Environmental Science


Congratulations EnviSci Class of  2024!!

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



Are you a incoming EnviSci student with questions?   Email one of our Peer Advisors with your questions, or meet with them during office hours. (Scroll to bottom of page for list of the peers’ email addresses.)

Summer Peer Advising is available via Zoom starting in August.
In-person office hours will resume in the Fall at our Holdsworth Hall 209 advising center.

EnviSci Peer Advising Zoom link: 

Use this Zoom link for  EnviSci Peer Virtual drop in hours (Friday mornings in August).


Are you a UMass student in a different major, and interested in Declaring EnviSci as your Major?
1. Check out our major requirements below. (EnviSci is a science major that requires organic chemistry and calculus.)
2. Meet with one of our Peer Advisors to learn more about the program. (See peer office hours above for Spring 2024)
3. Make an Appointment with Dr. Henson or Dr. Nicolson, on Navigate.
NOTE: Appointments for Change of Major advising will be available in Navigate for both Prof. Nicolson and Prof. Henson starting in midApril.

You can also view this Informational Video which includes lots of detailed information. (It was recorded during a live information session held two years ago when all of our Destination Day events were being conducted virtually.)


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 Learning Objectives:

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

  1. Apply their working knowledge of core scientific disciplines to understand natural systems and address environmental problems.
  2. Understand the complex interactions that define ecosystems and employ a systems approach to analyze how human and ecological systems interact, and how human activities influence natural processes and environmental health.
  3. Characterize environmental systems and apply scientific, mathematical, and statistical 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 environmental challenges and understand the socioeconomic issues that must be addressed to develop effective policy options to meet those challenges.
  5. Understand fundamental concepts and mechanisms of contaminant fate and transport in natural systems (i.e., in air, water, and soil), as well as the impacts these contaminants have on environmental quality (ecosystem functions and/or human health).
  6. Critically evaluate strategies for: sustainably managing environmental systems; restoring or remediating degraded environments; and/or protecting human health.
  7. Communicate a scientific understanding of environmental issues and develop sound arguments in writing and oral/visual presentation on technical and non-technical levels.
  8. Demonstrate within their identified Focus Area a deeper understanding of applicable concepts, processes, problems and solutions.
  9. Apply practical skills gained from required hands-on experiences (which may include field work, lab research, internships, data-analytical courses, and/or appropriate environmental certifications)._____________

Required course list for EnviSci majors:

A typical semester-by-semester course plan can be found here. Specific major requirements are listed below, grouped into four categories (I-IV).

I. Foundational Science & 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
  • PHYSICS 131 – Intro Physics I
  • MATH 127, 128 – Calculus I, II
  • RES-ECON 212 – Introductory Statistics for the Social Sciences or – STATISTC 240 – or – NRC 240 – Intro to Quantitative Ecology

II. Core Environmental Sciences requirements


  • 101 Intro Environmental Science – OR- NRC 100 (Environment and Society) (Fall)
  • 191A (fall) & 194A (spring) Introductory Seminars I & II
  • GEOL 101 – The Earth – or – GEOG 110 – Intro to Climate Science -or- GEOL 103 – Oceanography
  • 213 Introduction to Environmental Policy (Fall)
  • 214 Ecosystems, Biodiversity & Global Change (Spring)
  • 294A Career & Curriculum Planning Seminar (Spring)
  • RES-ECON 262 – Environmental Economics – or – RES-ECON 263 -Natural Resource Economics
  • Environmental Quality Restricted Elective (choose from):
    • 315 Principles of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (Spring)
    • 319 Environmental Geochemistry (Fall)
    • 333 Environmental Poisons (Spring)
    • 575  Environmental Soil Chemistry (Fall)
    • 585  Inorganic Contaminants in Soil & Sediments (Spring, alternate years)
    • 587 Phyto/bioremediation (Fall)

