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College of Letters & Science

Environmental Sciences

Requirements for the Major

CALS students: Department of Soil Science, 263 Soils Building, 1525 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; envirosci.cals.wisc.edu

L&S students: Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, 1225 West Dayton Street, Room 849, Madison, WI 53706

The environmental sciences major satisfies the growing demand among entry-level students for a rigorous, science-based program that promotes critical thinking and emphasizes environmental problem solving in service to society. The program is designed to prepare graduates who will be highly competitive for entry-level positions in nonprofit and private sectors, and for master’s programs and doctoral research programs in environmental fields. Possible career paths include environmental monitoring, consulting, education, research, and planning, as well as natural resource management, ecology restoration, remediation, water and air quality assessment, sustainability practices, and more. Undergraduates in environmental sciences prepare for a variety of career and graduate school opportunities that require a strong background in the natural sciences. Foundational course work in the major includes calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics. Core and elective course work is fulfilled through diverse offerings from both the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the College of Letters & Science.

The environmental sciences major can be earned under the Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree program. The major may be combined with many other majors such as environmental studies, life sciences communication, agronomy, soil science, foreign language/culture, and a number of other disciplines.

Environmental sciences is offered as a major in both the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Letters & Science (L&S). Students are encouraged to review the degree requirements for both L&S and CALS and choose the college from which they would prefer to earn their degree; students may choose only one degree "home."

  • In CALS, the major is housed administratively in the Department of Soil Science.
  • In L&S, the major is housed administratively in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

An undergraduate B.S. degree is offered through both colleges; a B.A. option is offered through L&S only.

Up-to-date information, curriculum, and requirements are posted at envirosci.cals.wisc.edu. Students are encouraged to contact Nick Balster (608-263-5719), njbalster@wisc.edu) to set up initial meetings, before declaring with either college.

Requirements for the Major

The basic requirements for the major include 8-14 credits of mathematics, 8-12 credits of chemistry 10 credits of biology, and 8-10 credits of physics. Another 29 (minimum) credits are required in the major foundation, core, elective, and capstone categories.

All L&S students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence.

Required Courses
FOUNDATION COURSES FOR THE MAJOR

Fundamentals of Environmental Science (3 cr)
Choose one from: Envir St 126, Envir St 127, Geog 120, Geog 127, Geosci 106, Soil Sci 230

Mathematics and Statistics (8–14 cr)

This major requires calculus. Prerequisites may need to be taken before enrollment in calculus. Refer to the Course Guide for information about calculus prerequisites.

One (1) of the following:
(a) Math 221 (recommended)
(b) Math 171 and 217
(c) Math 211
AND one (1) Statistics course from: Stat 301 or 311 or 371

Chemistry (8–12 cr)

Introductory: Chem 103 (4 cr) and 104 (5 cr), or Chem 109 (5 cr)
AND Intermediate: Chem 341 or 343 or 561

Biology (10 cr)

One (1) of the following sets:
(a) Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 and 152
(b) Botany 130 and Zoology 101 and Zoology 102
(c) Biocore 301 (381, effective spring 2014) and 302 (382, effective spring 2014) and 303 (383, effective spring 2014) and 304 (384, effective spring 2014)
[catalog update 9/17/13]

Physics (8–10 cr)

One of the following sets:
(a) Physics 207 and 208 (recommended)
(b) Physics 103 and 104
(c) Physics 201 and 202

Major Core (12–16 cr)

At least 3 credits required from each of the following four subsets:

Ecology: Agronomy 370, Botany 460*, Entom 342, 473, Envir St 510, F&W Ecol 550, 565, Land Arc 361, Zoology 315.
*This is the introduction to ecology course recommended for most students.
Physical Environment: Atm Ocn 310, 520, BSE 364, 365, 367, 571, Civ Engr 424, 311, 320, Geog 320, 321, 325, 329, 332, 338, 524, Geosci 304, 375, 627, Soil Sci 301, 321, 451, 532
Geospatial Information Sciences: Agronomy 300, Civ Engr 655, Civ Engr 357/Geog 377, Geog 370, 378, F&W Ecol 375/Envir St 401, Geosci 444, Soil Sci 695
Environmental Policy & Social Perspectives: AAE 336, 343, 344, Chem 201, C&E Soc 248, 434, 541, Geog 339, 460, 537, Geosci 410, 411, Urb R Pl 449, or consult advisor to request permission to count a different course.

