Environmental Studies

Your studies will range across disciplines. Research will be an essential part of your work, and you will find a broad range of research opportunities. As a major, you will work with distinguished faculty members to investigate environmental issues and attitudes.

Claire Zurlo '14
Claire Zurlo '14

A science student’s discovery: diverse interests

Claire Zurlo ’14 says her environmental studies major allowed her to weave diverse interests, from sociology to Spanish, into her coursework. And she discovered a passion  – food justice. Zurlo entered Hamilton College expecting to major in science, but her interests veered in surprising directions. She minored in geosciences but realized her first year she wasn’t necessarily interested in a science career.

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Zurlo obtained a College grant to work with a professor on summer research about Jefferson’s agrarian ideal versus the current food system. When she was abroad in Chile, she did independent study on its indigenous farming. A fellowship enabled her to spend a winter break working in an eco-village in Spain.

“I think, especially with the environmental studies major, it’s so much more than just the department. There are so many other ways of accessing your interests,” she says.

After graduation, Zurlo may pursue AmeriCorps; she likes its programs working with urban farming and farmers markets. She’s figuring out her near-term path but her long-term goal – addressing food justice – is clear.

Lucas Harris '12 near his study site in Finland: the Saana massif, near Kilpisjärvi.

A graduate’s progress: a Fulbright and a Ph.D.

Lucas Harris ’12 declared his environmental sciences major on his application to Hamilton College and his interest held. It propelled him first to a Fulbright grant and then into a Ph.D. program in geography at Penn State.

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He studies plant species and their changing distributions, with a special interest in ecological modeling, climate change and fire ecology. At Hamilton, the  environmental studies program gives students the freedom to take classes in multiple departments and to choose an interdisciplinary thesis topic, he says. “For me, it was an opportunity to connect my love for the outdoors with my academics,” Harris says.

He credits faculty and staff at Hamilton and his advisor in Finland with helping him get the Fulbright and a coveted opportunity to focus on high-level work. “The Fulbright grant was an incredible opportunity in that I could study a topic in which I was interested without worrying about the obligations or responsibilities associated with being a student or a typical researcher,” Harris says.

He worked with geography faculty at the University of Helsinki to improve species distribution models, which play a role in predicting the impact of climate change on ecological communities.