This is an archived article.

June 25, 2009

Units concerned with Earth and natural sciences, policy, climate change among those joining new College of the Environment

News and Information



A college, three schools and departments, several centers and programs, and an institute will be combined July 1 as the inaugural units of the UW’s College of the Environment. President Mark Emmert authorized the consolidation this month to have the units in place for the start of the new fiscal year. The first courses through the new college will be offered fall quarter.

Moving into the College of the Environment will be the College of Forest Resources, School of Marine Affairs, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Program on the Environment, Program on Climate Change, Quaternary Research Center and Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. The college will be led by interim Dean Dennis Hartmann, a professor of atmospheric sciences.

The inaugural units bring to the new college 900 students, 128 faculty members and $33 million in outside grants and contracts. By comparison, in fiscal year 2008 the College of Arts and Sciences had 940 faculty members and nearly $91 million in outside grant and contracts. The College of Engineering had 240 faculty members and $90 million in awards. Those two were among the top grant and contract producers outside of Health Sciences.

New money comes from $10 million in private gifts that will be used for endowed professorships, student support and college programs.

“We are very encouraged by the support we have received so far from donors who want to help advance our efforts to establish a broadly integrated program of teaching, research and public engagement in understanding the environment and how human activities can transform it,” Hartmann says.

Inaugural units are:


  • The College of Forest Resources, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, will become the School of Forest Resources. Professor Thomas Hinckley was named interim director, effective July 1, pending approval by the UW Board of Regents. Bruce Bare, College of Forest Resources dean, will return to the faculty and serve as special adviser to Hartmann in the new college. All existing units including environmental and resource management, the UW Botanic Gardens and units concerned with the engineering of biomass for biofuels, pulp and paper will move into the College of the Environment.
  • The School of Marine Affairs is moving from the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences. The school integrates natural and social science with policy discussions concerning the nation’s 3.4 million square miles of ocean as well as marine resources elsewhere around the world.
  • The Department of Atmospheric Sciences is moving from the College of Arts and Sciences. The department is involved in research and teaching on such subjects as weather, climate and air quality.
  • The Department of Earth and Space Sciences also is moving from the College of Arts and Sciences. The department is so named because its scope extends from the center of Earth to the rim of the solar system, with its research cutting across traditional disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, geology and mathematics.
  • The Program on the Environment has for 12 years helped students combine courses from various UW schools and departments to earn a bachelor of arts degree or a minor in environmental studies. Two graduate-certificate and one undergraduate-certificate program are also offered. Never having had any faculty of its own, the program helped promote and integrate environmental-related degree programs and events across the three UW campuses.
  • The Program on Climate Change coordinates and fosters collaboration in climate research and teaching among UW schools and departments and other research units.
  • The Quaternary Research Center fosters interdisciplinary research focused on the last 2 million years of the global environment.
  • The Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean fosters collaborative, cutting-edge research between the UW and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in climate, ocean and fishery sciences.

Emmert and Provost Phyllis Wise decided that the Applied Physics Laboratory — which is sponsored by the federal government and concentrates on acoustics, marine and polar science and engineering, medical and industrial ultrasound, and environmental information and electronic systems — will leave the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences and report to the provost.

Communications are under way with the leadership of the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences about the possible inclusion of the School of Oceanography, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Washington Sea Grant in the College of the Environment. The College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences is expected to undergo the UW’s formal process for “reorganization, consolidation and elimination of programs” in the fall. The college was created 28 years ago.

The reorganization, consolidation and elimination of programs process is the same way the College of Forest Resources, School of Marine Affairs and departments of atmospheric sciences and Earth and space sciences have joined the new college.

When fully implemented the College of the Environment is expected to have more than 1,200 students, 200 faculty members and approximately $80 million in outside grants and contracts.

The college’s Web site is http://coenv.washington.edu/.