Student taking measurements in a lake

Environmental Studies

"I have found that my degrees in Environmental Studies/Science were very helpful to my job in land use planning. Topics such as Env. Law, and Government and Env. Policy helped provide an understanding of the foundations and history of the land use regulations I must now understand and navigate, while topics like Geology, Ecology, and River Systems etc.., have given me a fundamental understanding of the real world factors which necessitate the regulations and the science upon on which the policies are built." — Nate Joyner '13

Read about our Graduates


We are at a critical moment in human history where we are confronted with the challenge of sustaining the biosphere’s structure and processes while at the same time providing for the well-being of its burgeoning human population. At MCLA we prepare students to tackle these issues by providing a rigorous, hands-on education in the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies. Students take courses in the environmental studies, as well as from related disciplines including biology, chemistry, earth science, economics, political science, philosophy, and sociology. Berkshire County, one of the most biodiverse regions of New England and home to an incredible variety of natural habitats, serves as our outdoor learning classroom. Partnerships with state and local organizations provide students with opportunities to apply their knowledge towards addressing pressing local environmental needs as early as their freshman year of college. Taking courses in MCLA’s Core Curriculum allows students to see the world from multiple perspectives and prepares graduates to successfully adapt to the evolving demands of careers in the environmental field.

Our outdoor classroom

Professor and class in a river for field work

Why MCLA is Different

In the Environmental Studies Program at MCLA, students and faculty form a close community of scholars and practitioners. From your first semester, you will join a team of inquisitive and enthusiastic students who quickly get to know each other while wading through streams to contribute to long-term water quality monitoring programs, collecting local flora, doing surveys of red-backed salamanders, and banding migratory saw-whet owls. As early as during your first year in the program you’ll have the opportunity to hear from experts from throughout the region regarding current issues in sustainability and, at the same time, work on projects to design solutions to local environmental challenges.

student in the fieldStudents learn first-hand about natural processes and political structures by visiting the Everglades in Florida and the Adirondack Park as part of Environmental Studies courses that go on the road for days at a time. Many students have also independently studied in locations including Alaska, Montana, Kenya, Tanzania, Belize, Australia, Scotland, and the Czech Republic while completing the Environmental Studies Program.

The Environmental Studies Program at MCLA provides students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to turn their passion for environmental issues into a career that they love.


For more information contact Department Chair Elena Traister.

Environmental Studies Degrees

The Environmental Studies Department at MCLA offers an Environmental Studies B.S. with a concentration in Environmental Science or Environmental Sustainability. Environmental studies students may also elect to complete a Minor in Earth Science. Students from other majors may complement their studies by completing a minor in Environmental Science, Environmental Sustainability, or Earth Science.

Details on course requirements for these academic programs can be found by following the links below.

Concentration in Environmental Science
Concentration in Environmental Sustainability


Dr. Julie Richburg, lead ecologist for inland natural resources at the Trustees of Reservations and an MCLA adjunct professor, leads an environmental studies class on a trip to the Trustees' Field Farm site. Read the full story.

Dr. Julie Richburg with MCLA students
The students I have come in contact with are really passionate about the environment.
Dr. Julie Richburg


Students and professors at conference

You could spend hours in the woods tracking dark-eyed juncos—but where do you go from there? One good suggestion: The Northeast Natural History Conference. (But make sure to prepare a presentation first.)

K Gevry

Originally, Kaitlin Gevry ’19 wanted to major in education, but then took a course about the environment and human impacts. “From there, I became interested in environmental studies.” A career as a game warden or park ranger, so she can work with natural resources and people, “would be the perfect fit.”

S. Florida alligator
Spring 2019 South Florida Trip

Five students had the adventure of a lifetime over the winter break when they encountered some South Florida wildlife on a nine-day trip with their environmental studies class. Their professor, Dr. Daniel Shustack, designed the travel course’s experiences to include wading, swimming and paddling on kayaks through various habitats.

C Ryan with snake

Caitlin Ryan ’20, who majors in environmental science and minors in biology, served an internship at the Berkshire Museum, but her work had nothing to do with the arts – instead, she worked with some local mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects that live in representations of Berkshire ecosystems.

Taylor Jae

As an undergraduate student at MCLA, TaylorJae Taber ’17 vowed to have a career that specialized in wildlife conservation and endangered species. Now she cares for seven grizzly bears, six gray wolves, an array of raptor species, and a colony of Uinta ground squirrels at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont.

Holding sea turtles

Jordan Teixeira ’18 spent his summer as an intern at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Surf City, N.C. There, the environmental studies major cared for wounded sea turtles, including those injured by fishing hooks and boats. This semester he’s serving an internship with the Hoosic River Watershed Association, in collaboration with Dr. Elena Traister.