What is Human Ecology

The Department of Human Ecology of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences addresses the human dimensions of environmental problems. Faculty from diverse disciplines use their expertise in the natural and social sciences to study the effects of human activities on the environment and the impact of environmental changes on individuals and communities. Read more below.

Research

Using multiple social science tools and approaches, department faculty study topics from pesticide risk to race, ethnicity, and health. Current research includes:

  • Food, health and nutrition policy
  • Science, law and policy
  • Climate, energy and economy
  • Risk perception and hazard management
  • Behavior, public participation and society
  • Natural resource management policy and practices
  • Psychological and Social Determinants of Health

Examples of specific projects that faculty lead include: social vulnerability to climate change in Asia; the development of forest carbon markets for reduced emissions from deforestation; the management of urban watersheds; public perceptions and responses to food safety risks; energy efficiency policy; risk communication and public involvement in environmental issues; and dimensions of human adaptations and mal-adaptations to changes in their environments.

Our work has been funded by grants from programs including Sea Grant/NOAA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, the National Science Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Not only is Human Ecology Department's research interests vast, but our research sites include New Brunswick, NJ; the Raritan and Rahway, NJ river watersheds; New York City; as well as Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Canada, Ecuador.

Teaching

UNDERGRADUATE: The undergraduate major in Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior (EPIB) examines the human dimensions of environmental problems and introduces students to the main approaches, theories and methods in the environmental social sciences.

Students can explore issues such as how human actions affect the environment; how societies adapt to changes in natural resource availability; the social and environmental aspects of health and illness; the ethical, moral, and legal dimensions of environmental and resource issues; and the roles of governmental and non-governmental agencies in environmental affairs.

GRADUATE: At the graduate level, the certificate in the Human Dimensions of Environmental Change provides students in graduate programs at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences with the chance to pursue a concentration in the social, cultural, economic, historical, planning and other human dimensions of environmental change while carrying out a regular program of studies in an existing graduate program (such as Geography, Anthropology, Ecology and Evolution, Public Policy, and many others). Courses include advanced seminars on current environmental issues.

Our students have gone on to careers in policy analysis, land-use planning, legislation and government, health administration, and environmental advocacy, law, business, and medicine. Graduates currently work for health and environmental agencies; local, national and international non-profit agencies; private companies such as environmental consulting and engineering firms; and in the academic arena. Faculty in Human Ecology teach and advise graduate students in a number of disciplinary departments including geography, public policy, psychology, sociology, ecology and evolution and others.

Service

We extend our work to a range of settings outside academia in the United States, in other countries, and at the international level. Faculty members have offered their expertise to environmental and health communication programs in museums and other settings; resource management initiatives for fisheries, water quality, and forestry; energy efficiency projects; and directorates of multilateral environmental agreements.