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Considering the
Environment from
all angles
“Maine’s geography, with its long coast line and peninsular towns, presents unique challenges in addressing the combined effects of increasing storm events and rising sea levels...it is critical that we develop creative solutions for ensuring their resilience.” Eileen Johnson
Program Manager, Environmental Studies
The Schiller Coastal Studies Center. A Gift to Advance the Study of the Oceans

An Interdisciplinary Approach

At Bowdoin, environmental literacy is built on research and scholarship in the natural sciences and also on a decades long interdisciplinary approach. The goal is to consider the environment from every angle: science, history, human behavior, the influence of politics and religion, the role of art and the realities of economics and law.


Situated with immediate access to the North Atlantic Ocean and close to rivers, estuaries, and forests, Bowdoin combines exceptional facilities for placing the environment at the center of intellectual and social life.

Bowdoin has facilities and research sites worldwide. Click the markers on the map and zoom / to see more research areas.

STUDY of the environment at Bowdoin encourages broad environmental literacy through course offerings and activities available to all students, building a solid foundation for the career paths that Bowdoin graduates pursue in all walks of life.

ARTH 1016 / ENVS 1016. Art and the Environment: 1960 to Present

Since the 1960s, artists in Western Europe and the United States have used the environment as a site of visual exploration, discussion, critique, and action. From Robert Smithson and his ever-disintegrating “Spiral Jetty,” to Agnes Denes’s “Wheatfield” growing alongside Wall Street, to Mierle Ukeles’s installation and performance art in conjunction with the New York Department of Sanitation, to Eduardo Kac’s “GFP Bunny,” artists have explored the ways in which art objects are in dialogue with the environment, recycling, and biology. Works engage with concepts such as entropy, the agricultural industry, photosynthesis, and green tourism encouraging us to see in new ways the natural world around us. Visits to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s collections complement the material studied. Writing-intensive course emphasizes firm understanding of library and database research and the value of writing, revision, and critique.

CSCI 3225. GIS Algorithms and Data Structures

Geographic information systems (GIS) handle geographical data such as boundaries of countries; course of rivers; height of mountains; and location of cities, roads, railways, and power lines. GIS can help determine the closest public hospital, find areas susceptible to flooding or erosion, track the position of a car on a map, or find the shortest route from one location to another. Because GIS deal with large datasets, making it important to process data efficiently, they provide a rich source of problems in computer science. Topics covered include data representation, triangulation, range searching, point location, map overlay, meshes and quadtrees, terrain simplification, and visualization.

ENVS 3982. The Beach: Nature and Culture at the Edge

Examines the development of the North American coastline, a place of dynamic environmental transformations and human interactions. Students will consider physical changes on the coast, the coast as a zone for economic development and social conflict, and shifting perceptions of the shoreline. Topics may include: fisheries and whaling, conservation and political management, environmental disasters, resource extraction, industrialization and urbanization, tourism, beach and surfer culture, climate change and sea level rise, and representations of the beach in art, literature, photography, film, and music. Students write a major research paper based on primary and secondary sources.

GOV 2910. Environmental Policy and Politics

Explores the political, economic, legal, ethical, and institutional dimensions of the environmental policy-making process. Examines the formation and implementation of regulatory institutions and policies across a range of issues in the U.S. and internationally--including terrestrial, coastal and marine natural resources management, biodiversity, water and air pollution, sustainable development, and environmental justice. Prepares students to analyze historical cases as well as contrive and evaluate competing policy alternatives to emerging problems.

Katie Morse-Gagne ’19 and Andrew Blunt ’19

Drafting a land management plan for an environmentally low impact College space.

Rachel J. Beane Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

The investigation of volcanic rocks is pushing forward our understanding of volcanoes, and could lead one day to better prediction models for their eruptions.

Terry Guen ’81 Cultivating Economic Growth

Using chemistry to better understand the role of creativity in science leads to architecting landscapes.

“We have outstanding faculty and students in a variety of disciplines doing important work across a diverse set of problems related to the environment.”