Description of SENIOR HONORS in Environmental studies

The Environmental Studies Honors Program involves original and independent research undertaken in the senior year under the guidance of a faculty advisor and at least two additional committee members selected from the faculty in Environmental Studies. Honors thesis research includes coursework consisting of two course credits in the final (senior) year. Upon satisfactory completion of the program, a degree with Latin Honors in Environmental Studies may be awarded.

Candidates for Honors in Environmental Studies are expected to meet with their advisory committee at least once each semester as they work to prepare a written document representing a substantial contribution of original research. At the end of the second semester, students defend their thesis as part of a conversation in which the advisor and committee members ask questions about approaches or ask students to reflect or expand upon their research. Finally, candidates for Honors give a public presentation summarizing their findings to the department and the larger college community.

Pathways into the Honors Program

There are two pathways into the Environmental Studies Honors Program, both of which involve two course credits taken in the final year in addition to completion of the comprehensive requirement (ENST-495). Acceptance into the Honors program occurs either in the second semester of the junior year or at the beginning of the senior year, depending on plans for summer engagement in the thesis. Both pathways require the submission of a research proposal (details below) to the department for approval. The faculty strongly encourage all students who are considering Honors research in the department to reach out to faculty in their junior year.

Students interested in working on the thesis in the summer prior to their senior year should reach out to potential advisors with enough time to prepare a proposal for the department and to secure summer support. Summer funding for students pursuing theses in ENST is available through (1) the Gregory S. Call Summer Student Research Program (administered by the Provost’s office) and (2) the Engaged Research Program (administered by the Center for Community Engagement). For students intending to begin thesis research in the summer, the departmental proposal deadline is in the spring of the junior year.  Students also must apply to the Provost's office, which provides funding for summer thesis students.

Students who elect to begin their research in the fall of their senior year should also reach out to faculty in the spring of their junior year to discuss their ideas. If electing the fall start option, the proposal is due to the department on the first day of classes for the Fall semester.

Honors Research Proposal

The thesis proposal should be a maximum of three pages and should (i) describe the topic and research questions you intend to pursue and (ii) provide a rationale for why these are important questions in the field. Proposals should also (iii) briefly outline the research methods you intend to use and (iv) include an analysis plan and research timeline for the project. Complete citations for at least five references related to your topic that serve as a starting point for your research are also expected.

A separate statement including the names of those faculty members with whom you have discussed your ideas and their role(s) as potential advisors or committee members should also be included. Finally, please submit an unofficial version of your transcript and list any related coursework you have taken during a semester abroad or outside of the college.

The purpose of the proposal is to help the Environmental Studies faculty assess whether you have sufficient background and preparation to research and write the thesis, as well as determine whether the faculty has sufficient expertise to advise you in your area of research. It is strongly recommended that you take at least one or two upper-level classes (prior to the senior year) that provide exposure to the types of research methods that you intend to use in your thesis. Although we hope to accommodate anyone who is interested, admission to the honors program is not automatic and depends on the quality of the proposal and your preparation to undertake independent research.

Please email your proposal (as a PDF attachment) to the Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies and to Diane Hutton ( Deadlines for proposals are typically in late March (for thesis students starting research in the summer) or on the first day of classes in the Fall semester (for thesis students electing to start in the fall).

Structuring Thesis Research
Option 1: One thesis course in each semester of the final year

The majority of students in the Honors Program select the option to enroll in one thesis course in each semester of the final year. Typically, this is ENST-498 in the fall semester and ENST-499 in the spring. Please note that all majors, including thesis writers, must also enroll in the department’s capstone requirement, ENST-495: Senior Seminar.

Students electing this option are expected to finalize their thesis committees by October 1st. In addition to meeting regularly with your advisor to discuss your progress and receive advice and feedback on your ideas, we also recommend meeting with other members of your committee individually. All students enrolled in ENST-498 are expected to have at least one full committee meeting (student, advisor and committee members) prior to the end of the first semester to ensure that the committee is aware of and agrees on your thesis plans.

All senior majors complete a capstone project as part of the comprehensive requirement in ENST-495. Thesis writers may develop a portion of their thesis as part of the senior seminar (most often the introductory/background chapter). However, candidates for Honors who are also enrolled in ENST-498 are expected to complete a separate and substantial portion of their thesis research in the fall semester under the supervision of the thesis advisor and committee. Lack of sufficient additional research in ENST-498 will affect your ability to move forward with the thesis in the spring.

Please note that continuation in the Honors Program is not automatic. You must turn in the final work products for ENST-495 and ENST-498 to your advisor, committee, and the department chair by the end of finals period. On the basis of your submission, the department will determine whether you may continue to enroll in the second semester (ENST-499) of honors.

