Environmental Science Major

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Department Faculty

Requirements for the Geology and Environmental Geology majors are listed in the Catalog under Geology

The Environmental Science Program

The Environmental Sciences and Geology degree (Bachelor of Science) promotes the study of our environment and the impact that human activities have on natural systems. Environmental Science  majors choose either a natural science or a social science perspective according to their interests. Both tracks provide a strong background for advanced study or allow placement directly in a variety of career areas.

The Natural Science track provides a background in biology, chemistry, and geology. Analytical skills acquired in this program, coupled with an appreciation of socioeconomic considerations, will prepare the student to evaluate environmental problems and work on solutions with the limits of societal resources in mind.

The Social Science track focuses on the economic, political, and sociological impact of humans on the environment. This program, coupled with an appreciation of the biotic and physical parameters of the environment, prepares students to evaluate government, industry, and environmentalist positions on environmental issues.

The interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Science program permits students to select classes from a wide range of course offerings in multiple departments in order to best prepare for personal career goals.

The Department has modern laboratories in the Jepson Science Center equipped with advanced analytical instruments to support classroom instruction and to provide opportunities for research. Equipment for ecological studies in terrestrial, fresh water, and marine environments includes live animal traps, plankton and insect nets, seines, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH meters, and fresh and salt water aquaria. Major laboratory equipment includes petrographic microscopes, an x-ray diffractometer, a magnetic susceptibility instrument, and dedicated lab facilities for paleontology, sedimentology, and geochemistry. The Jepson Science Center has a variable pressure scanning electron microscope with chemical capabilities that is shared by the science disciplines. For environmental and geological fieldwork, the department has GPS equipment, a small fleet of research boats (including one equipped for trawling, coring, and dredging), coring and surveying equipment, and for classroom study, an extensive collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils. The department also maintains a computer lab/classroom equipped with the latest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.

Majors in all of our programs are encouraged to do independent study and/or research during their senior year. Financial support for student research is available. Qualified students may also choose to do an internship with a professional organization during either their junior or senior year. Students with a 3.00 overall grade-point average and a 3.25 grade-point average in the major may pursue Honors in Environmental Science, Geology, or Environmental Geology by completing an independent research project and writing and defending a thesis.

All of our majors are encouraged to fulfill the general education experiential learning requirement by completing Undergraduate Research (URES) 197, Earth and Environmental Science (EESC) 481, 491, 493, or 499. Alternatively, majors may meet this requirement by participating in an approved supervised on-campus or off-campus summer research experience developed in consultation with the department (such as the UMW Summer Science Research Program or a similar program at another college or university).  To complete the experiential learning requirement through a summer research experience, contact the department chair for more details.

Requirements for the Environmental Science Major — Natural Science Concentration (ESNT)

Forty-one (41) credits, including EESC 110, 111, 120, 315, and 460; EESC 205 or GEOG 250 or GISC 200; BIOL 311 or 322 or EESC 323; CHEM 211 or 253 or 254 or 331 and 332 (331 must be taken with 332) or EESC 325; and 12 credits from courses in the Natural Sciences Elective Track list.

Major Electives for the Natural Sciences Track

BIOL 231, 260, 311, 312, 321, 322, 323, 340, 341, 363, 364, 371, 372, 401, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 434; CHEM 211, 212, 253, 254, 317, 318, 319, 320, 331, 332, 343, 345, 423; ECON 331, 431; EESC 210, 211, 230, 240, 301, 307, 311, 313, 323, 325, 326, 330, 340, 355, 360, 421, 481, 491, 493, 499*; GEOG 110, 231, 325, 340B, 351A, 355; GISC 351.

*A maximum of 3 credits may count toward the major requirements

Requirements for the Environmental Science Major — Social Science Concentration (ESSO)

Thirty-nine (39) credits, including EESC 110, 111, 120 and 460; EESC 205 or GEOG 250 or GISC 200; BIOL 210; CHEM 211 or 253 or 254 or 331 and 332 (331 must be taken with 332) or EESC 325; ECON 331; and 12 credits from courses in the Social Sciences Elective Track list.

Major Electives for the Social Sciences Track

BIOL 251, 260, 401, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428; ECON 312, 341, 354, 384, 431; EESC 210, 211, 230, 240, 307, 313, 315, 323, 325, 326, 330, 340, 355, 360, 421, 481, 491, 493, 499*; GEOG 110, 231, 236, 245, 337, 339A, 340B, 351A; GISC 351; PHIL 330; PSCI 350B, 354A, 355, 362, 366; SOCG 313, 404.

