Environmental Soil and Water Sciences, Alabama A&M University
Program Design & Assessment
The Environmental, Soil and Water Sciences Program (ESWSP) at Alabama A&M University, seeks to reflect the mission of the traditional land-grant institution, combining education, research, and service to the public. The program is housed in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Over the past decade over 50 Ph.D.'s and 120 M.S. graduates have matriculated in the environmental and natural resource-based graduate program, by far the largest at an HBCU and the only doctoral granting program among the HBCUs in the plant and soil sciences. The area of environmental science/environmental health science is accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC).
Strengths of this program
The ESWSP gives the student a strong foundation in the physical, chemical, and biological principles of soil and water sciences. It prepares them for careers in research, extension, various state/federal government agencies, industry, and business, or the pursuit of graduate work in soils or related areas. AAMU ranked 13th and 14th in the number of African Americans who received baccalaureate degrees in agricultural and biological related sciences, respectively. Additionally, the Department of BES at AAMU was also ranked as the nation's #1 institution in the U.S. for granting African American Ph.D.'s in the agricultural sciences.
Types of students served
ESWSP serves the predominately African-American student population at AAMU, where several of these students are first generation college-students. In the past few years, because of the partnerships with community colleges in the state, we have seen an influx of transfers from community colleges.
The goals of this program are as follows:
- Teach fundamental principles and unifying concepts in the biological and environmental sciences.
- Provide research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to promote integrative learning.
- Train students to function as scientists, by integrating research and pedagogy; exposing the students to the scientific process.
- Teach scientific literacy, which is the ability to communicate scientific concepts effectively in both written and oral formats, as well as to think critically and logically.
- Provide a visible and easily accessible resource in the biological and agricultural sciences to the community through seminars by faculty and volunteer activities through student organizations.
The learning goals were informed by the following resources:
Environmental issues have created a critical global need for highly educated scientists, professionals, and government officials to develop and implement procedures, policies and regulations. As the nation's economic base shifts increasingly toward green technology, the number of students, especially underrepresented minorities entering the fields of environmental science and STEM needs to increase.
How program goals are assessed
We have in place individual student academic and research evaluation where academic mentors will meet with students to review academic progress and proficiency in the lab, if they work as biweekly students , and also if they have received offers to participate in research internships. Additionally we have our program output and career placement evaluation. The department regularly offers seminars on a variety of environmental topics from noted scientists and through the environmental science club there are opportunities for students to volunteer organizations on campus as well as the Huntsville community. Lastly, we offer a capstone course in soil, plant and water analysis, a lab and lecture based course, which encompasses all courses taught for the duration of the program.
Design features that allow goals to be met:
AAMU has been supporting research and teaching in the environmental science for over 30 years. We have the faculty expertise and a significant track record in sustaining the overall integrity of the research and education programs within the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences. The faculty also has extensive collaborations with leading universities and governmental research laboratories.
Internships, Mentoring, and Student Research
Students, with the aid of mentors, seek domestic and international experiential learning opportunities sponsored through AAMU as well as various other internships at universities and agencies to gain practical skills. Students are also be given the opportunity to train and learn all aspects of emerging technology through bi-weekly/work-study appointments in various mentors' labs. They ultimately participate in the annual AAMU STEM Day competition and present their research at state, regional and national meetings. Additionally, our Department incorporates the following mentoring strategies: Paired Academic mentors: This pair will meet each semester primarily for careful academic progress assessment and advisement. They will also assist in graduate program selection or job placement upon graduation. Peer mentoring: There are nearly 100 undergraduates and 75 graduate research assistants in the Department who work closely in regard to matriculating through AAMU and for class scheduling, etc.
Faculty and students in the program and the Department are engaged in a variety of community outreach activities. We participate in the annual Science Exploration Day and Birmingham Water Ambassador Program which brings ~300 and 50 students to AAMU from throughout the state of Alabama and inner city of Birmingham, AL, respectively. We also work with the North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence (NACEE) to identify students in the Huntsville/Madison County area to spend the summer in hands-on field and laboratory research. We have also hosted high school teachers from the state of Alabama for a Biotechnology Workshop where they were awarded supplies, kits and equipment to take back to their high schools. Additionally, faculty members judge area science fairs as well as teach modules in science classes at local schools. The students in the Environmental Science club assists area schools with recycling projects and is often in charge of the Kids Corner at Earth Day events and the annual Forestry Fair.
Curriculum Development and Preparation for Graduate School
The multidisciplinary curriculum in Environmental Soil and Water Sciences program prepares a student for strong background in environmental and geosciences, for regulatory governmental positions and for further graduate study. They are also strongly encouraged to gain research experience by working in the labs here at AAMU and/or seek internal and external internships.
The ESWSP is a very small program that has been steadily increasing in the last few years. We currently have 22 students and an average graduation rate of 30%.
Careers pursued by our alumni
Most of our graduates enter graduate school to pursue a Master's or Doctoral degree. Others begin working for the federal or state government in agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Veterans Affairs and state public health departments.
Courses and Sequencing
Diagram of course sequencing and requirements
Entry into the degree
NRE 101 Intro to Plant Science 4
NRE 170 Introduction to Environmental Science 3
NRE 251 Introduction to Soil Science 4
NRE 365 Introduction to GIS 3
BIO 330/L Microbiology & Lab 4
CHE 221/L Analytical Chemistry & Lab 4
CHE 301/L Organic Chemistry I & Lab 4
NRE 491 Seminar & Scientific Writing 3
MTH 113 Pre-Calculs Trig 3
PHY 103 General Physics 4
Elective courses and Requirements
Only 3 free electives (with a minimum grade of C) are required because the concentrations are what requires different courses. The concentrations in the ESWSP are Environmental science, environmental health science, soil science and plant science, are included in an uploaded file.
BIO 324 Ecotoxicology I 3
UPL 442 Planning and the Environment 3
NRE 365 Introduction to GIS 3
NRE 366 Climate and Global Change 4
NRE 450 Earth Science 3
NRE 452 Soil Fertility and Fertilizers 3
NRE 475 Principles of Wetlands 3
NRE 476 Remote Sensing of the Environment 4
NRE 478 GIS, Spatial Analysis, and Modeling 4
NRE 481 Hydrology and Watershed Mgt. 3
NRE 486 Environmental Policy and Law 3
NRE 490 Special Probs in Plant & Soil Science 1-3
NRE 370 Natural Resources Management 3
NRE 406 Soil Microbiology 4
NRE 433/L Intro to Molecular Gen & Lab 4
NRE 435 Introduction to Bioinformatics 4
NRE 494 Soil & Water Conservation Appl 4
NRE 495 Irrigation and Drainage Systems 3
BIO 321 Introduction to Parasitology 3
BIO 322 General Entomology 3
BIO 402 Limnology 3
CHE 221 Analytical Chemistry 3
CHE 221L Analytical Chemistry Lab 1
CHE 302 Organic Chemistry II 3
CHE 302L Organic Chemistry II Lab 1
MTH 120 (Calc Appl) or MTH 125 (Calc I) 3-4
Soil, Water and Plant analysis
Supporting Science and Math Courses
Lec/Lab CHE 101L. 4
Lex/Lab CHE 102/L. 4
Math MTH. 112. 3