Explore the science that will enable you to study how ecosystems function and the policy alternatives that will allow you to examine solutions to maintain environmental quality.

Major Roadmap

Major Roadmap

Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future. 

Environmental Science and Policy Major Guide

Environmental issues such as climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss are significantly affecting the earth and human societies. As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you will study the science underlying environmental problems as well as the policy strategies that will enable you to develop solutions to these problems.  

But you won’t just stay in the classroom. Faculty and students conduct field research at Wild Basin Creative Research Center, the Spicewood Ranch ecolab in the rural Hill Country and in tropical forests in Costa Rica. Apply your research skills to projects like examining the environmental impacts of electric scooters, testing Travis County residents’ water for lead contamination or examining whether paying Costa Rican and Ugandan farmers to not cut down their forests helps reduce deforestation.  

Environmental issues are inherently interdisciplinary. Integrating science and policy allows our graduates to acquire the research, analytical and technical skills necessary to acquire positions in a wide range of environmental careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors. 

What do our graduates do?

Environmental Science and Policy majors go on to a variety of careers and graduate schools from St. Edward’s. Here’s a sample.

  • Environmental health and safety consultant for Loureiro Engineering Associates
  • Environmental scientist at AECOM, a civil engineering firm
  • Program associate for the Energy Program at the Environmental Defense Fund
  • Community organizer for the Texas Campaign for the Environment
  • Program Manager, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Environmental Educator, Austin Youth River Watch
  • Master’s students at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Program of the European Union. 

Small Steps Lead to Big Change

Peter Beck, professor of Environmental Science and Policy, helps students develop an interdisciplinary awareness of environmental issues. Hear his views on the importance of sustainability and protecting our natural resources.

The Classroom and Beyond

As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you’ll learn about both the natural world and the world of government and politics. In both settings, you’ll get plenty of hands-on education in the field. You may study and work at Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, the St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch, the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve next to campus, Waller Creek in downtown Austin, the State Capitol, state parks, and locations overseas.

Environmental Science and Policy students work in the garden

Environmental Science and Policy students

Environmental Science and Policy students

Experiential Education

Your courses will take you all over Central Texas, as you visit parks and preserves and conduct research in the field. Your classes will also feature guest speakers from local environmental organizations, helping you learn about potential career paths and start to build your network.

Introduction to Sustainability is the first course you’ll take in your major. You’ll apply the sustainability concepts you learn to campus projects like planting and maintain the campus garden. You’ll also research sustainability initiatives to pitch to school officials for potential adoption on campus.

Natural Resource Conservation and Management emphasizes the real-world challenges of natural resource conservation and management. You’ll go on 10 outings to parks, preserves and private lands throughout Central Texas to learn about different resource management techniques and meet professionals in the field.

In Chemistry in the Environment, you’ll practice applying chemistry techniques to environmental issues. In a recent semester, students collected water samples from local residents and tested for lead and other contaminants.

In Environmental and Ecological Field Methods, you’ll learn different methods natural and social scientists use to collect data for research. Students in this course recently studied how dockless scooters were affecting traffic and safety in central Austin and whether scooters are helping people drive less. They also measured the diversity of species in Blunn Creek, a preserve next to the St. Edward’s campus, comparing patches of forest that were mostly native trees and patches that had been taken over by invasive species.

Study Abroad 

Learning about environmental issues overseas can help you develop perspective on the problems American cities and states are trying to solve. In recent semesters, St. Edward’s has offered environmental-themed study abroad programs in France, Costa Rica and South Africa, although this is not an exhaustive list of places you can study abroad. As part of your international education experience, you may conduct research about other countries’ environmental strategies, ecotourism plans, conservation practices and agricultural techniques.

In the Sustainable Development in Costa Rica source, you’ll take on a community service project; the program includes a study tour of Costa Rica, where you’ll explore issues of sustainable development and ecotourism.

Student Organizations

Students for Sustainability educates the St. Edward’s community about eco-friendly practices and works with the St. Edward’s administration to implement environmental initiatives. Members help maintain the campus garden, organize the campus Earth Day festival and initiate numerous sustainability measures on campus, including composting and reusable plates and silverware in the dining halls, clothing swaps and water-bottle-filling stations throughout campus.

The St. Edward’s Office of Sustainability offers internships and welcomes volunteers who help coordinate Earth Week and maintain the office’s blog. 

Research

You can apply the research skills you learn inside the classroom to hands-on projects in Austin or other locations. You may start by assisting professors who teach Environmental Science and Policy with their research. You can also conduct your own field research projects at Wild Basin Creative Research Center, a preserve in West Austin, or the more rural St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch. Some students are able to conduct research while studying abroad.

Then, present your research at a professional conference, like the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration. Attending such conferences helps you network, develop speaking skills, learn about the research conducted at other universities, and build your resume for graduate school or a career.

Top students complete Research Experiences for Undergraduates at universities across the country. These summer experiences, funded by the National Science Foundation, introduce you to research with different mentors and help you evaluate whether a research career is right for you.

Service

In addition to on-campus service projects led by Students for Sustainability, Environmental Science and Policy majors have volunteered at

  • Urban Roots, an Austin urban farm and youth development program
  • Blunn Creek Nature Preserve near campus, where trails need to be cleaned up and invasive species removed
  • Wild Basin Creative Research Center, where trails open to the public require maintenance

Internships

You’ll complete at least one internship, which could focus on data collection in the field, political advocacy, communications work or helping young people get involved in environmental activities. Your internship might be in Austin, in Washington, D.C., or abroad. Our students recently have completed internships at these organizations:

  • Sierra Club
  • Austin Environmental Justice Coalition
  • City of Austin Youth Forestry Council
  • Colorado River Authority
  • Mexican American Leadership Caucus
  • Nature Conservancy
  • U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva’s Washington office