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
• They join the Council for Green Affairs to determine how the student green fee will be spent on campus. Projects include a bike-sharing project, composting, refillable water bottle stations, solar hot water and various mechanisms to reduce purchased electricity at the College.
• Students traveled to Costa Rica to work with the organization, La Tortuga Feliz. They operated on a remote island off the Caribbean coast and volunteered for duties such as nightly beach patrols to ward off poachers, tending to a large hatchery of relocated turtle eggs and releasing baby turtles that had hatched. While working there, they also tested the quality of the seawater surrounding the island to establish a baseline, due to concerns about the upstream banana plantations leaking fertilizer into the water and affecting the turtle populations with an increased infant turtle mortality rate.
• A student traveled to Africa to study the food security and sustainable agriculture efforts in rural Rwanda. She received funds from many on-campus and off-campus grants and worked with Rwanda Sustainable Families. The program offers micro-loans to families in need with the hope that they will create small businesses and achieve financial stability and freedom. The student worked with the families in their agriculture projects daily and interviewed willing participants about the agricultural practices that they used as well as their general food security.
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:
• Understanding of ecological theory
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
Methods and Representations in Environmental Studies
Introduction to Botany
Environmental Studies Capstone
Coral Reef Ecology
Judaism and Ecology
For a complete list of courses, click here.
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
Environmental Mapping and Management Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
Caples Organic Garden
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
Scott Baker ’77, a 2011 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, began his research focus during his undergraduate studies at New College when he participated in a pioneering dolphin study in Sarasota Bay. Baker is associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute and professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University. Baker participated as the lead DNA scientist for the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, an “eco-thriller” about the international dolphin capture trade in Taiji, Japan. Baker received his doctorate in zoology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and did his postdoctoral training at the Smithsonian Institution and National Cancer Institute. His Pew Fellowship provided funding for a large-scale study on the genetic diversity and relatedness of dolphin populations in the western Pacific. He wrote his New College thesis on “Tidal Creeks of Southwest Florida: An Environmental and Aesthetic Assessment.”
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:
• Kelly Samek is senior assistant general counsel at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
• Josh Tickell is an award-winning filmmaker of FUEL (Sundance Audience Award for Best Documentary) and The Big Fix (Cannes Official Selection; executive producers include Tim Robbins and Peter Fonda). Three years after graduating from New College, he published From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank, a book about running diesel engines on vegetable oil. His New College thesis was titled, “A Drive Toward Sustainable Living: Renewable Energy Alternatives to Current Lifestyle and Transportation Patterns.” He has consulted for companies such as Green Mountain Energy Resources, Yum Brands, Audi and General Motors, and he has appeared on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, CNN, Discovery and NPR. He also hosts a weekly radio show called Tickell Talks.
• Jesse White is owner/founder, Sarasota Architectural Salvage, a business that sells an eclectic mix of architectural antiques and furniture, décor, garden art and building materials recovered from homes and buildings slated for remodeling or demolition. “I became an environmentalist at New College, and this identity has driven my life choices since then,” he says. “My business today is solidly rooted in my desire to champion environmental conservation.”
• Aidan Bailey is working toward a master’s degree in zoology at Miami University.
• Oliver Peckham is pursuing a master’s degree in climate science and policy at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.
• Michael Cowgill is attending law school at Lewis and Clark.
• Michael Dexter-Luffberry received an ORISE fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency and earned his master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
• Marilyn Payne is the sustainability coordinator for DES Architects + Engineersin Redwood City, CA.
• Jessica Plante works as a volunteer management assistant for Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.
• Daniela DeMaria earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of West Florida.
• Scott Ross is a senior video producer for Urban Outfitters.
• Jacob Starks earned his master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Florida.
• Tamara Schiff is a public interest fellow with the Sierra Club.
• Danielle Smith is the harvest manager at The Kitchen Garden.
• Timothy Caughlin earned a Fulbright Scholarship to Thailand and also received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Assistantship. He is currently working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Florida.
• Amanda Croteau received her Ph.D. in Fisheries and Aquatic Services from the University of Florida.
• Meredith Morrow is a public health analyst for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Aubrey Phillips is pursuing her master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Colorado, Denver.
• Sallie Scribner is pursuing a master’s degree in finance at Harvard.
• Fabiana Silva is the office manager for the Center for Individualized Medicine and Age Management.
• Amara Cocilovo is a curator at the Florida Maritime Museum.
• Maya Burke is a senior real estate specialist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
• Lara Drizd is an endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
• Candice Fallon is a researcher studying yucca moths and Joshua trees in Nevada.
• Amber Roux is an environmental supervisor for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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.
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Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium