Environmental Science Merit Badge

Environmental Science Merit Badge Guide

Environmental Science Merit Badge – An environmental scientist need to know a great deal about living things, their ways of life the environment its effect on life.

For instance, an environmental scientist might study how the chemistry of soil affects ant behavior.

Some other things that an environmental scientist might study include plants in a forest, the makeup of rainwater, the purity of air, and how many living things are found in a given environment.

The activities in this article will introduce you to get environmental science merit badge and to the wide range of subjects that environmental scientists study.

Environmental Science Merit Badge Requirements

Environmental Science Merit Badge Requirements

  1. Make a timeline of the history of environmental science in America. Identify the contribution made by the Boy Scouts of America to environmental science. Include dates, names of people or organizations, and important events.
  2. Define the following terms: population, community, ecosystem, biosphere, symbiosis, niche, habitat, conservation, threatened species, endangered species, extinction, pollution prevention, brownfield, ozone, watershed, airshed, nonpoint source, hybrid vehicle, fuel cell.
  3. Do ONE activity from seven of the following categories (using the activities in this pamphlet as the basis for planning and projects):
    • Ecology
      1. Conduct an experiment to find out how living things respond to changes in their environments. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
      2. Conduct an experiment illustrating the greenhouse effect. Keep a journal of your data and observations. Discuss your conclusions with your counselor.
      3. Discuss what is an ecosystem. Tell how it is maintained in nature and how it survives.
    • Air Pollution
      1. Perform an experiment to test for particulates that contribute to air pollution. Discuss your findings with your counselor.
      2. Record the trips taken, mileage, and fuel consumption of a family car for seven days, and calculate how many miles per gallon the car gets. Determine whether any trips could have been combined (“chained”) rather than taken out and back. Using the idea of trip chaining, determine how many miles and gallons of gas could have been saved in those seven days.
      3. Explain what is acid rain. In your explanation, tell how it affects plants and the environment and the steps society can take to help reduce its effects.
    • Water Pollution
      1. Conduct an experiment to show how living things react to thermal pollution. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
      2. Conduct an experiment to identify the methods that could be used to mediate (reduce) the effects of an oil spill on waterfowl. Discuss your results with your counselor.
      3. Describe the impact of a waterborne pollutant on an aquatic community. Write a 100-word report on how that pollutant affected aquatic life, what the effect was, and whether the effect is linked to biomagnification.
    • Land Pollution
      1. Conduct an experiment to illustrate soil erosion by water. Take photographs or make a drawing of the soil before and after your experiment, and make a poster showing your results. Present your poster to your counselor.
      2. Perform an experiment to determine the effect of an oil spill on land. Discuss your conclusions with your counselor.
      3. Photograph an area affected by erosion. Share your photographs with your counselor and discuss why the area has eroded and what might be done to help alleviate the erosion.
    • Endangered Species
      1. Do research on one endangered species found in your state. Find out what its natural habitat is, why it is endangered, what is being done to preserve it, and how many individual organisms are left in the wild. Prepare a 100-word report about the organism, including a drawing. Present your report to your patrol or troop.
      2. Do research on one species that was endangered or threatened but that has now recovered. Find out how the organism recovered, and what its new status is. Write a 100-word report on the species and discuss it with your counselor.
      3. With your parent’s and counselor’s approval, work with a natural resource professional to identify two projects that have been approved to improve the habitat for a threatened or endangered species in your area. Visit the site of one of these projects and report on what you saw.
    • Pollution Prevention, Resource Recovery, and Conservation
      1. Look around your home and determine 10 ways your family can help reduce pollution. Practice at least two of these methods for seven days and discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
      2. Determine 10 ways to conserve resources or use resources more efficiently in your home, at school, or at camp. Practice at least two of these methods for seven days and discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
      3. Perform an experiment on packaging materials to find out which ones are biodegradable. Discuss your conclusion with your counselor.
    • Pollination
      1. Using photographs or illustrations, point out the differences between a drone and a worker bee. Discuss the stages of bee development (eggs, larvae, pupae). Explain the pollination process, and what propolis is and how it is used by honey bees. Tell how bees make honey and beeswax, and how both are harvested. Explain the part played in the life of the hive by the queen, the drones, and the workers.
      2. Present to your counselor a one-page report on how and why honey bees are used in pollinating food crops. In your report, discuss the problems faced by the bee population today, and the impact on humanity if there were no pollinators. Share your report with your troop or patrol, your class at school, or another group approved by your counselor.
      3. Hive a swarm OR divide at least one colony of honey bees. Explain how a hive is constructed.
    • Invasive Species
      1. Learn to identify the major invasive plant species in your community or camp and explain to your counselor what can be done to either eradicate or control their spread.
      2. Do research on two invasive plant or animal species in your community or camp. Find out where the species originated, how they were transported to the United States, their life history, how they are spread, and the recommended means to eradicate or control their spread. Report your research orally or in writing to your counselor.
      3. Take part in a project of at least one hour to eradicate or control the spread of an invasive plant species in your community or camp.
  4. Choose two outdoor study areas that are very different from one another (e.g., hilltop vs. bottom of a hill; field vs. forest; swamp vs. dry land). For BOTH study areas, do ONE of the following:
    • Mark off a plot of 4 square yards in each study area, and count the number of species found there. Estimate how much space is occupied by each plant species and the type and number of nonplant species you find. Report to your counselor orally or in writing the biodiversity and population density of these study areas.
    • Make at least three visits to each of the two study areas (for a total of six visits), staying for at least 20 minutes each time, to observe the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. Space each visit far enough apart that there are readily apparent differences in the observations. Keep a journal that includes the differences you observe. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
  5. Using the construction project provided or a plan you create on your own, identify the items that would need to be included in an environmental impact statement for the project planned.
  6. Find out about three career opportunities in environmental science. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.

