School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Environmental Studies

Hovorka, A.J.1
Danby. R (Acting Director, July – December 2018)

Graduate Coordinator
Smith, M.

Goebel, A.2, Hird, M., Hovorka, A.J. 1, Jamieson, H.E., Smith, M.(Mick), Winn, L.M.

Associate Professor
Brown, S., Danby, R., Whitelaw, G.S. 1

Assistant Professor
Harrison, A., Orihel, D., Tienhaara, K. (Effective September 1, 2018)

Emeritus Professor
Hodson, P.V., Liss, S.N.

Cross-Appointed Faculty
Aronson, K.J., Castleden, H., Chen, D., Cumming, B.F.,  Lougheed, S.C., Mabee, W.E., Massey, T.E.,  McDonald, D.A., Smol, J., Taylor, Upitis, R.,  M.E., Viswanathan, L., Vlachopoulus, N.2,Walker, V.K., Wallace, M., Wang, Y.S., Webster, J., Zeeb, B.A.3, Zeman, F.S.3

Adjunct Faculty
Andrew, J., Bramburger, A.5, Clarke, D.,  de Solla, S.9,  Hall, G., Hickey, B.C.4 , Kirk, J.9, Langlois, V.10,  Madison, B., Majury, A.7, McCarthy, D.P.6 , Moore, S., Ortiz, X.8, Poland, J., Ridal, J.4, Rutter, A., St. George, S.5, Stewart, K.11, vanLoon, GW., Varty, J., Welbourn, P.

1 - Sabbatical leave July 1, 2018-December 31, 2018
2 – Sabbatical leave January 1, 2019 – June 30, 2019
3 - Royal Military College
4 - St. Lawrence River Institute
5 - University of Minnesota
6 - University of Waterloo
7 – Public Health Ontario Labs
8 – Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
9 – Environment Canada
10 – Institute national de la recherche scientifique INRO – Centre Eau Terre Environment
11 – Tongji University

Departmental Facilities

The School of Environmental Studies occupies a suite of office and laboratory space in Queen’s Biosciences Complex. All regular faculty members have office space in the School Biosciences Complex, and graduate students are provided carrel space in one of three common offices that can accommodate 30+ students each. Proximity to faculty members permits a high degree of interaction. The space held by the School also includes two administrative offices, offices for post-doctoral fellows and Adjunct Faculty, eight laboratories and a school lounge. Ancillary space includes a cold room, two equipment bays, and storage facilities at the Queen’s University Biological Station.  Some faculty members also hold specialized laboratory space in their home departments.

Financial Assistance

Stipends will be provided for PhD students at a minimum of $20,000 per year for 48 months. Stipends will be provided for MES students enrolled in either the research stream or the course stream at a minimum of $14,000 per year, pro-rated to the number of semesters spent in full time study each year. Financial support is guaranteed for only 6 semesters for research students and 5 semesters for course-based students.  Resources for stipends are derived from School funds, Queen’s Graduate Awards, research assistanships, teaching assistantships in the School’s undergraduate courses, contributions from research grants and contracts, internal scholarships and awards, and/or external scholarships and awards. Where research grants permit, or when students earn a Scholarship or Fellowship from outside the School, some students may receive a higher stipend. The funding policy for each academic year is posted on the School's website.

Students are automatically considered for School funding, QGA Awards, and Research/Teaching Assistantships when accepted each year.  Students are only accepted when a potential supervisor or advisor (MES only) has agreed to work with them. Students must take the initiative for Scholarships awarded by either Queen's University or some outside agency (e.g. NSERC, SSHRC), and the School will endeavour to keep all students informed of opportunities.

Fields in the Program

The School of Environmental Studies provides opportunities for advanced interdisciplinary graduate level studies and research in the field of environmental sustainability. The program will provide an appreciation of the breadth of environmental issues, and the ability to interact with professionals outside a single discipline. In this context, sustainability is the study of the natural world and human activities within it, seeking ways that the desirable features of these can be maintained or even enhanced locally, throughout the world, and over time. We think of sustainability in terms of a tripod of issues, environmental, economic, and social, all of which will be examined in detail individually and in their interconnectedness. Sustainability studies, therefore, are interdisciplinary and focused on many situations including resource and land management, industrial and agricultural sustainability, and development of nations.

