Summer Field Experiences

Environmental Science majors get to pick one of three types of capstone field experience:

  1. Internship
  2. Summer field course
  3. Undergraduate research


An internship should focus on the kind of work you are interested in pursuing for a career. It should not involve mere busywork, but should be a substantial training experience that draws upon the skills you learned as an undergraduate and better prepares you for a career after you graduate.  Ideally it will involve the collection of data in the field, the analysis of these data in the office, and the preparation of a report that summarizes the data and their implications.  While we will advertize any internships that we hear of, you may well have to contact individuals at environmental firms to see if they can create an internship for you.  Once you find an internship opportunity, you should get it approved by your advisor.  Click on the Internships and Jobs link at right for more information on finding an internship.

Summer Field Course

We do not offer our own summer field course, so you get to pick one that best meets your interests and summer schedule.  First, a warning:  There are a thousand field courses out there that are basically just cool experiences:  Look at the Costa Rican monkey!  Clear up a trail in the Rockies!  Pet the wombat!  We want you to pick a summer field course that can act as a capstone experience in which you get to consolidate and expand up much of what you learned in your undergraduate curriculum.  You should be collecting data to answer some question, analyzing the data, and writing a report summarizing what you found and discussing its implications for the solution of the problem.  This is Science!

The Environmental Science program is new, so we do not yet have an extensive list of field courses that we have vetted and approved.  Here are some we have so far found:

If you find other programs that look good, please let us know!  Just keep in mind that we are looking for programs in which you gather data to address particular questions and that you write up reports to summarize your results and conclusions.  There are a lot of programs out there that sort of dabble in collecting data of unclear utility; we want a more focused, practical approach.

When to do your summer course: You can do your summer course after you've taken the pre-requisites for the particular class you have chosen, but in general later is better in the sense that a capstone class should reinforce quite a bit of what you learned as an undergraduate.  In geology, many students take their field camp in the summer after they have completed their senior year. They still go through the spring graduation ceremonies (no one gets their diploma at graduation!), but they apply for August graduation instead of April.

Transferring in a Summer Field Course

There are only two things you need to do to transfer in your summer field course credits:

1. Get the yellow “REQUEST TO TAKE COURSES OFF CAMPUS IN THE SUMMER” form signed by your advisor. Copies of the form are in the metal holder right outside Dr. Jones’ office (503 SRCC) or on the Student Records Forms Page:  Click on the Summer Course Approval Form.

2. Arrange with the registrar of the university that runs the field camp to have an official transcript mailed directly to:

Student Records
140 Thackeray Hall
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260 

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research can be done at Pitt or another university.  To get involved doing research, click on the Undergraduate Research link at right for more information.

The best way to find research opportunities at other universities is to look for REUs:  Research Experiences for Undergraduates.  These are projects funded by the National Science Foundation that are specifically tailored for undergraduate research.  You can find REUs either by Googling things like 'REU environment', 'REU stream hydrology', or 'REU watershed', for example, or you can see complete lists organized by academic discipline by following the Search for the REU Site at the NSF REU page.  The Earth sciences set of REUs is likely to be the most appropriate, but you may also find interesting ones in ocean science or biology, for example.  Try to find research opportunities that provide some field experience!


Please check out the Scholarships and Grants link to learn more about funds to pay for field courses, undergraduate research, and more.