May 30, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Sciences

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Chair: Ruth Sofield

Environmental science draws on basic knowledge of the physical, chemical, biological, and quantitative aspects of natural and anthropogenic processes in environmental systems. This knowledge  is applied to addressing problems largely created by human activities in natural systems and in built environments, ranging from rural to urban development. Graduates will be able to develop and integrate scientific evidence that describes, predicts and cares for the natural resources that sustain our lives and communities in ways that honor the resiliency of humans and the natural environment. Graduates in environmental science enter a wide variety of career paths in local, state and federal governments; universities; and the private sector. Fields include environmental toxicology, environmental chemistry, terrestrial ecology, environmental impact assessment, watershed studies, air pollution control, solid and hazardous waste management, marine pollution assessment, and clean energy. Graduates may also choose to pursue advanced studies.  

We offer environmental sciences degrees on the Bellingham campus and the Salish Sea Region campus. On the Bellingham campus, we also offer students the opportunity to emphasize topics in the environmental sciences. These emphases include Environmental Toxicology, Freshwater and Terrestrial Ecology, and Marine Sciences.


The interdisciplinary nature of environmental science is reflected in the wide-ranging expertise of the environmental science faculty. Oceanographers, toxicologists, chemists, biologists, limnologists, terrestrial ecologists, engineers, and others work together as an interdisciplinary team to offer a curriculum grounded in the science but oriented to understanding and solving environmental problems. Active engagement in research allows the faculty to bring an analysis of new knowledge into the classroom.

Facilities and Equipment

Facilities are available for teaching laboratory courses and for student research projects. Students gain practical hands-on experience in data collection and analysis in both laboratory and field settings including terrestrial, aquatic, estuarine and marine environments. Specialized equipment is available for a wide variety of applications including toxicological and water quality monitoring (in a state-certified lab), dendrochronology, global positioning systems, wildlife telemetry, and forest and aquatic habitat characterization. Instrumentation includes an autoanalyzer for phosphorous, carbon and nitrogen, a gamma ray detector for sediment dating, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with a camera for underwater viewing of the marine environment as well as several small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS; “drones”) equipped with a variety of cameras for land use and land cover mapping. Extensive computer facilities include a Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing laboratory with state-of-the-art capabilities.

The WWU Shannon Point Marine Center offers access to aquaria and a wide variety of laboratory and field sampling equipment for students interested in the marine environment.

The Canyon Lake Creek Community Forest provides access to 2,300 acres in the foothills of Mt. Baker.

In addition to these university owned facilities, our location provides unparalleled access to public lands that cover a range of environments including the alpine zone, dense old-growth forests, wetlands, lakes, streams, estuaries, bays, and the ocean.


RUTH M. SOFIELD (2003) Chair and Professor. BA (biology), West Virginia University; MS (environmental science), McNeese State University; PhD (environmental science and engineering), Colorado School of Mines.
JENISE M. BAUMAN (2014) Associate Professor. BS (horticulture), Eastern Kentucky University; MS (plant pathology), West Virginia University; PhD (botany) Miami University.
CHARLES J. BARNHART (2014) Associate Professor. BS (physics and astronomy), University of Washington-Seattle; PhD (planetary geophysics), University of California-Santa Cruz.
LEO R. BODENSTEINER (1995) Professor. BA (biology), Moorhead State University; MA (zoology), PhD (zoology), Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
ANDREW G. BUNN (2006) Professor. BS (zoology) The Evergreen State College; MEM (resource ecology) Duke University; PhD (environmental science), Montana State University-Bozeman.
REBECCA BUNN (2010) Professor. BS, (civil engineering), Michigan Technology Institute; MS, (environmental engineering) University of Colorado; PhD (land resources and environmental science), Montana State University.
MARCO B.A. HATCH (2016) Associate Professor. BS (Aquatic and Fishery Sciences), University of Washington; MS and PhD (Biological Oceanography), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.
JAMES M. HELFIELD (2005) Associate Professor. BA (English), Duke University; MSc (physical geography), University of Toronto; PhD (forest ecology), University of Washington.
SAM KASTNER (2021) Assistant Professor. BA (Physics and Music) Skidmore College; MS (civil & environmental engineering) University of Washington; PhD (civil & environmental engineering) University of Washington.   
ALIA L. KHAN (2018) Associate Professor. BS (environmental health science), University of North Carolina; MS (biogeoscience), University of Colorado; PhD (civil and environmental engineering), University of Colorado.
ROBIN B. KODNER (2012) Associate Professor. BS (paleobiology) University of Wisconsin-Madison; PhD (organismic and evolutionary biology) Harvard University.
BROOKE A. LOVE (2012) Associate Professor, BS (engineering geology) Stanford University, PhD (chemical oceanography) University of Washington.
JOHN F. McLAUGHLIN (1996) Professor. BA (biological sciences), BA (biochemistry), BA (integrated science program), Northwestern University; MS (biological sciences) and PhD (biological sciences, population biology), Stanford University.
ERIKA McPHEE-SHAW (2017) Professor. BA (physics) Dartmouth College; PhD (oceanography) University of Washington.
MANUEL D. MONTAÑO (2018) Associate Professor. BS (chemistry), Colorado School of Mines; PhD (applied chemistry), Colorado School of Mines.
JOHN M. RYBCZYK (2000) Professor. BS (wildlife biology), Michigan State University; MS (ecosystem biology), Eastern Michigan University; PhD (oceanography and coastal science), Louisiana State University.
IMRAN SHEIKH (2017) Associate Professor. BS (biomedical engineering), University of Wisconsin; MS, PhD (energy and resources), University of California-Berkeley.
DAVID H. SHULL (2003) Professor. BS (oceanography), University of Washington; MS (oceanography), University of Connecticut; PhD (environmental, coastal and ocean sciences), University of Massachusetts.
FROYLAN E. SIFUENTES (2019) Assistant Professor. BS (chemical engineering) Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MS, PhD (energy and resources) University of California, Berkeley. 
KATHRYN L. SOBOCINSKI (2019) Associate Professor. BA (environmental studies), Connecticut College; MS (aquatic and fishery sciences) University of Washington; PhD (marine science) The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science. 
ANGELA L. STRECKER (2019) Associate Professor and Director, Institute for Watershed Studies. BSc Honours (biology), University of Regina, PhD (biology), Queen’s University.
DAVID O. WALLIN (1995) Professor. BS (biology), Juniata College; MA (biology), The College of William and Mary; PhD (environmental science), University of Virginia.