Scientific Method

Imagine that you are watching a line of ants carrying pieces of food from a picnic site to an anthill. If you push the ants aside, they soon line up again. 

You want to know how the ants know where to line up. To try to answer that question, you follow a series of steps known as the scientific method.

First, you state the problem you want to solve how ants know where to line up. Then you gather information about ants. Perhaps you do some research on ants in the library.
Second, you form a hypothesis, that is, you formulate a statement or question that can be tested. Your hypothesis might be a statement such as Ants know where to line up because they can see one another.
Next, test your hypothesis by performing an experiment. In your experiment, you place food in one corner of a box and ants at the other end. When the ants have found the food and have formed a line to carry it, you disrupt the line and then turn off the lights.
Now, you analyze your results. Did the ants line up again? If the ants lined up even in the dark, you might draw a conclusion that they do not need to see one another in order to line up, so your hypothesis is wrong.

Your conclusion would be that ants must use some sense other than sight to line up. Sometimes, when the results of an experiment do not support a hypothesis, you can use what you learned to formulate a new hypothesis and carry out a new experiment to test the new hypothesis.
Steps in the Scientific Method

Not all hypotheses can be tested by doing an experiment in a laboratory. Some hypotheses are tested by observing events and collecting facts.

You could test which kinds of birdseed a particular type of bird prefers just by observing what birds eat at several feeders.

This information for answer the requirement 1.

