Study the environment and sustainability on the hilltop.
St. Edward's University provides sustainability-related research opportunities both on campus and abroad, many of which are partnerships between students and faculty. The university offers several sustainability-related degree programs and courses for both undergraduate or graduate students.
Explore our Academic Programs
Ecology For Urgent Times
Learn how the Environmental Biology and Climate Change major prepares students to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental problem.
Explore Research, Internships and Experiential Learning
Research plays an important role in helping our students reach their full academic potential. Our students have opportunities to conduct high-level research alongside faculty mentors in a variety of areas related to ecology, the environment, and sustainability.
Here are a few of our students’ groundbreaking research projects:
Environmental Biology and Climate Change major Sam Mathieu '23 investigated savanna responses to climate change and multiple disturbances. In January 2023, she traveled with her research advisor, Dr. Kim O'Keefe, to Kruger National Park in South Africa to help collect data on a long-term experiment funded by the National Science Foundation. Her data will help researchers predict savanna functioning in an era of extreme environmental change.
After studying urban sustainable design abroad for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nic Oden '23 returned to St. Edward's and applied those new skills to a senior Environmental Science and Policy research project studying walkability in South Austin. He assessed streets for walkability features and then created a map that City planners can use to identify areas that need improvement and that residents can use to more comfortably navigate the city on foot.
Environmental Science and Policy student Nyla Pete '23 spent 10 weeks in Costa Rica studying forests fragmented by agricultural expansion and calculating their ability to sequester carbon. Her research was funded under Dr. Peter Beck's NSF International Research Experiences for Students grant.
Biology major Isabel Sanfeliz ’22 collaborated with Dr. Kim O’Keefe, Dr. Darren Proppe, and a local engineer to develop a wireless environmental monitoring system. This system can be used to assess microclimate changes around campus, Wild Basin, and other field sites around the Austin area.
Environmental Biology and Climate Change students Annie Dale ’24 and Alecia Becker ‘25, along with Environmental Science and Policy student Margaux Orgoveza '23 studied the impacts of drought on grasslands at Spicewood Ranch. Dale and Becker investigated the impacts of drought on photosynthetic traits in native and invasive grasses, while Orgoveza conducted a study to determine how restoration practices affect the resiliency of these systems for important ecological services such as pollination. This work was part of an on-going effort in the labs of Dr. Amy Concilio and Dr. Kim O’Keefe, who are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) i4 Research Opportunity Award.
Internships at St. Edward’s give our students a glimpse into their future careers through valuable hands-on training. These unique opportunities may also lead to networking and developing key relationships with business leaders in their field of choice. Our students have interned at such companies as USDA, the Nature Conservancy, NEON and many more.
Read more about the student internship experience.
Wild Basin Creative Research Center
The Wild Basin Creative Research Center is an innovative research station within a beautiful, 227-acre nature preserve in the Texas Hill Country. Co-owned and operated by St. Edward’s University and Travis County, Wild Basin serves as a living laboratory for experiential learning, and encourages research and creative projects in all disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary and cross-curriculum projects. Students from all majors and from a range of higher education institutions utilize the Creative Research Center and the Preserve to conduct studies in or learn about art, science, policy and local government, education, business, and other disciplines. Recent research projects include documenting spatial and temporal patterns of wildlife distribution, and quantifying the soundscapes of the preserve.
Meet Our Faculty Across Disciplines
Faculty not only play an essential role in the classroom, but they also inspire students with their own sustainability research and endeavors. Our expert faculty teach a wide range of courses, from Environmental Controversies in Austin, to Ligerian Ecology, to Biodiversity Conservation.
Environmental and Sustainability Studies Faculty
Amy Concilio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Policy
School of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Dr. Concilio is an environmental scientist with expertise in conservation and land management in the context of climate change and urbanization. She teaches courses in Natural Resource Conservation and Management, Climate Change, Texas Ecology, and Environmental Chemistry, coordinates the Environmental Management Certificate program within the Environmental Science & Policy (ENSP) major, and serves as the board president for the Texas Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration.
Sasha West, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Creative Writing
School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. West is a poet and associate professor of creative writing. Her teaching specializations include eco-poetics, poetry, the hybrid genre, creativity studies, and intersections between the visual and literary arts. She coordinates the Environmental Humanities minor.
Kim O'Keefe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Natural Sciences
Dr. O’Keefe is a plant ecologist and assistant professor of biological sciences. She serves as the program director for the Environmental Biology and Climate Change program and teaches courses in ecology, global change biology, GIS, and plant ecology. She also mentors student field research around Austin, the Texas Hill Country, and South Africa.
Bill Quinn, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Computer Science
School of Natural Sciences
Dr. Quinn is a forest ecologist who studies terrestrial ecosystems from a broad range of perspectives including primary production, herbivory and foraging theory. He is currently engaged with the freshman biology curriculum at St. Edward’s.
Barbara Dugelby, Ph.D.
Executive Director and Faculty Associate
Wild Basin Creative Research Center
Dr. Dugelby is the Executive Director of the Wild Basin Creative Research Center. She also has a faculty associate position and teaches occasionally on campus. Her expertise, research, and teaching interests lie in the fields of conservation science, human ecology, and protected area management.