Environmental Science


Are you interested in Declaring EnviSci as your Major?
Make an Appointment with Dr. Henson or Dr. Nicolson, on Navigate

Starting August 23rd, advising appointments will be available in Navigate for students wishing to declare the EnviSci major.  You’re always welcome to drop-in via Zoom to speak to one of our peer advisors  about their experience in the major, or to email them.

But be sure to check out more program details below:

And check out our EnviSci blog, written by students for students.

Here’s how to connect with a Peer Advisor


The Field

Environmental Science employs an interdisciplinary approach, teaching students how to meet the challenges of creating a safe and healthy environment and how to recognize and control the effects of pollution and environmental stress on ecosystems. Faculty and students seek practical solutions to complex environmental problems by crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students learn how to integrate and apply knowledge from the appropriate areas of basic science, economics, and policy to address problems caused by ecosystem degradation and from physical alteration of the environment and chemical contaminants from industrial activities, agriculture, food production, and inadequate resource management.

UMass Amherst’s Environmental Science Program is an interdisciplinary academic program which is co-administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Geosciences, and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture; and this unique association allows us to provide students with faculty expertise in biological/ecological and geophysical sciences.  Affiliated faculty teach a series of courses with the ENVIRSCI designation as well as disciplinary courses in their department that apply to the Environmental Science major. The curriculum includes innovative course offerings that extend the traditional classroom experience to outreach activities including environmental applications and problem solving in off-campus community settings. Specialty courses expose students to a blend of academic and practical knowledge that includes environmental site assessment (ASTM-EPA procedures), hazardous waste operations and emergency response (OSHA Certification), environmental applications of GIS technologies, and novel approaches to recycling waste materials. Environmental Science majors are prepared for immediate employment upon graduation or have the option of embarking on graduate studies in conservation biology, hydrogeology, environmental soil science, wetland science, environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, environmental policy, and law.

Career Opportunities

The B.S. degree in Environmental Science leads to a variety of career opportunities in private industry and consulting firms, non-governmental organizations, and governmental agencies concerned with environmental quality assessment, community environment programs, and interagency coordination in environmental quality maintenance. Many majors will continue studies at the graduate level in such diverse fields as environmental microbiology, hydrogeology, watershed management, soil science, ecotoxicology, environmental science education, environmental engineering, and environmental law.

For internships, jobs, and career opportunities, go to the following link:
For Current Students – Career Opportunities

The Major

All majors take required courses which provide a background in natural sciences, mathematics, and environmental studies. First-year students attend a required seminar to discuss critical environmental issues with faculty and outside speakers. A core curriculum of four courses, a Junior Year Writing course, and an Integrative Experience are also required for all majors. These core requirements provide a solid foundation in the social and scientific aspects of environmental problems. Students learn how to apply scientific data to solve complex environmental problems and to establish coherent environmental policy options to protect and sustain the environment. A diverse selection of upper-level courses allows students to work with their faculty advisor to design a unique curriculum tailored to their individual interests and needs. A required second-year seminar guides students towards developing a specific disciplinary focus within the major and constructing a personalized curriculum plan for their remaining undergraduate studies.

Environmental Science Program mission, goals, and objectives:

When students graduate from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, they will be able to:

  1. Use their working knowledge of core scientific disciplines and apply them to natural systems and environmental problems.
  2. Understand the complex interactions that define ecosystems and will be able to employ a systems approach to analyze how human and ecological systems interact to influence processes in air, on land, and in water.
  3. Characterize environmental systems and apply scientific and mathematical concepts to field and laboratory data to critically evaluate increasingly complex environmental issues at local, regional and global scales.
  4. Apply an interdisciplinary approach to the technical assessment and analysis of global environmental challenges, and understand the socio-economic challenges that must be overcome to develop effective policy options to meet those challenges.
  5. Critically evaluate strategies for sustainable management of environmental systems and for the remediation or restoration of degraded environments and human health protection.
  6. Communicate a scientific understanding of environmental issues and develop sound arguments in writing and oral/visual presentation on technical and non-technical levels.
  7. Demonstrate deeper understanding of the concepts, processes, problems and solutions of their chosen focus area within the program.