Timeline of the History of Environmental Science

  • 1626. Plymouth Colony passed a law to control the cutting and sale of timber on colony lands.
  • 1639. People in Newport, Rhode Island, agreed to restrict deer hunting to six months a year.
  • 1681. In Pennsylvania, William Penn decreed that one acre must be left forested for every five acres of forest that were cleared.
  • 1798. Thomas Malthus predicted that exponential population growth would outplace linear food production, which leads to starvation.
  • 1845. Henry David Thoreau believed in being simple and self-sufficient. Author of Walden or Life in the Woods.
  • 1872. Yellowstone National Park the first National Park created by Ulysses S. Grant.
  • 1900. The Lacey Act simply stated that you can’t kill birds without paying the state.
  • 1901-1909. Theodore Roosevelt a conservationist who was the 1st Environmental President. He started the Golden Age of Conservation
  • 1934-1940. Dust Bowl A drought occurred, and the citizens used bad farming techniques which led to the soil depleting and starvation.
  • 1962. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson cautioned about pesticides and DDT. She is the mother of the Environmental Science movement.
  • 1969. Cuyahoga River Fire, the river was so badly polluted it caught on fire.
  • 1969. National Environmental Policy Act, 1st comprehensive Environmental Law. No construction if it negatively affects the environment.
  • 1970. Clean Air Act, sets limits for air pollutants to keep our air healthy.
  • 1970. EPA Established, Nixon established the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
  • 1970. The First Earth Day on April 22nd was arranged by students’ universities and such.
  • 1972. Clean Water Act, regulated pollution in water it sets maximum limits in drinkable water.
  • 1979. Three Mile Island, located in Pennsylvania it was the worst nuclear disaster of all time.
  • 1989. Exxon Valdez, one of the worst disasters that occurred at sea. An oil tanker struck a reef spilling millions of gallons into the ocean.
  • 2011. Fukushima, Japan. Huge radiation triggered after a nuclear reactor exploded due to an earthquake that triggered a tsunami.

1. From conservation to Environmentalism

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, people began to speak out about human activities that were causing serious environmental problems such as air and water pollution.

American zoologist William T. Hornaday wrote about the need to protect wildlife in North America.

In 1907, a scientific study by M. C. Marsh showed how fish were hurt by industrial wastes released into water sources.

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book that discussed the dangers to the environment from using the pesticide DDT.

Carson and other people who wrote about the environmental effects of human activities helped make the public aware of environmental concerns.

This public awareness led to the designation of April 22 as Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 sparked an environmental movement in the United States.

As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Council on Environmental Quality, and many state and local environmental agencies were established.

Today, many laws protect our air, water, land, and wildlife resources.

Also Read: Eagle Merit Badge Requirements

2. Boy Scouts and the Environment

In the early 1900s, as the conservation movement grew, two separate organizations for boys that focused on nature and the environment were founded.

In 1902, the Woodcraft Indians was started in Connecticut by the naturalist Ernest Thompson
Seton to preserve the wilderness knowledge of American Indians.

As one of the foremost naturalists of his time, Seton spoke before the U.S. Congress in 1904 in support of the legislation, which had been authored by William T. Hornaday, to protect migratory birds.

About the same time, Daniel Carter Beard, a former surveyor and engineer who became an author and illustrator, wrote a book titled The American Boy’s Handy Book.

In 1905, Beard founded a club called Sons of Daniel Boone to teach boys about nature, conservation, and outdoorsmanship.

On February 8, 1910, Seton and Beard merged their separate boys’ clubs into the Boy Scouts of America. Publisher William D. Boyce founded this new organization.

From its beginnings, the Boy Scouts of America had a strong foundation of woodcraft, nature study, and conservation. Many activities in Scouting come from the activities of American Indians.

Many of the principles that Scouts uphold come from the conservation ethics of Seton and Beard. The BSA has taught more than 45 million young environmentalists throughout its history.

Currently, with more than 1.5 million active members, the BSA continues to train American youth in principles of conservation and environmental science.

  • 1910. The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.
  • 1914. The first tree-planting project was held in New York, planted 12.000 Boy Scout war gardens.
  • 1938. Philturn Rocky Mountain Scout Camp established 35.857 acres of land near Cimarron, Ne Mexico (conservation).
  • 1970-1979.
    • Scouting keeps America beautiful Day on June 5, 1971.
    • Scouts collected more than a million tons of litter.
  • 1980-1989. First Scouting for Food National Good Turn, 1988. More than 60 million food items were collected.
  • 2000-2009.
    • ArrowCorps5, 2008. In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Sevice. 3.600 Scouts and adult volunteers participated. $5.6 Million worth of improvements made to national parks.
    • The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, 2009.
  • Present Day. Thousands of Eagle Scout projects, service days, etc.