III. Two Upper-Division University Core required classes

  • University Junior Year Writing Requirement: NAT-SCI 387 CNS Junior Writing (Fall & Spring)
  • University Integrated Experience (IE) Requirement (Choose one from the following list):
    • ENVIRSCI 445 – Environmental Problem Solving in Community (Fall)
    • ENVIRSCI 494JI – Social Movements & Environmental Justice (Fall)
    • GEOLOGY 394LI – History of the Earth (Spring)
    • GEOLOGY 494LI – Living on Earth:  Real World Issues in the Geosciences  (Fall)
    • NRC 382 – Human Dimensions in Natural Resource Conservation (Spring)
    • NRC 394EI – Evaluating Environmental Systems (Spring)
    • NRC 494EI – Environmental Decision-Making (Spring)
    • NRC 494GI – Global Environmental Change (alternate Falls)
    • STOCKSCH 494I – Global Issues in Applied Biology (Spring)

IV. Upper-Division Personal Focus Area & Praxis requirements

In addition to core EnviSci major requirements, students choose a minimum of four (4) upper-level courses from a wide array of environmental science topics. Your Integrated Experience course may be counted as one of these four, in which case you select an I.E. from the list above and three (3) other Focus Area electives at 300-level or above. Some representative examples of upper level courses are listed below under general thematic headings. You are allowed to mix and match upper-level electives from more than one theme, but the Focus Area courses you choose should comprise a coherent set, with a specific focus.  Students are guided through the process of upper-level course selection in two ways: you will develop an individualized course-plan in the ENVIRSCI 294A Seminar titled Career & Curriculum Planning (typically taken in spring of your sophomore year); in addition, at least once or twice each semester, you’ll meet with your assigned faculty mentor to discuss how your environmental interests and career ideas are evolving. These meetings with your faculty mentor will help you solidify your course choices for upcoming semesters, and are also an opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about internships and other professional development activities.

Every student must also complete two (2) “Praxis” (hands-on) experiences that provide you with specific skills and/or practical experience in your chosen environmental field.  These two Praxes do not necessarily have to be academic courses — there are various ways to fulfill them, as explained in the section below with the heading ‘Options for your two Praxis requirements’.

Identifying your personal upper-level Focus Area:

In Environmental Science, all of our students create their own personal Focus Area of study, comprising upper-division courses and co-curricular activities. Your Faculty mentor(s) and required seminar courses will prepare you for and guide you through this process. Typically, people’s Focus Area falls within one of three over-arching themes (Environmental Quality, or Natural Systems, or Environment & Society), though some students’ Focus Areas do span more than a single theme. Brief descriptions of these themes are found below, along with a few sample starter ideas for potential Focus Areas. Remember, the bullets under each theme are merely examples of current students’ Focus Areas — NOT an exhaustive listing:

Environmental Quality  Focus Areas within this broad theme address contaminants in 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. Here are a few of the potential EQ Focus Areas from a cross-section of current students:

  • Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry
  • Hazardous Waste Management
  • Environmental Site Assessment & Remediation
    Environmental Health
  • Env. Health & Safety: Regulation & Compliance

Natural Systems. Focus areas related to this second theme examine ecological relationships in terrestrial and/or aquatic systems, as well as landscape scale biogeochemical processes. Here are some starter ideas about potential Focus Areas related to Natural Systems:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Aquatic or Terrestrial Ecology
  • Wetland Science
  • Env. Geology & Hydrogeology
  • Environmental Soil Science
  • Watershed Management
  • Climate Science & Adaptation
  • Land Conservation

Society & Environment. Focus Areas within our third broad theme address the human dimensions of the environment. They prepare you to work in specific fields related to environmental policy, environmental planning, clean energy, or climate adaptation, etc. Students with focus areas within this theme typically want to contribute toward building a more sustainable society.  Some examples of Focus Areas from our current students include:

  • Environmental Policy & Planning
  • Environmental Law
  • Renewable Energy & Sustainability
  • Geographic Information Science & Technologies
  • Environmental Education & Communication


Here are some representative elective courses (300-level +) related to each broad theme

Environmental Quality  

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • 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 580 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 333 Environmental Poisons
  • PUBHLTH 433 Ecotoxicology & Public Health
  • EHS 562 Air Quality Assessment
  • EHS 565 Environmental Health Practices
  • EHS 590N Indoor Environment & Health
  • BIOCHEM 320 Elementary Biochemistry

