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Monday, February 5, 2001



University


Two UH students
get environmental
science degrees

They are the first to earn
global environmental
science diplomas


By Helen Altonn
Star-Bulletin

At times, the two graduate students were the only ones in class.

"We were guinea pigs," said Leon Geschwind. "At the same time, we had all this individual attention. It was hard to miss class though. It was easily noticed."

Geschwind and Rebecca Lane were the first students to graduate with bachelor of science degrees in global environmental science at the University of Hawaii.

The Board of Regents provisionally approved the undergraduate program in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) in the fall of 1997.

It has become so popular that Manoa officials hope to make it permanent.

It started with three students in spring 1998. Nearly 50 are participating now, said Fred Mackenzie, geologist, oceanographer and specialist on global warming.

UH-Manoa scientists developed the curriculum, he said. Other universities offer environmental science, he said, but the UH curriculum is the only one at the undergraduate level.

A Texas A&M University visitor was looking at the program last week to establish a similar curriculum, he said.

The goal, Mackenzie said, is "to educate the leaders and citizenry of tomorrow to become better environmental stewards of our planet."

The program uses a rigorous, holistic approach to environmental science, covering the Earth's physical, chemical and biological makeup, he said. "The unique aspect is that we link the human system into that, too."

Edward Laws, Department of Oceanography chairman, said graduates of the new program are "marketable and flexible" with opportunities to work for government labs, environmental groups and industry.

He said the program follows National Science Foundation directions to get hard-core researchers more involved in undergraduate teaching.

It also addresses the need to encourage more students to get a solid base in mathematics and science, Laws said.

C. Barry Raleigh, SOEST dean, said the program follows a trend toward applying different disciplines to solve questions and environmental problems in ocean and earth sciences.

Reflecting the program's success, he said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant funds have been provided for student scholarships and fellowships. At least one other institution is planning similar support, he said.

Students in the new undergraduate program can look at economic, political and social ramifications of environmental problems as well as learn the hard science, Mackenzie said. Three study tracks interwoven with the environment are offered: marine sciences, policy and economics and climate.

All students work with a faculty mentor to complete a field, laboratory or theoretically based research project in their senior year.

The goal is to produce a research paper for publication.

Lane's paper on a marine diatom (microscopic algae)was published in the journal Science. She is working now for a mainland environmental company.

Geschwind, who will be 22 in March, is pursuing a masters degree at the UH in geology-geophysics, studying volcanoes with remote sensing. "It's cool stuff," he said. "We go to Kilauea a lot ... We run experiments."

He attended Pomona College in California for 1 years and spent a semester in the Bisophere 2 experimental environment in Arizona, then heard about the new UH program and returned home.

Courses are taught by more than 45 SOEST faculty members and about 10 professors from other fields, such as economics, law, geography, philosophy, environmental health and urban planning.



Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii



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