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Environmental Studies

Stephi Drago, '15 and other students wade through a sea of grass during a camping trip to Augustana's Green Wing field station.

  • Careers/internships
  • About the program
  • What students say

All majors complete a field experience and/or internship with an agency or company involved directly with environmental management.

As a capstone, students develop a solution to a real-world sustainability challenge facing a community in the region. They also complete an independent research project, in which they design, implement, interpret and present their findings about a sustainability problem.

All of these experiences give them tools and skills to use professionally and/or in graduate school.

Sampling of recent graduates

Stephanie Drago '15 is the natural resources program director at River Action Inc. Rock Island, Ill.

Emily Haskins '15 volunteers with Young Adults in Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Joshua Kukla '15 is a technician at Mostardi Platt environmental services, Chicago area.

Ryan Plath '15 is a graduate student in hydroecology, Illinois State University.

Jonathan Schwengler '15 is a field chemist at Tradebe Environmental Services, LLC, Chicago area.

Ashlee Tiernan '13 is an environmental scientist with Triterra consulting, Lansing, Mich.

Augustana offers a 37-credit major in environmental studies and a 27-credit minor.

The curriculum includes core courses in biology, chemistry, geography, geology, plus electives and options for computer science, math, physics, psychology and environmental ethics.

Related programs include coordinated bachelor's/master's programs in environmental management and forestry with Duke University, and landscape architecture through the University of Illinois.

Augustana students of environmental studies learn by doing. Through extended field trips, internships and problem-based learning, they participate in and lead efforts to solve sustainability challenges facing rural and urban communities in the Quad-Cities region.

A large network of regional partnerships provides research and field trip opportunities, internships, employment and other connections. A few examples include offices for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and River Action, Inc.

Students and professors use the natural learning laboratory of the Mississippi River for classes and research, using the geography department's two boats, The Scholar Ship and The Steward Ship.

Students and faculty also teach and learn at the college's three environmental field stations: 600 acres of wetlands and river habitats, upland forests and tallgrass prairies.

Through Augustana's Upper Mississippi Center for Sustainable Communities, students work to solve real-world problems. Current students are helping to develop a Sustainable Urban Forest Management Plan for the city of Clinton, Iowa. Recently, students of environmental studies have designed a water quality monitoring plan for a soil conservation district and assessed the health of urban watersheds of Rock Island and Moline.

Lorraine Stamberger '15, environmental studies and geography; pursuing a master's in landscape architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

"I chose Augustana primarily because of the school's 3+3 coordinate program for landscape architecture with the University of Illinois. Also, I wanted to start off at a smaller school where I could continue with my music and running passions.

"My Senior Inquiry project assessed riverfront accessibility in the Quad Cities area. While running with my track teammates at Augustana, I would gravitate towards the Mississippi River. There's something exciting about being near right near the water's edge... one of the most exciting things is that it is always changing. It never seems to be quite the same river on any given day.

"The idea for my Senior Inquiry developed as I become more familiar with the development and planning along the city riverfronts. I wanted to explore where and why some areas are easier to access the Mississippi than others, and I was interested in finding what residents think about the river based on which city they live in."

Jessica Flondro '14, environmental studies and geography; environmental eechnician at EnviroNET Inc., Rockford, Ill.

"The exceptional faculty at Augustana helped guide me to where I am now. The mentorship of my advisors and other professors was unbeatable, and I would not be where I am now if not for the individuals who took special interest in helping me succeed.

"Working with the Upper Mississippi Center introduced me to some of the most exemplary and knowledgeable people I have ever met. I really enjoyed working with cross-disciplinary faculty and my fellow interns. The experience helped me determine what I want to do in the future and will remain with me forever."

Matt Pawlowski '14, environmental studies and biology; pursuing a master's in integrated biosciences at the University of Minnesota-Duluth

"One peak experience I've had was the field trip I took in water resource management with Dr. Heine. On this trip, we boated down more than 50 miles of the Mississippi to get a feel for the water resource issues around the Quad Cities. This field trip immediately followed my water resource internship in Minnesota and was a great opportunity to apply concepts from one place to another. There is also nothing quite like traveling on a river as great as the Mississippi. It turns out Mark Twain wasn't wrong...

"I have come to love the Quad Cities. I will miss walks along the Mississippi, live music at Rozz-Tox and the view of the Centennial Bridge at night. I will also miss planting and harvesting at Augie Acres."

Scott Fick '13, geography, environmental studies and Spanish: graduate student at the University of Flensburg in Flensburg, Germany

"The location of Augustana College is a huge asset for Augustana students. The nation's greatest river is literally a walk away from campus, and the Rock River also is nearby. My field trips and other experiences have fostered a great appreciation for the two great rivers of our community."

The making of a college pro

Nick Torres ’18 is a geology and environmental studies major with a passion for leadership, entrepreneurship and teamwork. Back home in Joliet, Torres is the owner of a College Pro Painters franchise, where he employs friends and other students to work on different projects.

Grant brings students to an underrepresented field

Thanks to a five-year grant funded by the National Science Foundation, Nahant Marsh is introducing students of color to the natural area in Davenport, Iowa. Each of the six students in this year's group has a research project. Augustana senior biology major Zak Nadif is studying the relationship between turtles and their predators this summer.

Robbins '09 relocating mussels for bridge

Emily Robbins '09, a malacologist, or mussel specialist is in charge of moving nearly a half million mussels from the Mississippi River out of the way of construction of a new Interstate 74 bridge. It is one of the largest relocations of mussels in U.S history. The path of the new bridge will have an impact on the habitat for a variety of mussels, including three that are protected by federal law.

Anderson '99 directs wildland trust

Eric Anderson has become the first executive director of the River Bend Wildland Trust. It manages the 100-acre Milan Bottoms and is working to restore its wetlands, prairie and river bottom hardwood forest. Anderson has been a volunteer and board member for the trust and was an organizer of the 2013 BioBlitz. He earned a BA in geology from Augustana in 1999 and a master's in geography in 2006 from Western Illinois University.
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