During the spring semester, students should continue to meet regularly with their thesis advisor. The final thesis is submitted to the department in mid-April. Ideally, the thesis advisor and the committee will have seen drafts prior to this date. The thesis defense (involving the student, advisor and committee) follows submission of the thesis to the department (typically, late April). Finally, the public presentation of the thesis project, which is open to all majors in the department as well as the college community, takes place in the penultimate week of the semester.

Option 2: Both thesis courses in the spring

Some thesis projects may be best suited to the comprehensive requirement in the fall (ENST-495) and a double course commitment to Honors in the spring (ENST-499D). This might be most appropriate, for example, if a student is planning to conduct extensive interviews during interterm and then analyze them during the spring semester.

If your thesis proposal is approved with this structure, you should sign up only for ENST-495 in the fall of your senior year. Although you are not signed up for a thesis course in the fall, you should still meet regularly with your thesis advisor and arrange committee members. Your thesis advisor should give you feedback on your Senior Seminar project, which should develop sufficient background/introduction for your thesis. You should also develop a detailed plan for the upcoming double course commitment in the spring.

You must turn in the final work product for ENST-495 along with the thesis plan to your advisor/committee, and the department chair by the end of finals period (and no later than the start of January interterm). On the basis of your submission, the Department will determine whether you may enroll in a double-credit (ENST-499D) of honors research in the spring.

During the spring semester, students should allocate a minimum of two course credits of time to their research and meet regularly with their thesis advisor and committee. The final thesis is submitted to the department in mid-April. Ideally, the thesis advisor and the committee will have seen drafts prior to this date. The thesis defense (involving the student, advisor and committee) follows submission of the thesis to the department (typically, late April). Finally, the public presentation of the thesis project, which is open to all majors in the department as well as the college community, takes place around the final day of classes.

Past Honors Theses in Environmental Studies

Past theses can be requested via the library using the Archives and Special Collections Web form. You will need the author's name and the title of the thesis.

Class of 2022

Langan, Anne Marie: Friends of Parks and Parks for All:  Creating Equitable Urban Green Spaces in Jersey City and Across America

Muñoz Ledo, Andrea: Investigating the below-ground response of white spruce to nitrogen availability gradients at the arctic treeline: mycorrhizal colonization and the root economic strategy as indicators of nitrogen limitation in the Brooks Range, Alaska

Vale, Jonathan: Floodplain Restoration and Water Quality in an Urbanized, Post-Glacial Watershed, Amherst, MA:  Characterizing the Movement and Distribution of Pollutant Indicators Within the Fearing Brook and Fort River Hydrological System

Class of 2021

Smith, Kyland: Oil on Thin Ice: Climate Change Mitigation, Natural Resource Policy, and Environmental Politics in the North American Arctic

Sedigh, Naava Zafari: Municipal Climate Action Plan Implementation and Governance Strategies: A Comparative Study of Atlanta and Boston

Swanson, Witter: The Political Economy of a Renewable Energy Transition: A Case Study of the German Energiewende and an Examination of Policy Options in the United States

Novick, Rebecca: Empowering a Movement: The Influence of Climate Change Education on the Rise in Youth Climate Activism in the United States Session 1 wrap-up

Vandal, Nicole: Our Whale(ing) Kin: The commodification of whales, kinship relations, and the importance of listening to Indigenous knowledge in the continued effort to protect whales

Lurie, Margot: Beyond Conservation, Toward Decolonization: The Vision of Indigenous Feminist Environmental Protection

Alventosa, Kiera: Coexist

Class of 2020

Gary, Annabelle: El buen vivir es todo: Food Sovereignty and Imagined Tomorrows in the Agri-Food System of the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Nakano, Yuko: Tools for activism: A Study of Environmental Justice Campaigns in Springfield, Massachusetts

Class of 2019

Oliva, Rojas: Scenes from the commodity frontier: Sugarcane production in the Huasteca Potosina

Offei-Addo, Timothy: Climate Smart Agriculture: A Case Study of Ghana

Class of 2018

Bishop, Gabriella: An invasive Heliconia alters the pollination mutualism of a native congener in the Eastern Caribbean

Kim, Natasha: River at Risk: An Examination of Grassroots Political Agency in Regulating Hydropower Development Along the Mekong River Corridor

Rivero, Carolos: Eutrophication and Wastewater Management: an Interdisciplinary Analysis of Falmouth and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Roberts, Nicole: Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture: A Great Blue Future

Class of 2017

Silver, Samuel: Finding Meaning through Contextualization: A Historical and Environmental Justice Examination of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Struggle Over the Dakota Access Pipeline

Stoll, Mary Margaret: Sea Ice in the Polar Regions: The Characterization of Ice Through Structural, Chemical and Isotopic Analyses

