Environmental Science

Major: Environmental Science
Degree Awarded: Master of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Calendar Type: Quarter
Total Credit Hours: 45.0 (MSES); 90.0 (PhD)
Co-op Option: None
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code: 03.0104
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code:

About the Program

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary field in which we try to understand environmental problems and find solutions to them. This field requires understanding of a number of disciplines. 

The program's areas of focus include ecology, biodiversity, conservation, environmental chemistry and assessment, and paleoecology-geology. A student may alternatively craft a specialized plan of study outside of these strength areas under the guidance of an academic advisor.

The master's degree may be completed with either a thesis or non-thesis option. Those choosing to prepare a thesis must complete 45.0 credits (up to 12.0 credits may be research). Students choosing the non-thesis option must complete coursework totaling 45.0 credits (6.0 of which may be research). Most courses carry 3.0 credits.

Part-time Study

The MS degree may be completed on a part-time basis. Most courses are scheduled in the late afternoon and evening, usually on a rotating basis from year to year. Part-time students should plan to take courses in the appropriate sequence to comply with the necessary prerequisites. Scheduling of courses is dependent on student demand and faculty resources; however, most prescribed courses are offered at least once every other year (schedules are published each term). Required courses should be taken at the first opportunity.

Additional Information

For more information, visit the Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science website.

Susan Cole is the graduate coordinator for Environmental Science. Susan Cole can be reached by telephone at 215.895.2905 or e-mail at coless@drexel.edu.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general entrance requirements for all applicants, entrance to the MS Program in Environmental Science requires a BS degree in science, mathematics, or engineering. Minimally, students must have completed a year each of general biology and general chemistry, and one semester of calculus. Organic chemistry and physics preferred depending on student interest.

PhD Program

Applicants to the doctoral program are judged on the basis of academic excellence and the alignment of their research interests with those of the faculty in the department. Prospective PhD students are welcome to contact the program to discuss their research interests.

Additional Information

More information about how to apply is available on the Graduate Admissions at Drexel University website.

Degree Requirements: MS in Environmental Science

The Master of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) program requires three core courses that form the basis for further specialization. Students choose to complete the remainder of the program with elective courses based on interest. 45.0 total credits are required for program completion.

Program Requirements

Core Courses
ENVS 501Chemistry of the Environment3.0
ENVS 506Biostatistics3.0
ENVS 511Evolutionary Ecology3.0
ENVS electives36.0
Total Credits45.0

Elective Areas

Please see course descriptions for a list of Environmental Science (ENVS) electives. Students may also take Environmental Policy (ENVP) and Environmental Engineering (ENVE) courses with prerequisites. Other departmental courses require approval.

Degree Requirements: PhD in Environmental Science

 The following general requirements must be satisfied in order to complete the PhD program in Environmental Science:

  • 90.0 (post-bachelor's) or 45.0 (post-master's) quarter credits
  • Qualifying exam
  • Establishing a plan of study
  • 3 core courses recommended, not required
  • Additional courses dependent on advisor or committee recommendations
  • Candidacy exam/approval of dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation/thesis
  • Defense of dissertation/thesis
  • A graduate research seminar presentation once a year for second-, third-, and fourth-year students

Thesis Advisor/Plan of Study

For students admitted without an identified thesis advisor, the thesis advisor must be selected by the end of winter term in the first year. All students are asked to submit a plan of study (that has been agreed upon by thesis advisor and student) by the end of winter term in the first year. It is anticipated that the graduate coursework will be completed during the first two years or less. Generally there is no prescribed coursework—students must take courses needed to complete their research under guidance of a faculty advisor.


The following courses are recommended, but not required:

ENVS 501 Chemistry of the Environment
ENVS 506 Biostatistics
ENVS 511 Evolutionary Ecology

Candidacy Examination

The function of the candidacy examination is to test the breadth and the depth of the student's capabilities in their chosen area of study. The graduate student becomes a PhD candidate only after successfully completing the candidacy examination and completing 15.0 or 45.0 credits (for post-master’s or post-bachelor’s degree students, respectively). The candidacy exam is comprised of three parts whose order will be determined by the Candidacy Committee: written examination (or qualifying exam), dissertation research proposal, and oral examination.

Students entering the program with a master’s degree are expected to complete the candidacy examination by the end of the summer quarter of their first year. Students entering the PhD program with a bachelor’s degree are expected to complete this examination by the end of the summer quarter of their second year.

Thesis/Dissertation and Defense of Thesis/Dissertation

The student will finalize their dissertation only after approval to write is granted by the Dissertation Research Committee. Approval is based upon an evaluation of the breadth and depth of original research being conducted by the student. The dissertation must follow the format specifications set forth in Drexel’s Office of Research and the Graduate College. Research conducted for the dissertation must be presented in a lecture open to the public and then defended, privately, before the student's Dissertation Research Committee.


Facilities include fully equipped research laboratories in microbiology, ecology, hydrology, and chemistry. Field ecology research augments lab facilities with field-specific equipment, including two boats (14- and 25-foot) and vans with towing capacity. A full range of sampling equipment exists in the department from seine nets, sediment dredges and coring devices, water sampling bottles, flow meters, and acoustic tracking devices. Some additional research facilities in environmental biotechnology, chemistry, and atmospheric engineering are located in other locations on Drexel's campus.

