Academic Calendar 2022-2023

Environmental Studies - Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. program in Environmental Studies provides graduate training in environmental studies, emphasizing interdisciplinarity and focusing on the concept of sustainability and sustainable practices. The theme of sustainability emphasizes the long-term nature and impacts of environmental change, the connections between today's decisions and tomorrow's welfare, and the strong dependence of human well-being on environmental quality. The program responds to widespread perceptions and concerns about society's future in a world of finite resources, and there is a growing demand for this program as demonstrated through the increasing number of inquiries from students about Ph.D. opportunities in our School.

Our vision is that Queen's University will develop an outstanding Ph.D. program in environmental sustainability that is integrated and coordinated across Queen's faculties to meet the needs of students and society. This program will facilitate interdisciplinarity, and will meet the challenge of establishing ways that Queen's Faculty members can work across disciplinary and institutional boundaries to develop collaborative and integrated programs of teaching and research. This vision is consistent with and directly addresses four of six stated objectives (objectives 3-6) of the Queen's University Strategic Research Plan (2012-2017).1

The objectives will be achieved by a combination of courses, independent research, seminars, readings, a comprehensive examination and a thesis.


The course requirements are: ENSC 801 Environmental Studies Methods, and ENSC 802 Global Environmental Problems. Students who have already taken these courses during a SES MES program at Queen's will be exempt from these courses and will not have additional coursework requirements. In the event that similar courses have previously been taken by a student at another University, a thorough evaluation of the course outlines by the Graduate Admission Committee may also exempt a student from taking these courses. In addition, all students will be required to register for ENSC 897 Seminar in Environmental Studies, and ENSC 999 PhD Thesis.

Independent Research

Ph.D. candidates will come from a variety of disciplines including biology, sociology, geography, geology, chemistry, engineering, planning, philosophy, environmental studies and others. Students will study a diverse range of topics all fitting under the broad umbrella of Sustainability. Topics of research will be similar to those of our Masters students in the MES program but will be of much greater depth, innovation and originality (e.g. environment and health, urban sustainability, tourism, northern development, environmental justice, aboriginal studies, agriculture). The research component will require students to demonstrate intellectual independence, as their topics will involve participation with diverse communities (for example communities in Nunavut, rural Canada as well as a variety of communities in countries outside of Canada). Students will be required to understand local and regional context to ensure their work is relevant and of use to decision-makers. In many cases, student research, both course based and their dissertation work will require ethics clearance providing first-hand experience with ethical behaviour and the use of appropriate guidelines and procedures for responsible research. As indicated earlier the Ph.D. program will address several identified research priorities in the University's Strategic Research Plan, including environmental sustainability and Canada's North.

Students will be required to produce original research, advanced scholarship, or other creative products that can satisfy peer review and publication in both academic and popular media. Traditional journals such as Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, and Arctic are accepting environmental studies research and new journals have emerged to service the needs of environmental studies researchers such as Local Environment, and Society and Environment. Less traditional work will include art, websites, blogs, video and other social media which examine the social aspects sustainability.


Through frequent interactions with primary supervisors and supervisory committees, students will become familiar with existing literature, publications, and professional networks related to their selected area of interest. They will acquire an understanding of both the potential advantages and difficulties in applying different research methods and models from the humanities, the social, health and the natural sciences, to issues of sustainability. A key intellectual aim is to foster students' abilities to speak about sustainability using an interdisciplinary approach and also to foster a student's ability to speak to an interdisciplinary audience. To this end, the program also emphasizes the importance of transferable skills such as critical thinking and communication skills including written and oral presentation, and the use of appropriate computer software and information technology.

Comprehensive Examination

Ph.D. students will be required to complete a comprehensive examination within 18 months of initial registration. The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to confirm the eligibility of the candidate to continue their graduate studies in the area of sustainability by demonstrating depth and breadth of knowledge outside of their specific research area. Preparation for the comprehensive examination will encourage students to diversify and explore sustainability.


The SES has a bi-monthly seminar series covering a diverse range of environmental issues, with speakers from the humanities, social sciences, health sciences, and natural sciences. Ph.D. students will be required to attend these seminars and present in this series once during their program, ideally towards the end of their PhD in preparation for their Ph.D. oral examination (see course work and ENSC 897 Seminar in Environmental Studies). This presentation is in addition to the annual presentations made by students during the School's annual Research Day.