TWU geography and science departments join forces to think bigger about science

Studying marine life in Hawaii as part of an undergrad program is old news for TWU geography and science students—but their education is about to get much richer.

Starting this September, the newly combined geography and environmental studies departments at Trinity Western University will offer multi-disciplinary degrees with a number of field research and travel options—opportunities students typically don’t get until grad school.

Geography and environmental studies students are already encouraged to take part in outdoor laboratories at the university’s three field study sites, as well as in projects in Hawaii, Guatemala and Honduras. Additionally, professors frequently hire students as research assistants on their projects.

“That doesn’t happen at bigger universities. Undergraduate students can experience what high-level research is,” said Prof. Maxwell Ofosuhene, co-chair of the geography and environmental studies. “Because of that, our programs are almost a blend between undergraduate and graduate school.”

The new department will be responsible for the land stewardship of the three field study sites: the Ecosystem Study Area on the Salmon River near the university’s campus; the Crow’s Nest Ecological Research Area on Salt Spring Island, which is home of the few remaining Garry Oak meadows in B.C.; and the Blaauw Eco Forest in Langley, which is a 30-acre preserve of mixed and coniferous forests, ponds and a bog.

Students will learn to think about geographic and environmental issues from new perspectives thanks to the inclusion of faculty from the university’s School of Arts, Media and Culture, the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences, and the School of Business.

Clements explained that while most people think environmental issues can be fixed with technology, there are also other aspects to consider. “Environmental issues are caused by humans, so humans have to change,” he said.

The new department will offer a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of science and an honours program.

“When you look at our students and faculty, the environmental studies program and the geography department are already close,” Clements said. “Environmental studies students take a lot of geography courses and vice-versa. Faculty does research together. It doesn’t make sense for us to be separated.”

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