Here’s information for answer requirement 2 of environmental science merit badge.

Define Terms in Environmental Science

The population is all the organisms of the same group or species who live in the same geographical area and are capable of interbreeding.
The Community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.
The Ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals, and microbes) in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment.
The Biosphere is part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of
supporting life.
Symbiosis is a close and often interaction long-term between two or more different biological species.
Niche is the way of life of a species
Habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant and other types of organisms.
Conservation is a practice that protects animals, plants, and the environment.
Threatened Species are any species (including animals, plants, fungi, etc.) that are vulnerable to endangerment in the near future.
Endangered Species are the species of animals or plants that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), normally a species.
Pollution Prevention is activities that reduce the amount of pollution generated by a process, whether it is consumer consumption, driving, or industrial production.
Brownfield is sites are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use.
Ozone is a gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms contained in the earth’s atmosphere and ultraviolet radiation at certain wavelengths. Ozone protects the earth from harmful UV radiation which damages skin, eyes, and the immune system of life forms.
Watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place.
An airshed is areas within which the air frequently is confined or channeled, with all parts of the area being subject to similar conditions of air pollution.
Nonpoint Source is pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources.
Hybrid Vehicle a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle.
Fuel Cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent.
Define Term in Environmental Science

The following information is in answering the third requirement of the Environment Science Merit Badge.

Understanding Ecology

Although laws and agencies have been established to help protect and preserve nature, much more needs to be done. Before you can help protect nature, you must understand how it works.

Imagine that you are standing on the bank of a quiet river in Florida. Along the banks of this river you see a great blue heron, an alligator, a rat snake, and a raccoon. On a rock in the river, a Florida red-bellied turtle basks in the sun.

Looking down into the water, you see the long body of a fish called a gar gliding through slender leaves of eelgrass. Snails feed as they travel among the water plants. Here and there, whirligig beetles dot the water surface.

Tiny duckweed plants float near the quiet banks. A bullfrog jumps from the river’s edge and disappears into the water.

All of the living things in and around the river are connected in some way. Bullfrogs eat whirligig beetles. Herons eat bullfrogs, rat snakes, gars, and hatchling red-bellied turtles.

Raccoons eat bullfrogs, insects, worms, and snails. Snails and adult turtles eat aquatic (water) plants. In nature, living things interact in many ways.

1. Living things in the Environment

Snails, red-bellied turtles, and eelgrass are living things. All living things have the ability to reproduce, that is, to make more of the same kind of living thing. Living things also change during their lifetimes.

They grow and develop and have a life span that eventually ends in death. Another important characteristic of living things is that they can usually adjust to their surroundings. They can respond to changes in their environments.

Scientists call living things organisms. Think of all the millions of organisms that inhabit Earth. Organisms can be found in the deepest oceans and on the highest mountains. Some bacteria can even be found high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The part of Earth that contains and supports living things is known as the biosphere. The biosphere is all parts of Earth where life exists on land, in water, or in the air.

Within the biosphere are many different kinds of environments. Beaches, forests, glaciers, deserts, and rivers are environments.

Every environment on Earth includes both the living things found there and the physical, or nonliving, environment.

in which living things exist. Think about the living things in your own environment. No matter where you live, organisms surround you.

The bacteria on your skin, your pet, the fleas on your pet, the spider in a corner, and the plants growing outside are organisms in your environment.

You have interactions with the bacteria, your pet, its fleas, the spider, and the plants, but these interactions are not the only ones in your environment. There also are nonliving things that influence the organisms in every environment.

