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Core Areas

Instructor and students in greenhouse.

The specific strengths of SEBS are focused on five core areas:

Agriculture, Food Systems, and Society

SEBS historic land-grant legacy provides a strong platform to teach entrepreneurial and innovative education in the agricultural sciences and explore sustainable agricultural systems.  Its focus on agriculture as well as food policy and management encompasses agricultural economics, pest management, improving the welfare of farm families, addressing the societal impacts of new food technologies, human and animal nutrition, food insecurity, and food safety, processing and engineering.  Programs in plant biology and genetics use traditional breeding as well as molecular tools to improve genetic traits and combat disease.  Through courses, research, and outreach activities, SEBS explores the capacity of local food production and food systems that connect urban and suburban communities with agriculture and open space to enhance the economy, landscape, and culture of New Jersey.

Climate and Earth Systems

SEBS is a global leader in understanding Earth’s environment, spanning the land, ocean, and atmosphere. Understanding the processes and systems critical to fostering and sustaining life on earth is a core focus.  SEBS combines observation technologies, numerical models, and experimental work to understand and predict how Earth’s environment has changed over time and will change in the future, with a growing focus on the increasing impacts of human activity (e.g. climate change, urbanization, overexploitation, pollution) from local to global scales.  SEBS strongly contributes to the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary development of strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change through both social and environmental approaches.


SEBS is at the forefront of understanding the complex network of interconnected organisms and their interactions with their physical environments, employing an interdisciplinary approach that reaches from biochemistry to global biodiversity, and from microbes to whales.  SEBS research on the evolution of ecosystems includes the biochemistry and ecology of microbiomes, plant-insect-animal interactions, ecological impacts of invasive species, degradation of anthropogenic pollutants, ecosystem conservation, and characterization of changes across ecological systems on a warming planet.  In addition, SEBS biological research collections of marine organisms, insects, plants and microbes are rich sources of historical and contemporary information on a changing biodiversity of endangered species and invasive newcomers.

Sustainable Health & Wellbeing

SEBS research spans the molecular and physiological underpinnings of health to the influences of food, diet, and active lifestyle on chronic diseases.  Such research is informed by the concept of One Health, defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which focuses on the interconnections between the health and wellbeing of humans, animals, and ecosystems.  With more than half of infectious diseases in people being transmitted by animals, including insects, an understanding of animal health is fundamental to human health.  SEBS research also focuses on reduction in the nuisance and health risks of insects and ticks, the humane treatment of animals, and the preservation and safety of our food, water, and air.  SEBS expands the concept of sustainability to include strategies to promote health and wellness, as well as ethical and just economic and social welfare for youth, families and underserved communities throughout the world.

Human-Environment Engagement

SEBS has an established international reputation for understanding and addressing how humans change the environment, and how environmental changes impact individuals, communities, cultures, societies, and the planet.  In particular, SEBS expertise addresses the challenges of a rapidly warming and urbanizing world.  Linking the natural sciences, social sciences, policy, and economics with design and planning yields creative and innovative strategies to enhance the ecological value of urban, suburban, rural, and undeveloped environments, and to protect and guide their sustainable use.  SEBS faculty research areas include participatory design and planning, urban parks and open space, urban ecological design, wetland ecology and management, sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries, energy and water use, climate mitigation and adaptation, and environmental governance, as well as science, health, risk, and environmental communication, engagement, and outreach.

Connecting these core areas, SEBS uses a holistic model, recognizing that understanding and finding solutions for our challenges depends on the convergence of ideas and evidence from multiple and diverse disciplines.  The concept is visually represented in Figure 1 in which the consilience themes of ‘Environment,’ ‘Sustainability,’ ‘Wellness,’ and ‘Ethics, Social Justice, and Governance’ run through and unite the core areas.

Within this model, our scholarship, teaching, outreach, and engagement are grounded in specific disciplines that are currently organized into 15 departments, while incorporating the innovative interdisciplinary cooperation necessary to anticipate, assess and address defined challenges.  SEBS aspires to meet its mission through both traditional classroom and laboratory modalities using modern technological and pedagogical techniques, and non-traditional classroom, laboratory, and real-world learning opportunities, including experience-based training and internships both on and off campus.  These ideals are further advanced through a variety of interdisciplinary institutes and centers both within SEBS and NJAES.