Environmental science encompasses a number of disciplines in the natural sciences. While it is technically a subfield of biology, it also contains elements of ecology, physics, geology, geography, atmospheric science and zoology, to name a few. As our awareness of global environmental issues we face continues to grow, the profession is conducting new research and churning out new data constantly. These online resources may be helpful if you are considering environmental science as a career, or if you are currently studying or practicing in the field.
Professional Environmental Science Organizations
Membership in professional organizations benefits students, educators and careerists alike. Aside from networking opportunities, these entities offer their members perks like access to scientific publications, job boards and job directories, news coverage of ongoing important research, and legislative and public policy changes that affect the profession.
- National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP): When the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 was passed, it paved the way for environmental scientists’ profession. NAEP was founded in 1975 as the first environmental science majors graduated. NAEP was the first professional association to testify to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today its site serves as a news source and a gathering place for professionals.
- National Environmental Health Association (NEHA): This organization developed the first professional standards for environmental scientists. NEHA offers the Registered Environmental Health Specialist and Registered Sanitarian credentials to its 4,500 members. A job board, online classes and books of interest are all available on the site.
- Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS): AESS is comprised of faculty and students of environmental science. This organization supports the educational endeavors of environmental scholarship. Members also have access to the Journal of Environmental Studies and a jobs board.
- Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP): The Association of Environmental Professionals is a not-for-profit organization that serves environmental scientists in California. Born of a need to support the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this association delivers news to 1,700 members all over the state. It is an affiliate of NAEP, but still a separate entity.
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES): This organization offers professional board certifications in environmental science and environmental engineering. AAEES publishes an annual career directory for free, as well as comprehensive coverage of topics of interest to the industry.
Open Courseware on Environmental Science
Open courseware has become more prominent in recent years, and professionals and laypeople alike seek to educate themselves about topics of interest. Environmental science is no different; read on for some examples of free education in this arena.
- Global Warming Science: This undergraduate-level course is offered by MIT. Taught by professors Kerry Emanuel, Sara Seager, Daniel Cziczo and David McGee, this course delivers the scientific basics of climate change. After an introduction to climate models, students explore variables that impact climate such as solar variability, oceanic circulation and greenhouse gases.
- Science and Policy of Natural Hazards: Also presented by MIT, this course explores natural catastrophes and their relationship to science and public policy. Phenomena like hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes are examined in this undergraduate-level course. Students who take this course are expected to deliver high-quality scientific writing.
- Environmental Science Capstone: The upper-level undergraduate class, presented by the University of Saskatchewan, covers local and global environmental topics. Class participants are expected to proactively research and synthesize data; system modeling via software is also introduced.
- Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Urban and Environmental Analysis: This graduate-level course, offered by Tufts University, introduces a tool frequently used by environmental scientists. The Graphic Information System (GIS) stores, maps and analyzes spatial and non-spatial data. Class participants learn the ins and outs of pertinent databases and documentation. A mapping and analysis project is required for course completion.
- Sustainability: This massive open online course (MOOC) is the University of Illinois’ first open courseware offering. Taught by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, this course explores the variables that affect sustainability. Topics such as biodiversity, climate change, population growth, renewable energy sources and public policy are all covered in this self-driven course.
Open Access Journals on Environmental Science
Some professional associations make their published content available for free via open accessibility. Some of these publications are peer-reviewed and some are not, but all of them serve to educate readers about hot topics in environmental science today.
- Bioremediation Journal: This peer-reviewed journal publishes 4 times per year. Covered topics include water science, pollution, sustainability, environmental engineering and environmental studies.
- Environment International: Covering environmental research disciplines in a broad swath, Environment International studies all pollutants and contaminants that impact the environment. Published by Elsevier press, this journal is issued ten times per year.
- International Environmental Technology: This publication explores the technology developments in the analysis of pollutants. Tools to measure and analyze water, air and gas pollutants are particularly stressed. New issues are published bimonthly.
- Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews: This journal is peer-reviewed and published quarterly. Journal content focuses on developments in procedures or chemical synthesis that reduce or limit creation of hazardous by-products. Twelve principles of green chemistry are applied in every instance.
- Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamic, Management and Ecosystem Science: An annual publication of the American Fisheries Society, this journal publishes original research in fisheries management. Recent articles have discussed the impact of artificial reefs on juvenile red snapper along the Gulf Coast, the effect of altered habitats on bull sharks, and the impact of phytoplankton to offshore food webs.
- International Journal of Environmental Science: A quarterly, peer-reviewed publication, this journal reports on current research and developments in the field. The multidisciplinary format allows for the publication of research in all subspecialties of environmental science, as well as ecology, geosciences, biogeochemistry and law.
