Trent School of the Environment - Origins
In July 2015, the Geography and Environmental and Resource Studies (ERS) programs combined to form the Trent School of the Environment. All three units coexisted through to the end of June 2016, at which time the Trent School of the Environment took over all administration of the ERS and Geography degrees.
Environmental and Resource Studies Program History
The Environmental and Resource Studies/ Science (ERS) Program originated at Trent University in 1974 as one of the first Canadian university environmental programs. It was created as a strategic interdisciplinary program because:
- there was a societal need for alternative approaches to environmental and natural resource education,
- the recognition by the concerned Departments at Trent University that they could not easily cover this interdisciplinary subject matter within the existing academic structure, and
- there was a realization that complex environmental problems could not be studied and solved effectively within conventional academic departments. Instead, an interdisciplinary approach was needed.
The university as a whole supported the creation of the ERS Program, and has continued to showcase that support through investment in state-of-the-art analytical facilities, top expertise for teaching and research, the cultivation of sound working relationships with communities, the Ministry of Natural Resources and other governmental agencies, and through its stewardship of the magnificent natural assets of its beautiful approximately 1,400 acre campus and nearby 260 acre James McLean Oliver Ecological Centre.
Founding Departments included Canadian Studies, Geography, History, Politics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Trent’s initiative was especially noteworthy because it was only the third university in Ontario to establish a stand-alone environmental program, and it was the first environmental program to truly embrace the sciences. To this day it remains unique because of its interdisciplinary mixture of science and policy courses.
Dr. Robert Paehlke was instrumental in the ERS Program's launch, and was the first Coordinator. He credits Dr. Jim Jury's first year course, Scientific Bases of Environmental Problems with the Program's initial success. The ERS Program was approved by Trent University Senate in May 1974, and first appeared in the Trent University Calendar in 1975-76, offering 5 courses.
Other Trent Departments began working with the ERS Program, and early on it became unique, offering B.A. and B.Sc. degrees with single- and joint- majors, and focusing on both public policy and scientific environmental issues. Dr. Robert Page continued to build the ERS Program when Dr. Paehlke stepped down.
By 1980 biologists had joined the ERS Program, along with Dr. John Marsh from Geography, Dr. Lionel Rubinoff from Philosophy, and Dr. Cyril Carter from Mathematics.
Early in its life the ERS Program was located a large trailer adjacent to the Staging Building (now Blackburn Hall). In the summer of 1991, the ERS Program moved to the newly opened Environmental Science Centre, located on the east bank right by the Otonabee River and Faryon Bridge (learn more about our facilities), along with Biology (who subsequently moved to the DNA building in 2011), Geography, and the Watershed Ecosystems Graduate Program (now the Environmental & Life Sciences Graduate Program).
The ERS Program has transformed markedly since 1974. From its original collaborative coordination via a committee of the founding Departments, it has grown into a self-directed academic unit, with strong ties to many other Trent University academic units, over 100 courses, multiple degree options, and upwards of 600+ student majors.
The origins of the Program are important, because they help to explain how we deliver our academic offerings. The first-year courses and the core second-year courses sustain the team-taught pedagogical basis of the initial 1970’s courses. The second year as a whole emphasizes skill-development, methods, basic theory and critical thinking. Some of the larger enrollment courses in second year remain as cross-listed offerings of other Departments, further reflecting an interdisciplinary approach. They are thus staffed by those units, even though ERS usually participated in their development, and they are integral to the ERS degrees and degree-options.
Geography Department History
Founded in 1968, with two faculty members (Chair, Peter Adams and Fred Helleiner), the Department of Geography offers comprehensive B.A. and B.Sc. degree programs attractive to single and joint geography majors. Featuring compulsory methods courses, local and international fieldwork experiences, and community-based education opportunities across a range of sub-disciplinary specializations, the programs provide foundational training and critical perspectives in human and physical geography.
Over the years, faculty research interests have emerged in several fields of study including within human geography - cultural and historical, political, recreation and tourism, social and health, and urban and economic, and within physical geography - climatology, geomatics and remote sensing, geomorphology, hydrology, and pedology. The research-intensive nature of the Geography Department provides many value-added opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved while offering outstanding training for graduate students.
Fundamental to the Department's curriculum is the ongoing commitment to fieldwork as essential to what makes geography and geographers unique. As part of field-based and community-based research courses, for instance, geography students and faculty have worked in a variety of urban, rural and remote environments across Ontario, North America and internationally, with a longstanding emphasis on the Canadian North.
Geography faculty and students are also actively involved in Trent's inter-disciplinary programs, including the innovative joint GIS program with Fleming College at the undergraduate level as well as the graduate programs in Applications of Modeling, Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, Environmental and Life Sciences, and Sustainability Studies.