Founded in the early 1970s, New College's Environmental Studies AOC is one of the oldest of its type in the country. Our program is designed to help students focus on the major issues of our time, including climate change, sea level rise, food security, urban environments, governing the oceans, and environmental conservation and stewardship. As a student in our Environmental Studies program, you will work alongside expert faculty from a dozen disciplines to solve problems: testing water or soil quality, looking at policies regarding land and marine use, finding and identifying invasive species, exploring systems modeling, studying statistics used in data analysis and delving into environmental awareness.
At New College, our Environmental Studies Program focuses both on teaching you about the natural and social systems relevant to environmental issues and on giving you the real-world skills necessary to make a difference in the local, national and global communities.
Our campus sits on a diverse coastline, which allows students to study a wide range of habitats right in our own backyard, including pine flatwoods, mangroves, estuaries, bay beaches and more. It is also a great place to study how people, policy and social institutions manage and mismanage their environment. Here, and in other parts of Sarasota Bay, our students get a firsthand look at the effects of storm water runoff, sea walls, sea grass beds and prop scarring on a coastal environment.
New College is also close to the freshwater wetlands, dry scrubs and native Florida habitat at Myakka River State Park, as well as many other parks and recreational areas, where students have access to a living laboratory for their research. Additional nearby resources include Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Lemur Conservation Foundation, Big Cat Habitat, Venice Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and others.
Best of all for students in Environmental Studies, New College’s flexible academic program means that you work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to build a plan of study that matches your personal and academic interests. Our graduates in Environmental Studies lead successful careers in federal, state, and local environmental management agencies, teaching, conducting research, and following entrepreneurial pursuits in the non-profit and for-profit sectors, especially in businesses with a sustainability focus.
Throughout the program, you will be introduced to courses in a wide range of disciplines and gain skills that can be applied in both the classroom and the outside world. You’ll consider complex issues that require multi-track thinking drawing on the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. And you will be encouraged to find a site or a community, distant or close at hand, that you can research, communicate about and possibly improve.
Naturally, many students find research topics or sites in southwest Florida, which offers a provocative mix of burgeoning urban environments as well as protected and threatened natural areas. Even the campus itself has become an object of study, with several recent classes and tutorials looking at reducing our carbon footprint, preserving and restoring native plant habitats and other environmental explorations.
A Chance to Get Involved
Our students are also active in the New College community:
Students in Environmental Studies have done research in Costa Rica, Panama, Amazon, the Arctic, Brazil, Rwanda, Ecuador, Antarctica and many others areas around the world. They have studied coral reef ecology in Panama, rehabilitated native species to be re-released into the rain forest in Ecuador, and conducted anthropological interviews about sustainable food practices in Rwanda. Here is a look at two recent Study Abroad trips by our students:
Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary program that draws students who bring the skills they’ve learned in a wide range of disciplines to bear on questions regarding the relationship between people and the environment. At New College, our program in Environmental Studies is built around five key concepts:
Our program also emphasizes demonstrated competence in:
As an Environmental Studies student at New College, you will also be expected to complete a basic course in ecology, psychology, chemistry, and political sciences or economics. Courses in methods and statistics are also strongly recommended. While most of our students choose the Environmental Studies AOC as a stand-alone major, it is possible to meet requirements in two areas for a double major, or Slash AOC as we call it, such as Environmental Studies and Psychology.
Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Environmental Studies:
Introduction to Environmental Studies
This course is designed to introduce students to key concepts and contemporary themes in environmental studies and science using a geographic approach. The course offers students a baseline understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions, the importance of scale and regions, as well as the implications and issues that arise from these interrelationships. The course components will include: (1) Science, Sustainability and Systems; (2) Natural/Human Systems; (3) Population and Urbanization Challenges; (4) Resources Issues; (5) Living with the Earth’s Carrying Capacity; and (6) Ethics. An overarching theme of the course will be the notion of ‘sustainability’ in the context of global environmental and societal change.
Methods and Representations in Environmental Studies
Questions relating to the environment are addressed in every discipline and, often, across disciplines. Thus, the methods used to address these questions are varied. Students in Environmental Studies need to understand this variety of approaches. This course is designed to introduce second and third year students intending to concentrate in Environmental Studies to some of these methods. Students will gain some experience with interviews, surveys, GIS, policy analysis, ecological techniques, and the scientific method. In the first mod of the course, students will be introduced to these methods; in the second mod, we will apply the methods to questions of class interest. We will also consider different forms of evidence and presentation style as well as investigating venues for finding previous work in particular fields. In addition, each student will consider her/his own interests and how to use them to create his/her future path in Environmental Studies at New College.
