New Hands-on Environmental Science Classes

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Young Woman Snowshoeing Image

Environmental Science 198 is offered this Fall Semester at TMCC for students interested in natural resources management or environmental studies occupations.

A new Environmental Science class, ENV 198, will be offered the first time this Fall Semester at Truckee Meadows Community College for students interested in natural resources management or environmental studies occupations.

“This is a great course for people who care about our environment and want to find out about careers that protect natural resources such as forests, snow and water,” said Gail Ferrell, PhD, Mathematics Professor.

The full title of ENV 198 is “Exploring Environmental Science through Career Discovery with Emphasis on Snow Science.” It is a one-credit course for Fall 2015, and then will take the form of a three-credit field study course in Spring 2016.

This course was developed as part of a grant from Nevada NASA EPSCoR to build capacity in snow sciences and is based on work supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The class will be based from a dedicated high tech classroom in the Health Science Center at Redfield. There are no prerequisites for ENV 198 in Fall 2015, but the ability to write technical papers is preferred. Students are advised to check with an advisor to determine how credits will contribute to their degree, and whether the credits transfer to a chosen university program.

“Employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS). “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 BLS defines an environmental science career as a specialty where natural science concepts and methods are employed to monitor pollution clean-up efforts, give advice to protect human and environmental health, and consult on resource conservation.

Career exploration is planned in the Fall Semester

During the one-credit section in the fall, students will attend community lectures on environmental topics, do online research and writing, view documentaries, complete readings and participate in group discussions. Lectures take place not only at TMCC, but also at the University of Nevada, Reno, Desert Research Institute, and Science Center at Lake Tahoe in Incline Village.

Various areas of environmental science careers will be explored in the course. The basis for many of these careers is snow and water availability, and concepts related to scarcity and contamination will be outlined.

Hands-on activities will get students out in the field during Spring Semester

Environmental Science 198 will move out into forests, snow-covered meadows and up the mountainside in Spring 2016. The Fall Semester class is a prerequisite for Spring ENV 198.

Students will ski in, or snowshoe to back country areas for training in snow sampling techniques and snowpack measurement. Part of the class is also becoming more familiar with safety procedures while collecting samples, and avoidance of natural hazards such as avalanche or ice covered bodies of water.

“Snow survey provides important information about available snow and therefore water availability,” Ferrell said.

Carpooling to site locations may be a possibility to help with transportation. Those enrolled should be able to ski or snowshoe a minimum of six miles and have access to warm, protective outdoor clothing. Snowshoes will be provided.

“This is really going to be fun,” Ferrell said.

The class was created as part of the project “Building Capacity in Interdisciplinary Snow Sciences for a Changing World,” based on work reinforced by NASA under Cooperative Agreement No. NNX14AN24A issued through the Nevada NASA EPSCoR program. EPSCoR is the acronym for Nevada Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

BLS writes that environmental specialists can work in the field or in offices and laboratories, and lists average salaries as of 2012 to be about $63,570 a year.

Environmental Science at TMCC supports degrees in physical science and general education. An Associate of Science degree is offered which may be seamlessly transferred to the Bachelor of Science program at UNR. For more information about Environmental Science classes, contact the Physical Sciences Department at 775-673-7183.