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Academics and Research

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Academics and Research


As an institution, we acknowledge our unique responsibility to train and educate the people who develop social, economic and technological solutions to environmental problems.  The University of Oklahoma offers a number of sustainability-related degree opportunities that are open for all students to pursue. 

The department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability  within the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences introduced Environmental Sustainability degree opportunities during the 2010-2011 academic year.  Within the department, students can now pursue the following degree opportunities:

  • Minor in Environmental Sustainability
  • Minor in Climate Adaptation
  • Environmental Sustainability (BA/BS)
  • Geography and Environmental Sustainability (MA/MS)

Environmental Sustainability studies how human societies can meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Achieving this goal requires balancing short- and long-term needs related to jobs and economic growth, societal well-being, and environmental health. 

Climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and the overuse of natural resources have contributed to a human environment that may no longer be sustainable Only by using modern scientific methods and by integrating scientific research with an understanding of the global economy and governmental institutions can we expect to understand and manage a natural environment that will be sustainable, supporting and enhancing the quality of life for generations to come. Skilled professionals educated in the principles of environmental sustainability are essential to the effective management of the natural environment.  These professionals will be qualified for numerous sustainability-related positions in government, the private sector, the non-profit sector, and education. Persons with degrees in environmental sustainability are positioned very well to achieve important leadership positions, setting agendas for long-run sustainability at the local, regional, national, and global levels. 

The Department of Geography and Sustainability is housed on the fourth, fifth and sixth floor of the Sarkeys Energy Center. The front office can be found in room 510.   

In the Civil Engineering and Environmental Science department of the Gallogly College of Engineering, students can pursue degree opportunities in the following:

  • Minor in Environmental Science
  • Minor in Water and Sanitation for Health and Sustainable Development
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science
  • Master of Science in Environmental Science
  • Doctorate in Environmental Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering
  • Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
  • Doctorate in Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineers use the principles of physics, biology and chemistry to develop methods to meet environmental challenges such as water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, solid and hazardous waste management, waste recycling, and water resources management. Environmental engineers understand and protect us from environmental hazards, and learn to build solid structures without polluting the environment. OU Students have the opportunity specialize in water and wastewater engineering, solid and hazardous wastes engineering or hydrology/water resources with their environmental engineering degree.

Environmental scientists take on the vital role of preservation, conservation and restoration of the environment. OU's environmental science program is designed to produce well-prepared professionals familiar with the intricacies of collecting and analyzing air, water and soil samples; monitoring compliance with environmental laws and regulations; assisting industries in environmental compliance and development of sustainable cost effective technologies; and addressing public audiences on local, regional and global environmental challenges.

The School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science office is located in Carson Engineering (Room 334).

In the College of Arts and Sciences, the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment Program recently transitioned to the Environmental Studies program. The Environmental Studies program is a collaborative teaching and research program with a student-guided curriculum designed to create a workforce with the skills needed to help meet global challenges relating to water security and other pressing environmental issues, such as pollution, climate change, and deforestation.

In the program, students can pursue degree opportunities in the following:

  • Minor in Water Sciences
  • Minor in Biological Conservation
  • Minor in Environmental Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies Program office is located in Sutton Hall (Room 303).

Outside of these degree opportunities, a number of departments across campus are offering courses which highlight climate and sustainability concerns.  Such departments include: Architecture, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Construction Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Economics, International and Areas Studies, Meteorology, Microbiology and Plant Biology, Sociology, and more.


The University of Oklahoma’s research agenda perpetuates the understanding of environmental and sustainability concerns and creates solutions to these challenges.  Some of the research initiatives that OU researchers have chosen to pursue and have received funding for include:

  • Advancing the understanding of Earth’s natural exchanges of carbon between the land, atmosphere and ocean.
  • Analyzing microbe-climate interactions in greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O) from grasslands and croplands in Oklahoma.
  • Producing a new generation of high efficiency solar cells with the potential to impact utility-scale energy generation, increase global energy capacity and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Developing an online, interactive course designed to provide an integrative understanding of the components of the climate system, the range of natural climate variability, external drivers of climate change such as anthropogenic contributions of greenhouse gases, impacts of changing climate, and adaptation and mitigation policy options.
  • Investigating regional vulnerability of permafrost carbon to climate change.
  • Assisting tribal governments to prepare and adapt their built environments to climate change through a Tribal Climate Change Planning Initiative. 
  • Examining cross-scale interactions among climate-change, land use change, and river water quality.
  • Assessing the ecosystem stress response function of climate change for the Arkansas-Red River Basin.
  • Using climate and rainfall models to determine the impacts of climate change on water flows in the Red River Basin to help inform decision makers regarding water needs and policy.
  • Adapting socio-ecological systems to increased climate variability. 
  • Comparing the sustainability of a compressed earth block house to a conventionally framed house built to national green building standards. 
  • Assessing recent trends and understanding future vulnerability and adaptation to changing climate and population dynamics. 
  • Evaluating high-resolution ensemble forecasting for wind energy. 
  • Creating high-resolution regional climate projections to guide real-world, long-term collaborative water management planning relevant to government decision making.

A partial list of current sustainability researchers can be viewed here (Excel).

CREW faculty, staff and students seek to understand i) the biogeochemical transport and fate of materials and energy in all environmental media on the watershed-scale, with a focus on water quality in drastically disturbed catchments and ii) opportunities and challenges presented by ecological engineering, the design of sustainable ecosystems integrating society and the natural environment for mutual benefit, with emphasis on mine water passive treatment systems, stream and wetland restoration, and similar ecotechnologies.

Students Performing Research in Kayak
Student Performing Research

The Neeson Lab studies the impacts of global change on freshwater ecosystems. Our recent work includes resource allocation problems in conservation biology, invasive species management, sustainable fisheries, and trade-offs between biodiversity and infrastructure. We focus on the Great Lakes and Great Plains, but current projects span freshwater ecosystems around the world.

WaTER The goal of the WaTER Center is the provision of water and sanitation for all. To this end, the Center conducts education, research, and outreach to focus on this life-sustaining resource, clean water.  The WaTER Center seeks to develop sustainable solutions that they believe are only possible through integrating technology, business and social understanding.

CIRE aims to convert scientific concepts into practical applications that will result in industrial collaborations & economic development in the areas of energy generation, conversion, and conservation. 

HyDROS is a transdisciplinary research unit with synergy at the interface of remote sensing technology, water, weather & climate.  HyDROS' Mission is to propose technological solutions for mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards through interdisciplinary research and education by using the latest remote sensing technology, information technology, and hydrological models in collaboration with private and public organizations at both local and international levels for the creation of a resilient society.

IASR consists of faculty members known for their research on the properties & applications of surfactants. These faculty perform research with surfactants in diverse fields, one field being the use of surfactants in environmental remediation, a technology known as SEAR, Surfactant Enhanced Aquifer Remediation.

The Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy Systems supports development of resilient solutions to sustainability challenges through convergent research, interdisciplinary education, and transformative partnerships.

The SC-CSC works with decision makers to develop the science, tools, and information they need to address the impacts of climate variability on their areas of responsibility. We are a partnership between the US Geological Survey and a consortium of seven member institutions consisting of the University of Oklahoma (OU), Texas Tech University (TTU), Louisiana State University (LSU), the Chickasaw Nation (CN), the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), Oklahoma State University (OSU), and NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL). This partnership, which has broad and deep expertise in the physical, biological, natural, and social sciences, works directly with regional stakeholders to address the impacts of climate change on the south central region's land, water, fish and wildlife, coastal, and cultural resources.

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