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Potsdam Prepared: Spring 2022 Updates

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.

The curriculum emphasizes four components: humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, skills and the capstone experience. It seeks to provide students with an understanding of human attitudes and behaviors toward nature, and provides a grounding in science to prepare them to shape viable environmental policy and practice. The major also prepares students for graduate school in related environmental fields.

Our curriculum includes topics of environmental concern from global to local and from urban to rural to wild, but one of the distinctive features is our emphasis on experiential and place-based education.  Some classes explore the nearby Adirondack Park as a case study and field site, grounding theory in the experience of a protected area of international importance. First-year students are encouraged to begin with the Adirondack Experience Program which combines linked courses and field trips providing students an opportunity to meet conservation professionals, study forest and wetland ecosystems, and explore community environmental issues.

Environmental Studies majors take classes across a range of disciplines exploring perspectives on issues in a diverse array of environments.  Each student is also required to complete a minor in a field of their choosing to gain an in-depth focus on one specific area.  

The Environmental Studies Department also offers two minors: Environmental Studies and a brand new minor in Sustainability.

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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Invasive Species Research

SUNY Potsdam student research interns, Robert Luckman ’18 and Matthew King ’18, worked with Assistant Professor Dr. Jessica Rogers during the summer of 2017 to document infestations of invasive plant species in the St. Lawrence River Valley, using cloud-based data collection. 

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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.🌏