Introduction to Botany
An introduction to the biology of plants, including cells, energy and biomass production, biochemical and physiological systems, in vivo structure, reproduction, diversity and ecology will be taught. Similarities between single celled photosynthetic organisms and multi-cellular vascular plants will be explored. Students are expected to successfully complete quizzes, a mid-term, a final, and write a research paper on an approved plant Topic.
This seminar examines the major trends in the development of ecological anthropology, with special emphasis on 1) the role of ecology in evolutionary theory, and 2) case studies of the interaction of people, culture and the environment. Among the topics covered will be: hunter-gatherers, pastoralism, agrarian ecology, the ecology of ritual and warfare, population ecology, ancient civilizations and the environment, ecology and culture change, environmental justice, and various current issues where culture and the environment intersect. This seminar does not offer a biological approach to the study of ecosystems, nor is it a trendy course on how to recycle beer cans; it is a comparative survey of the ways in which people interact with their physical environments. The primary focus will be on theories concerning the effects of the environment on the development and evolution of culture, and the seminar will provide a forum for the discussion of these issues.
Environmental Studies Capstone
There are now hundreds of great books and essays dealing with environmental themes. In this capstone seminar for graduating Environmental Studies 4th-year students, we will discuss a few books and numerous shorter readings that cover a wide spectrum of environmental topics, time periods, and locales. Where appropriate, we’ve selected texts with special relevance to Florida. These are readings every environmental studies student should be know, and this course is a required offering for an environmental studies area of concentration.
Coral Reef Ecology
This course is a survey of the principles and concepts of ecology as applied to the study of coral reef ecosystems. Unique features of coral reefs will be considered as well as features in common with other ecosystems. The role of coral reefs in global ecology will be investigated and examples of reefs in the major reef provinces will be studied, with some emphasis on the Caribbean. Theoretical issues in ecology will be considered in light of impacts on reef dynamics of anthropogenic and natural factors. This course will provide the background for a field course offered in Panama.
This course examines the tension between the need for economic development in less-developed countries and the necessity to protect and preserve the environment. It is an appropriate point of entry for environmental studies students with policy/international interests. Prior coursework in economics, sociology and/or political science is helpful but not a mandatory prerequisite. The course covers domestic issues facing developing countries as they attempt to solve their economic and environmental problems as well as the relationship between developing countries and the rest of the international community in dealing with environmental problems. There will be a midterm and final exam in addition to a series of group writing assignments and structured debates.
This course is an introduction to the sociological study of the urban landscape, with a particular focus on the United States. The first part of the course will focus on conceptual and theoretical issues associated with sociological study of the city, from the “Chicago school ” sociologists at the turn of the century to more recent analyses of the “social production” of urban space and the sociology of place. In the middle weeks of the course, we turn to the task of gaining an historical understanding of the processes of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States. The last part of the course will focus more on current issues relevant to the challenge of building livable and sustainable cities. Topics will include: urbanism as a sociological phenomenon; suburbanization; ghettoization and gentrification; modernism, “urban renewal,” and the technology of city-building; culture and politics of urban places, with a particular focus on race, class, and gentrification in contemporary cities; re-formed city centers and new images of urbanity; transformations of urban space as we move from the progressive image of the city as “the hope of democracy” to the supposedly imminent “end of public space;” postmodernist criticism and neotraditional urbanism; sustainable urbanism.
Judaism and Ecology
Over time Judaism has developed certain notions about protecting the environment and respecting natural resources. This course will trace these ideas from the Bible until today, focusing on the creation of both legal and conceptual traditions. Students will explore a variety of early rabbinic, medieval and modern texts. In addition, readings and discussion will consider the special challenges and rewards of constructing a dialogue between ancient traditions and modern concerns.
For a complete list of courses, click here.
Internships, Tutorials and ISPs
At New College, our Environmental Studies students expand their studies outside the classroom through Independent Studies Projects (ISPs), tutorials and internships at the Nature Conservancy, the Lemur Conservation Foundation, City of Sarasota, Mote Marine Laboratory and a host of other local and regional institutions and organizations. Here is a look at some recent ISPs and tutorials completed by students in Environmental Studies:
Campus Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Climate Action Plan
This group ISP is related to New College’s participation in the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). One of the College’s obligations as a member of this commitment is implementing a “Climate Action Plan” for the campus that documents and calculates the institution’s greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Students work with the data that has been collected and focus on how the emissions have changed over time, where New College has the largest carbon emissions and how that data can be used to recommend feasible improvements. Students then choose an area where they would like to reduce our footprint, investigate what it would cost and what the benefits are, and create a proposal and present it to the Council of Green Affairs for Green Fee funding. This is a chance to help shape the future energy strategies of our campus by reducing New College’s carbon footprint.
