Appalachian's Environmental Science program has been ranked #14 nationally by the College Affordability Guide, run by Degree Prospects out of DC. (

Our 2017 Environmental Science Student Award winners are:

Roy Sidle Award for Excellence in Research: Tara Early

Outstanding Senior Award: Forrest Fewster

Outstanding Senior Award: Alex Prevatte

Outstanding Leadership Award: Tara Early

Hobbs Scholarship Winner: Trevor Hackney

Outstanding Jr. Writing in the Discipline Award: Sean Daly

Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Award: Sean Daly, Abbey Deville, Forrest Fewster, Kati VanEtten, Elizabeth Payne, Will Connor, with special thanks to Al Scher. 

Many of the challenges facing our society involve assessing the complex interactions of humans with the natural environment and how to best develop or manage these resources in a sustainable manner. Such interactions are becoming increasingly apparent and complex in the Appalachian region, a relatively pristine mountain environment that is being increasingly affected by residential development, agriculture, forest management, and recreation pressures. Within this unique environment major areas of interest include water, natural hazards, aquatic habitat and atmospheric issues.

Optimal solutions to these problems can only be obtained through an interdisciplinary understanding of the fundamental processes inherent to natural ecosystems. These processes, embedded in the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere, form the foundation of environmental science and incorporate the disciplines of geology, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geography, hydrology, and meteorology. In the Environmental Science Program at Appalachian State University (ASU) we emphasize the importance of these complementary scientific disciplines with a focus on understanding important processes and their application to management, planning, and policy decisions.

Students graduating from the Environmental Science Program will earn a Bachelor of Science degree that is unique at ASU because the program is not affiliated with an individual department. While undergraduates may opt for certain science concentrations, all students are required to obtain a strong background in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, and geosciences as well as courses in environmental policy and planning and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This strong science background provides the basis for tackling interdisciplinary problems facing contemporary environmental science professionals. During their senior year, students take a capstone course that includes a research project tailored to individual interests that integrates many aspects of the undergraduate program. This course together with the rigorous environmental science curriculum prepares students for professional careers or research-based programs in graduate school. It is our experience that the logical thinking and problem solving skills emphasized throughout this program are among the most salable aspects of any undergraduate education experience.

Checksheets for the Environmental Science Program are available at For more information about the program, contact Carla Penders, Advising Coordinator, via email at or by phone at 828-262-2747.

The mountainous environment of western North Carolina together with our academic expertise provides a unique educational template that allows students to gain expertise in a broad spectrum of environmental issues in this and similar regions. Some of the focal areas of our program in which students actively participate include:

  • Sustainable development in mountainous terrain
  • Stream systems (environment and ecology)
  • Mountain hazards and risk assessment
  • Cumulative effects of agricultural, forestry, and recreational practices on soil and water resources as well as implications for policy and planning
  • Ecology of Appalachian Mountain forests
  • Air quality and climate issues

The Environmental Science Program at ASU is a strong science-based program that addresses how science supports policy, planning, and natural resource management. Specifically the Environmental Science Program:

  • emphasizes quantitative interdisciplinary critical thinking skills;
  • applies process knowledge to the solution of relevant environmental problems; and
  • provides students with ample scientific field excursions and research opportunities

Graduates will qualify for challenging, well-compensated professional positions in a number of fields as well as graduate study at top-tier universities; some examples include:

  • Positions with the US and State Governments as physical scientists, hydrologists, biologists, ecologists, and environmental specialists
  • Environmental science consultants
  • Environmental managers and planners with industry, municipalities, and State agencies
  • International environmental careers with United Nations agencies and various donor organizations (e.g., UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, USAID, CIFOR).
  • Graduate degrees in: environmental science; environmental policy and planning, environmental law, environmental engineering, natural resources management, and various basic and applied science disciplines.

Special opportunities for students enrolled in the Environmental Science Program at ASU include:

  • Many field-based courses that provide critical insights into ecological, biogeochemical, hydrological, geological, geophysical, atmospheric, natural hazard, and environmental policy and planning issues in the Appalachian region
  • Numerous interdisciplinary problem solving exercises in environmental sciences
  • Opportunities for summer courses and field trips in other areas of the US and overseas
  • Chance to work one-on-one with top researchers in the environmental science field on special projects
  • Opportunities to attend regional and national meetings to present findings of original research investigations