Integrated and interdisciplinary, these programs are offered for students who want an in-depth study of the various ethical, legal, political, economic and scientific factors that are involved in human interaction with the environment.
Our environmental programs are largely hands-on, with expert faculty leading students around the natural ecosystems found in Seguin and the Texas Hill Country. From rugged canyons, to wetlands and loblolly pine forests to the Gulf of Mexico, TLU has prime access to a variety of environmental havens for study and research.
There are many opportunities to actively participate in original research projects alongside faculty members in various departments. Additionally each senior participates in a semester-long seminar series, where they will create and present their own original research project.
TLU's Irvin G. Patterson Biology Station at Lake McQueeney allows students to gain crucial field research experience at the Guadalupe River. The station includes reservoir access and state-of-the-art equipment. Environmental programs students can also participate in study abroad programs focused on tropical biology and environmental studies in Central and South America.
Students can also take leadership roles in local conservation and sustainability by joining EnACT, TLU’s environmental action club, and serving on the university’s sustainability committee.
Special Opportunities in Environmental Studies
Biodiversity in Central Texas
This course for beginning students enables them to learn to identify and understand the incredible variety of life in our area through field trips and lab study.
Summer Research Program at the Weston Ranch
Students can be hired for the summer as paid biodiversity researchers through our grant-funded program at this large ranch only 15 minutes from Seguin. Students document the flora and fauna of the ranch and can develop independent projects to present at scientific meetings. Students can continue their research during the academic year as paid research assistants.
Molecular Methods in Environmental Biology
This workshop in May gives environmental biology majors a chance to learn the laboratory methods that enable scientists to identify species based on DNA and study populations at the genetic level. External funding enables environmental biology majors to enroll at no cost.
A greenhouse is available for students to learn methods for propagation of plants. Students can be hired as workers to assist the greenhouse director.
Environmental Studies in Tropical America
Students interested in tropical biology and environmental studies can participate in our trips to the beautiful countries of Central and South America. Over the past decade, we have been to Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico. Most trips last about two weeks in May.
These short study abroad opportunities are ideal for students who have not been out of the U.S. before, or those who may not have time or money for longer semester programs. Many of our students have described their travels to Central and South America as a highlight of their college experience. We usually travel with two TLU faculty members and about 10-12 students.
In May 2013, nine TLU students and two TLU faculty traveled to Belize to study tropical ecology and environmental science. The first part of our adventure was spent on the remote island of Calabash Caye in the center of the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the Americas. Calabash Caye is located in the Turneffe Atoll, which recently was designated as a marine reserve by the government of Belize. The reef is known for its diversity of marine life and for a high density of American crocodiles, which we observed at night. We snorkeled in a variety of reefs and mangrove habitats and saw dozens of species of fish and invertebrates. The second part of our trip was spent on the mainland, and included visits to a community-sponsored sanctuary for howler monkeys and horseback riding in the jungle. We stayed at a lodge at the foothills of the scenic Maya mountains. The lodge is located adjacent to a 3000 acre reserve of primary rainforest. We observed toucans, parrots, boa constrictors, leaf-cutter ants, and many more species of rainforest animals. We also learned about the ancient Maya, and visited one of their sacred caves and the largest Maya city in Belize.
In May, 2010, we traveled to Ecuador, one of the countries with the highest biodiversity on Earth. In one day, one can travel from glaciated mountaintops to lowland rainforest. After a day of exploring the beautiful colonial city of Quito, we drove up to Cotopaxi to observe high-elevation habitats of the Andes. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, and we could certainly feel the lack of oxygen as we hiked at 15,000 feet above sea level. We then moved down into the mountain cloud forests on the east side of the Andes where we stayed at an awesome hacienda near Banos for a few days. Next, we descended into the Amazon basin to explore lowland tropical rainforest along the Napo River. On our way back to Quito we stayed at the thermal springs in Papallacta. During our trip, we played soccer with local kids, visited a gold-plated cathedral, ate local foods, planted some trees, visited an animal refuge, and continually soaked in the fascinating culture of Ecuador.
Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico
In May of 2008 we traveled to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. We visited several Mayan cities (Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Uxmal). We stayed with college students in Valladolid, explored the city of Merida, hiked through the dry forest to see howler and spider monkeys, and swam in the canals of Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and the cenotes.
We visited Costa Rica in May of 2007. We hiked in rainforests and cloud forests, white-water rafted down a rainforest river, observed an active volcano, swam in the Pacific Ocean, and were raided by monkeys on a boat trip through the mangrove swamps.