photo of ferns and book pages and binoculars on a desktop

Environmental Studies

At Reed, environmental studies majors develop interdisciplinary training in the natural sciences and social sciences, with a thematic focus on the environment. Majors select a primary focus in either biology, chemistry, economics, history, or political science. They take classes with an environmental emphasis in their chosen discipline as well as additional coursework focused on environmental studies.

Students in the biology track may focus on molecular ecology, vascular plant diversity, or animal behavior. For the chemistry track, students may concentrate on chemistry-climate interactions or air pollution. The economics track offers courses on natural resource economics, urban economics, and environmental economics, among others. For the history track, students may take courses on water; nature, culture, and society; and food. The political science track allows students to study policy and the environment, with courses on subjects like environmental politics and policy, international policy, and the politics of food.

Other departments sometimes offer environmental courses as well, like Environmental Ethics (philosophy) and Eco Literature (English).

All juniors convene for a team-taught seminar in which a faculty member from the natural sciences and a faculty member from the social sciences lead the students in a collaborative interdisciplinary project addressing an environmental problem.

“While studying environmental studies at Reed, I never felt constrained to a specific discipline and found myself continuously learning from professors and peers in other departments. This interdisciplinary approach helped me frame my chemistry work in the context of broader environmental issues while writing my thesis.” ANDREY MARSAVIN ’21


Professor profile

Professor Aaron Ramirez

Translational Forest Ecology and Climate Adaptation
photo of Aaron Ramirez

Aaron Ramirez (he/him) is an assistant professor of biology and environmental studies. He received his PhD in integrative biology from UC Berkeley and was a postdoctoral fellow for the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in Santa Barbara.

At Reed, Aaron has built a research program funded by the National Science Foundation, the USGS’s National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

He teaches courses in the biology department and the environmental studies program. He also teaches a field-based ecology and natural history course, Leaves 2 Landscapes, that includes immersive field trips around the incredible forest ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. Important themes in his teaching and research at Reed include bringing field-based research and classroom experiences to Reedies and engaging them in an applied science process that involves interacting with the diverse end users of environmental science, in order to accelerate the uptake and practical applications of new findings in a rapidly changing world.

Download Environmental Studies Flyer as a PDF

The Reed Canyon

The Reed canyon is a 28-acre watershed that runs through the heart of campus. It’s also the home of Reed Lake, the oldest naturally occurring lake in Portland. Home to a growing population of wildlife and native plants, the canyon is an easily accessible site for student-led field research.

“The Pacific Northwest is an inspiring place for environmental studies research. But one need not travel farther than a handful of steps from the biology building to gain access to a great location for asking and answering field-related questions.

The Reed canyon is relied on across multiple departments for independent projects, labs, and senior theses to study long-term demographic trends in its aquatic and terrestrial inhabitants, their social behaviors, and the feedbacks between how the canyon shapes organisms and how organisms shape the canyon. It’s the largest classroom on Reed’s campus.”

Samuel Fey, Professor of Biology

Research Opportunities

Environmental Studies Summer Experience Fellowship
Reed’s summer experience fellowships support environmental research opportunities like internships, fieldwork, and lab work—both on and off campus—over the summer. Students have worked with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The fellowship program also has an ongoing relationship with Salmon Valley Stewardship, a nonprofit focused on environmental stewardship, education, and community in Salmon, Idaho.

What Do Alumni Do?

Master’s Student, Geography
Portland State University
Grisha Post ’21

Law Student, Criminal Law & Public Interest
University of Baltimore School of Law
Natalie Murphy ’21

Senior Specialist
Maryam Ahmad ’19

BRIDGE Housing Corporation
Gayle Chan ’19

Program Manager
Leo Parker ’18

Assistant Director of Development
Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Health System
Emily Clark ’18

Fish and Wildlife Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Annelise Hill ’17