2. Nonlivingthings in the Environment

Let’s go back to that Florida river you imagined before and think of nonliving things. You probably know that the water in the river is nonliving, but what about the wind? The sunlight? Rocks in the river? The soil that supports the plants growing at the river’s edge?

These are all nonliving things that interact with the living organisms in the river environment.

In your environment, the weather affects you and your pets. The soap you use when you shower affects the bacteria on your skin. Sunlight, temperature, rainfall, and minerals in the soil affect the plants outside.

The important interactions between nonliving and living things determine which living things can share an environment with which nonliving things.

Let’s look at four nonliving factors to find out how they affect the living things in an environment.


Life on Earth would be impossible without water. The bodies of most organisms are 50 to 95 percent water. Water is necessary for many life processes, including respiration, photosynthesis, and digestion.

Water covers more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface. But about 97 percent of the water on Earth is salt water contained in oceans. That means only about 3 percent is freshwater.

Most of the freshwater is not available to living things, because it is frozen in the ice caps or glaciers.

In fact, only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is fresh water that is available to organisms. This freshwater is in rivers, ponds, lakes, streams,
underground water supplies (aquifers), or in water vapor.


Soil is formed by the physical and chemical breakdown of rocks and by the actions of living things. The breakdown of rock into soil releases minerals that organisms need for their life processes.

These minerals return to the soil when organisms die and decay. Decayed material that once was living is called organic matter. The more organic matter in soil, the more fertile it is.

Soil determines the type of plant life that can grow in certain environments. Therefore, soil has an effect upon the other organisms that can live there, too.

Among the factors that determine which organisms can live in a particular soil, the environment is the mineral and organic matter content, air content, and soil texture.


Nearly all living things depend upon the sun for energy, either directly or indirectly. Plants, algae, and some other organisms “trap” sunlight and capture its energy in the
process of photosynthesis.

Plants use this energy to power their life processes, or they store it. When a snail eats a plant, for example, the snail uses the stored energy in the plant to carry out life processes such as breathing and moving.

When a raccoon eats the snail, the energy is passed along. Green plants, algae, and other photosynthetic organisms must live where there is sunlight.

In aquatic environments, photosynthetic organisms can live only in the top layer of the water, where sunlight can reach the organisms.


In general, the temperature of an environment depends on the amount of sunlight it gets. Air is heated more at the equator than at the poles.

This is why tropical areas near the equator are hot, the polar regions are cold, and the regions in between have moderate temperatures.

Temperatures also are affected by Earth’s rotation, by winds and ocean currents created by that rotation, by the tilt of Earth on its axis (see the illustration), and by elevation.

As you hike up a mountain, the air temperature drops. That is why it is possible to have a snowball fight on top of Mount Baldy at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in July!

earth orbit
Earth’s Orbit

3. interactions among livingthings

Think again of the organisms living in a Florida river. There are several different species of turtles living there. A species is a group of organisms that has characteristics in common and can breed to produce offspring.

For example, red-bellied turtles can mate with other red-bellied turtles to produce baby red-bellied turtles. In the river, there are at least three species of turtles red-bellied turtles, cooters, and common snapping turtles.

All the individual red-bellied turtles living in the river make up a population of red-bellied turtles. All the cooters make up a population of cooters, and all the snapping turtles make up a population of snapping turtles.

You can see that the river environment contains many different populations of organisms.

Populations of organisms, of course, do not live alone in the environment. Most interact with other populations in a given area. The red-bellied turtles interact with the eelgrass
(by eating it).

The eelgrass provides hiding places for young fish and tadpoles. The great blue herons eat the bullfrogs. Populations are constantly changing in size, density, and age as they respond to changes in their environment.

If the herons eat all of the adult bullfrogs in the river, for example, the population of bullfrogs will include only tadpoles and eggs.

It might be enough until here our information about the environmental science merit badge. To complete the other requirements, you can read the information in the pamphlet that I have shared.

Hans Curt
I might be a Mechanical Engineer on the paper, but I was an Eagle Scout enthusiast since childhood.