Make a world of difference as an environmental scientist

The new professionally accredited four-year environmental science degree at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury gives its graduates knowledge and skills that are in high demand in the workforce while empowering them to address the world’s urgent sustainability issues.

UC BSc graduate Jessica Faris chose environmental science because of its “holistic overview of science that incorporates different disciplines to apply to the problems we have at the moment”.

Faris’ aptitude and passion took her on the path to tutoring second-year students in various activities and field trips, which then led to a sequence of environmental internships. Today, she is Land Management Coordinator at ECan.

“In my job we use the same tools, the same software and hold the same type of conversations that we had back at uni,” she says.

The Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours degree launched in 2021. UC’s Director of Environmental Science Professor Sally Gaw says the degree was developed in response to employer demand.

“Rapid environmental change and diminishing resources mean the planet needs, more than ever, highly skilled environmental scientists empowered to make a difference. This skills-based programme equips students for the workforce, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally.”

With six choices of interdisciplinary major (see box below), the programme is built on a synthesised curriculum that takes students on a carefully designed trajectory to transition them to work.


Faris says her studies at UC gave her the right scientific language, tools, programmes and critical thinking to do what she does today.

“What we learnt and discussed there was ‘grown up’, very current and solution-oriented. My UC studies made my transition to work seamless.”

Due to its physical location, University of Canterbury offers a strong ‘mountains to the sea’ programme, along with excellent teaching and research facilities and field stations. Canterbury has diverse environments ranging from urban to rural to conservation land, making it the ideal setting to study environmental science.

In tandem with her stint as a tutor, Faris became intrigued by braided rivers. She went on to become a land ownership intern, then eventually landed her position at Environment Canterbury—where she has come full circle and works on the Braided Rivers project. She plans to continue working in environmental science and to be part of the movement ‘to make conservation the norm.’

Professor James Shulmeister, the head of UC’s School of Earth and Environment, says it is a broad-based qualification.

“The Bachelor of Environmental Science (Hons) is solidly science-based but will also provide students with cutting-edge skills in environmental management.”

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