Environmental science topics
The list of possible environmental science topics is a long one, and each environmental science department will have its own key focus areas. Areas of specialization range from a focus on understanding specific life forms and ecosystems in great detail, to studying environmental systems and changes at whole-planet level. Some examples of environmental science topics you may encounter include:
An example of a subject at the ‘up close’ end of the environmental science spectrum, soil ecology is focused on the various processes which can affect soil, and how this can impact on natural environments and human needs such as agricultural production. Issues studied could include soil nutrition levels, the spread of pathogens (such as viruses and bacteria), the impact of pesticides and other chemicals, and soil porosity (spaces between grains).
The disciplines of aquatic biology and marine biology are similar. Aquatic biology focuses on the study of freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands, while marine biology is concerned with saltwater environments, including the oceans and brackish bodies of water. In each case, you’ll study various aspects of life in these types of ecosystem, learning about specific habitats and relationships, including issues of conservation, resource use and economic implications.
At the ‘big picture’ end of the spectrum, the field of Earth systems focuses on large-scale changes in the Earth and its atmosphere, and the environmental systems that affect the whole planet. Environmental science topics you might cover here include geomorphology (understanding land formations and predicting future changes), weather systems, climate change, ice ages and oceanic systems.
Environmental and biological conservation
A specialization in environmental and biological conservation will involve studying different groups of organisms – such as birds, mammals and insects – and their natural habitats, with a focus on understanding the survival challenges they face, and the conservation techniques that may be used. Those who specialize in this field will be well prepared for future environmental science careers in a conservation focused field, working to protect various species and limit the risk of extinction.
Energy and climate change
The question of climate change is one of the most hotly debated and significant issues of the current century. Specializing in this field will allow students to understand the possible causes of climate change, the existing evidence for change and projections for the future, and potential solutions. Students may opt to focus on more environmentally sustainable approaches to energy production and consumption, a field in which there’s certainly high demand for graduates.
Water resource management
This specialization focuses on the management of available water resources, used for human needs such as drinking, sanitation, agriculture, leisure and industry. Students will learn about various water resource management challenges faced by communities around the world, looking at different approaches to balancing supply and demand, as well as assessing related environmental, economic and legal factors.
Pollution prevention and remediation
This area focuses on human pollution of the natural environment, introducing students to different types of pollutants and how to assess the extent and consequences of pollution. Students will also learn about strategies for pollution prevention and remediation – how to stop it from occurring, and how to lessen its negative impact. This could be good preparation for environmental science careers not only in pollution management, but also in waste reduction and disposal.