Environmental Studies BS

Signature Courses
Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest
Ornithology: The Life of Birds
Marine Biology l
Marine Biology II
Marine Biology III
Conservation Biology
Energy and the Environment

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies is for students seeking rigorous multidisciplinary exploration of the natural systems and processes of the Earth and the role of humans who both depend on and influence these systems and processes. With a strong foundation in the natural sciences and a broad understanding of the policy implications of environmental science, students with this degree will be well prepared for graduate study in this field and for employment with both public agencies and private businesses working toward a more sustainable future. 

Students will become well informed about natural history and ecology as a context in which to embed their scientific study. Students will also consider ethics and policy as they build strong, meaningful applications for scientific endeavors. Some required courses may be gained through EcoLeague exchanges or transfer courses.

The aim of this degree and the BA is to develop ecologically literate, informed, and responsible citizens who are prepared to offer constructive solutions to environmental problems, and to help develop sustainable relationships between people and nature.



Each fall and spring, new Prescott College students find themselves in “the classroom,” the breathtaking, sometimes raw, always diverse terrains and environments of the Southwest.  New Prescott students are introduced to the natural environment of the Southwest, learn about themselves and each other, and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation, thus beginning the journey of developing relationships with their new home, community, and academic career.

For most students, Orientation will mean a three-week Desert, Mountain and Canyon Expedition (aka Wilderness Orientation). Students, as a small community of engaged learners, will be backpacking throughout ecologically diverse locations in Arizona. Studying - Connecting - Growing.  Other students will participate in a Base Camp Orientation, or Community-Based Orientation.

Follow this link for detailed information on these Orientation options: Orientation Details 

First Year Experience

In their first semester, freshmen will enroll in courses addressing the concerns and challenges of being a college student.  First Year Students will choose from an array of immersive semester courses - like Water in the West, Art and Ecology, Foundations of Leadership, and Introduction to Psychology and Yoga - which continue to build community, forge relationships with faculty advisors, and develop academic inquiry.

In their first semester at Prescott College, transfer students participate in Crises of the 21st Century: Research Methods & Theories.   Students from environmental and social disciplines, the arts, and humanities will be introduced to theoretical and research approaches that foster ways of integrating their questions through class discussions and personal research.  Students enrolled in this course will be given individual support in creating a degree plan organizing courses they are transferring with into a pathway for graduation in their chosen fields.

Degree Plan

During the first semester of their junior year, students create a degree plan, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, which sketches the academic map of their journey.  It includes an overview of courses and credits earned; brief descriptions of competence, breadth, and liberal arts areas; lists of courses completed and those to be completed; a tentative Senior Project plan and description; and additional honors or experience that contribute to competence or breadth.  The Degree Plan is a living document that continues to evolve throughout the student's final three terms.

Senior Project

Prescott College requires every student, not just designated "honors" students, to design and carry out an ambitious Senior Project.  This Project functions as both a demonstration of competence and a culmination of the undergraduate experience.  It may take the form of an ambitious research project, a collection of original creative writing, a curriculum plan and implementation, a studio art exhibition, a performance, a case or field study, or a challenging internship.  Another way of thinking about the Senior Project is as a bridge between a student's undergraduate career and work after graduation. The Senior Project stands as a calling card that proclaims to graduate schools, prospective employers, and the world, "Look, this is what I'm capable of doing."

Areas of Emphasis

Marine Studies at Prescott College has a strong focus on ecology of the marine environment (physical oceanography and marine ecology) and on the relationships between humans and the marine environment. Students graduating with a competence in Marine Studies should have a foundation in life sciences, physical sciences, human ecology, conservation, and resource management, as well as a broad scope of supporting courses in literature, politics, economics, and humanities. Direct field experience further establishes a student's understanding and respect for the power and vastness of the world's ocean. Most Marine Studies students follow one of two main paths:1) Marine ecology/field research/natural history or 2) Marine conservation/resource management/policy. Many Marine Studies courses take place at the Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies in Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico, on the coast of the Gulf of California. Marine Studies students are also encouraged to broaden their experience by participating in an EcoLeague exchange with either College of the Atlantic or Alaska Pacific University.