- Journal of Environmental Management: Peer-reviewed original research and critical reviews on environmental management are published monthly by Elsevier. Covering all issues that result from man’s use of the environment, this journal focuses broadly on sustainability. Research specialties include resource analysis, environmental economics, energy efficiency, waste treatment, remediation and process modifications.
Environmental Science Books
Gradually, since the 1960s, a canon of academic environmental science books has emerged. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a longtime student of this field, these are some of the most discussed and highly thought of works you can add to your reading list:
- Silent Spring, Rachel Carson: This important book, published in 1962, was one of the first to draw attention to environmental issues. Ultimately, its publication led to the banning of DDT and crucial legislative changes in environmental law.
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan: By exploring our food webs and illustrating where our food comes from, Pollan was one of the first to advocate clean, responsible eating. Organic and sustainable agriculture are explained in detail, and the food production industry in America is spotlighted.
- Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, Amy Stewart: This deep dive into the flower production industry illuminates the long-term effects of manipulating a natural process. Common practices of hybridizers, breeders, mass growers, auctioneers and your neighborhood florist are highlighted in this important book.
- Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change, Elizabeth Kolbert: Political journalist Kolbert tackles global warming as early (or late) as 2006. Separating political agendas from climate science, this book asks penetrating questions about a rapidly accelerating global environmental problem.
- The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, Daniel Yergin: Though textbookish in length, this book provides an in-depth look at our dependence on fossil fuels, historically and current-day. The politics and environmental science within the fossil fuels industry is not neglected; this well-written book educates the reader on this important topic.
- Pathways to Urban Sustainability, Daniel Schaffer and Derek Vollmer. This book, funded in part by the National Research Council, summarizes a research project that was designed to explore urban sustainability in the U.S. The recent efforts of public policy makers, educators, researchers, nonprofits and international organizations are broken down for the reader.
Online Industry Magazines
Industry trade publications, different from scientific journals, are designed to keep students, educators and working professionals in the know about current events in the industry. Coverage and publicity for conferences, local news events, and up and coming research on legislative action can all be found in trade publications.
- Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine: Targeted toward wastewater industry professionals, this publication speaks to engineers, builders and operators of municipal water and wastewater systems. Local news, conference information and legislative updates are all published monthly.
- EM: The magazine for environmental managers is brought to you by the Air & Waste Management Association. This monthly magazine covers issues that affect environmental managers, offering provocative articles and columns. Regulatory news, EPA research and new technologies are just a few of the topics showcased in this publication.
- Environmental Science & Technology: Published by the American Chemical Society, this magazine publishes new research and objective data, offering analysis and insight into information. Frequently cited within the industry, ES&T is published annually.
- EARTH: The Science Behind the Headlines: This interesting publication is targeted to students and professionals interested in environmental science. Recent article topics have discussed the climatic impact in winemaking, Antarctic geological research, the logistics industry’s impact on the environment, and a meeting wrap up from the American Geophysical Union.
Environmental Science Blogs
No matter what your area of interest in environmental science is, there’s a blog dedicated to it. Since many environmental science experts are self-made or began as amateurs, the web is a great place to access updates and commentary on the field and the directions its moving in.
- Conservancy Talk: Written by staffers at The Nature Conservancy, this blog features professional commentary on climate change, green living and the science of conservation, links to news in conservation, and guest columns by industry experts.
- Breathing Earth: This fascinating resource offers a real-time simulation of the entire planet’s CO2 emissions. Information climate change includes tips on reducing your carbon footprint, links to industry resources, and data sources that are used to generate the interactive.
- No Impact Man: Blogger Colin Beavan writes about an individual’s attempt to fend off environmental crisis. Also a Congressional candidate, Beavan is a political activist who practices extreme environmentally conscious living in Manhattan. He has also been the subject of a documentary and has published a book.
- RealClimate: This blog is a forum for commentary on environmental science current events; its authors are working climate scientists. Developing stories and new research about pure climate science are discussed, while political and policy information is discarded. Recent posts covered global temperature changes, notable lectures and conferences, and a research method overview.
Who to Follow on Twitter
At only 140 characters per post, Twitter is a great way to receive quick and relevant information. Below are just a few of the accounts tweeting about the environment that we think you should check out.
- @YaleFES – The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies tweets about the environment and how climate change is affecting our world.
- @earthinstitute – The Earth Institute at Columbia University strives to address the problems facing our earth. Through their Twitter account, they share research and information with nearly 61K followers, with the hope of achieving a sustainable earth
- @EPA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages discourse through live Twitter chats on topics concerning the environment.
- @ScienceDaily Though not strictly about the environment, Science Daily is a great resource for all things science, and much of what they tweet has to do with how to better our world.