Environment & Sustainability

Opportunities

  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Find a research assistangship at one of the premier biological research stations in the world. 
     
  • High Country News: Check out the independent news source's new satellite office located in Kelley Hall.
     
  • Earthship Academy: Learn how to construct a self-sustaining building capable of producing food and saving energy. 
     
  • Solar Energy International: Engage in the local, regional or global conversation about the renewable energy era.
     
  • Coldharbour Institute: Experiment with sustainable building design, resilient food systems or community organizing in the Gunnison Valley.
     
  • Conferences: The Headwaters Conference, the Colorado Water Workshop and Sage Grouse Spring Symposium
     
  • Clubs & Organizations: Join the Organics Guild, Sustainability Coalition or Wildlife Society. 

Profiles

Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

~Faculty~

Jonathan Coop smiles at the camera
Jonathan Coop smiles at the camera

Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

“I’m really proud we can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with my students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet."

Jonathan Coop, Ph.D. is a forest ecologist who studies how natural systems are affected by land use, fire suppression and climate change. Coop works with land managers to test, develop and look at intervention strategies to try to maintain forests and systems, or to make forests and systems more resilient in a time of certain change.

“I think there are reasons to be deeply pessimistic,” he said. “Looking at the state of the natural environment and our effects on it and how affectively we are addressing that or not, getting really depressed and pessimistic is a very rational response … but there is evidence that society can change in response to changing values and information. It just requires getting to a certain threshold or critical mass.”

Born and raised in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Coop vividly remembers the 1977 La Mesa Fire. In the decades to follow, the 1996 Dome Fire and 2000 Cerro Grande Fire sparked Coop’s interest to conduct his dissertation research in his hometown. More recent blazes such as the 2011 La Conchas Fire have only furthered Coop’s interest in the area.

“[Los Alamos] has been a formative landscape for me. I have a vivid memory of being in my backyard and seeing this plume of smoke and little pieces of ash falling on my town,” he said. “I’m seeing the effects of these unintentional human influences on the natural environment … and they are super gnarly.”

Now a professor 250 miles up the road from his hometown, Coop has found home in the heart of the Rockies since his arrival ten years ago.  He’s a father, mountain biker, skier, rafter, percussionist and sauerkraut-fermenter—and still finds time to work on “science projects” in this free time. In the classroom and field, Coop puts particular attention on involving his students in real research.

“It’s never like, ‘oh you’re the student and I’m the professor,’” he said. “I’m really proud we can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with my students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet. I’m really stoked about it.”

Coop’s interest in involving his students in research runs deeper than producing papers. Sure, it’s a way to pique their interest and is a surefire resume-bolster for students, but the interest they take thereafter is the torch that will carry ecological research and action into future generations.

“My students have taught me why I should be hopeful about the future of the world,” he said. “My biggest accomplishments are when I’m able to get them excited about what I’m excited about. And I don’t want to take too much credit for that because I think it’s already all in there, but I’m proud when I can give students the context and opportunities for that passion to come through.”

Kevin Alexander, Ph.D.

“I like to think I'm a pretty good generalist. I do a lot with biological diversity, water quality, conservation easements and riparian biology along rivers and streams.”

Kevin Alexander, Ph.D. is a specialist in aquatic invertebrates, but has taught a wide range of Biology courses and been involved in almost equally eclectic research.

 “I like to think I'm a pretty good generalist,” he says. ”I do a lot with biological diversity, water quality, conservation easements and riparian biology along rivers and streams.”

And he’s a popular instructor in Western’s Biology department.

For the past dozen summers, he has also managed a team of students from across the country as they track and document the isolated and endangered Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly. It’s a tiny creature, first identified more than 30 years back, and found only on some of the higher peaks in the San Juan Range of the Rockies in southwest Colorado. Alexander’s young son has even joined the team on some of their outings.

Alexander is also known as the owner, with his wife, of the Gunnison Brewery on Main Street, which has been around about as long as his butterfly project. They hire brewers to make the beer, but Alexander says he trains them and ensures they keep producing the quality brews he requires.

“The fun thing with making beer is it’s a little bit of science and a little bit of art,” he explains. “There are certain parameters you have to hit, but beyond that, it’s a matter of taste.”

Alexander earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and his PhD in Aquatic Biology from North Texas University, with his dissertation research focused on stone flies. His ongoing research projects, beside the butterflies, include biomonitoring and assessment of streams, biodiversity of aquatic insects in the West, riparian and watershed assessments, and baseline studies in conservation biology.

He teaches courses ranging from Limnology and Aquatic Biology to Zoology and Conservation Biology. And as with the butterfly project, Alexander helps undergraduates with original research, taking them and their posters to scientific conferences.

Scholarships

Scholarships associated with academic programs usually have a specific scholarship application form that can easily be obtained by contacting that academic program's office or visiting that academic program's web page. If you have any questions, please contact the Financial Aid office at 970.943.3085 or 800.876.5309. To find scholarships based on year of study (e.g. - Freshmen Scholarships), please see the navigation to the left.

 Mahaffey Environmental Studies Scholarship

Mahaffey Environmental Studies Scholarship is Available to:

Students who have demonstrated community involvement with environmental solutions, academic excellence and a dedication to mountain environments which could encompass recreational activity, personal connection, or service.

Environmental Studies Scholarship Provided by:

Jim and Dianne Mahaffey.

Amount:

Award depends on funds available.

Scholarship Recipient Selected by:

Environment & Sustainability Council.

Application:

Application and deadline information available on the Environment & Sustainability web page. Or contact the Director of Environment & Sustainability at 970.943.3162 - Kelley Hall 240

Learn more about Western's Environment & Sustainability program. 

 Mike Martin Memorial Scholarship

Martin, Mike Memorial Scholarship is Available to:

Environment & Sustainability (ENVS) majors who have a GPA of 3.0 or above. Preference will be given to a resident of Crested Butte, CO. If no applicants meet this requirement, preference will be given to a resident of Gunnison, CO. If no applicants meet the criteria, applicants must be a resident of Colorado.

Environmental & Sustainability Scholarship Provided by:

The Michael Martin Community Fund.

Amount: Award depends on funds available.

Scholarship Recipient Selected by:

Environment & Sustainability Council 

Application:

Application and deadline information available on the ENVS web page. Or contact the Director of Environment & Sustainability Program. 970.943.3162 - Kelley Hall 108

Learn more about Western's Environment & Sustainability program. 

 Nauman, James D. Environmental Stewardship Scholarship

Available to:

Full-time students majoring in Environment & Sustainability with a minimum of 30 credits at Western. Must have made a significant contribution towards environmental stewardship while at Western. Students must demonstrate academic achievement and progress towards ENVS major.

Provided by:

Dr. James Nauman, who attended Western from 1945-49.

Amount:

Award depends on funds available (Anticipated award $500).

Selected by:

Environment & Sustainability Council

Application:

Application and deadline information available on the ENVS web page. Or contact the Director of Environment & Sustainability Program. 970.943.3162 - Kelley Hall 108

Learn more about Western's Environment & Sustainability program.

 Nauman, James D. Environmental Studies Scholarship - Freshmen

Available to:

Must have applied and been admitted to Western Colorado University and have a demonstrated interest in pursuing a degree in Environment & Sustainability. Must be enrolled full-time. Preference given to students with financial need.

Provided by:

Dr. James Nauman, who attended Western from 1945-49.

Amount:

Award depends on funds available. (Anticipated award $500.00)

Selected by:

Environment & Sustainability Council

Application:

Application and deadline information available on the ENVS web page. Or contact the Director of Environment & Sustainability Program. 970.943.3162 - Kelley Hall 108

Learn more about Western's Environment & Sustainability Program

 Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship

Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship is Available to:

 Full-time students who are majoring in Environment & Sustainability, Environmental Biology or a related field. Must be junior level (60 credits) or above and have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Preference given to students with financial need who are residents of the Western Slope of Colorado and have expressed interest in a career in park operations/park management or a career in the earth sciences.