Basic science and math requirements:

  • BIOLOGY 151, 152, and 153 – Introductory Biology I & II, with laboratory
  • CHEM 111, 112 – General Chemistry I, II
  • CHEM 250 Organic Chemistry -OR- CHEM 261 Organic Chemistry I
  • GEOLOGY 101 – The Earth -OR- GEOGRAPH 110 – Global Environmental Change
  • MATH 127, 128 – Calculus I, II
  • PHYSICS 131 – Intro Physics I
  • RES-ECON 212 – Introductory Statistics for the Social Sciences; STATISTC 240; or NRC 290B – Intro to Quantitative Ecology
  • RES-ECON 262 – Environmental Economics -OR- RES-ECON 263 -Natural Resource Economics

Required Core Courses:


  • 101 Intro Environmental Science – OR- NRC 100 (Environment and Society) (Fall)
  • 191A, 194A Introductory Seminars I, II (Fall/Spring, respectively)
  • 213 Introduction to Environmental Policy (Fall)
  • 214 Ecosystems, Biodiversity & Global Change (Spring)
  • 294A Career & Curriculum Planning Seminar (Spring)
  • 315 Principles of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (Spring)

Also Required:

  • University Junior Year Writing Requirement: NAT-SCI 387 CNS Junior Writing (Fall & Spring))
  • University Integrated Experience (IE) Requirement (Students must choose one):
    • ENVIRSCI 445 – Environmental Problem Solving in Community (Fall)
    • GEOLOGY 494LI – Living on Earth:  Real World Issues in the Geosciences  (Fall & Spring)
    • NRC 382 – Human Dimensions in Natural Resource Conservation (Spring)
    • NRC 490S – Sustainable Systems: Evaluating Local Solutions (Spring)
    • NRC 494EI – Environmental Decision-Making (Spring)
    • NRC 494GI – Global Environmental Change (alternate Falls)
    • NAT-SCI 494I – Global Issues in Applied Biology (Spring)

Upper-Division Requirements

In addition to core requirements, students choose a minimum of four (4) upper-level courses from a wide array of environmental science topics. Samples of approved courses are listed here under general subject area headings. Student may mix and match upper-level electives from multiple categories. Students are guided through the process of upper-level course selection in ENVIRSCI 294A (Career & Curriculum Planning Seminar) in the spring semester of sophomore year.

Students must also complete two (2) “praxis” (hands-on) courses that provide the student with practical experience and/or skills in an environmental field.  This praxis requirement may be combined with the selection of the upper-level coursework (by selecting from an approved list of courses that have a significant laboratory/field/skills component). Students are also encouraged to participate in independent study projects (conducting research with our faculty) and/or participating in an internship in a private, public, non-profit sector setting. Any combination of these possibilities (selected coursework, independent study research, and/or internship) can be used to fulfill the praxis requirement.

Focus Areas of Study

In Environmental Science, students create their own personal Focus Area of study comprised of upper-division courses and co-curricular activities. Faculty advisors and required seminar courses help guide students through this process.  Focus areas typically fall within one of three over-arching themes:  Environmental Quality; Natural Systems; or Environment & Society.  Some sample focus area headings are listed here.