Within the School, the different perspectives and foci are reflected in the experience of the various faculty members. Current research is related to the three elements of sustainability indicated above, including the natural sciences, health sciences, and social sciences and humanities. A variety of projects are relevant to water quality and quantity, as it relates to human and ecological health, provision of municipal and agricultural water supplies, social justice, and the detection and mitigation of water-related problems. Other projects focus on broad issues of human and ecosystem health within urban and agricultural settings in various locations around the world.

Thesis and project research will fall in these areas, but always within the wider context of sustainability, which will be upheld through interdisciplinary supervision (among departments, between Queen’s and the Royal Military College, and in collaboration with outside agencies), course work and a broad-based seminar series.

Programs of Study

Applicants are accepted under the general regulations of the School of Graduate Studies.

The programs offered conform to the regulations set out by the School of Graduate Studies in the School of Graduate Studies calendar.

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)

The programs offered conform to the Research masters pattern I (Thesis), and the Project pattern II (Course-based), the general requirements for which are indicated in the general regulations.

The Thesis-based Pattern I master's program follows the traditional sequence of graduate training with advanced courses (four half-credit courses, including ENSC-801* and ENSC-802*) and the challenge of undertaking extensive original research. This research will result in the submission of a thesis that will be subject to a formal defense and the presentation of a public seminar preferably in the School's seminar series. The written thesis, based on a student's original research, will include aspects of at least two disciplines, such as ecology and economics, or toxicology and policy. The typical time to completion would be about six semesters.

The Course-based Pattern II master's program will also ensure the development of conceptual thinking, and analytical and interpretive skills. However, this program does not demand intensive research resulting in a thesis. Instead, the candidates will complete six half-credit courses, including ENSC-801* and ENSC-802* and a library-based research project dealing with a specific interdisciplinary problem directly relevant to environmental studies. The study will result in the preparation of a major, formal paper (approximately 60 pages or 15,000 words) and the presentation of a public seminar preferably in the School's seminar series. This program could be completed in three semesters, and should be completed in five.

Course Requirements

All MES students will be required to complete two core courses offered by the School, ENSC-801* and ENSC-802* and participate in the Annual Research Day.

Students in the thesis-based option will take another two half courses, for a total of four plus a thesis.

Students in the course-based option will take a total of six half courses including the two core courses, four other graduate electives and a major paper.

All students may include a maximum of one 400- or 500-level undergraduate course as an elective with permission.

Elective graduate courses may be selected from those offered by a variety of departments.  Permission of the department and instructor are required.

Students must choose their remaining required courses from those offered by the School of Environmental Studies and relevant departments (for a listing of possible courses, see the Environmental Studies web site, Graduate Courses).  

A primary focus is to expose students with a science background to social science courses such as environmental economics, environmental geography, philosophy, and sociology, and vice versa for students with a social science background.  The selection of appropriate courses will be guided by the supervisory faculty, and by the course instructor, and the course selected must have a clear connection to sustainability.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

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 Methodological and Conceptual Basis for Environmental Studies, and ENSC-802 Global Environmental Problems: Issues in Sustainability. 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 Ph.D. Thesis Research.

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). This presentation is in addition to the annual presentations made by students during the School's annual Research Day.

1 - Objectives 3-6 of the Queen's University Strategic Research Plan (2012-2017): Objective 3: Promote and enhance opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary initiatives between faculty across the university and with other universities and institutions. Objective 4: Promote and enhance research partnerships that expand on our research strengths, increase support for the research, and enhance the delivery of research to stakeholders and partners locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Objective 5: Advance diversity and inclusivity through research that leads to increased understanding of cultures and communities within Canada and abroad, and research that enables connections to people and the quality of their lives. Objective  6: Encourage and support the translation and transfer of research outcomes, new knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society.