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Academy-Drexel Affiliation Paves Way for New Majors, New Department

October 14, 2011


Drexel faculty and scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University are meeting every other week, crafting a curriculum for a new department—Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES). Like any new venture, there are many details to sort out over the coming months, including course descriptions and faculty appointments, but already the individuals involved have committed to a departmental motto: “Field Experience, Early and Often.”

Scientific study in the field is an integral part of the Academy's work. For the past 200 years, scientists and natural history collectors with ties to the Academy have canvassed the earth in search of new species, evidence of prehistoric life and proof of how this planet has changed over time.

Field study is an invaluable experience for scientists of all skill levels, from novice to expert, and its inclusion in the new BEES curriculum is crucial to its success.

“We want to get students excited about field work,” says Dr. Donna Murasko, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We want them out in the field so they can learn the techniques that can prepare them for a job or graduate study.”

Working in the field will be an actual course, that will begin the week before orientation, beginning with the incoming freshmen in the fall of 2012. The students will undertake a weeklong field experience in Barnegat Bay, with scientists from the Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Science and current Drexel faculty.

The freshmen in Environmental Sciences this year, Murasko notes, will not be left out. They can select the field experience as an elective once it becomes available. Another goal, she adds, is to expand to international field experiences from locations in Equatorial Guinea and Costa Rica with current Drexel faculty to locations such as Mongolia, the Canadian Arctic, Jamaica and other places where Academy scientists are conducting active scientific research.

“By the summer of 2013, we want our students to have international experiences with Academy people,” Murasko says.

The new department, Murasko says, will house Drexel’s B.S. in Environmental Science, which is currently administered under the Department of Biology.  In the early 2000s, the major was absorbed into the biology department, and followed quite closely the curriculum as the biology and chemistry majors.

The creation of the BEES Department at Drexel is long overdue Murasko says. “A tech university like ours simply must have a strong environmental science program.”

“But,” she adds, “we need to focus on the fact that we know we’re going to do this well, with passion and we’re going to do it in context to what’s relevant today.”

Some of the courses currently in development for inclusion in the new BEES program are:

  • Intro to Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Natural History and Museum Collections
  • Earth and Life History
  • Tree of Life
  • Plant and Animal Identification
  • Understanding a system:  the freshwater stream

Some upper-level courses may include:

  • Principles and Methods of Systematic Biology
  • Geochemistry
  • Biodiversity
  • Malacology
  • Ornithology

To learn more about the Academy of Natural Sciences, visit