Environmental Science Major

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Department Faculty

The Environmental Science Program

The Environmental Science major promotes the study of our environment and the impact that human activities have on natural systems. Majors may choose either a natural science or a social science perspective according to their interests.

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 order to best prepare for personal career goals.

Environmental laws and regulations have produced an increased demand by industry and all levels of government for people trained in the environmental sciences. Both tracks provide a strong background for advanced study or allow placement directly in a variety of career areas. Majors who have the appropriate academic record may pursue Honors in Environmental Science. Financial support for student research is available.

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, GPS instruments, and fresh and salt water aquaria. There is access to a small fleet of boats including one equipped for trawling, coring, and dredging. In addition, the Department has modern lab facilities equipped with advanced analytical instruments and a computer lab with GIS software.

Majors are encouraged to fulfill the general education experiential learning requirement by completing URES 197, EESC 491, EESC 493, or EESC 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 (40) or forty one (41) credits, including:

EESC 110, 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 (331 must be taken with 332) or EESC 325; GEOL 111 and 112A; 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, 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 and 211 (must be taken concurrently and count as one elective), 230, 240, 307, 313, 323, 325, 326, 330, 340, 355, 360, 421, 481, 491, 493, 499; GEOG 110, 231, 325, 340B, 351A, 355; GEOL 210 and 211 (must be taken concurrently and count as one elective), 240, 301, 311, 313, 325, 340, 355, 360, 493, GISC 351.

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

Thirty-eight (38) or thirty-nine (39) credits, including EESC 110 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; GEOL 111 and 112A; 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 and 211 (must be taken concurrently and count as one elective), 230, 240, 307, 313, 315, 323, 325, 326, 330, 340, 355, 360, 421, 481, 491, 493, 499; GEOG 110, 231, 236, 245, 255, 337, 339A, 340B, 351A; GEOL 210 and 211 (must be taken concurrently and count as one elective), 240, 313, 315, 325, 340, 355, 360, 493; GISC 351; PHIL 330; PSCI 350B, 354A, 355, 362, 366; SOCG 313, 404.

Environmental Science Course Offerings

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.

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.

205 – Computer Applications in Environmental Science and Geology (3)

This course emphasizes the acquisition of spatial data and their display and manipulation within geographic information system software. The class also includes an introduction to the use of global positioning system instruments for data collection. Cross-listed as Geology 205.

210 – Oceanography (3)

Prerequisite: GEOL 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 210.

211 – Oceanography Laboratory (1)

Corequisite: EESC/GEOL 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 211.

230 – Global Environmental Problems (3)

Prerequisites: EESC 110 or BIOL 121. 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: GEOL 111 or EESC 110 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 240.

307 – Environmental Soil Science (3)

Prerequisites: GEOL 112 or EESC 110 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.

313- Fluvial Geomorphology (4)

Prerequisites: GEOL 112 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 313. Laboratory.

315 – Hydrogeology (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 112. An introduction to surface water and groundwater flow; the hydrologic cycle; aquifer testing; flow to wells; contaminant transport; and field and laboratory instruments. Cross-listed as GEOL 315. 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: GEOL 112 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 325. 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.

340 – Energy Resources and Technology (3)

Prerequisite: One from BIOL 132, 126, CHEM 112, GEOL 112, EESC 110 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 340.

355 – Icehouse – Greenhouse Earth (3)

Prerequisites: GEOL 111 or EESC 110. 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. Cross-listed as GEOL 355.

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. Cross listed as GEOL 360.

421 – Topics in Environmental Science (2–4)

This course will address a special topic in the environmental sciences, such as environmental audits or environmental toxicology. Open to junior and senior Environmental Science majors; others by permission of instructor.

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 in Environmental Science (1–2)

Readings in Environmental Science literature selected by the student, who is guided by a faculty member. Open to junior and senior Environmental Science majors by permission of the department.

491 – Special Problems in Environmental Science (1–4)

Individual laboratory or field investigation supervised by a faculty member. Open to junior and senior students with permission of the department.

493 – Honors Research (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 491 or GEOL 491 and permission of instructor. 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 Environmental Science major in good academic standing with appropriate background. Supervised off-campus experience, developed in consultation with the department.