Natural Systems

  • ENVIRSCI 364/564H Environmental Soil Science
  • ENVIRSCI 515 Microbiology of Soil
  • ENVIRSCI 565 Soil Formation & Classification
  • BIOLOGY 421 Plant Ecology (enrollments quite limited) 
  • BIOLOGY 426 New England Flora (enrollments quite limited) 
  • BIOLOGY 487H Tropical Field Biology (enrollments quite limited) 
  • BIOLOGY540 Herpetology (not currently available)
  • BIOLOGY 544 Ornithology (enrollments quite limited) 
  • BIOLOGY 548 Mammology (enrollments quite limited) 
  • BIOLOGY 550 Animal Behavior (enrollments quite limited) 
  • 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 360 Evolution and Conservation
  • NRC 390P Pollinator Ecology & Conservation
  • NRC 494GC Global Change Ecology (approved IE course)
  • NRC 560 Aquatic Ecology
  • NRC 564 Wildlife Habitat Management
  • NRC 565 Dynamics and Management of Wildlife Populations
  • NRC 566 Restoration Ecology
  • NRC 567 Vertebrate Ecology
  • NRC 568 Wetland Soils
  • NRC 570 Fish Ecology
  • NRC 571 Fisheries Science and Management
  • NRC 574 Land Protection Tools & Techniques
  • NRC 577 Ecosystem Modeling & Simulation
  • NRC 578 Watershed Science & Management
  • NRC 580 Conservation Genetics
  • NRC 581 Wetland Assessment
  • NRC 590D Marine Conservation & Science
  • NRC 590IE Invasion Ecology
  • NRC 590M Marine Ecology
  • SUSTCOMM 547 Landscape Pattern & Process

 Society & Environment 

  • ENVSCI 580 Potable Water for Small & Disadvantaged Communities
  • NRC 394EI Evaluating Environmental Systems (approved IE course)
  • NRC 309 Natural Resources Policy and Administration
  • ENVISCI/NRC 561 Analytical Methods for Energy & Climate Policy
  • ENVIRSCI/NRC 562 – Clean Energy & Climate Policy in Massachusetts
  • NRC 576 Water Resources Management & Policy
  • NRC 585 Intro to GIS
  • NRC 587 Digital Remote Sensing
  • NRC 589 Responding to Climate Change: Mitigation & Adaption
  • 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 342 – Env. Geography & Sustainability
  • GEOGRAPH 440 Political Geography
  • GEOGRAPH 420 Political Ecology
  • GEOGRAPH 426 Remote Sensing & Image Interpretation
  • GEOGRAPH 468 GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • 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

Options for meeting the two EnviSci Praxis requirements: 

There are several options for fulfilling your two praxis requirements, including taking one or more upper-level focus area elective course(s) from a pre-approved list of Praxis courses. These courses all include a significant laboratory/field/skills component. Students are also encouraged to participate in independent study projects (conducting research with our faculty) and/or to seek an internship in a private, public, or non-profit sector setting. Any combination of these possibilities can be used to fulfill the praxis requirement: coursework (either as part of your three non-IE courses in your focus area and/or in addition to those courses); and/or independent study research; and/or internship credits .

Here is a list of pre-approved Praxis Courses available at UMass Amherst from a range of academic departments


Do you want to Minor in Environmental Science?

The Minor in Environmental Science requires a minimum of 15 credits comprises of at least five (5) courses in environmental topics. See the link below for specific course requirements. Minors are declared in the semester they are being completed –or at a later point. Up to two courses can be Advanced Placement credit, transfer courses, or courses completed on study exchange. 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.)

Requirements to complete a MINOR in Environmental Science.


Forms for Current ENVIRSCI Students
(these forms must be submitted by faculty instructors and project supervisors)

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).
  • Peer “drop in” Office Hours (on Zoom and also face-to-face when classes are in session).
    See Spring 2024 schedule at top of page
  • During the regular semester, Drop by Holdsworth  Hall Rm 209 for a face-to-face meeting or go through Zoom and Use this Link to Access Peer Office Hours You can also send an email with your questions. (Scroll to bottom of page for email address.)
  • Zoom link for Peers’ Office Hours:  https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/626315988
    • Note: link requires you to be logged in to Zoom from your umass.edu account

ENVSCI Program Director:

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

HONORS Program Director:

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

Have Any Other Questions?

Contact an advisor using our form.