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Biology

Ecology and Environment

imageThe Concentration

Ecology is the study of organisms and their interactions and relations with their environments, both living and non-living. Twenty-first century ecology is based on robust theoretical principles and draws from many disciplines including biology, chemistry, geology, evolution, genetics, oceanography, physiology, behavior and environmental science.  It encompasses wide areas of interest, extending from molecular biology to global environments. The approach to many ecological issues is both interdisciplinary and applied.
The Ecological Society of America notes that ecologists provide knowledge to assess ecological issues in a wide range of environments, to solve problems in meeting the food, shelter, and health needs of humans, and to enrich the lives of people everywhere through a greater insight into the mysteries of the biosphere.

Ecologists and Environmental Scientists…

  • Conduct research outdoors and in the laboratory - by asking both theoretical and practical questions that can be investigated using scientific techniques in exotic places or close to home.
  • Teach students and the general public -at colleges as well as at high schools, museums, and nature centers.
  • Apply ecological knowledge to solve environmental problems - by investigating ecological issues, interacting with affected communities, writing environmental impact statements, and designing sustainable practices.
  • Manage natural resources - by monitoring, managing, or restoring populations and ecosystems.
  • Advise students and local, state and federal policy makers - by recommending course work and research, working on committees, and providing the best available scientific information to politicians.

Ecology and Environment at Merrimack

Merrimack College’s geographic location gives students access to diverse off-campus sites, ranging from marine environments to salt marshes to mountains to forests to riverine systems to wetlands to lakes. This array of sites gives students access to all the terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats in the region. Our ‘environmental geography’ puts us in the middle of a real-world laboratory where students and faculty can engage in real-world ecological research and investigation.

In addition, the Merrimack campus is also an ecological field site where wetlands, forests, successional communities and wildlife habitats can be studied. Merrimack has well-equipped instrumentation laboratories available to students and faculty for a range of quantitative studies in water chemistry, soils, tissue analysis and environmental monitoring.  There are also ample opportunities to work on sustainability issues through Merrimack’s Campus Environmental Sustainability Initiative.

After graduating
, students have gone on to graduate programs in ecology, marine biology, watershed science, environmental science, environmental policy and environmental law. Other students work for environmental consulting firms, regional conservation commissions, state and federal agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Other students have gone into environmental education, biology teaching and research.

Related Courses


Some students may wish to take advantage of the courses offered through Marine Studies Consortium, which Merrimack College is a member. The courses include:

  • BIO3010 Marine Mammals: Biology and Conservation (Taught off-campus)
  • BIO3060 Biology of Fishes (Taught at the New England Aquarium in Boston)


Global Field Studies Program (Short-Term Study Abroad)

The Global Field Studies Program (BIO3090) is an integral part of environmental education at Merrimack College. Intensive learning experiences in ecology and the environment involving lecture and field work in remote, pristine, environmentally significant locations across the globe. This program invites students to witness and compare the biological complexity and precision of temperate and tropical ecosystems, to appreciate their natural beauty and rich history, and to understand the effects of human activities on these systems. Previous trips have included the Brazilian Amazon, Belize, Tanzania, Australia, Jamaica and the Galapagos Islands.