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More About Environmental Sciences

Prof. Lloyd Parratt checks out the carnivorous Darlingtonia at the Siskiyou Field Institute with help from students in ENV 365 Advanced Field Methods in Environmental Sciences. Photo by Prof. Michael L. Hughes

Technical Emphasis Tracks

In addition to a set of core courses, students select a total of 31 credits from technical emphasis tracks in watershed science, GIS, or sustainable technologies. A new track in biological resources is being added for the 2013-14 academic year. Students have the option to "mix and match" courses from all emphases or concentrate in a single area.

Watershed Science: This track provides prepares students to work in careers focused on applied hydrology, water resource management, water quality monitoring and assessment, and aquatic and riparian ecology.  Workforce opportunities are growing rapidly in the areas, especially in arid and semi-arid regions where water resources for irrigated agriculture must be balanced with societal demands for ecological services. Water resource development in the Upper Klamath Basin provides a rich and dynamic context for the pursuit of this technical emphasis track.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems)This track provides students with a suite of computer mapping, remote sensing, and other geospatial technology and analysis skills, as specifically applied to environmental management objectives. Coursework includes opportunities for building specialized skills in vector and raster analysis, including newly available LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data for the Upper Klamath Basin and across the Pacific Northwest region. Graduates completing this track will be immediately qualified for jobs as GIS specialists/analysts in both the public and private sectors.

Sustainable Technologies: This unique track allows students to blend traditional environmental science perspectives with engineering, technology, and management coursework and applications. Students completing this track will be well qualified to work in various capacities on projects aimed at developing sustainable water and energy resources, or to apply innovative technologies to increasing our understanding of environmental processes or patterns. 

Student Research

All students in Environmental Sciences complete a sophomore and senior paper, which represent significant undergraduate research experiences related to topics of their choice. For each paper, students complete a series of focused courses (Bio 261 & 262 for sophomores; Bio 471, 472, 473, and 474) that prepare them for various aspects of research, including literature search and review, crafting research questions, development and implementation of experimental methodologies, data analysis, and reporting of results.  Students prepare posters that they present in the spring and fall during the Environmental Sciences Student Research Symposium.  Students work under the direction of an Oregon Tech faculty member or members, and are normally paired with professional research partners working outside of the university. Thus, they benefit from on-campus academic advising, while also gaining valuable real-world experience that often aids the external research partner.  Many students collect field data for their projects while also working as a paid seasonal or part-time employees for one of several agencies or firms with active monitoring and research programs in the Upper Klamath Basin. Outstanding research projects have been spotlighted on National Public Radio (NPR) or appeared in a peer-reviewed science journal.  

Geog 407 Landscapes of Oregon: Steens Mountain offered during Oregon Tech's first Summer Field Institute, Summer 2012
Geog 407 Landscapes of Oregon: Steens Mountain offered during Oregon Tech's first Summer Field Institute, Summer 2012

Summer Field Institute

The Environmental Sciences Program coordinates the Oregon Tech Summer Field Institute, which was launched for the first time in Summer 2012. A total of seven courses were offered, many of which were compressed within a one-week format, which allowed students with jobs an opportunity to take a summer class or two without sacrificing excessive time away from their work.  Of special interest were Geog 407 Landscapes of Oregon: Steens Mountain and Geol 407: Hydrologic Field Methods.  

The expedition to Steens Mountain (Geog 407) was made possible through a specially arrangements with the Burns District of the Bureau of Land Management. During this course, students gained breath-taking views of fault-block basin-and-range topography, u-shaped glacial valleys, cirques, tarns, and local wildlife such as bighorn sheep. The course was a big hit with the students and the papers they wrote, which included original sketches and photography, were among the most inspired and informed that the program has ever seen.  The Wallowa Mountains are targeted in Summer 2013 for the next course in the Geog 407 Landscapes of Oregon series.  

The "hydromethods course" (Geol 407) was held at two venues: Yamsi Ranch and the Wood River Wetland.  The Hyde family at Yamsi Ranch were warm and gracious hosts, allowing instructors and students access to stunning spring and river-channel environments of the upper Williamson River.  Guest instructors John Sloat and Randy Hadland from the industry-leading companies SonTek (Sloat) and YSI (Hadland) brought with them state-of-the-art flow and water-quality measurement devices, as well as a wealth of field knowldge that comes only from years of experience training technicians in the use of their equipment.  Oregon Tech students worked alongside continuing educations students from California and Washington in the implementation of course exercises.  Sloat and Hadland enjoyed the experience so much that they offered to rejoin the course for its 2013 offering. Stay tuned for more details.  

Sloat hydromethods
John Sloat explains the use of the SonTek FlowTracker while John Hyde (straw hat) and students look on. Photo by Prof. Michael L. Hughes