Academics at Prescott College
Natural History & Ecology
Developing interpretive and research-based naturalists
Natural History and Ecology is an approach to learning how nature works, how organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments interrelate. Grounded in evolutionary principles, the field involves studying individuals and populations and how they are assembled into communities and ecosystems. Some students within this emphasis area will become naturalists who observe and interpret particular organisms and landscapes. Others may become field ecologists who build upon natural history by using the scientific method for examining questions generated by ecological theory. Ecological understanding informs and guides applied fields such as agroecology and conservation biology.
Resident Bachelor of Arts
Ecological literacy forms an essential part of the foundation of any Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence. By its very nature, ecological literacy demands expansive, synthetic inquiry rather than narrow specialization – a searching for connections and wholes, rather than isolated parts. Ecology weaves together the earth and life sciences, providing vocabulary for studies of human society and human nature, as well as many of the concepts these studies address (or need to address).
Program courses offer one way to develop ecological literacy. Through activities inside and outside of the classroom, and through direct experience with nature, informed by reading and interaction with others, students advance their literacy throughout their time at the College.
We offer one Competence, "Environmental Studies and Sustainability." Although it is not required, you may choose an emphasis within your ESS Competence. Whether you do a general Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence, choose to follow the guidelines of one of the emphases, or create your own competence (possibly interdisciplinary), the same level of rigor applies.
Students can consider formulating competences that bridge Environmental Studies and Sustainability with other realms of study. In some cases, formalized bridges already exist (ESS and Adventure Education); in others it is up to the student and the Individual Graduation Committee to develop a coherent, meaningful program. For example, students often bridge ESS and Cultural and Regional Studies or Arts & Letters.
Academic ElementsAcademic Elements
Each fall and spring, new Prescott College students find themselves in “the classroom,” the breathtaking, sometimes raw, always diverse terrains and environments of the Southwest. New Prescott students are introduced to the natural environment of the Southwest, learn about themselves and each other, and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation, thus beginning the journey of developing relationships with their new home, community, and academic career.
For most students, Orientation will mean a three-week Desert, Mountain and Canyon Expedition (aka Wilderness Orientation). Students, as a small community of engaged learners, will be backpacking throughout ecologically diverse locations in Arizona. Studying - Connecting - Growing. Other students will participate in a Base Camp Orientation, or Community-Based Orientation.
Follow this link for detailed information on these Orientation options: Orientation Details
First Year Experience
In their first semester, freshmen will enroll in courses addressing the concerns and challenges of being a college student. First Year Students will choose from an array of immersive semester courses - like Water in the West, Art and Ecology, Foundations of Leadership, and Introduction to Psychology and Yoga - which continue to build community, forge relationships with faculty advisors, and develop academic inquiry.
In their first semester at Prescott College, transfer students participate in Crises of the 21st Century: Research Methods & Theories. Students from environmental and social disciplines, the arts, and humanities will be introduced to theoretical and research approaches that foster ways of integrating their questions through class discussions and personal research. Students enrolled in this course will be given individual support in creating a degree plan organizing courses they are transferring with into a pathway for graduation in their chosen fields.
During the first semester of their junior year, students create a degree plan, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, which sketches the academic map of their journey. It includes an overview of courses and credits earned; brief descriptions of competence, breadth, and liberal arts areas; lists of courses completed and those to be completed; a tentative Senior Project plan and description; and additional honors or experience that contribute to competence or breadth. The Degree Plan is a living document that continues to evolve throughout the student's final three terms.
Prescott College requires every student, not just designated "honors" students, to design and carry out an ambitious Senior Project. This Project functions as both a demonstration of competence and a culmination of the undergraduate experience. It may take the form of an ambitious research project, a collection of original creative writing, a curriculum plan and implementation, a studio art exhibition, a performance, a case or field study, or a challenging internship. Another way of thinking about the Senior Project is as a bridge between a student's undergraduate career and work after graduation. The Senior Project stands as a calling card that proclaims to graduate schools, prospective employers, and the world, "Look, this is what I'm capable of doing."
Life & Career OutcomesLife & Career Outcomes
- Environmental Educator
- Field Biologist
- Forest Ranger
- Graduate School
- Museum Curator
- Natural Resource Specialist
- Outdoor Business Owner
- Outdoor Program Administrator
- Preserve Manager
- Wilderness Educator
Signature CoursesSignature Courses
Faculty & Mentor GuidesFaculty & Mentor Guides
Academic ResourcesAcademic Resources
Natural History Institute
The Natural History Institute at Prescott College is dedicated to the multi-disciplinary study of natural history. All students, visitors, and area residents are invited to utilize the Institute as a place to collaborate on projects, share information, pursue research questions and ecological curiosities, and become inspired to better know the world around them.
Resources offered to students and community patrons of the Natural History Institute include:
• Exhibits on art, science, and culture, including the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History Print Collection of historically significant natural history art
• Guest lectures
• Research support
• Outdoor programming
• Archives of field notes and slides from the binational Southwest
• Digital and physical collections of plant, insect, bird and rock specimens of the Mogollon Highlands and adjacent ecoregions
The Eco League
The Eco League Student Exchange offers undergraduate students access to study in environments ranging from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts and from the subtropics to the subarctic. Students in any field can take advantage of working with talented faculty in a broad array of disciplines at other institutions. The six small, student-centered colleges in the Eco League share the goals of seeking solutions to contemporary environmental problems and of raising environmental awareness. The institutions also share similar missions and values regarding social change and in preparing students to build sustainable communities. The Student Exchange, which is for a maximum of two, non-consecutive semesters, is open to any student who has successfully completed at least his/her freshman year and who can clearly articulate in the application how he/she would benefit from this opportunity.
Eco League Member Institutions