, with potential careers as professional scientists working for governments, technical consulting firms, or architectural and engineering firms.

"Fortunately, job prospects for our majors are good," Baldauf said. "One of the most consistent job opportunities for these graduates is the environmental consulting industry. These jobs involve working with manufacturers on reducing the waste stream of hazardous materials and complying with environmental regulations. Conversely, there are jobs with governmental agencies, such as county, state, and federal environmental protection agencies, enforcing environmental regulations.

"There are many other paths," Baldauf said. "Graduates may continue in education, law, outdoor education, parks and recreation, sustainability, and public policy."

In addition to an interdisciplinary curriculum, the program offers opportunities for overseas travel, student research, and internships.

"The program has a field course that travels to the Amazonian cloud forest of Ecuador," Baldauf said. "Research opportunities include the chance to work on freshwater ecosystem problems, geographical information systems, and environmental hazards in Badlands National Park" in South Dakota.

Students have found internship opportunities at the Broward County Department of Environmental Protection and Growth Management, the Loxahatchee River District, the Humane Society, the U.S. Forest Service, and many other organizations.

Toledo plans to pursue a doctoral degree in marine biology and then a career in marine life conservation and ecology.

"For anyone who wants to learn more about the environment and preserving its natural beauty, this is the major for you," she said.