Environmental Studies

Raft down the Grand Canyon. Shape environmental legislation. Climb the slopes of Mount Rainier. Collect algae in the Puget Sound. Survey the giant forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Students visit Yellowstone National Park for the program Environmental Analysis to study the unique geological and microbiotic conditions in the park.

Getting out in the field is easy when you have the field right outside the classroom. Students in environmental studies benefit from Evergreen’s natural learning labs: our 1,000-acre rain forest, open shoreline, and organic farm. Our location in Washington’s capital city makes getting involved in environmental politics easy. Students live and learn where policies are created. The surrounding community’s high level of environmental consciousness and the Pacific Northwest’s cultural and natural heritage form an unparalleled backdrop to your studies.

Environmental studies offers introductory and advanced work in a wide array of laboratory and field studies that incorporate social sciences, environmental justice, biology, geology, chemistry, climatology, evolution, ecology, hydrology, and oceanography. You can also work independently with support through independent contracts, internships, and research. You’ll have the opportunity to work along with faculty in real-world research, publish papers, attend conferences, and develop new techniques to answer novel questions. The mixture of an interdisciplinary approach and hands-on research allows you to make a transformative impact.

Join us in an education that doesn’t just change your life — it gives you the tools to change the world.

Ken Tabbutt talks about the geological structure of the cliffs in Yellowstone as Andy Brabban and Clyde Barlow hold a geological map. Due to Evergreen’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, you’ll experience many programs taught by multiple faculty.

Sample Program

Extremophiles and Ecosystems

Offered Fall 2015 - Winter 2016

The Pacific Northwest’s cultural and natural heritage form an unparalleled backdrop to your studies.

This program focuses on the biology, ecology, and physiology of extremophiles: microorganisms, fungi, plants, and animals that call extreme environments home. Specifically, we examine the various behavioral, physiological, and morphological adaptations they’ve developed to live in places we would not expect to find life, including deep-sea vents, hot springs, polar regions, deserts, clouds, lava fields, caves, salt flats, and other extreme habitats around the globe. We also explore the unique environments parasitic organisms inhabit and their interactions with host species. We study some of these environments with laboratory exercises and field trips.

Our studies of extremophiles are paired with studies of climate instability and how humans will need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Seminar discussions of our readings provide students with a deep understanding of the range of responses humans and other living things have to extreme environments. We engage with topics in evolutionary biology and natural selection and discuss assisted migration and ecosystem restoration.

Students have the opportunity to undertake group research projects and focused study to develop skills that are useful in the life sciences and apply hands-on experience to understanding morphological and physiological adaptations and designing scientific experiments.

View this program in the catalog.

Students in Restoration Ecology and Freshwater Ecology take a field trip to the Elwha River to study the effects of the Elwha Dam and how nature is recovering after its removal.

Offerings Proposed For 2017-18

As a student at Evergreen, you'll select from programs like the ones listed here to build your own education. While there are no specific course requirements, you can choose to develop an Area of Emphasis with help from advisors and faculty.

Lower Division

Programs for freshmen and sophomores:

All Levels

Both upper and lower division students may take these programs:

Upper Division

Programs for juniors and seniors:

After Graduation

Evergreen graduates with an emphasis in environmental studies prepares you for graduate studies and careers in the field. Our graduates are leaders in ecology, environmental health, natural resource management, conservation, forestry, wildlife biology, politics, economics, and global sustainability movements.

You also have the option of continuing your studies with our Master of Environmental Studies.

Facilities and Resources

Christopher Sabine, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), talks about the global carbon cycle, climate change, and ocean acidification.

The Organic Farm

Students of all levels have access to science labs with a full range of equipment and high-tech tools.

At the Organic Farm students can explore sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology, and environmental sciences. In addition to three acres of certified organic fields, the farm’s facilities include a food-grade laboratory, the student-designed and -built Organic Farmhouse, and the student-run Demeter’s permaculture demonstration site and Community Gardens.

The Evergreen State College Forest & Campus Shoreline

Evergreen’s 1,000-acre forest is ideal for studying a lowland Puget Sound second-growth rainforest. Through the Evergreen Ecological Observation Network (EEON), students and faculty conduct long-term scientific research. The college’s 3,300-foot shoreline offers a variety of ecosystems and natural features for students to investigate.

Students do a titrations lab in the program Environmental Analysis.

Labs, Gardens, & Collections

Students of all levels have access to science labs with a full range of equipment and high-tech tools. You can study some 27,000 specimens in the college’s zoological, botanical, and mycological collections. Evergreen’s campus is also dotted with a variety of teaching gardens.

Sustainability in Prisons Project

The Sustainability in Prisons Project trains inmates and correctional staff at local prisons to carry out ecological research and conservation projects.

The program Picturing Plants went on a field trip to Mima Mounds Glacial Heritage Preserve to identify and draw native prairie plants.

Rachel Carson Forum

Students in Evergreen’s Master of Environmental Studies program organize this annual event. Experts speak on environmental topics such as local sustainability and climate change.

Sustainability House

The Sustainability House is a living/learning option for returning and transfer students. Residents commit to an environmentally conscious lifestyle, social justice, sustainable agriculture and activism.