Environmental Quality  focus areas under this heading pertain to contaminants in the air, water, and soil, with emphasis on the analytical chemistry, biochemistry, and ecotoxicology of these pollutants, as well as management and remediation of hazardous materials (sample focus areas listed below)
Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry
Hazardous Waste Management
Environmental Site Assessment & Remediation
Environmental Health
Env. Health & Safety: Regulation & Compliance

Natural Systems  focus areas under this heading examine ecological relationships of terrestrial and/or aquatic systems, as well as landscape scale biogeochemical processes (sample focus areas are listed below)
Conservation Biology
Habitat Restoration
Aquatic or Terrestrial Ecology
Land Conservation
Wetland Science
Env. Geology & Hydrogeology
Watershed Management
Environmental Soil Science
Climate Science & Adaptation

Society & Environment (focus areas under this heading address the human dimensions of the environment, looking at various aspects of environmental policy and planning, with specialization available in renewable energy (sample focus areas)
Environmental Law
Environmental Policy & Planning
Renewable Energy & Sustainability
Geographic Information Science & Technology
Environmental Education & Communication

Representative Upper-level Focus Area Courses

       Environmental Quality  

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • ENVIRSCI 390J Landscape and Watershed Biogeochemistry
  • ENVIRSCI 565 Soil Formation & Classification
  • ENVIRSCI 515 Microbiology of Soil
  • ENVIRSCI 452 Hazardous Waste Operations Mgt
  • ENVIRSCI 465 Environmental Site Assessment
  • ENVIRSCI 575 Environmental Soil Chemistry
  • ENVIRSCI 585 Inorganic Contaminants in Soil, Water, and Sediments
  • ENVIRSCI 587 Phyto/Bioremediation
  • ENVSCI 597B Potable Water for Small & Disadvantaged Communities
  • CE-ENGIN 370 Intro Environmental & Water Resources
  • CHEM 312 Analytical Chemistry
  • CHEM 315 Quantitative Analysis
  • GEOLOGY 331 Geologic Mapping
  • GEO-SCI 519 Aqueous and Environmental Geochemistry
  • GEOSCI 573 Environmental Geophysics
  • GEO-SCI 587 Hydrogeology
  • PUBHLTH 390AT Intro to Toxicology
  • PUBHLTH 433 Toxicology & Public Health
  • EHS 562 Air Quality Assessment
  • EHS 565 Environmental Health Practices
  • EHS 590N Indoor Environment & Health
  • BIOCHEM 420 Elementary Biochemistry
  • BIOCHEM 524 General Biochemistry

     Natural Systems

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • ENVIRSCI 390J Landscape and Watershed Biogeochemistry
  • ENVIRSCI 515 Microbiology of Soil
  • ENVIRSCI 565 Soil Formation & Classification
  • BIOLOGY 421 Plant Ecology
  • BIOLOGY 426 New England Flora
  • BIOLOGY 487H Tropical Field Biology
  • BIOLOGY540 Herpetology
  • BIOLOGY 544 Ornithology
  • BIOLOGY 548 Mammology
  • BIOLOGY 550 Animal Behavior
  • GEOSCI 519 Aqueous Env Geochemistry
  • GEOSCI 557 Coastal Processes
  • GEOSCI 563 Glacial Geology
  • GEOGRAPH 354 Climate Dynamics
  • GEOGRAPH 560 Geomorphology
  • GEOLOGY 445 Sedimentology
  • GEOLOGY 494LI: Living on Earth (approved IE course)
  • GEOLOGY 497S Soil Erosion in Agricultural Landscapes
  • MICROBIO 310 General Microbiology
  • MICROBIO 330 Microbial Genetics
  • MICROBIO 560 Microbial Diversity
  • NRC 390E Evolution and Conservation
  • NRC 390P Pollinator Ecology & Conservation
  • NRC 528 Forest & Wetland Hydrology
  • NRC 547 Global Change Ecology
  • NRC 564 Wildlife Habitat Management
  • NRC 565 Dynamics and Management of Wildlife Populations
  • NRC 566 Restoration Ecology
  • NRC 570 Fish Ecology
  • NRC 571 Fisheries Science and Management
  • NRC 578 Watershed Science & Management
  • NRC 568 Wetland Soils
  • NRC 577 Ecosystem Modeling & Simulation
  • NRC 580 Conservation Genetics
  • NRC 581 Wetland Assessment
  • NRC 590AE Aquatic Ecology
  • NRC 590D Marine Conservation & Science
  • NRC 590IE Invasion Ecology
  • NRC 590M Marine Ecology
  • NRC 597LP Land Protection Tools & Techniques
  • SUSTCOMM 547 Landscape Pattern & Process