*A maximum of 3 credits may count toward the major requirements

Prerequisite Courses

BIOL 121, 132 (or 125 and 126) and 210 (natural science track), CHEM 11 and 112, and ECON 201 and 202 (social science track) are prerequisites to courses in the major program.  PSCI 101 and 102 are prerequisites to courses that students may include in the major program.  Students expecting to concentrate in Environmental Science should consider taking these courses as general education requirements or as electives.

Earth & Environmental Science Course Offerings

Earth & Environmental Science course offerings will be found under the 4 letter code of EESC in the course listings.

110 – Introduction to Environmental Science (3)

Humans and the environment as viewed from the social and natural sciences.

111 – Our Dynamic Earth (4)

The modern view of the Earth as a dynamic, constantly-changing planet and the impact of geological processes on our lives.  Discussions will include the origin of the solar system and Earth, how earthquakes and volcanoes result from heat-driven plate tectonic processes and our ongoing attempts to predict such hazardous events, and how Earth’s rocks and minerals are ingrained in our everyday lives.  Streams and groundwater processes and cycles of mountain uplift and erosion that continuously alter the Earth’s surface, will also be examined. Laboratory.

112 – Evolution of Earth (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 110 or 111.  History of the Earth with emphasis on surficial processes, evolution of life, energy resources, and climate change.  Laboratory.

120 – Introduction to Environmental Science II (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 110. Scientific examination of human impacts on the environment, including population growth, pollution, climate change, and other environmental problems and possible solutions.  Laboratory.

201 – Paleontology (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 111 or BIOL 121 or 125.  This course introduces the fundamental procedures and applications of paleontology that include taxonomy, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, paleoecology and environmental science.  The course format is project oriented with student opportunities to collect, describe, and analyze fossil specimens retrieved from rock samples and sediment cores.  The lab will provide a survey of major fossil groups and introduce modern analytical procedures.  Laboratory.

205 – GIS Applications in Environmental Science and Geology with Lab (4)

This course emphasizes the acquisition of spatial data and their display and analysis with ArcGIS geographic information system software.  The class also includes an introduction to the use of global positioning system instruments for data collection.  Laboratory.

210 – Oceanography (3)

Prerequisite: EESC 111. An introduction to the oceans. Physical and chemical processes affecting seawater; the geology of the seafloor; biological productivity in the oceans; and environmental challenges involving the oceans.

211 – Oceanography Laboratory (1)

Corequisite: EESC 210. Laboratory investigation of the chemical and physical properties of seawater; the tides; bathymetric measurements; coastal navigation; and marine biological processes. One or more field trips may be scheduled.

221 – Environmental Geology (3)

Prerequisite: EESC 111.  Interaction of geologic phenomena and processes with society and the biosphere.

230 – Global Environmental Problems (3)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 or BIOL 121 or 125. An in-depth analysis of specific global environmental problems facing society today. The course connects economic development, population growth, resource consumption and environmental degradation with detailed case studies. The challenges of achieving a sustainable society today will be investigated through the lessons learned from these environmental crises across the world.

240 – Field Methods in Environmental Science and Geology (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 or 111 or GEOG 110. The Earth & Environmental Sciences rely heavily on mapping and collection of physical, chemical, and biological field data. Students enrolled in the course will complete weekly laboratory and hands-on exercises to learn the essential field skills necessary to advance their careers in the earth sciences as technicians, academics, and/or educators. This introductory field course will provide a solid foundation to prepare students for advanced earth science study and/or a general introduction to the field methods within the discipline.

301 – Minerology (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 111; pre- or corequisite: CHEM 111.  Study of Earth’s major rock forming minerals, and those of economic value, in hand sample, microscopic thin section and through field studies.  Course is conducted as a mix of lecture and laboratory activities. Laboratory.

302 – Petrology (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 301; pre-or corequisite: CHEM 112.  Study of metamorphic and igneous processes and important rock types in hand sample, microscopic thin-section and through filed studies.  Course is conducted as a mix of lecture and laboratory activities.  Laboratory.

307 – Environmental Soil Science (3)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 or 111 or GEOG 111; prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 112. An introduction to soil formation processes; soil classification (both basic classification and soil taxonomy); physical properties of soil; soil chemistry; and discussion of soil as an environmental interface.