Students pursuing this emphasis explore both the theory and practice of EE, intertwined with empirical understandings from numerous observations, field experiences, and practicum opportunities. The Environmental Education emphasis is highly interdisciplinary and complementary as a breadth to students studying Education, Environmental Studies, Adventure Education, Social Justice, Sustainability, Human Development, Arts and Letters, Ecopsychology, and more.

Conservation Biology is an interdisciplinary field that has developed rapidly to respond to a global crisis confronting biological diversity and the cultural diversity that depends upon it. Practitioners of Conservation Biology attempt to guide society toward the maintenance of organisms, landscapes, ecological processes, and natural and cultural systems, and toward sustainable management of environmental, human, and evolutionary resources. Conservation Biology represents shifting sets of interactions among three realms: values, policy, and science. Students in this field will become competent to conduct relevant research, make balanced value judgments, and take effective action on behalf of nature and the environment.


Natural History and Ecology is an approach to learning how nature works, how organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments interrelate. Grounded in evolutionary principles, the field involves studying individuals and populations and how they are assembled into communities and ecosystems. Some students within this emphasis area will become naturalists who observe and interpret particular organisms and landscapes. Others may become field ecologists who build upon natural history by using the scientific method for examining questions generated by ecological theory. Ecological understanding informs and guides applied fields such as agroecology and conservation biology.



  • Identify, compare, contrast, and apply the historical, philosophical, and ethical foundations of how humans value, use, and manage nature and natural resources.
  • Identify and apply abiotic, biological, ecological, and evolutionary processes, from molecules to the biosphere across a variety of temporal and spatial scales.
  • Use appropriate methodologies to address a range of research questions, to interpret landscapes, to test hypotheses where applicable, and to analyze and communicate the results to diverse audiences.
  • Apply understandings of the reciprocal influences between people and nature through meaningful analysis of complex relationships among ecological, cultural, socio-political, and economic systems in the creation of effective.
  • Acquire substantial experience and coursework in the life and physical sciences, lab and field research methods, data analysis, and communicating science.

Examples of Actual Career Pathways of Graduates*

Assistant Professor of Biology

Audubon Alaska's Director of Conservation Science

Campaign Organizer/Green Policy Advocate

Community Development Environmental Director

Conservation Biologist

Conservation Director of the Sky Island Alliance

Director of Prescott Creeks

Director of Western Watersheds Project

Ecologist, Author, and Lead Scientist at Earthwatch Institute, USA

Education Coordinator, Highlands Center for Natural History, AZ

Endangered Species Policy Director, Center for Biological Diversity

Environmental Analyst

Environmental Attorney

Environmental Compliance Consultant

Environmental Health Specialist

Environmental Project Manager

Fisheries Observer for NOAA

High School Science Teacher

Interior Design Consultant

International Guide for Birding Tours Company

Marine Conservation Program Coordinator

Marine Science Educator

Migratory Bird Management Biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service

Municipal Climate Program Manager

President of Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plants Society 

Program Coordinator for the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship 

Restoration Ecologist for the Channel Islands National Park

Sustainability Program Director 

*Note: A number of these career pathways required post-graduate education.


Students interested in Environmental Studies engage in classes addressing the following competencies:  life science, earth and physical science, social systems, and personal values.  Though course combinations are endless, students could earn a degree in Environmental Studies with the following sample list of classes.  

Lower division - the starting points

First-year curriculum: Wilderness and Civilization
Biological Principles: Life on earth 
Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest
Earth Science: An Introduction to the Home Planet 
Foundations of Environmental Education
Soil Science: Fertile Ground for Growth
Water in the West 
Behavior and conservation of mammals

Upper Division - Developing a deeper mastery
Field Methods for Plant Ecology
Environmental Policy
Grand Canyon Semester 
Systematics of Seed Plants
Philosophies of the Interpretive Naturalists
Topics in Geomorphology,  (Kino Bay) 
Advanced GIS
The Senior Project