In response to a growing demand for environmental education, the Faculty of Arts and Science developed a science curriculum for Environmental Biology, Chemistry, Geography (Earth Systems Science), Geological Sciences and Life Sciences that was first made available to students in 1992. The initiators of this program included: Gary van Loon (Chemistry), Robert Gilbert and Harry McCaughey (Geography), Robert Dalrymple (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering), and John Smol (Biology), with the support and guidance of John Dixon. The science program emphasized disciplinary strength but with sufficient integrative courses that students were able to gain an appreciation of the complexity of environmental issues and the need for interdisciplinary investigations of the problems and solutions.
To create an institutional home for this new program, and to provide the administrative and academic base for an expanded program of teaching and research, a proposal for the School of Environmental Studies (SES) was approved by the Senate in May 1994. The School opened its doors in September 1995 with the arrival of its first Director, Peter Hodson. Peter provided stewardship for a period of 10 years during which the SES continued to grow in all aspects of undergraduate and graduate teaching, and research.
In 1997, a generous grant of $250,000 from The Richard Ivey Foundation permitted the appointment of a faculty member to the Department of Economics and the School. This was the first bridge between the Sciences and Arts and was shortly followed by a new BA Honours (ENSC) Medial in September 1998 to provide opportunities for undergraduates in the Humanities and Social Sciences. A BScH Major and a BA Minor were introduced in September 2005.
Undergraduate courses offered by the SES have increased from the equivalent of four half-courses in 1995 to over 20 half-courses today. Enrolment in ENSC courses has grown from an initial 138 to close to 1000.
The School initiated a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) in 2005/06 that offers either a research-based or course-based interdisciplinary training. The MES program seeks to meet a growing student demand for post-graduate training relevant to environmental careers in industry, government, and non-governmental organizations. It responds to a very strong market in Canada for professionals with environmentally related skills. The emphasis on interdisciplinarity reflects the nature of environmental issues, and is an alternative to more specialized discipline-based programs.
The growth in undergraduate and graduate training has been made possible by an expanding number of faculty members.
The three main areas that represent are current strengths and directions of the School of Environmental Studies (SES) are:
a) Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology - Analysis of chemicals, their fates in the environment, and pathways for exposure and effects in plants, animals, and humans;
b) Ecosystem and Human Health - The application of a systems approach to understanding the impact of human activities on climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and human health; and
c) Society, Culture, Environmental Planning and Management, and Economic Sustainability - Finding solutions to environmental problems and sustaining living resources involving the investigation of systems of cultural values, social justice and economics.
Since 1997, the Analytical Services Unit (ASU), a certified chemical analysis laboratory that specializes in environmental services, has been part of the SES. From 1997 to 2004, John Poland was the Director of the ASU, followed by the current Director, Alison Rutter. The ASU provides analytical support and training for members of the Queen's research community (including faculty and students of the SES), and expertise and analytical services for remediation of contaminated sites in Canada's Arctic. The ASU also serves long-standing clients outside the university. The ASU is actively involved in teaching, through lectures by its professional staff, by hosting a School course (ENSC 371* Environmental Analysis Methods), by supporting and supervising graduate student projects, and by training and supervising students who require specialized analytical instruments for their thesis research. ASU activities also create a source of revenue to the School that supports start-up funds to new faculty and contributes to scholarship funds. Details on the activities of the ASU and their involvement in the SES are detailed in yearly reports.