Research Faculty

TARANG KHANGAONKAR (2018) Research Professor. BS (naval architecture) Indian Institute of Technology; Masters (ocean engineering), University of Miami; PhD (applied marine physics/ ocean engineering) University of Miami.
WAYNE G. LANDIS (1989) Research Professor. BA (biology), Wake Forest University; MA (biology) and PhD (zoology), Indiana University.
JOHN VAVRINEC (2021) Research Professor. B.S. (environmental & forest biology), SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; PhD (Oceanography) University of Maine. 

Emeritus Faculty

JOHN T. (JACK) HARDY Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences. BA, University of California-Santa Barbara; MA, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Washington.
PETER S. HOMANN Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences. BA (natural sciences) and BS (chemistry), Case Western Reserve University; MS (forest ecology), Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; PhD (forest soils, nutrient cycling), University of Washington.
WAYNE G. LANDIS (1989) Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences. BA (biology), Wake Forest University; MA (biology) and PhD (zoology), Indiana University.
ROBIN A. MATTHEWS (1986) Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences. BS (biology), University of California-Riverside; MS (environmental studies), Indiana University; PhD (botany/aquatic ecology), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
J. RICHARD MAYER Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences. BS, Union College; MA, Columbia University; PhD, Yale University.
BRADLEY F. SMITH Professor Emeritus of College of the Environment. BA, MA, Western Michigan University; PhD, University of Michigan.

Adjunct Faculty

TRACY K. COLLIER, Senior Associate and Project Manager, Ocean Associates, Inc. PhD (Fisheries), University of Washington. 
SUZANNE STROM, Marine Scientist, Shannon Point Marine Center. PhD (biological oceanography), University of Washington.
KATHRYN L. VAN ALSTYNE, Marine Scientist, Shannon Point Marine Center. PhD (marine ecology), University of Washington.

Affiliated Faculty

JOHN BOWER, Professor, Fairhaven College
DON BURGESS, Assistant Professor, SMATE 
CRAIG DUNN, Associate Professor, Management, CBE
BRADY OLSON, Assistant Professor, Biology
ARUNAS OSLAPAS, Professor, Engineering Technology
JOHN TUXILL, Assistant Professor, Fairhaven College

Affiliated Teaching Faculty

CATHERINE AUSTIN, Instructor, PhD Aquatic Science, University of Washington.
HOLLY COE, Instructor, MS Ecosystem Analysis, University of Washington.
GREGORY GREEN, Instructor, MS, Wildlife Ecology, Oregon State University.
MORGAN EISENLORD, Instructor, MS Biology. University of Washington.  PhD student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University. 
NANCY LANE, Instructor, MS Botany-Chemical Ecology, University of South Florida.
CATHERINE REIDY LIERMANN, Instructor, PhD Physical Geography (Ecohydrology) Umea University.
ABE LLOYD, Senior Instructor, MS, Ethnoecology, University of Victoria.
ELI LOOMIS, Instructor, MS, Plant Genetics, University of Montana.
KATRINA POPPE, Instructor, MS, Environmental Science, Western Washington University.
RALPH RILEY, Instructor, PhD, Ecosystem Studies, Stanford University.
CHRIS TRINIES, Instructor, MS Environmental Science, Western Washington University.
RYAN VASAK, Instructor, MS Aquatic Ecology, Western Washington University.


    Undergraduate MajorUndergraduate ExtensionUndergraduate MinorGraduateCertification


      Environmental Sciences

      Courses numbered X37; X97; 300, 400, 500 are described in the University Academic Policies  section of this catalog.

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