Class of 2016

Kelty, Emy: The California Drought and Opportunities for Collaborative Water Management, with a Case Study of Alfalfa in Yolo County

Berglund, Anna: Climate Governance at COP21: Reconciling Divided Approaches to Regulating the Global Climate Commons

Class of 2015

Devi, Shairya: Hindu Nationalism, Indigeneity, Feminism & Conservation; A Look at Adivasi Women’s Relationship with Conservation at the Periyar Tiger Reserve

Echavarría, David Berón: Looking-glass Paradise: Identity, Economic Growth, and Natural Resources Governance in the GalÁpagos Island, 1935-2015

Healy, Alexander: Withering Once Again? A Comparison of Adaptation Responses to Past and Present Viticulture Crises in La Rioja, Spain

Kaliski, Jessica: The Past, Present, and Future of Sanitation, with a Case Study of India, Where and Why We Should Give a Sh*t

Rodriguez, Sean: Gaining Ground for Alternative Photovoltaics: Time-Resolved Fluorescence Measurements and Electron Transfer Rate Analysis of Thin Film Materials

Suechting, Peter: History in the Anthropocene: A Socioecological Approach

 Class of 2014

Aleshinloye, Kasope. Residents and Informal Waste Workers: The Limits of Legal Frameworks and Environmental Education Initiatives in Stimulating Public Participation in the Solid Waste Management System in Lagos

Greenstein, Gus Henry. Reframing the Discussion on Hydropower-Induced Displacement and Resettlement: Improving Outcomes by Addressing the Interests of Those in Control / Gus Greenstein.

Hendrix, Justin G. The Evolution of Leopold’s Land Ethic: Prudence in an Ecologic Perspective and How Darwin Informs This Shift

Lee, Anita. On American Perceptions of Nature: A View from the Hive

Morse, Catherine M. A. Elvers to Kabayaki: From the Backwoods of Maine to the Markets of Japan The Amazing Journey of the American Eel

Norton, Benjamin. An Undervalued Future: The Applicability of Full Cost Accounting and Declining Rates to Valuing Mangrove Forests

Class of 2013

Khan, Risalat.  An Agent-Based Model to Simulate Farmers' Decisions on Adoption of Organic Practices and Explore the Effects of Interventions on Long-Term Agricultural Outcomes

Neilson, Carolyn Stephanie.  The Juicy Details:  An Analysis of the American Meat Industry

Watson, Brian Michael.  The Resilient Community:  An Exploration of an Emerging Concept, with a Focus on Local Agriculture

 Class of 2012

Danzig, Laura.  Greening the City, A Socio-economic Analysis of Urban Sustainability Plans from a Community and City-Wide Perspective

Eisen, Katherine.  Forty-two Years of Forest Measurements Support the Continuation of the Northeastern Carbon Sink

Hu, Ophelia.  Wax and Gold:  a triptych

La Rose, Jonathan.  Our Nightmare:  the destructive mechanism of our time

Sperling, Samuel.  Corn Stover Biofuel Production in the United States

Class of 2011

Bennett, Brooke R.  From Illustration to Conservation: An Ecocritical Analysis of Ornithological Illustrations

Daniel, Sateesh.  Eco-Tourism & Local Involvement Among Southern Kenya's Maasai: Adapting to a Shrinking World

Emmerman, David S.  Breaking the Resource Curse: A Case Study of Smallholder Empowerment and Environmental Stewardship in Chone, Ecuador

Gehrdes, Sara.  Inter-annual Study of the Phenology of Eichornia crassipes: Lake Mateos, Mexico 1998-2001

Huober, Annegret Laura. Moving Towards Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Accra: Bridging the Formal-Informal Divide

Lightner, Robyn.  Healthy Food Accessibility in Underserved Boston Neighborhoods: The Affordability and Viability of Farmers' Market

Rowe, Clara.  Fishing Away Marine Conservation: Poverty, Resource Dependence, and Poor Management in Cuajiniquil, Costa Rica

Schwab, Hallie.  Dominant Narratives and Silenced Voices in the Conservation of Madagascar's Eastern Rainforests

Class of 2010

Ostrowski, Samantha.  Cooperation, Contestation, and Conservation: An Analysis of Peace Parks

Swenson, Samuel K.  (Offshore) Winds of Change: Lessons from the European Experience

Class of 2009

Gang, Jeffrey S.  Conservation Through Innovation: Market-Based Mechanisms for Biodiversity and Poverty Alleviation in Costa Rica

Loomis, Kathryn.  Climate Change, Politics, and the Wind: Policies to Promote Wind Energy in the United States

Wildfire, Cynthia.  Just Charge It: Global Warming, Personal Transportation, and Electric Vehicles