Dear Ardilla Feroz,
You studied environmental science? Do you have any tips/secrets/fun ideas for another fellow beginning environmental science major?
Sorry for taking so long to respond this. I struggle with perfectionism, and this for me manifests as putting off things for a long time because I want it to be really, really good, but in the case of the Board it probably means people just move on and forget the Board even exists. I'll just hope you're still reading, and hope you see this.
Fun fact—at one point, there were three environmental scientists on the Board—Inverse Insomniac, Squirrel, and I, Ardilla Feroz. I was in a horrible Intro to Esci Careers class and I happened to spy them working on Board answers, so it was fun(if utterly bewildering for them) when I called them out on it. I'm a sneaky lad. If you're interested how Inverse Insomniac (now doing GIS work for some agency or other) and I chose Environmental Science, you may enjoy Board Question #79633.
That was ages ago, but we've actually still got two environmental scientists—Babalugats, and myself, though I'm definitely graduated by this point.
The biggest advantage to Environmental Science is the wild degree of customization it allows—more than any other major at BYU, if I'm not mistaken. You can really take it most any way you want. I wanted to focus on plants to better prep for a career as an ethnobotanist (something I'm not really pursuing right now) and the profusion of plant classes offered in ESci, paired with its flexibility, made it ideal for me.
Are you more interested in soil science? This is a great major for that.
Are you interested in doing GIS and mapping? While Geography is more specialized, you can plug in a bunch of GIS classes into this, probably enough to get a job in it.
There's really a lot of ways you can take it while remaining under the ESci Major umbrella, and the classes you take (besides the Chem and Bio generals, which I despise and will not discuss further) could put in you in classes with peeps in Landscape Management, Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation, Conservation Biology, aspiring plant geneticists, and others. You're always meeting new people.
This, ironically, was the worst part about ESci for me: taking classes from so many disciplines often made it difficult to get to know the other students in the major, and tricky to build the kind of class-to-class rapport with peers that can yield friendships, networks, and connections.
The thing I found most useful to combat this, and one of the more satisfying parts of being an ESci student for me (once I'd figured this out) was attending and participating in Environmental Science Club. I don't value football at all, but the misery of stadium cleanups with the club (trash, hoses, cold spraying water—wild) and the club trips we took with the resulting funds facilitated beautiful moments of camaraderie. Even a simple social is a great opportunity to get to know your peers, and get to know your professors outside of the class-lecture format.
On that note, get to know your professors. ESci classes don't tend to be all that big, and I generally found the faculty both willing and interested to actually getting to know me. It's also a chance to get to know them, how they got where they are, and what their research is. Do you like what they're doing?
Do research with a professor. It's a low-stakes environment to get science experience and see what you might like. How, exactly, you do this probably depends on the professor, but expressing a genuine interest in what they're doing and asking them if they have any research assistant positions available might be enough. You might end up doing some stuff you weren't expecting--I ended up helping build a research garden on the edge of a government base in the desert?? I also got to do some fun agave research on BYU's Lytle Ranch and in random mountains in Nevada. Still not really sure where that was. The research job was also really nice in that I could choose my own hours and do stuff when I had time to, though secretly this means I just didn't work very much, because motivation.
Oh, and research hours can count for class credit. That's nice, too.
Publish research with a professor. Okay, I didn't actually do this, not for a lack of time spent working with a professor, but mostly just because I sorta floated between projects and because I wasn't always there to see projects through. But if you're planning on doing grad school or a PhD after this—or doing something like medicine or dental--it's not a bad idea, and is something I know other students have done. If you're researching with a professor, ask them how you could do this.
Following the research line of thought a little further it seems many of my classmates immediately began graduate school studies after they'd graduated, either with the professors they'd done undergrad research with, or some other institution. I haven't done a master's program at this point, so I can't really speak much to how to best prepare for this, but the ESci academic advisor you've been assigned would be a good start.
Some jobbish resources you may find helpful:
Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative: This "partnership between Southern Utah University, various land management agencies and Native American tribes of southern Utah, northern Arizona and eastern Nevada" basically means accessible, paid internships for high school/college students and recent grads with, well, the aforementioned groups. Want to try out life as an interpretive park ranger at Zion NP? You can do that. Want to give rangeland botany with the Forest Service a spin? You can do that, too. With federal jobs, at least, you're paid the same wages you would if you were actually working at those places, but you don't have to navigate the federal job system to do it. For me, I snagged a biological science tech position doing sage grouse habitat surveys for the Forest Service in central Utah the summer after I graduated, which was really, really useful for me. You don't need to be an SUU grad to participate.
USAJOBS Yeah, ye olde government website, but there's a lot of opportunities on there solely for students. It takes some legwork, but I'll attest you can, in fact, get jobs through this cantankerous website.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Job Board: I'm not sure how Texas A&M became the nexus for wildlife positions, but you can find some pretty interesting opportunities up in there, like living on a remote Pacific atoll for 7 months battling ants, or perhaps battling 30-50 feral hogs in the American heartland in an Arkansas wilderness preserve (if that comes through for me this year? Hoo, boy).
Fun Tips and Tricks:
- Would you like to do ephemeral stream water quality research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica? As it turns out, you totally maybe can! Dr. Zac Aanderud does microbiology research in the Chill South and—should you be on good terms—can recommend you to professors from other universities seeking help. This didn't work out for me—the reasons are a little complicated but not really interesting--but I do have a friend from the ESci major who did it and she totally loved it. She's doing a masters' program doing some kind of Arctic research now, which is legit.
- That weird newsletter that the PWS office sends out every so often has lots of interesting opportunities in it, like fishing for a few days in Lake Powell or possibly Alaska, or doing bird surveys at Lytle Ranch (this place in SW Utah is gorgeous and I highly recommend you visit it). It's worth a read.
- Need a warm, tropical place to study? Check out the Sunken Room in the BYU Greenhouses by Kiwanis Park. It's chock-full of beautiful tropical foliage, and isn't nearly as crowded as the greenhouses on the fifth floor of the Life Sciences building (which are also nice).
Well, that's all I've got. I wish you well in your ESci journey. Your peers are probably an excellent resource, and more up-to-date than I am. This being the Board, feel free to ask any follow-up questions you'd like here or via email and I'll do my best to answer. You've got this, have fun!