Environmental Studies Scholarship Provided by:

Barbara Kastellic and gifts from others to honor Joseph, who was the first Superintendent of the Black Canyon National Monument from 1975-1984.

Amount: 

Award depends on funds available.

Application: 

Complete and submit The Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship application which is available in the Office of Financial Aid. A recommendation and a one-page essay will be needed to complete the application.

Learn more about Western's Environment & Sustainability program. 

Learn more about Western's Biology program. 

Faculty & Staff

Courses

FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

 BIOL 130 - Environmental Biology (3 credits)

An introduction to basic biological principles as they apply to interactions between organisms and their environment. Consideration is given to biotic and abiotic interactions, energy flow, biogeochemical cycling, population growth, biodiversity, basic cell biology, genetics, and evolution with a special emphasis on human impacts on these biological systems. This course establishes a strong foundation in applied biology from a scientific perspective.

 BIOL 135 - Environmental Biology Laboratory (1 credits)

An experimental approach in both the field and laboratory to explore fundamental biological principles including biotic and abiotic interactions, energy flow, biogeochemical cycling, population growth, biodiversity, basic cell biology, genetics and evolution. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 130.

 ENVS 100 - Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (3 credits)

An interdisciplinary, historical analysis of the development of environmental problems, movements, and philosophies. Students apply historical lessons to critically examine sustainable solutions locally and globally.

 ENVS 200 - Writing the Environment (3 credits)

Students develop communication skills through presentations and writing on a variety of environmental issues appropriate to a wide variety of audiences. Through environmental essays, writing for nonprofit websites, grant proposals, and other forms of environmental writing, students are introduced to a broad range of skills needed for effective communication. Focus throughout the course on the analysis of arguments and texts further develops students' analytical and communication skills. Prerequisite: ENVS 100; COM 202 is recommended.

 ENVS 301 - Science of Sustainability and Resilience (3 credits)

A holistic inquiry into how humans might live the next chapter of our history, guided by the ecological principles of sustainability and resilience. Environmental problems and their possible solutions are analyzed critically and quantitatively; field experiences on campus and in the community involve students directly in the application of these principles. Themes include sustainable agriculture, green building, renewable energy, and conservation and restoration. Prerequisites: BIOL 130, BIOL 135, PHYS 125

 ENVS 350 - U.S. and Western Environmental Politics (3 credits)

An historical and contemporary investigation of U.S. environmental policies with an applied focus on the impact of national policy on the ecosystems and cultures of the American West. Reciprocally, this course traces how pubic lands agencies, social movements, historical land uses, and diverse cultures in the West shape U.S. environmental policy. Students combine analysis and discussion of major U.S. policies, prominent theories and issues, and student-led environmental service projects to better understand environmental challenges. Prerequisites: ENVS 100; ENVS 200 or COM 202; and ECON 370.

 ENVS 360 - Global Environmental Policy (3 credits)

A critical examination of key perspectives, economic and political processes, policy actors, and institutions involved in global environmental issues. Students analyze ecological, cultural, and social dimensions of international environmental concerns and governance as they have emerged in response to increased recognition of global environmental threats, globalization, and international contributions to understanding of these issues. The focus of the course encourages students to engage and evaluate texts within the broad policy discourse on globalization, justice, and the environment. Prerequisites: ENVS 100; ECON 201, ENVS 200 or SCI 202; junior standing or instructor approval.

 ENVS 370 - Water Policy and Politics (3 credits)

Study of the history, politics and institutions related to water policy and administration with comparative reference to different regions of the United States and internationally. Attention is given to the industrial development of the East and the created water resources of the arid West as a way to understand changing social sentiments toward water and water policy. The course also examines water pollution laws and water management. Prerequisites: ENVS 100; ECON 201 or ENVS 200 or SCI 202; junior standing or instructor approval.