Environmental Sciences Electives (12 credits)

Students must complete 12 credits of Environmental Sciences Electives and will choose 1 of 2 possible paths to completion.

Path 1—Distributed Electives: Students choosing the Distributed Electives path must complete a total of 12 credits of Environmental Sciences Electives, including at least 1 course from each category below:
Ecology: Agronomy 370, Botany 460*, Entom 342, 473, Envir St 510, F&W Ecol 550, 565, Land Arc 361, Zoology 315.
*This is the introduction to ecology course recommended for most students.
Physical Environment: Atm Ocn 310, 520, BSE 364, 365, 367, 571, Civ Engr 311, 320, 424, Geog 320, 321, 325, 329, 332, 338, 524, Geosci 304, 375, 627, Soil Sci 301, 321, 451, 532
Geospatial Information Sciences: Agronomy 300, Civ Engr 655, Civ Engr 357/Geog 377, Geog 370, 378, F&W Ecol 375/Envir St 401, Geosci 444, Soil Sci 695

Path 2—Focused Electives: Students choosing the Focused Electives path must complete a total of 12 credits of Environmental Sciences Electives from one of the following categories:
Ecology: Agronomy 370, Botany 460*, Entom 342, 473, Envir St 510, F&W Ecol 550, 565, Land Arc 361, Zoology 315.
*This is the introduction to ecology course recommended for most students.
Physical Environment: Atm Ocn 310, 520, BSE 364, 365, 367, 571, Civ Engr, 311, 320, 424, Geog 320, 321, 325, 329, 332, 338, 524, Geosci 304, 375, 627, Soil Sci 301, 321, 451, 532
Geospatial Information Sciences: Agronomy 300, Civ Engr 655, Civ Engr 357/Geog 377, Geog 370, 378, F&W Ecol 375/Envir St 401, Geosci 444, Soil Sci 695
Environmental Policy & Social Perspectives: AAE 336, 343, 344, Chem 201, C&E Soc 248, 434, 541, Geog 339, 460, 537, Geosci 410, 411, Urb R Pl 449, or consult advisor to request permission to count a different course.

Individually Approved Elective Focus Area

Students may propose to complete their Environmental Science Elective credits in another focus area not listed here. Must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Environmental Sciences Executive Committee.

Capstone (2–6 cr)

Students must complete one of the preapproved capstone courses listed below or at least 3 credits of internship (399), senior thesis (691and 692), senior honors thesis (681 and 682), or independent research (699) with a clear and recognizable focus on environmental science in one of the following departments: Landscape Architecture, Soil Science, Agronomy, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Geosciences, Geography. Courses currently approved for the capstone are:

Land Arc 551 or 666
Soil Sci 499 or Envir St 461 or 575 or F&W Ecol 652
Agron 500
F&W Ecol 590 or 599 or 375

Permission to count courses not on this list must be approved by the environmental sciences advisor. Students should speak with the environmental sciences advisor for more information.

Although capstone course requirements are currently not required in the college of Letters & Science, all L&S undergraduate students majoring in environmental sciences are required to meet a capstone requirement. Students should see the environmental sciences advisor for detailed information.

Capstone Learning Experience

A capstone learning experience is a course in which students are required to integrate diverse bodies of knowledge to solve a problem or formulate a policy of societal importance with the intent of facilitating the transition to post-baccalaureate life. A capstone experience should:

  • Develop problem solving skills
  • Expose student to multidisciplinary approach
  • Develop teamwork and interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate effectively to multiple audiences
  • Develop skills in accessing and using information resources (e.g., electronic databases, library resources, national repositories)
  • Address societal, economic, ethical, scientific, and professional issues
  • Communicate and extend the capstone experience via written, oral, and/or multimedia reports by each student.

The Capstone Experience will normally be completed during the student’s final 2 or 3 semesters. The intent is to have the student utilize and integrate their undergraduate learning into a culminating, or capstone, experience. Students should consult with the Environmental Sciences advisor (608-262-9969, bskarger@wisc.edu) for specific information regarding this requirement.