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Environmental Science, B.S. Program (120 units)
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers undergraduate study leading to the Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, focusing on developing strong foundational knowledge and a broad set of field and laboratory skills that allow students to seek employment, or prepare them for continued academic study in the Earth and environmental sciences.
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field, focusing on the study of physical, chemical, and biological processes that underpin both natural ecosystems and human-influenced systems. While their focus is often on the physical and life sciences, environmental scientists must also be mindful of social issues, political context, economic factors, and human well-being in order to understand environmental issues and address environmental problems. The coursework for the Environmental Science degree reflects this broad, systems-level approach, with coursework in science and mathematics, as well as the social sciences. This allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the science and social issues involved in addressing complex environmental problems such as environmental contamination, access to food and safe drinking water, and climate change.
The undergraduate degree program in Environmental Science includes a core of required courses intended to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental principles of biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics, and statistics necessary to understand environmental challenges. In addition, further required courses and electives allow students to apply this fundamental knowledge to broader environmental issues and problems, and to deepen their understanding of natural systems, human systems, and sustainability. The Environmental Science B.S. program serves as preparation for employment in a variety of related fields, both in technical and policy/management roles requiring extensive technical knowledge and background. Due to the breadth of disciplines involved in environmental science, students wishing to do independent work professionally may wish to consider graduate study in a field of specialization, if further training is required for their chosen path.
The Environmental Science B.S. with a concentration in Environmental Health focuses on environmental hazards impacting human health (toxic and hazardous substances, physical and biological hazards, etc.) Above and beyound the general path, the concentration in Environmental Health prepares students for employment as Registered Environmental Health Specialists in the State of California.
The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program is designed to prepare students for:
- Entry-level employment as environmental scientists in government (city, county, regional, state, and federal), and in private industry (environmental consulting, water and wastewater treatment, environmental health and safety, hazardous materials management, environmental remediation, etc.)
- Graduate study in environmental science, Earth science, Earth systems science, environmental chemistry, climate science, etc.
- The undergraduate Environmental Science program emphasizes field and laboratory training. Many opportunities for field- and laboratory-based research exist throughout Northern California and elsewhere. This program reflects departmental expertise by focusing on issues important to the local and regional communities, such as water availability, water quality, soil remediation, environmental impacts of urban and agricultural communities, and coastal issues of importance to the San Francisco Bay region and the State of California. Rigorous coursework is augmented by field experiences that allow students to synthesize classroom concepts in natural laboratories. Seminars and topical courses address diverse subjects, for example: water contamination, sustainable management of food waste, hazardous waste management, and human use of groundwater and surface water. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences maintains strong connections with East Bay Regional Parks, the California Environmental Protection Agency, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA Ames, the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
- Students with strong records in the B.S. degree may be able to engage in guided, individual research projects, working with faculty on their research. Students wishing to pursue a senior thesis should make contact with a faculty advisor at least one full semester in advance to discuss topic and feasibility.
- The Earth & Environmental Science Club, a student-run organization, sponsors a variety of activities including guest speakers, field trips, employment workshops, and student-faculty gatherings. The club is an important part of department life, providing students with opportunities to make professional contacts, to explore graduate school and professional options, and to enjoy the company of others with similar interests.
Analytical Laboratory Technician • Drinking Water Treatment Specialist • Environmental Analyst • Environmental Chemist • Environmental Health and Safety Specialist • Environmental Policy, Planning, and Management • Environmental Remediation Specialist • Hydrologist • Hazardous Waste Management Specialist • Park Ranger • Wastewater Treatment Specialist
Program Learning Outcomes
Students graduating with a B.S. in Environmental Science will:
I. Demonstrate foundational knowledge of Earth processes, natural systems, and the effects of human activity (Knowledge)
- Identify key components of the Earth system, and describe the physical, chemical, and biological processes by which Earth systems interact on a variety of scales.
- Apply an interdisciplinary understanding of biology, geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and statistics to understanding environmental issues.
- Articulate the impacts of humans on the environment, and the roles of humans in avoiding, mitigating, or remediating environmental impacts.
- Articulate the relationship between scientific findings, the impact of humans on the environment, and the concept of sustainability.
II. Develop fundamental field, laboratory, and computer skills necessary for environmental science (Skills)
- Identify key geologic materials and organisms, and describe their features and importance in the environment.
- Perform basic field and laboratory-based tasks such as chemical analysis, physical analysis, data collection, statistical analysis, and data analysis using standard techniques and equipment.
- Demonstrate competency with basic computational tools and software for data collection, analysis, and effective communication.
- Collaborate effectively with others to accomplish tasks in field and laboratory settings.
III. Critically evaluate, analyze, and integrate scientific findings, data, and socioeconomic context to understand environmental issues (Analysis and synthesis)
- Critically read, analyze, and critique research literature, popular literature, and scientific data from an interdisciplinary scientific and quantitative perspective.
- Articulate the socioeconomic context relevant to environmental issues, including environmental impacts on diverse and vulnerable populations, and environmental justice.
- Integrate scientific findings and socioeconomic context to synthesize an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental issues.
- Understand the complex relationships between local and global needs, and the relationship between human actions and consequences at local and global scales.
IV. Effectively communicate in oral and written form, and develop collaborative skills (Communication)
- Present positions on environmental issues clearly in written form, using words, graphs, tables, and figures as appropriate.
- Communicate effectively in oral form, using prepared presentations.
- Understand the importance of considering competing or contrary viewpoints, as a fundamental part of the scientific process.
- Function responsibly as a member of a diverse team, demonstrating professionalism and effective communication between team members.
V. Understand the role of the environmental science in local, regional, and global sustainability, and the role of an ethical scientist (Sustainability and global thinking)
- Articulate Earth’s place in the Universe, global-scale processes such as climate change, and the interactions of Earth systems with human systems.
- Understand the roles and impacts of society and technology on resource use and sustainability (environmental, economic, and social) at local, regional, and global scales.
- Apply knowledge and skills in a responsible, professional, and ethical manner, with an awareness of potential consequences at multiple scales.
VI. Synthesize scientific and technical knowledge and skills, and knowledge of policy and society, to articulate solutions to environmental hazards (toxic substances, climate change, etc.) impacting human health.
Degree Requirements Unit-Outline
- A baccalaureate of arts degree requires a total of 120 units:
- The major requirements consists of 71-81 units
- General Education (GE) & Graduation Requirements (GR) consists of 57 units;
- Free Electives may consist of 0 units (actual number of free elective units may depend on GE/GR units).
Note: It may be possible to double-count units within the graduation requirements or that a course may satisfy both a graduation requirement and a major requirement. Students should contact their program and AACE advisors for information.
Environmental Science Major Requirements (71-81 units)
Lower Division Requirements
Lower-division core courses focus on fundamental biological, chemical, geological, mathematical, and physical concepts. In addition, lower-division core courses introduce the application of fundamental knowledge to understanding Earth systems and environmental systems. This area is 34 units.
Upper Division Requirements
The following upper-division core, for 16 units, are required:
The following capstone experience, for 3 units, is required to complete the major:
Only students NOT choosing the Environmental Health concentration are required to select 18-21 units of elective coursework as outlined below:
Other Undergraduate Degree Requirements
In addition to major requirements, every student must also complete the University’s baccalaureate requirements for graduation, which are described in the Requirements, Exams & Testing chapter of this catalog.
Department Courses Listed by Course Type
Earth and Environmental Sciences Courses
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Go to information for this department.
Environmental Science: Graduate