For their course on “Ecosystems Patterns and Processes” undergraduate
students take a variety of field trips to illuminate their study of both terrestrial
and marine ecosystems, and the ways in which these systems respond to changing
The class, taught by Professors Thomas Siccama, Peter Raymond and Oswald Schmidtz, is one of hundreds at Yale that are preparing the next generation of environmental leaders and caretakers of the Earth.
Environment-related courses are offered in dozens of academic departments and in most of the professional schools, and undergraduate and graduate students also work with faculty mentors in the more than 20 research centers, institutes or projects at the University that focus on environmental topics or themes.
Undergraduates majoring in environmental studies examine how physical and biological processes maintain life, and how humans affect nature, from a broad interdisciplinary perspective. Other students pursue their interest in environmental issues through coursework in ecology and evolutionary biology, chemistry, environmental and chemical engineering, and geology and geophysics, to name just some.
In an American studies course, they can explore how the wilderness has been portrayed in the American imagination; in a religious studies class, they can examine the relationships of Native American peoples with their homelands, geography and biodiversity; in classes in economics, they can learn about the economics of both agriculture and natural resources; and in a political science course, they can investigate world food issues.
At the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, joint degree programs are offered with the Schools of Architecture, Management, Law and Divinity, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.
Yale faculty members have organized a number of research centers and projects that focus on specific environmental themes. These range from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Science to the Center for Eco-Epidemiology, the Center for Field Ecology, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, the Center for the Study of Global Change, the Yale Program on Forest Policy and Governance, and the Tropical Resources Institute.
Students also learn specifically about sustainability in a semester-long course taught by Yale’s director of sustainability, Julie Newman (see related story).
Various educational programs are offered to individuals beyond Yale. At the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, for example, area schoolteachers learn about the museum’s resources and are treated to field trips and talks by Yale scientists during a weeklong summer Biodiversity Institute. By the week’s end, the participants, called Peabody Fellows, select a topic related to biodiversity that they later develop and implement into their school’s curriculum.
Another program, the Yale-Tsinghua Environment and Sustainable Development Leadership Program, influences initiatives much further afield. Begun in 2005, the three-year program in partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing was created to teach Chinese municipal officials how to promote economic development in more environmentally sustainable ways.
These are just a sampling of the University’s diverse offerings related to the environment. For more information, visit the website www.yale.edu/environ/academic_studying.