 ENVS 390 - Environmental Monitoring (4 credits)

A field-work based study of local (Gunnison Basin) environmental problems. Numerous monitoring techniques are implemented based on principles of biology, chemistry, and geology. The emphasis is on collaborative and integrative group projects dealing directly with real-world environmental problems. Prerequisites: ENVS 301 and one of the following: ECON 216, MATH 213, or SOC 211.

 ENVS 400 - Applied Sustainability (3 credits)

A field-based, collaborative, problem-solving experience that addresses a current issue in environmental sustainability. Implementing frameworks such as resilient and systems thinking, students collect information, analyze results, write a report, publicly present their findings, and begin to implement solutions informed by their analysis. Students learn basic skills for transforming their ENVS education into compelling environmental professional career possibilities. Prerequisites: ENVS 350 and ENVS 390.

 ENVS 410 - Environmental Ethics (3 credits)

A seminar on the complexities of environmental issues from a philosophical perspective. The course also offers a survey of the evolution of environmental moral philosophy as well as in-depth analysis of major thinkers in the field. Students confront ethical concerns from both historical and personal perspectives, with an emphasis on the ability to critically evaluate and apply these perspectives to their work in environmental fields. Prerequisite: ENVS 301 and 350; or PHIL 335.

 HWTR 398 - Headwaters Conference (1 credits)

An annual two-day gathering on campus each fall, bringing together writers and scholars, local community leaders and activists, artists, government officials, and other interested citizens from the colleges and communities of the Headwaters Region to consider challenges and opportunities confronting the region. Students attend and participate in the conference and write a paper about the experience in the context of their own lives and future plans. Students attend and participate in the conference, complete applied research projects throughout the month following the conference, and write a paper about the experience in the context of their own lives and future plans. Student may take the course four times for additional credit. Prerequisite: junior standing or instructor permission.

 MATH 213 - Probability and Statistics (3 credits)

A course in the use of statistical techniques to draw knowledge from data. Topics include exploratory data analysis, descriptive statistics, t-procedures, ANOVA, chi squared procedures, regression, and non-parametric tests. Statistical software is used extensively to analyze real data sets. Prerequisite: MATH 141 with a minimum grade of C-, or Accuplacer university-level mathematics test score of 85 or above; or instructor permission. GT-MA1

Major
Bachelor of Arts
School of Environment & Sustainability

Eighty percent of Gunnison County is public land, making Western the ideal living laboratory for hands-on, place-based training in environmental action.

General Description

Environment & Sustainability (ENVS) focuses on the interactions of humans and the natural environment. Students study the structure and function of natural systems; examine how social, political and economic activity impacts those systems; and experiment with resilient solutions to unsustainable human impacts. 

The Program

The ENVS program prepares students for meaningful livelihoods based on their values. Our graduates enter their fields with the skills to connect ideas, individuals and organizations. They become effective interdisciplinary communicators, and they enact positive change throughout their natural and social communities. To complement their ENVS degree, some students opt to focus in on water issues through our Water Emphasis, while others design their own custom-built Individualized Contract

For students looking to accelerate their journey to a higher level environmental career, we offer the 3+2 program which allows students to transform their senior year into the first year of graduate school in our innovative Master of Environmental Management program (MEM). Our MEM program prepares students for incredible careers with an 85 percent placement rate.

Careers

Environment & Sustainability graduates have found jobs as:

  • Policy advocates
  • Environmental consultants
  • Land managers
  • Park rangers
  • Research scientists
  • Sustainable builders
  • Sustainable food coordinators
  • Transportation analysts
  • Organizational Sustainability Coordinators

 Students have also pursued graduate and doctoral degrees in:

  • Community and regional planning
  • Conservation biology
  • Environmental humanities
  • Environmental law
  • Plant and soil science
  • Public administration

Want to Learn More? 

Kate Clark, Ph.D.