311 – Sedimentation and Stratigraphy (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 111; pre- or corequisite: CHEM 111; recommended: EESC 301. This course provides an overview of the concepts associated with sedimentary rock formation, including theoretical sedimentology, process oriented facies analysis and applied stratigraphy in the context of cyclic sea level and climate change through time.  Class work includes several field trips to collect samples for physical and chemical analysis.  Laboratory.

313 Fluvial Geomorphology (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 111 or GEOG 111. Use of both classical (qualitative) and modern (quantitative) geomorphological methods to study and understand fluvial processes acting on the surface of the earth, and how landforms and landscapes created by these processes control the global environment. The class will combine field-based observations with in-class instruction. Laboratory.

315 – Hydrogeology (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 111. An introduction to surface water and groundwater flow; the hydrologic cycle; aquifer testing; flow to wells; contaminant transport; and field and laboratory instruments. Laboratory.

323 – Aquatic Ecology (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 and BIOL 210. A study of the structure and function of inland water ecosystems which includes the physical, chemical, geological and biological interactions that determine the composition, spatial and temporal distribution and population dynamics of aquatic organisms in various aquatic habitats. Laboratory.

325 – Environmental Geochemistry (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 111 and CHEM 112. Study of chemical processes operating at or near the surface of the Earth, in bedrock, soils, streams, the oceans and the atmosphere. Particular attention is given to environmental applications.  Laboratory.

326 – Pollution Prevention Planning (3)

Prerequisite: EESC 110. This course provides an examination of the legislative and scientific approaches to reduce pollution. Examples include an evaluation of industry processes, recycling, wastewater, air and solid waste treatment.

330 – Environmental Regulations Compliance (3)

Prerequisite: EESC 110. This course provides an introduction to environmental laws and regulations and the techniques that are applied by environmental professionals to maintain compliance.

335 – Plate Tectonics (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 111.  This laboratory course offers a comprehensive study of lithospheric plate movements using information derived from seismology, paleomagnetics, petrology and tectonics.  Selected topics also include a historical review of the development of the theory of plate tectonics, geologic and geophysical events at plate boundaries and an evaluation of evidence regarding plate-driving forces.  Laboratory.

340 – Energy Resources and Technology (3)

Prerequisite: One from BIOL 132, 126, CHEM 112, EESC 110, 111, or PHYS 106. Intended primarily for science majors, this course investigates the basic science and technology relating to alternative energy sources and fossil fuels. Students who complete this class will have a greater technical understanding of energy sources and the methods used to tap them.

355 – Icehouse – Greenhouse Earth (3)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 or 111. This course examines the history of the Earth’s climate system in the context of the two primary modes: Icehouse and Greenhouse. Through critical evaluation of primary literature, written assignments and oral presentations, students will gain an appreciation of the magnitude of temporal and spatial climate reorganizations through time and develop an in-depth understanding of both long and short term cyclic changes that have contributed to the development of our modern climate system.

360 – Environmental Exploration (2-4)

Specialized courses with a significant field component not offered on a regular basis. Study of selected environments along with relevant geological issues with a focus on active exploration and research. Overnight trips and extra fees required. Permission of instructor required to register.

412 – Structural Geology (4)

Prerequisite: EESC 301.  Analysis and interpretation of structural features of the Earth’s crust such as folds and faults.  Laboratory.

421 – Special Topics (2–4)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Specialized topics not offered on a regular basis.

460 – Environmental Science Seminar (2)

Multidisciplinary evaluation of environmental problems. Senior-level seminar for Environmental Science majors; others by permission of the instructor.

481 – Readings  (1–2)

Readings in environmental and/or geologic literature selected by the student, who is guided by a faculty member. Open to majors by permission of the department.

491 – Individual Study (1–4)

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor and the department.  Investigation of a topic which may include laboratory, field work, and literature research.  Course of study determined by supervising instructor and student.

493 – Honors Research (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 491 and permission of instructor and the department. Independent research project which may include field and/or laboratory work. Course of study determined by supervising research advisor and student. Successful completion of a written thesis and oral defense is required, and will result in the student earning Departmental Honors at graduation.

499 – Internship (Credits variable)

Prerequisite: Junior or senior in good academic standing. Supervised off-campus experience developed in consultation with the department.  A maximum of three (3) credits count toward the major requirements.