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UNCP adds a major in Environmental Science

April 14, 2004

By Scott Bigelow

On this day, Dr. Leon Jernigan looked the part of the coordinator of the new environmental science program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

leon_jernigan.jpgTan and wearing camouflage pants, t-shirt and hiking boots, Dr. Jernigan had just returned from a Biology Club community service outing to pick-up roadside trash. He will help UNCP launch the new environmental science major in the fall semester 2004.

"I started working on this program, almost the day I got here two years ago," Dr. Jernigan said. "The students seem to have a high degree of interest in the program, and I think it will be very popular."

The new major in environmental science requires courses from the three UNCP departments - biology, chemistry and math and computer science. Several new courses will be added to UNCP's science curriculum.

"We have created six new core courses and an internship for the degree - field botany, field zoology, field microbiology, freshwater ecosystems, soils and hydrology, environmental laws and regulations and an internship," Dr. Jernigan said. "Yes, we will be getting out in the field."

Dr. Jernigan, who has 14 years experience in environmental consulting, said the internship program is a unique requirement.

"The internship is a great feature of the program," Dr. Jernigan said. "Students will have the opportunity to find out what their job future will be like with a private consulting firm or with a government agency."

Internship opportunities will be available with private companies and with a variety of government agencies like the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, or with private non-profits like the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society.

Dr. Jernigan said there are some interesting electives available to environmental science majors.

"Another interesting feature of the program is the elective, introduction to cartography, that the geography program offers," he said. "Students will learn mapping skills as well as practical skills, like using GPS (global positioning systems) and GIS (geographic imaging systems)."

Some of the other electives include oceanography, weather and climate conservation biology and environmental geology. Ten biology courses, six chemistry courses and two math courses are required.

"Our goal is to turn out a student who has the techniques and skill to enter the job market in an entry-level position or to go on to graduate school," Dr. Jernigan said.

Biology Department Chair Andy Ash said the new program fills a critical need in the region.

"We are very fortunate to have found someone with Dr. Jernigan's qualifications to coordinate the environmental program," Dr. Ash said. "There is a documented need for such a program, and it will represent a new dimension to the outreach role of UNCP in Southeastern North Carolina."

Dr. Jernigan earned a master's degree in zoology and a Ph.D. in botany/applied ecology from NC State University. He taught part-time at UNCP for five years before joining the faculty on a full-time basis in 2003.

This is the second new major announced by UNCP this spring. A Spanish major was added to the Department of English, Languages and Theatre.

Questions about the new major may be directed to Dr. Jernigan at 910.521.6884 or to