Ecology, Evolution, & Environmental Biology


1. History and Overview of the Collection

Columbia University Libraries collects materials in support of research and teaching efforts of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B). This collection had its humble beginnings in a small reading room in Schermerhorn Hall containing monographs and some journals, supporting what was then known as the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC). E3B was formed in 2001 as an outgrowth of CERC and the Libraries’ growing collection was moved to the Biological Sciences Library in 2007, which was integrated into the new Science & Engineering Library when it opened in 2011. Materials in high use as well as course reserves for the department are housed in the Science & Engineering Library, with other material being held in the Libraries’ off-site storage facility (ReCAP).  

The collection covers the areas of plant and animal systematics, evolutionary and population genetics, demography and population biology, behavioral and community ecology, physical anthropology/primatology, and related fields of epidemiology, ethnobiology, public health, and environmental policy. There is increasing interest in the biological aspects of sustainable development which is also studied in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and across the Earth Institute.  

This document outlines the Libraries’ general policy on collections for E3B but it is not intended to be a rigid set of rules; collection suggestions from students and faculty are welcome. (see contact information below.)

2. Academic Departments and Programs Supported

a. Undergraduate

The Libraries collects materials in support of the undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology as well as a major and concentration in the evolutionary biology of the human species. The Libraries also supports undergraduate students from Barnard College (BC) in their research.

b. Graduate & Professional Schools

The Libraries collects materials in support of master’s and PhD programs offered by E3B. The MS in Conservation Biology focuses on the biological sciences with the addition of courses in economics and environmental policy. The PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is designed to provide the broad education needed to describe, understand, and conserve the Earth's biological diversity in all its forms. In addition, E3B also offers a PhD program in evolutionary primatology. Many aspects of this program are coordinated with the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP) and offered through its partner institutions.

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

In addition to the programs listed above, the Libraries’ collection also supports the work of the following organizations:

Earth Institute and affiliated centers including Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability- EICES

New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP)

Black Rock Forest

d. Course Reserves

Selection for course reserves is up to individual faculty members. The Librarian will do whatever is possible to secure specific materials absent from the collection. Course reserves for the department are housed in the Science & Engineering Library.

3. Selection Guidelines

a. Print

Print materials collected include serials and periodical publications, reference sources, technical reports, and monographs. In general, print items will not be acquired if the content is available in electronic formats, unless cost or licensing considerations render the electronic version impractical. Subject coverage is intended to support research and educational efforts of relevant topics of interest to E3B faculty and students, including (but not limited to) plant and animal systematics, evolutionary and population genetics, demography and population biology, behavioral and community ecology, anthropology/primatology, and related fields of epidemiology, ethnobiology, public health, and environmental policy. There is increasing interest in the biological aspects of sustainable development, which is also studied in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and across the Earth Institute.

b. Digital Collections

Columbia University Libraries offers a robust variety of electronic resources. The E3B collection strives to offer the full array of available databases relevant to the field. The number of e-book titles acquired has been increasing over the last several years. E-books may be acquired outright or may be part of a subscription services as appropriate, based on availability. Electronic items with reduced barriers to access are preferred, such as DRM-free e-books or multi-user licenses.  There are numerous electronic journal subscriptions available as well. 

c. Media

Audiovisual materials and electronic tools are collected selectively, but may be present as part of broader electronic collections or acquired upon specific request.  

d. Languages Collected

We collect English-language materials extensively, Western European languages very selectively, and non-Western languages are collected rarely. 

e. Chronological Focus

We collect materials focusing on current research topics and 20th-century topics extensively and 19th-century topics selectively.

f. Geographical Focus

We collect United States imprints extensively and materials published in Great Britain, Western Europe, Canada, and Latin America selectively.

g. Imprint Dates Collected

The main focus of collecting is current and recent (+/- three years) imprints. When antiquarian acquisitions are offered via gift or purchase, no specific chronological ranges are established in advance; rare or unique materials from any period may be considered.  

4. Distinctive and Special Collections

Not applicable. 

5. Collection Strategies

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The range of print materials focusing on the fields of ecology, evolution, and environmental are greatly enhanced by Columbia’s participation in Borrow Direct, OCLC’s SHARES network of international academic libraries, and the Manhattan Research Library Initiative (MaRLI), a partnership with New York University and The New York Public Library. MaRLI also enables Columbia to expand its electronic access to electronic journals and books through cooperative subscription and purchase agreements.

b. Location Decisions and Selection for ReCAP

When acquired, physical items will primarily be sent to off-site storage unless acquired specifically for course reserves or by patron request. Duplication of titles is generally limited to works identified by faculty as being central to a specific course. In these cases, no more than a few copies are obtained, at least one of which should be placed by the faculty member on reserve. Deduplication generally only takes place when a title has been identified for relocation to ReCAP and a copy already exists on shelf at that facility.  Even in this instance, the Librarian will inspect the copy that could potentially be withdrawn for any unique features or unusual provenance before assenting to deduplication.

c. Deaccessioning

Titles are deaccessioned only in cases where the physical copy is disintegrating and no longer serviceable in print format. In these instances, the Librarian will evaluate whether to make a preservation photocopy, to create or acquire a digital surrogate, and/or whether to replace the physical copy with another.  Resources on obsolete formats are reviewed by librarians on a case-by-case basis; in instances where the original format has artifactual value, it will be retained even after it has been digitized or otherwise reformatted. Distinctive collections held in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, and the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary are not deaccessioned.

d. Digitization and Preservation

Materials may be treated for preservation issues as needed.

contact information


AMANDA BIELSKAS

Head, Collection Management for the Science, Engineering, & Social Science Libraries
  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries
(212) 854-6767
Science & Engineering Library - 403 Northwest Corner Building