Name: Will Hamilton
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Major: Environmental Science (BS)
Minor: Computer Science
Expected graduation: May 2019
What drew you to your major?
When I was in high school, I went to a semester school (Conserve School) that provided many hands-on lessons about environmental stewardship. Following this experience, I knew that I wanted to study something related to the outdoors. The Environmental Science department also works with each individual student to gear your degree towards your personal interests. There are also many study abroad opportunities with the environmental science department at UNC. I was drawn to this department because I was interested in the topic, and the resources offered with IE allow you to get the most out of your college experience.
Have you completed any research?
I got to carry out a survey of green salamanders, while I was at the Highlands Field Site. This research project was a lot of fun because most of the data collection involved my partner and I scrambling up and down mountain slopes looking for this endangered critters habitat. Our mentor, Kyle, worked for the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. He not only made sure we didn’t get lost in the woods, but also provided a wealth of knowledge about Appalachian ecology and working in conservation. Kyle also helped us navigate ArcGIS when carrying out data analysis, and helped us write our scientific paper describing the research. The task of conducting this research was made less daunting by our very helpful mentor, and the research itself was both fun and interesting.
What has been your favorite environmental studies/science course?
I took Field Ecology at the Flathead Lake Biological Station in Montana during the summer, and it was definitely the best class I have ever taken. Our professors gave lectures while riding a boat over Flathead Lake, hiking through Glacier National Park, and white water rafting down Flathead River. We gained experience collecting data in a wide variety of fields including forest ecology, mammalogy, and limnology. Also, the class was really small, and we spent at least 8 hours a day with each other during the 4 week long course, so we got to know each other and our professors really well. We also learned how to write scientifically and carry out basic data analysis. The class was both really valuable and an incredibly fun experience.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would have taken more AP classes in science (Chemistry, Physics, Biology) in high school. The Environmental Science major allows you to focus on your personal interests, but the introductory science courses can be really challenging. While I do think those courses are useful for the major, getting them out of the way in high school would’ve allowed me to take more classes that cater to my personal interests or explore more areas outside of my major. I also would have taken a class from each concentration in the major early on because I would have been able to decide on my preferred focus more quickly.