Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Environmental Science: Disciplinary Perspective

by Dr. Emily Deaver

Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field studying interactions in the natural world and the relationships between organisms and their environment. It is a very broad field with roots in the natural sciences (including biology, geology, chemistry, physics, meteorology and more), but is different from a traditional scientific field in that it also includes aspects of the social sciences, humanities and philosophy, particularly looking at the interaction between human society and the natural environment. There is a strong ethical component to Environmental Science as researchers strive to understand environmental issues, and then work towards developing solutions to human-caused problems.  

Environmental Science uses the scientific method, a systematic approach for gathering information and drawing conclusions about nature and society. The scientific method involves asking questions, proposing hypotheses, testing hypotheses and drawing conclusions based on measureable evidence or data. The scientific method attempts to eliminate, as much as possible, the potential for any bias based on the interests of the researcher.  The scientific method is based on measureable evidence, and NOT beliefs or opinions.

The implications and ethics of the use of various technological products is an additional aspect of the field of Environmental Science, and is much less straightforward than the scientific method. Environmental ethics are imbedded in the field of Environmental Science and include philosophical discussions about the relationship between humans and the world, discussions of values and rights of organisms, and moral responsibilities. The study of environmental ethics addresses how people should live in order to conserve ecological processes upon which all life depends.

Professional organizations

Because Environmental Science is so interdisciplinary and broad, there is not one single professional organization that all environmental scientists join. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the premiere general scientific society, and is an important professional organization for ALL scientists. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a global professional organization with members from academia, business and government and provides a forum for exchange of information as well as management and regulation of natural resources.  Most environmental scientists join organizations related to their specific area of research, for example the Geological Society of America (GSA) for study in the geosciences, and Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) for wetland science, education and management. There are hundreds of organizations to choose from. Most of these professional organizations have national as well as regional meetings which allow for networking and exchange of information. There are also numerous state organizations that can be valuable sources of information and contacts as well.    


Writing in Environmental Science
Documentation in Environmental Science
Research in Environmental Science
Reading in Environmental Science