The idea for a Department of Environmental Science and Policy originated in 1982 when the Biology Department created its PhD in Environmental Biology-Public Policy. Around 1990, the degree name was changed to Environmental Science and Policy.
In 2001, the PhD program, a similarly titled MS program, and the undergraduate earth science program were combined to create the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Faculty from the Biology Department joined ESP in 2003.
The Department of Environmental Science and Policy has 176 active graduate students (2014) and involves approximately 50 faculty from a diverse array of departments, schools, and institutes throughout George Mason University. The Department launched its undergraduate degree program in the fall of 2011, after SCHEV approval.
ESP also collaborates with environmental professionals in governmental agencies, NGOs and the private sector to support its research and teaching.
The Department of Environmental Science and Policy has strategically aligned academic programs, research focus and outreach in a three-pronged approach.
Water and Watersheds
Leadership in Water and Watershed Science and Policy
ESP faculty and students contribute to the effective management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems at local through global scales. The presence of ESP’s Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) at the new Potomac Science Center serves as a regional nexus and catalyst for watershed science, policy and education. The on-campus mesocosm facility enables understanding of wetland function and designs for wetland loss-mitigation. In addition, researchers in ESP have supported this effort through source tracking of coliform bacteria and coral reef ecology studies.
One Health Approach to Ecosystem Health and Sustainability
ESP embraces ecosystem health and sustainability as a research and academic focus under the One Health approach. We concentrate on environmentally derived human diseases, wildlife health and disease, and sustainability of socio-ecological systems that support healthy humans and ecosystems. Current research includes emerging infectious diseases of terrestrial and marine life ranging from corals to mammals, zoonotic diseases, sediment and soil ecosystems impacted by oil spills and bacterial waterborne pathogens.
ESP Department Chair Dr. Alonso Aguirre appears in the video below at approximately 1:33.
Excellence in Conservation Science and Policy
ESP contributes to conservation science and policy through natural and social scientific research, and engaging in natural resource management and related policy processes. We do so from the global to the local level, and are active around the world. Main themes include ecosystem and species conservation, the relationship between climate change and conservation, governmental and non-governmental contributions to conservation, and sustainable development. We collaborate with the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, the National Zoological Park (Smithsonian National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) and others to reverse the catastrophic loss of biodiversity in sensitive areas worldwide. Our Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) addresses biological conservation of species in the Potomac River and other aquatic ecosystems as model systems for how society can work to return ecosystems to a more healthy state.
Vision, Mission and Values
In the next decade, the Department of Environmental Science and Policy will be a major force academically and professionally focused on understanding and implementing the science and policy of biodiversity conservation, sustainability of water and watershed ecosystems, and the application of the one health approach to ecological and social interactions, and sustainability. Our graduates are highly qualified and sought-after individuals making important contributions to solving complex environmental issues that challenge the integrity and sustainability of global systems through research, transdisciplinarity, and engagement. Our faculty are internationally recognized for their innovative research and their outreach and communication to the public and private sectors.
Environmental Science and Policy is an interdisciplinary department spanning the domains of the natural and social sciences.
- We strive to provide diverse learning experiences using state-of-the-art research facilities, diverse field sites, and nationally recognized research grants.
- We offer flexible programs in undergraduate and graduate environmental studies to accommodate traditional and non-traditional students.
- We are committed to the creation of an academic culture of mutual respect and intellectual collaboration to foster truly productive interdisciplinary research approaches that better mirror the environmental problems we seek to address.
- Our graduates and faculty are active in the formulation and implementation of policies and solutions in government, industry, and nonprofit organizations.
Respect, Collaboration, Transdisciplinarity, Flexibility, Innovation, Diversity, Sustainability