Environmental science new major at Bryan

June 4, 2014

environsciBryan College has introduced a major in environmental science, a cross-disciplinary program that seeks to train scientists to address issues from a systemic, rather than a cellular level.

Students examine a stream during ecology class.Dr. Brian Eisenback, who teaches in the program, said environmental science “is a scientific approach to studying how the world works, focusing on how humans affect the environment and how it affects us.

“It’s a good area for Christians to be involved with. Christians often have a knee-jerk reaction as if environmental concerns are only relevant to the liberal mindset. However, as Christians, we should be responsible for stewardship of God’s creation. We need to look at environmental issues; how have we had an impact on the earth? How do we responsibly use natural resources?”

Dr. Steve Barnett, professor of natural sciences, said the new major “borrows from biology and earth science. It grapples with questions from an organismal or systemic perspective rather than at a cellular level. It’s an earth systems approach. We’re going for a broader perspective because earth’s systems interact with everything.”

Environmental science majors will take a number of classes with biology majors, in addition to specific classes for the major. “Students will come out with a foundational knowledge of biology that any biology major has. But there is a focus on an ecosystem level,” Dr. Eisenback explained.

He said faculty members, in considering the major, looked at similar programs at other schools “and realized we’re teaching the same things, just not grouped under the specific name. The difference the Bryan program offers, though, is that we want students to study environmental science from a Christian perspective. As Christians, we should see the earth and all creation differently than does someone who is not a Christian.”

And Dr. Barnett added, “We may do the same things, use the same tools, but our understanding is different.”

The program is designed to provide a strong foundation for graduate study “because most professional positions in environmental sciences, aside from entry-level technical jobs, require further training in specific areas of interest, as is true in almost any area of science,” he said.

However, with a graduate degree, the professors say career opportunities range from energy production to resource management to governmental regulatory agencies.