Ecology and environmental assessments examine a complex interplay between living and non-living factors in interrelated systems of land and waters.
The environmental science program provides a strong, practical background for studying the relationship between and within different environments, and how we might work to better understand and improve humanity's impact on our planet.
BVU's campus is geographically well-situated to offer hands-on education in environmental science, being located adjacent to a 3,200-acre (five square-mile) natural lake. Through the program, you'll look at biological, physical, and chemical indicators of the health of the environment, particularly the land and freshwater system of the Storm Lake watershed, through fieldwork and lab assessments. Courses offered include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Ethics, Human Ecology, Historical Geology, and Stream Conservation / Fly Fishing.
The environmental science program offers emphases in science, social science and conservation education. The science track offers preparation for work with organizations like the Department of Natural Resources, in environmental labs, or naturalist work in nature centers. The social science emphasis is for students interested in addressing the environment through public policy in law and government. The conservation education track provides a background useful for working in community relations for nature centers, where you might do things like public interpretation and developing programs.
Buena Vista University is located adjacent to the shores of Storm Lake, the second most southerly glacial lake in the United States. The lake is near the southern tip of the Des Moines Lobe, which was formed some 15,000 years ago when a glacier smoothed the area during the region's most recent ice age. The glacier left a landscape rich in prairie potholes and wetlands, an outdoor rich laboratory for studying the animals and plants that claim it as their habitat. The lake also provides a convenient environment to study freshwater ecology and aquatic toxicology, programs not commonly seen at undergraduate institutions.
The environmental science program encourages practical projects that contribute to the preservation of nature. In 2008 and 2009, the program and its students received grants from the Raccoon River Watershed Association to conduct nutrient impact assessments and develop wetland assessment protocols. The program has also received two Veolia-Storm Lake Water Quality Research Scholarships to support further data collection. Faculty members are active in regional and state environmental research organizations. Further research and internship opportunities exist with the Whiterock Conservancy and Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
Environmental science is cross-disciplinary, often sharing resources with the chemistry and biology programs. The environmental science program utilizes many standard pieces of field equipment for aquatic, soil and plant assessment. Among the items frequently used in the program to investigate the potential for aquatic environmental contaminants are Hach Test Kits for nutrient assessments, a spectrophotometer for chlorophyll a assessments, Colilert equipment for E. coli assessments (EPA standard protocol), and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits for emerging contaminant research. For surveying land and making geological maps, the program uses Garmin GPS and ArcGIS (Geographic Information System) remote sensing technology. Lake and stream water samples are collected with the aid of canoes and johnboats.
It takes time to understand the interrelationships of the ecosystem you’re studying. You can’t protect what you don’t know, and you won’t know what’s wrong until you know what’s right. To find out what is normal for any given area, we take historical data over long periods of time. The reports we take and results we assess are valuable to making a practical impact on the environment, and are of interest to environmental organizations around the state.
Eighteen Buena Vista University science students attended the annual meeting of the Iowa Academy of Science April 19-20 at Simpson College and made 19 poster and oral presentations. Read more...