Among the equipment available for student research are atomic absorption spectrophotometers, UV-visible spectrophotometers, gas-liquid chromatographs, ion chromatograph, ICP-Mass Spectrometer, GC-Mass Spectrometer, high performance liquid chromatographs, total organic carbon analyzer, elemental analyzer for carbon and nitrogen, stable isotope mass spectrometer, high-speed refrigerated centrifuge, nutrient analyzers, and UV photochemical reactor.  In addition, the department and University have various microscopes, including a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Within the department and in the Department of Biology, there is a large capacity for genomics, including preparatory equipment for DNA extraction and enhancement.

Drexel University is a national leader in the use of computers for educational and research functions. Several facilities on campus are available for student use.

Environmental Science Faculty

Jon Gelhaus, PhD (University of Kansas) Curator, Department of Entomology: Academy of Natural Sciences. Professor. Systematic expertise in crane flies (Tipuloidea); phylogenetic reconstruction; historical and ecological biogeography; biodiversity measures and evolution of morphological character systems.
Danielle Kreeger, PhD (Oregon State University). Research Associate Professor. Trophic interactions in aquatic ecosystems.
Stefanie Kroll, PhD (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry) Watershed Ecology Section Leader, Academy of Natural Sciences. Assistant Research Professor. Aquatic macroinvertebrate ecology, bioindicators of human stressors on aquatic ecosystems, monitoring the effects of watershed conversation, management and restoration.
Marie J. Kurz, PhD (University of Florida) Biogeochemistry Section Leader, Academy of Natural Sciences. Assistant Research Professor. Interactions between geochemical, ecological & hydrologic processes in freshwater systems. Availability, transport and cycling of stream solutes; Stream ecosystem structure & function; Groundwater-surface water interactions; Adaptive management & restoration of water resources & aquatic ecosystems.
Tatyana Livshultz, PhD (Cornell University) Assistant Curator of Botany. Assistant Professor. Expertise of the milkweed and dogbane family (Apocynaceae); evolution and species diversity of the genus Dischidia; differences in floral form and function.
Amanda Lough, PhD (Washington University in St. Louis). Assistant Professor. Volcanic seismicity and the relation to magma plumbing systems; glacial seismicity and the seismicity of Antarctica; intraplate seismicity.
Richard McCourt, PhD (University of Arizona) Curator of Botany, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University; 2010-2012: Program Director, Division of Graduate Education, National Science Foundation. Professor. Evolution, ecology, systematics of green algae..
Michael O'Connor, MD, PhD (MD, Johns Hopkins University; PhD, Colorado State). Professor. Biophysical and physiological ecology, thermoregulation of vertebrates, ecological modeling.
Sean O'Donnell, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Professor. Climate ecology, focusing on geographic variation and species differences in thermal physiology; Behavior and ecology of army ant/bird interactions; Neurobiology, focusing on brain plasticity and brain evolution in social insects.
Marina Potapova, PhD (Russian Academy of Sciences) Associate Curator of Diatoms: Academy of Natural Sciences. . Assistant Professor. Taxonomy, ecology, and biogeography of freshwater and coastal diatoms.
Gary Rosenberg, PhD (Harvard University) Pilsbry Chair of Malacology. Professor. Magnitude and origin of species-level diversity in the Mollusca. Biodiversity informatics
Jacob Russell, PhD (University of Arizona). Professor. Microbiomes and metagenomics; ecology and evolution of symbiosis.
Jocelyn A. Sessa, PhD (Penn State University) Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology: Academy of Natural Sciences. Assistant Professor. Paleoecology; paleobiology; extinction recovery dynamics; climate change; isotope geochemistry; fossil and modern mollusks
David J. Velinsky, PhD (Old Dominion University) Department Head, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science. Professor. Geochemical cycling of organic and inorganic constituents of sediments and waters; Sedimentary diagenesis of major and minor elements; Isotope biogeochemistry of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur in marine and freshwater systems.
Dane Ward, PhD (Drexel University). Assistant Teaching Professor. Urban agriculture and sustainability both in Philadelphia and Cienfuegos, Cuba, as well as insect community structure and population ecology of reptiles and amphibians in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Elizabeth B. Watson, PhD (University of California, Berkeley). Associate Professor. The implications of global and regional environmental change and unraveling the interacting effects of multiple anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems to promote more informed management, conservation, and restoration.
Jason Weckstein, PhD (Louisiana State University) Associate Curator of Ornithology. Associate Professor. Avian phylogenetics, comparative biology and evolutionary history; biodiversity surveys of birds and their parasites and pathogens; coevolutionary history of birds and their parasites.

Emeritus Faculty

Susan S. Kilham, PhD (Duke University). Professor Emeritus. Aquatic ecology: phytoplankton; physiological ecology, especially of diatoms in freshwater and marine systems; large lakes; food webs; biogeochemistry.
John G. Lundberg, PhD (University of Michigan). Professor Emeritus. Diversity and diversification of fishes; documenting and interpreting the morphological, molecular, and taxonomic diversity of living and fossil fishes in the interrelated fields of systematic, faunistics and biogeography and paleobiology; exploration and collecting in poorly-known tropical freshwater habitats and regions.
Daniel Otte, PhD (University of Michigan) Senior Curator, Systematics and Evolutionary Biology. Professor Emeritus. Taxonomy and biogeography of Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids and their relatives).
James R. Spotila, PhD (University of Arkansas) L. D. Betz Chair Professor. Professor Emeritus. Physiological and biophysical ecology, thermoregulation of aquatic vertebrates, biology of sea turtles.
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