Environmental Mapping and Management Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a widely used technique to analyze spatial environmental data. Students work as a team to complete a group project focusing on the local environment. They begin by refining and conceptualizing a team project, finding existing data or generating new data using GPS, transforming and importing data into a GIS format, processing and analyzing spatial data, and then presenting data, analysis and maps.
Caples Organic Garden
The Organic Gardening Tutorial and ISP are dedicated to making sure that the traditional gardening space near Old Caples Carriage House retains its vitality and utility. Every aspect of the tutorial is discussed and implemented by the students. Students are taught the proper methods for removing garden pests and weeds, undercutting the brush, tilling soil, drying the removed vegetation and using it as mulch, building beds and preparing soil, preparing seedlings, planting the vegetables and fruits, and then maintaining and nurturing the plants. The resulting produce and herbs are then used by the students.
The Environmental Studies faculty are drawn from throughout the College. The faculty members listed below are actively involved in addressing issues of Environmental Studies in their courses
New College is proud of the many Environmental Studies graduates who have contributed to the field. Here’s a sampling of some of our graduates:
Sample of Graduate and Law Schools Attended by NCF Students in Environmental Studies
Each academic experience builds toward your senior thesis project. It’s required for graduation, and our students tell us that while it’s demanding, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Here are some thesis projects in Environmental Studies:
“Crimes of Emission: How Dirty are the Hfc-23 Abatement Projects of the Clean Development Mechanism?” by Oliver Laurence Peckham
“Speaking for the Seas: Examining and Promoting Sustainable Seafood in the Chesapeake Bay” by Courtney A. Smith
“What Is The Extinction Of The Condor To A Child Who Has Never Seen A Wren? The Effect Of Charismatic Minifauna On The Environmental Behaviors Of High School Students” by Aidan Bailey
“ECO³ Can a Tri-force of Sustainability Reforms $ave the Four Winds Café?” by Johannah Birney
“Who Speaks for the Wolves? An Exploration of the Human-Wolf Conflict in the Continental United States” by Kaitlyn Bock
“Business as Usual: Greenpeace in a Changing World” by Mara Feinberg
“Sustainable Auto-Mobility: The Case of the Bicycle” by Devin K. Frechette
“Another Way’: An Ethnographic Portrait of Community Dynamics, Sustainability, and Percieved Quality of Life at Inanitah and Earthaven Ecovillage” by Jeanne La Roche
“Polar Bear Sport Hunting in Nunavut, Canada: Perspectives on Polar Bear Conservation and the Endangered Species Act” by Tait Mandler
“Field Trips and Informal Education: An Analysis of Hands-On Science Curriculum” by Christine McCormick
“Who Benefits? Policies of Inclusion and Exclusion in International Pharmaceutical Bioprospecting Contracts” by Katherine Scussel
“Anthropogenic Nutrient Enrichment in Bays and Watersheds: A Comparison of Sarasota Bay, Florida and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii” by Allison Wyatt
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free: An Examination of Refugee Resettlement in the United States” by Jessica Certain
“Temporal patterns of burrow use by gopher tortoises (Gophexus Polyphemus) at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station” by Forest Hayes
“Everglades Ecology Restoration Inspiring Science Education” by Angelique Giraud
“A Review of Dispersant Use in Response to the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” by Bryant Turffs
Situated just south of the Ringling Museum of Art, New College’s Caples Campus is home to our visual and performing arts studios and facilities, the Sail Club, and our Environmental Studies Program. The campus is named after early Sarasota pioneers, Ralph and Ellen Caples, and features their historic mansion and its accompanying carriage house, both of which were built in the early 1920s. The Caples Carriage House is the heart of the Environmental Studies Program and features a classroom, meeting space, offices and the New College map database, which is available to students throughout the year. In addition, equipment for environmentally-related projects can be found here.
New College’s Native Plants Restoration Area consists of 2 acres on the College’s Bayfront Campus. In addition to remnant native canopy trees, we have replaced exotic turf grass with native wildflowers and bunch grasses. Students are able to look at native plant propagation, plant-insect relationships, restoration ecology, alternative weed removal testing, as well as tour the grounds to get a glimpse of indigenous plants of Florida.
The Caples Organic Gardens consist of a butterfly garden, medicinal garden and a vegetable plot that are tended by students. In the butterfly and medicinal gardens, there is an emphasis on native plants that require minimal resources. The gardens are an active site both for learning about agriculture and plants and as a labor of love for New College students, who work together to remove garden pests and weeds, undercut brush, till the soil, create mulch, build beds and prepare soil, nurture seedlings, plant vegetables and fruits, and maintain the plants. The gardens are a focus of course work for some and an extra-curricular activity for others. Plants and produce grown in the gardens are regularly made available to students.
You might also be interested in …
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
National Council of Science and the Environment
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Lemur Conservation Foundation
Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence (SCOPE)
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary
Venice Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Selby Botanical Gardens
Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida