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Department of Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies Major is an interdisciplinary major that includes course offerings from 14 departments and programs designed to prepare environmental leaders of the future.

Do you want to protect nature and improve humanity’s future on this planet? Do you feel inspired to create a world with more equitable access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and wild places? Maybe you see yourself ten years from now as an environmental educator at a National Park, a city planner in charge of monitoring water quality, an organizer for the environmental justice movement, or a lawyer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If this sounds like your vision, you belong in the Environmental Studies Department at SUNY Potsdam.

The Environmental Studies major at SUNY Potsdam is:  

  • Interdisciplinary – our professors and our courses approach the big environmental challenges facing our world from social, economic, and ecological perspectives.  
  • Committed to hands-on, experiential service learning –our students have diverse opportunities to engage in hands-on work with community partners ranging from community organizers to local organic farmers to the Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Dedicated to the pursuit of environmental justice – we recognize and seek to correct the historical and ongoing inequities in our country that unequally distribute environmental benefits and put the burdens of environmental degradation on BIPOC communities. 
  • Closely tied to the Adirondacks – our flagship Adirondack Semester provides students the opportunity to take linked courses on the ecology, geology, and history of our state’s premiere park. Students take weekly field trips to sites like Whiteface Mountain, Spring Pond Bog, and the Wild Center for hands-on learning experiences.

Our professors have extensive research and teaching experience in each of these areas and will help you choose the concentration that is right for your interests and career goals. Come join us, and be part of building a more just and more sustainable future for yourself and for our planet.   

Forging a Leadership Path

Riley Notarthomas ’23 has taken a range of skills from his time at SUNY Potsdam to positively impact struggling youth in a wilderness therapy program in Vermont, while also being a leader back at SUNY Potsdam where he has returned to teach courses in the wilderness education program.

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The Tick Trackers

As Jada West ’24 drags a light-colored flannel sheet across the forest floor, she searches for microscopic creatures most of us hope to never encounter. Pulling the sheet over leaves, plants, and soil she captures Blacklegged ticks like a lint roller absorbing fuzz balls from a favorite sweater. Working with Dr. Kate Cleary, Dr. Glenn Johnson, Dr. Bridget Amulike, and Dr. Jessica Rogers, West and four other students were able to get hands-on experience through grant-funded research this summer, studying small mammals and examining tick abundance around Potsdam.

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Smile for the Camera

Imagine a game camera with reading glasses. That’s one of the creative ways that four faculty members have been capturing close-range images of an unsuspecting assortment of small mammals through the modified lens of a wildlife camera. Funded by a grant through the Lougheed Center for Applied Learning, Dr. Glenn Johnson, Dr. Kate Cleary, Dr. Jessica Rogers, and Dr. Bridget Amulike launched a pilot project this summer to determine the most effective ways to collect data on a variety of critters ranging from deer mice and shrews to chipmunks and weasels—research that will inform future projects looking at tick abundance in the region.

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From a high-altitude forest in Guatemala to a biological corridor in Costa Rica, Dr. Kate Cleary brings years of experience, steeped in hands-on international research, into the classroom. As an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, she has been working closely with students to study bats in St. Lawrence County, collecting data about their population numbers that will be shared with the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Bat Monitoring Program.

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What started in 2017 as a GIS mapping project for Dr. Jessica Rogers and her environmental studies students to locate purple loosestrife throughout the North Country, has expanded to include a solution for eliminating the invasive plants by inserting beetles into the equation. In May, two of her students joined forces to dig up purple loosestrife plants in local wetlands, collected beetles, and combined them in the artificial wetland (beetle hatchery) behind the WISER Greenhouse to grow the next batch of insects in the fight against the purple loosestrife.

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Choosing Potsdam

From the beaches of Long Island to the mountains of Northern New York, Grace Conway ’24 jumped at the opportunity for a change in scenery when she graduated from high school. Now she’s pursuing a degree in environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam, and after just one year at the College, she's already receiving grant funding to assist Dr. Glenn Johnson with his ongoing efforts to protect threatened Blanding’s turtles in Northern New York.

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Mountains Give New Form to LeighAnn Montaglione

The Adirondacks have stretched and formed LeighAnn Montaglione '20. When she graduates in May, she’ll take a suite of skills with her that will help connect her dual passion for photography and conservation.

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Adirondack Experience—Spring Pond Bog / Wild Center

For incoming first-year students, there’s no better opportunity than the Environmental Studies Adirondack Experience. The unique program allows students to focus on three disciplines (English, ecology and environmental studies), set against the backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains. View a day in the life of our students exploring the Spring Pond Bog Preserve and the Wild Center in Tupper Lake as part of the Adirondack Experience.

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Dr. Jessica Rogers

Dr. Jessica Rogers, an assistant professor of environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam, brings global applied learning experiences into her classroom every day. Whether she’s teaching introduction to environmental studies, Geographic Information Systems, or conducting research on the purple loosestrife—her passion for teaching and environmental conservation is at the heart of everything that she does.

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Amber Rudolph ’20

Whether she’s visiting an ecovillage in Ireland, conducting a research project about a community garden, or cleaning a boa constrictor tank in the Department of Biology, Amber Rudolph ’20 has been gaining a cornucopia of applied learning experiences, while pursuing a double major in biology and environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam.

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Adirondack Experience

Students learn about alpine ecology from Dr. Johnson on site at the peak of Whiteface Mountain.

Field Experiences & Internships

The Department of Environmental Studies places a high value on experiential education and applied learning. We strongly encourage students to engage in internships, service learning, field research, or study abroad as an integral part of their undergraduate education. 

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As part of a service-learning project for Dr. Heather Sullivan-Catlin’s Environment & Society class, Adriana Hernandez ’21 constructed birdhouses for a new Low Mow zone on campus. The project is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Studies, the WISER Center, and the President's Sustainability Team.🌏