New Environmental Science Major to be Offered Starting Fall 2017

Biology students collect turtles from Kreiderheim Pond

Lebanon Valley College has a wide range of science-based courses to choose from. But when Dr. Rebecca Urban, associate professor of biology, recognized the increasing need for environmental scientists in the world today, she took action to design a new undergraduate program that could help better prepare students for the field. The major, environmental science, will enroll its first class of students in the Fall 2017 semester.

The new addition to LVC’s academic offerings comes at an opportune time for incoming students. Environmental scientists—those who aim to understand and preserve the environment through special interest in the management of ecosystems—are needed now more than ever. 

“Employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations,” says the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Heightened public interest in the hazards facing the environment, as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, is expected to spur demand for environmental scientists and specialists.” 

The new Environmental Science Program not only keeps the interest of a growing field in mind, but also seeks to train students to help solve environmental issues in the future.  

“The world has changed drastically since the industrial revolution with escalating environmental issues, ranging from deforestation, species extinction, water pollution, and climate change.  I think that training students to become environmental scientists helps prepare them to identify and solve environmental issues, thus making the world a better place,” says Urban.

The major, with dynamic coursework that ranges from biology to chemistry to geographical information systems (GIS), will provide students with the opportunity to gain in-class knowledge and conduct real-world field research. 

Within walking distance of a 20-acre eastern deciduous forest, a riparian wetland, and a campus pond, LVC provides students with the resources to do meaningful fieldwork. Through this hands-on experience, students can expect to conduct forest vegetation samplings, survey animal communities, monitor water quality, study the effects of forest fragmentation, determine the impacts of invasive species, and much more, preparing them for their careers. 

Additionally, the state-of-the-art Neidig-Garber Science Center houses research-level instrumentation and facilities. LVC faculty have a history of conducting envrionmental research in collaboration with undergraduate students, often leading to presentable and publishable results. Recent projects have included investigating the interactions of invasive plants, determining how woody debris influences small mammal communities, and the toxicity of engineered nanoparticles.

Although students who wish to pursue environmental science could previously do so with a major in either biology or chemistry, a program fit to specifically cater to the interdisciplinary aspects of environmental science will give students the strong background in multiple fields that is necessary to reach their highest potential. 

In addition to providing a new opportunity for aspiring scientists, Dr. Urban hopes that the implementation of the Environmental Science Program will also inspire more students to get involved in the ever-growing sustainability work on campus, with initiatives set by the Sustainability Advisory Committee, the Environmental Club, and the Outdoors Club. 

Please contact Dr. Urban at with any questions concerning Lebanon Valley College’s new Environmental Science Program.