e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Environmental Education and Interpretation Bachelor of Science

  • looking at a captured rat
  • outdoor class
  • taking notes
  • group photos


Environmental Education teaches people of all ages about the natural environment, so that they can make informed decisions on how to care for it.

Interpretation is a communications process that reveals meanings and relationships about natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources. Interpretation and environmental education work hand-in-hand to help make connections between the world of science and the public. Through the art of interpretation, students will learn how to help people make connections with the natural world and science through educational programs and materials.

One of the strengths of the Environmental Education & Interpretation program at ESF is its strong natural history component. Natural history is the description of nature and differs from ecology in placing less emphasis on quantification and more on careful observation. The overarching goal is to elucidate patterns and relationships in the natural world and assimilate this information into human affairs. It uses traditional and modern tools, often with an aesthetic component to differentiate the natural world, and focuses on identification, life history, distribution, abundance and interrelationships among and between individuals, populations and species. The field has a long and distinguished history including figures such as Darwin, Wallace, and E. O. Wilson who are recognized for their seminal contributions to biology and ecology. Following a meteoric rise in popularity during the 19th century, field of natural history declined as new experimental and quantitative approaches began to dominate biology. In recent years, however, both the recognition of the role of biology in a holistic view of the planet, and the increasing emphasis on the value of education as the key to a sustainable future have brought about a resurgence of interest in natural history and, crucially, its interpretation.

The courses associated with the undergraduate major in Environmental Education and Interpretation reflects the interdisciplinary and holistic nature of this subject area. Students become well grounded in natural sciences and in the skills specific to communication and informal education. This major seeks to integrate training in organismal biology, including a required field component, with in-depth training in the literature and context of natural history and a suite of environmental interpretation offerings. Students gain work experiences through a professional internship, where the recently acquired knowledge and skills in this arena can be applied. Where most people in the environmental education and interpretation fields have a background either in science or in education, the ESF program provides skills in both.

The program prepares students for employment in nonformal education venues such as nature centers, science museums, federal and state agencies, zoos, parks, arboreta, environmental education centers, and aquaria. Training in environmental education and interpretation also provides a strong basis for a rewarding career in teaching and can act as a springboard for entry into graduate programs. This program is not a formal teacher preparation program and will not lead to teaching certification.


  • Melissa K. Fierke; mkfierke@esf.edu
    forest entomology, forest ecology, invasive forest pests, insect-tree interactions, tree defenses
  • Gregory McGee; ggmcgee@esf.edu
    ecology, management and restoration of forest ecosystems; STEM education
  • Rebecca Rundell; rrundell@esf.edu
    evolutionary biology, conservation biology, speciation, adaptive and nonadaptive radiations, biogeography, phylogenetics, systematics, Pacific island radiations and biodiversity conservation, land snails, marine/aquatic microscopic invertebrates
  • Alexander Weir; aweir@esf.edu
    conservation mycology, fungal biodiversity and conservation, fungal-arthropod interactions, biology of parasites and symbionts, systematics and evolutionary biology of fungi, fungi and humans, biology of parasites and symbionts


In Environmental Education and Interpretation all students are required to complete an internship in the environmental education or interpretation fields. Internships in other areas will not count. The major responsibilities of the position should be a form of informal education. Acceptable internships should focus on either the development and delivery of public or school programs, or the creation of non-personal education materials (e.g. brochures, exhibits, videos).

The requirements:

  • Minimum of 160 hours
  • A two to three page paper on their experience
  • Supervisor’s evaluation
  • Provide a sample of their work either a program plan, video of them delivering a program or a sample of non-personal media they created as part of their internship.

Students in the past have done internships at places like the Adirondack Interpretive Center, Baltimore Woods Nature Center, Beaver Lake Nature Center, Rocky Mountains National Park, Alaska Sea Life Center, and a variety of other exciting places. Please check the Environmental Education and Interpretation Facebook page for the latest possibilities.

Environmental Education and Interpretation Links

Learn More

Environmental Education and Interpretation Courses


  • EFB 312 Introduction to Personal Environmental Interpretation Methods
  • EFB 417 Non-Personal Environmental Interpretative Methods
  • EFB 404 Natural History Museums and Modern Science


  • EFB 418 Interpretation of Field Biology
  • EFB 560 Electronic Technology in Interpretation & Environmental Education
  • EFB 496 Advanced Interpretation & Certification

Field Experience Electives

These courses meet the requirements of an EFB Field Experience Elective:

  • EFB 327 Adirondack Flora (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 337 Field Ethnobotany (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 345 Forest Health (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 384 Field Herpetology (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 388 Ecology of Adirondack Fishes (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 418 Interpretation of Field Biology (3 cr.), Maymester
  • EFB 484 Mammalian Winter Ecology (3 cr.), S
  • EFB 496 Wildlife Techniques (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 496 Ecology of Adirondack Aquatic Ecosystems (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 496 Ecology of Adirondack Insects (3 cr.), Cranberry
  • EFB 496 Field Ornithology (3 cr.), Maymester
  • EFB 496 Flora of Central New York (3 cr.), Maymester
  • EFB 523 Tropical Ecology (3 cr.), S

Please note that the selection of courses offered are subject to change. All science courses offered at Cranberry Lake and courses offered at the Wanakena Ranger School meet field requirements. Writing courses at Cranberry Lake do not meet field elective requirements. Non-ESF options for field credit include the School for Field Studies and Operation Wallacea (1 month or longer programs with your own research project) or other field-based courses offered through the ESF Overseas program or by another accredited institution. Occasionally, EFB 420 or EFB 498 can also count as a field elective with prior approval from the curriculum coordinator. At minimum, any field experience needs to meet the following guidelines:

  • More than 50% of student effort (including contact time with instructor and self-directed study) must be conducted in the field (out-of-classroom, out-of-laboratory).
  • The experience must consist of academic, research and/or methodological components relating to the study of organismal biology or ecology. Independent research (EFB 498) and internships (EFB 420) can satisfy field study requirements if the student demonstrates that the experience was sufficiently field based; provided meaningful learning gains in biological/organismal/ecological theory, practice and field methodology; and yielded an academic, research or professional product for evaluation.
  • Approximately 40 hours of effort are required to garner 1 academic credit hour.