Environmental science is the study of how people can best live within the Earth’s environment. Because economies, ecologies and societies are linked, environmental science is inherently interdisciplinary, using and combining information from such varied disciplines as ecology, chemistry, economics, sociology, geology, natural resource management, law and politics. Nevertheless, a well-prepared environmentalist is firmly grounded in the basic sciences. Bethel College has a long tradition in environmental education, having developed one of the nation’s first environmental studies majors in 1971. The aim of the current curriculum is to prepare the student well for any of various environmental careers (e.g., basic research, natural resource conservation, wildlife management, public policy, journalism, advocacy) by combining a depth in the basic sciences with the breadth necessary for examining the interconnections between human needs and the health of the natural world which sustains us.
Bethel’s environmental science program is an advising program within the biology major or natural sciences major. Students can opt to add another major or minor that supports a particular interest. Possibilities include chemistry, communication arts, economics, peace, justice and conflict studies or history.
In addition to our fine academic resources, Bethel also boasts several excellent and unique natural areas. Right on the edge of campus is an award-winning prairie reconstruction and a several-mile hiking path through a wild riparian habitat. The biology department manages a rare 80-acre Sand Prairie Natural History Preserve just minutes from campus as well as the 80-acre Broadie Prairie Preserve in the Kansas Flint Hills (the largest expanse of original tallgrass prairie left on the continent). Finally, the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, a 17-acre exhibit of prairie plants and ecosystems, is located just up the road in Hesston.
Internship and independent study possibilities abound in the area. In the past, Bethel faculty and students have studied the plants and animals of grasslands, forests, and aquatic ecosystems. Two field experiments, one begun in 2000 and one in 2007, have been established on the east side of campus to examine and study the restoration of prairie and woodland. Several biology students have worked on these projects, and have used their research to form their senior seminars. Opportunities for experiential learning exist at several local and regional environmental and conservation organizations. Off-campus options are nearly unlimited.