Environmental biology focuses on the interaction between human impacts on the environment and biological systems. An environmental biologist investigates the impacts of actions, pollutants, and conditions on wild communities.

Students read and analyze papers from the primary literature. They then design, carry out and report on original research projects, developing skills as practicing scientists. In labs and discussions, students come to know the discipline by posing problems that are meaningful to them, solving problems through observation and experimentation, and presenting their findings to their classmates and professors.

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Sarah Frohardt-Lane

Frohardt-Lane, Sarah

Associate Professor of History, Chair of American Studies

[email protected]

Mark Kainz

Kainz, Mark

Professor of Biology, Associate Dean for the Catalyst Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator, Patricia and Philip McCullough Class of 1969 Professor in Biology

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Memuna Khan

Khan, Memuna

Associate Professor of Biology, Chair of Biology Department

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Barbara Sisson

Sisson, Barbara

Associate Professor of Biology, Chair of Health Professions Advising Committee

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Robert Wallace

Wallace, Robert

Professor of Biology Emeritus

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Skip Wittler

Wittler, George "Skip"

Professor Emeritus of Biology, Director of Ceresco Conservancy

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Ripon College faculty and professional staff are dedicated to helping you reach your goals, whatever they may be and however often they may change along the way. It’s part of our value statement to you.

As a student at Ripon, you will be assigned a faculty adviser based on your area(s) of interest. You will meet with your faculty adviser throughout your time as a student to discuss your current aspirations, plan your course schedule and plot a future trajectory. We also work collaboratively with Ripon College Career and Professional Development to help match your interests and skills to concrete goals and construct a plan for professional success offering personalized career counseling, off-campus learning opportunities and an online job board with potential to connect with local, national and international employers. Our collaboration with Student Support Services provides tutoring and additional academic and skill development, as well as tools to help with note-taking, exam preparation, goal-setting and time management. Likewise, Mentors in the Franzen Center provide in-depth, one-on-one or group mentoring for students about class projects and college-level writing, and can share problem-solving strategies to overcome academic obstacles.

Advising at Ripon

Off-Campus Study

Studying off-campus, whether internationally or domestically in the United States, is an experience bound to change your view of the world. In general, full-time students in good academic standing are eligible to apply for admission to off-campus programs.

Learn more about Off-Campus Study


ENV 120, BIO 121 and 247, plus 11 additional credits in biology courses approved by the department.

Courses taken through the SEA or SES programs may be used to fulfill certain requirements for the major and minor.

Career Tracks

Environmental biology can become a path to careers in research and development, health care, the biomedical sciences, organismal/ecological biology, biotechnology, bioinformatics, conservation, communication, science education, the legal field, technical and pharmaceutical sales, and public policy. Alumni of our program are actively pursuing doctoral degrees in biostatistics, ecological chemistry and botany, marine biology, microbiology and neuroscience at major research universities across the country. Others are pursuing a variety of medical degrees in fields such as veterinary medicine, pharmacology, genetic counseling and radiation oncology.

Unique Opportunities

  • The 130-acre Ceresco Prairie Conservancy is a sustainability partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and Ripon College to restore this tract of land to its native prairie, oak savannah and wetlands habitat. Students assist in reseeding the prairie, harvesting seeds and battling invasive species. It includes public hiking and mountain bike trails and an environmental classroom. Students in botany, ecology and animal biology courses carry on research projects on various plants and animals.
  • Research opportunities and internships, in collaboration with Ripon College professors and major institutions across the country, in areas such as Eastern bluebirds behavior, zebrafish, plant viruses, genetics and rotifers.
  • The Oak Ridge Science Semester enables students to join ongoing investigations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in research areas as diverse as astrophysics, cell biology, DNA sequencing, genetic mutagenesis, parallel computing, robotics, toxicology and more.

Alumni Profiles

Recent Alumni of the Biology Department

Sam Sondalle ’11, a biology and chemistry double major, developed a special interest in the developmental biology of animals. He spent two of his undergraduate summers on research projects funded by a National Science Foundation REU award. Sam also had the opportunity to travel to Spain — twice — as part of Ripon’s Maymester (now Liberal Arts in Focus) trips. He is a co-author of an article published in Nature in May 2011. He now is studying in a combined M.D. and Ph.D. program at Yale University.

Biology major Amber Rico ’11 spent two academic years and one summer studying virus replication with Associate Professor of Biology Mark Kainz. The summer leading up to her senior year was spent conducting research at Texas A&M University. Now, she is working on a Ph.D. at Colorado State University, with a special interest in the molecular basis of infectious disease.