      Society & Environment 

  • ENVIRSCI 397R – Renewable Energy
  • ENVSCI 597B Potable Water for Small & Disadvantaged Communities
  • NRC 490S Sustainable Systems: Evaluating Local Solutions (approved IE course)
  • NRC 309 Natural Resources Policy and Administration
  • NRC 576 Water Resources Management & Policy
  • NRC 585 Intro to GIS
  • NRC 587 Digital Remote Sensing
  • NRC 589 Responding to Climate Change: Mitigation & Adaption
  • NRC 590C – Clean Energy & Climate Policy in Massachusetts
  • NRC 597EC Analytical Methods for Energy & Climate Policy
  • ECON 308 Political Economy of the Environment
  • GEOGRAPH 352 Computer Mapping
  • GEOGRAPH 354 Climate Dynamics
  • GEOGRAPH 360 Economic Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 370 Urban Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 372 Urban Issues
  • GEOGRAPH 397WG Water Geographies
  • GEOGRAPH 440 Political Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 420 Political Ecology
  • GEOGRAPH 426 Remote Sensing & Image Interpretation
  • GEOGRAPH 468 GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • GEOGRAPH 497C Climate Crisis
  • GEOGRAPH 492NP National Parks & Protected Areas
  • GEOGRAPH 497E Geography, Policy & the Environment
  • GEO-SCI 510 Natural Hazards
  • LANDARCH/REGIONPL 580 Sustainable Cities
  • POLISCI 382 Environmental Policy
  • REGIONPL 553 Resource Policy and Planning
  • RES-ECON 471 Benefit-Cost Analysis of Natural Resource Programs
  • RES-ECON 472 Adv. topics Resource & Env Economics
  • SUSTCOMM 553 Resource Policy and Planning
  • SUSTCOMM 574 City Planning
  • SUSTCOMM 575 Environmental Law and Resource Mgt
  • SUSTCOMM 577 Urban Policies


List of Approved ENVSCI Praxis Courses

Follow this link to view a list of pre-approved Praxis Courses available at UMASS Amherst.

The Minor

The Minor in Environmental Science requires a minimum of 15 credits and 5 courses in environmental topics. The list of specific course requirements is here. Minors are declared in the semester they are being completed –or at a later point. If you have questions, or wish to declare the Environmental Science Minor, contact Dr. Deb Henson.   (Please be aware that some Environmental Science courses are available to non-majors on a space-available basis only.)

See the list of requirements to complete a MINOR in Environmental Science.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

All interested Environmental Science students are encouraged to take advantage of the many rich research opportunities that exist in all three of our partnering departments.   Read more about undergraduate research here, or check out the lists on that page to get a flavor of the various research opportunities open to you!

Program Contact Details

Meet With A Peer Advisor

  • Looking for a student perspective on the major, or just want to find our more?  Our trained ENVSCI peer advisors are available! They’ll also be happy to answer your questions by email (see their addresses below).
    Drop-in advising hours via Zoom are scheduled each Friday morning 10:00-11:00 AM throughout Summer 2021. Fall drop-in schedule will be announced in late August. 
  • Zoom link:  https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/626315988
    • Note: link requires you to be logged in to Zoom from your umass.edu account)

ENVSCI Program Co-Directors:

David Boutt, PhD
Department of Geosciences
Office: 248 Morrill IV

Marco Keiluweit, PhD
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Office: 411 Paige Laboratory

HONORS Program Director:

Dr. Anne Averill
Department of Environmental Conservation
Office: 301 Holdsworth Hall

Have Any Other Questions?

Contact an advisor using our form.


Congratulations EnviSci Class of  2021!!
Watch the Video Recording of our 5/2/2021 Virtual Senior Celebration.

To Access our Virtual Yearbook and scroll through its contents follow this LINK.