Environmental Science

Here’s how to connect with a Peer Advisor  or contact Dr Henson, the Program Manager.

Changing your major to EnviSci, or adding an EnviSci Minor ?  More details below:

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


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)
  • 191A, 194A Introductory Seminars I, II
  • 213 Introduction to Environmental Policy
  • 214 Ecosystems, Biodiversity & Global Change
  • 294A Career & Curriculum Planning Seminar
  • 315 Principles of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Also Required:

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

Earth Science 

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • ENVIRSCI 565 Soil Formation & Classification
  • GEOGRAPH 354 Climatology
  • GEOGRAPH 560 Geomorphology
  • GEOLOGY 494LI Living on Earth: Real World Issues in Geoscience (an approved IE course)
  • GEOLOGY 497S Soil Erosion in Agricultural Landscapes
  • GEO-SCI 415 Intro to Geochemistry
  • GEO-SCI 458 Climate Change
  • GEO-SCI 485 Applied Environmental Geology
  • GEO-SCI 519 Aqueous and Environmental Geochemistry
  • GEO-SCI 557 Coastal Processes
  • GEO-SCI 563 Glacial Geology
  • GEO-SCI 587 Hydrologeology
  • GEO-SCI 591CP Colorado Plateau Field Trip
  • STOCKSCH 570 Soil Physics

Environmental Biology & Conservation Science– provides an ecological perspective on the relationships and interdependence of organisms in terrestrial and aquatic habitats, with emphasis on the effects of human activities on the biota.

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • ENVIRSCI 515 Microbiology of Soil
  • 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
  • GEOGRAPH 354 Climate Dynamics
  • SUSTCOMM 547 Landscape Pattern & Process
  • MICROBIO 310 General Microbiology
  • MICROBIO 330 Microbial Genetics
  • MICROBIO 560 Microbial Diversity
  • NRC 390E Evolution and 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 580 Conservation Genetics
  • NRC 581 Wetland Assessment
  • NRC 590A Aquatic Ecology
  • NRC 590M Marine Ecology

Environmental Policy & Land Use – applies scientific knowledge to address public policy issues on the environment using economic analysis regulation, administration, enforcement, and law.

  • ECON 308 Political Economy of the Environment
  • SUSTCOMM 553 Resource Policy and Planning
  • SUSTCOMM 574 City Planning
  • SUSTCOMM 575 Environmental Law and Resource Mgt
  • SUSTCOMM 577 Urban Policies
  • GEOGRAPH 354 Climate Dynamics
  • GEOGRAPH 360 Economic Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 362 Conservation Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 370 Urban Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 372 Urban Issues
  • GEOGRAPH 380 Political Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 397WG Water Geographies
  • GEOGRAPH 420 Political Ecology
  • 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
  • NRC 490S Sustainable Systems: Evaluating Local Solutions (approved IE course)
  • NRC 309 Natural Resources Policy and Administration
  • NRC 576 Water Resources Management & Policy
  • NRC 590TP Adapting to Climate Change: Theories, Policies and Action
  • 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

Environmental Quality, Planning  and Assessment – focuses on the impacts of environmental contaminants on the biota with emphasis on the analytical chemistry, biochemistry, and ecotoxicology of pollutants in the air, water, and soil.

  • BIOCHEM 420 Elementary Biochemistry
  • BIOCHEM 524 General Biochemistry
  • CE-ENGIN 370 Intro Environmental & Water Resources
  • CHEM 312 Analytical Chemistry
  • CHEM 315 Quantitative Analysis
  • ENVIRSCI 364 Environmental Soil Science
  • 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
  • GEOGRAPH 352 Computer Mapping
  • GEO-SCI 519 Aqueous and Environmental Geochemistry
  • GEOLOGY 331 Geologic Mapping
  • GEO-SCI 587 Hydrogeology
  • GEO-SCI 591CM Intro Climate & Environmental Modeling
  • MICROBIO 310 General Microbiology
  • MICROBIO 330 Microbial Genetics
  • MICROBIO 385 Biotechnology Laboratory
  • MICROBIO 560 Microbial Diversity
  • MICROBIO 562 Environmental Biotechnology
  • NRC 577 Ecosystem Modeling & Simulation
  • NRC 585 Intro Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • NRC 587 Digital Remote Sensing
  • PUBHLTH 390AT Intro to Toxicology
  • PUBHLTH 433 Toxicology & Public Health
  • STOCKSCH 570 Soil Physics
  • STOCKSCH 597O Organic Contaminants in Soils, Waters, and Sediments
  • EHS 562 Air Quality Assessment
  • EHS 565 Environmental Health Practices
  • EHS 590N Indoor Environment & Health
  • EHS 597B Potable Water for Small & Disadvantaged Communities

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, go to 310 Holdsworth Hall.   (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

NB!  For the balance of the Spring semester…

  • Please contact Deb & Craig via email.
  • Current ENVSCI majors can schedule a Zoom advising appointment with Deb.
    • Check your email on 3/23/20 for more details.
  • Priority meeting slots will be given to current Juniors and Seniors.

Are you a current UMass student interested in joining our major, or just want to find our more?  Our trained ENVSCI peer advisors are available! They’ll be happy to answer your questions by email (see their addresses below), or you could just come to their daily spring drop-in advising hours via Zoom.

ENVSCI Program Co-Directors:

David Boutt, PhD
Office: 248 Morrill IV

Marco Keiluweit, PhD
Office: 411 Paige Laboratory

Have Any Other Questions?

Contact an advisor using our form.