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Honors Program in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences

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
  • environmental and sustainability sciences
  • 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 Environmental and Sustainability Sciences

Contact: Colleen Kearns, ESS Program Manager

The research honors program in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences 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 in late May.

Students should adhere to the following schedule

Junior Year

  1. File an informal application with the faculty director. The application includes i) a short description of the research and ii) advisor information.

Senior Year

  1. Enroll in NTRES 4990, or 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.
  2. Sixth week of fall semester: Submit formal application to faculty director.
  3. March 31: Thesis should be close to completion.
  4. April 15: Submit one copy of the thesis to the faculty director for ad hoc reviews.
  5. May 4: Pick up ad hoc reviewers’ comments from the faculty director.
  6. May 15: Submit two copies of the final thesis: one for the college, one for the program director.
  7. Friday before Graduation: Participate in an and present the findings of their research, either orally or via a poster, in an event for parents, faculty, and peers hosted by the Department of Natural Resources.
  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. 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; each program area chair may also be able to provide relevant examples.