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Honors Program in Environment and Sustainability

The Research Honors Program in CALS provides students with a special opportunity to work with a faculty mentor to experience the research process. The Bachelor of Science degree with “distinction in research” is conferred upon those students who, in addition to having completed the requirements for the B.S. degree, have satisfactorily completed the honors program and have been recommended for the degree by the honors committee.

Research may be done in these program areas:

  • animal sciences
  • biological sciences
  • biology & society
  • entomology
  • environment and sustainability
  • information science
  • landscape studies
  • nutritional sciences
  • physical sciences
  • plant sciences
  • social sciences

Students in any CALS major may be eligible to participate in any of these program areas. Each program area has its own requirements in addition to the college requirements. After reviewing the requirements of each program area (sink link directly below), students’ questions may be directed toward the appropriate program area chair.

For more information, visit the CALS Research Honors Program.

Specific Information for Environment and Sustainability

Contact: Colleen Kearns, ESS Program Manager

The research honors program in Environment and Sustainability involves original, independent research that generates novel findings in applied ecology, environmental sciences, or in resource policy and management. Students learn how to design and carry out research under the direct supervision and guidance of a faculty member or senior research associate. Most students in the program engage in research for multiple years to learn the iterative nature of research. The research findings are presented in a written thesis. Although the format is not prescribed, the thesis usually consists of a short introduction, relevant materials and methods, a concise presentation of the meaningful data, a discussion, and the student’s interpretation of the conclusions. Students also will present the findings of their research, either orally or via a poster, in a special symposium hosted by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in late May.

The timeline for participating in the ESS Honors Program is as follows:

Junior Year

  1. By the end of junior year, identify a thesis mentor and question. Attend optional information sessions hosted by the E&S Program or stop by the program office in 117 Kennedy to learn more. Look for online application this summer.

Senior Year

  1. Enroll in ESS 4990 Undergraduate Research (in consultation with your research advisor) to receive credit for research work done in fall and/or spring.  Registration is done using CALS Special Studies form available online. This is not a requirement for honors candidates.
  2. By the sixth week of fall semester: Submit formal application using the online application portal going live in Summer 2019.
  3. March 31: Thesis should be close to completion.
  4. April 15: Formal thesis submission.
  5. By the end of classes, you will receive thesis reviews.
  6. By graduation, submit revised thesis manuscript.
  7. Friday before Graduation: Candidates participate in and present the findings of their research, either orally or via a poster, in an event for parents, faculty, and peers hosted by the Environment & Sustainability (E&S) Program. 
  8. Students may volunteer to publish their original honors research at eCommons Cornell University Library, as long as doing so does not interfere with other plans, such as patenting or publishing in a professional journal. A permission form can be obtained from the honors committee chair.
  9. Additionally, in recognition of student honors research, CALS prints a booklet of honors theses abstracts (CALS Research Honors Abstracts) each year. Students are responsible for submitting their formatted abstracts in accordance with abstract publication instructions. Thesis examples are available on the web at