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Meet the Major: Biology and Environmental Science

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James is a sophomore biology and environmental science major at UMass Amherst.

James is a sophomore at UMass Amherst with a double major in biology and environmental science. He someday hopes to work in marine ecology research and help improve our oceans and coasts! Let’s take a look at what it’s like to be a biology and environmental science major at UMass. 

Why did you decide to come to UMass Amherst?

James decided to come to UMass because of its big size and all of the opportunities that are available here. “I went to a really small high school, and we were really limited in terms of courses, sports, and clubs, and I didn’t want to run into that again,” says James. He had also heard great things about the academics and knew of many others who had found success at UMass.

James also loves the diversity of interests that students at UMass have. “No matter what I want to pursue, I can find similar people to share that with,” he states. With an undergraduate population of 23,000 you are sure to find others who have interests like your own! 

Why did you choose your major(s)?

James has always been interested in life sciences and originally thought about majoring in biology on a pre-med track. “I took a gap year after high school and did some outdoor work in environmental conservation, and I realized that my passion for nature could be turned into a career,” James tells me. That was when James decided to add the environmental science major. He loves the idea of getting to work hands-on and outside. “I can keep my passion for life sciences, while also entering a rewarding and fascinating field,” he says.

How are your classes?

“My classes are great! I especially like the upper-level electives that have lab portions or hands-on skills,” James says. He tells me how he has learned a lot of scientific foundations like physics and chemistry, but adds, “I am especially excited to take more specialized classes in my interest area, which includes conservation, ecology, and fisheries science.”

He highlights that he took an oceanography course this semester where he got to do a long-term project on sustainable seafood in the dining halls themselves, which is pretty cool. 

What are the job options in this field? 

James describes how both biology and environmental science are very broad fields, and can get you all sorts of different careers after college. “You can stay in academia and work on research at a school, or even go on to conduct research in a government agency or private industry,” he says. There are jobs in environmental conservation, management, consulting groups, policy, and much more. 

How do you plan to use your degree?

“I am interested in marine ecology research, and want to conduct research in a field that will help inform marine conservation decisions,” he states. He is also interested in improving our coasts and oceans, and wants to work for an agency or non-profit where he can apply his scientific interests toward that goal.

James tells me, “The mix of biology and environmental science will give me a strong background in ecology, as well as the policies and regulations needed to enact change.” 

What do you do to stay busy outside of classes and studying?

“I am a member of the UMass Outing Club, and like to go on trips such as hiking, caving, and canoeing,” James says. “There are a ton of great outdoor opportunities in western Massachusetts, and we also frequently take trips to New Hampshire and New York.” The UMass Outing Club is a great way to get outdoors and stay active, and is super popular at UMass!

James also enjoys rock climbing at the rock gym near campus in Hadley, and spending time with the incredible friends he has made here at UMass. “The dining halls also keep me busy, and I consider myself Hampshire Dining Commons' biggest fan,” he adds.

Any tips for students looking into these majors?

Finally, I ask James about advice for incoming students looking into biology and/or environmental science as a major. He leaves us with these words of advice, “Biology and environmental science fit really well together, and helps broaden your options. You definitely don’t need to know what you want to do for a career, but if you are passionate about conservation and science, it’s a great path to go down.”


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