Environmental Science Coursework

The goal of the bachelor of science degree (B.S.) in environmental studies is to train students to become proficient in the natural and physical sciences, as well as to be aware of social and cultural influences upon environmental problems facing society today. The B.S. degree follows a curriculum design similar to the B.A. degree in environmental studies. However, in addition to introductory social science courses, the bachelor of science preparation requires a full year of introductory biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. The upper-division and outside concentration, while still interdisciplinary and flexible, limit the number of social science and humanities courses a student may take. The majority of environmental studies electives, as well as the outside concentration, are restricted to physical and natural science disciplines.

The Environmental Studies Program strongly encourages its students to participate in experiential elective courses such as the ES Internship Program (ES 192), study abroad programs, or any other academic opportunities which enhance their environmental education. The environmental studies curriculum has a number of special courses which allow students to conduct independent research projects (ES 199), work as a research assistant for one of its faculty members (ES 199RA), or pursue a senior thesis on a topic of their choice (ES 197). Approximately one-half to two-thirds of all environmental studies majors complete at least one environmental field studies or study abroad program before graduating. Additional information about these opportunities and affiliated environmental field studies programs and study abroad programs is available from the Student Info page of this website.

Bachelor of Science Requirements:

The major is divided into three parts: preparation for the major, upper-division requirements within environmental studies, and outside concentration in related areas. Note: One may wish to view/download the ES Program's B.S. Major Requirement/Progress Check worksheet  for a comprehensive view of these requirements.

1) Preparation for the Major (1st and 2nd years):

UCSB Courses:
3 Intro Environmental Studies courses:Environmental Studies 1, 2, and 3
1 course in Micro, Macro, or Intro Econ:Economics 1 or 2 or 9
1 course in Earth System Sciences:Earth Sci. 1  or 2 or 4 or 20 or Geography 3A or 3B
3 courses of Science Calculus:Mathematics 3A, 3B, and 4A
1 course of Intro Statistics:PSTAT 5A or 5LS (by petition Psych 5, Pstat 5E or
Pstat 109 or Comm 87 will be considered)
1 year of Intro Sci. Chemistry w/lab:Chemistry 1A-AL, 1B-BL, and 1C-CL
1 year of Intro Sci. Biology:MCDB 1A-AL, MCDB 1B, EEMB 2, EEMB 3-3L, and either 
1 year of Intro Physics:Physics 6A-AL, 6B-BL, and 6C-CL or Physics 1, 2, and 3-3L
1 course in Intro Logic or Ethics:Political Sci. 1 or Philosophy 3 or 4 or 6
1 Intro course in Cultural, Society,
       Policy and Politics (any one):
Anthropology 2 or Geography 5 or 7 or Global Studies 1 or 2
or History 5 or 7 of Political Sci. 6 or 7 or 12 or Psychology 1
or Religious Studies 1 or 14 or Sociology 1

2) Upper-division Environmental Studies Units (3rd and 4th years):

All environmental studies majors pursuing a bachelor of science degree must complete 17-18 required units and 32 elective units for a total of 49-50 units within environmental studies.

Area A.Required Environmental Studies Courses (17-18 total units):

Environmental Studies 100 or EEMB 120 or 168; Environmental Studies 115 and 190; Environmental Studies 106 or 188; and Geography 172 or PSTAT 120A or EEMB 146 or 179.

Area B.Environmental Studies Electives (32 total units):

The 32 upper-division environmental studies units are split into two sections.

Section B1: students must complete 20 units from the following list of "science" ES electives:

Environmental Studies 105, 111, 113, 114A, 114B, 119, 120, 128, 134, 144, 147, 149, 152, 157, 158, 162, 166BT, 166DC, 166FP, 167, 168, 169, 171 and 197.

Section B2: The remaining 12 units may be satisfied by completing any environmental studies courses number 101-199, excluding the first 20 units used to satisfy Section B1. 
Note:No more than 4 units each from Environmental Studies 192, 194, 199, and 199RA will apply, and no more than 8 units of these courses combined will be accepted toward the major.

3) Outside Concentration (Area C):

B.S. Environmental studies majors must complete an outside concentration consisting of 16 upper-division units taken outside the Environmental Studies Program. This may be done in a number of different ways:

Complete an outside concentration by taking 16 upper-division units from one of the following science departments (completion of a double major from one of the following departments will satisfy): molecular, cellular, and developmental biology (MCDB); ecology, evolution, and marine biology (EEMB); chemistry and biochemistry; geography (only courses that apply to the B.S. Physical Geography major); earth sciences; mathematics; physics; biopsychology (only courses listed under Area A, B, C); or probability and statistics. Note: Geology 101 and Mathematics 100A-B will not apply.

Alternatively, students may propose an interdisciplinary outside concentration by combining 16 upper-division units from any of the departments listed above. A plan of study listing the 16 units to be taken must be petitioned and approved by the environmental studies academic advisor or program chair to become official. To be approved, the plan must demonstrate a coherent environmental science focus. Although a list of UCSB courses most often used to create interdisciplinary emphases is available from the program office or download as Supplemental Emphases Worksheet .PDF, students are welcome to use courses not on the list as long as they form a coherent environmental focus (UC-acceptable upper-division transfer, field studies, or study abroad units may be considered). Students interested in satisfying their outside concentration with such courses should consult the ES Academic Advisor for more information prior to beginning.

Study abroad and/or environmental field studies units may be applied to satisfy part or all of Area C.  Units earned must me UC transferable, upper-division level, and related to a student's chosen emphasis (either options above).  A petition must be submitted and approved by the ES Program for such courses to apply.

Note:Any course cross-listed with environmental studies and another department used for the outside concentration may only apply to one required area, not simultaneously to both the elective area and the outside concentration.


P/NP GRADING OPTION ............. Env St 190 must be taken P/NP and up to 4 units of Env St 192 may be taken P/NP for major credit. All other courses, including those applied to the major from other departments must be taken for letter grades. 

SUBSTITUTIONS ............... In the major requirements permissible only by petition to the department. 

RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS .......... At least 18 UD units in major while in residence at UCSB. 

G.P.A. REQUIREMENTS .............. At least 2.0 overall average in a) all UD major courses; and b) all major courses (Prep and UD) while in UC.

Related Resources:

» View High School and Transfer Student Preparation for the B.S. ES Major
» View and download the ES Program's B.S. Major Requirement/Progress Check worksheet
» Download the official College L&S B.S. in ES major requirements sheet from the UCSB General Catalog.
» View the Guide to Completing the B.S. Degree & GE's in Four Years (.pdf)
» Supplemental Emphases Worksheet: How to use the electives and outside concentration to create an emphasis (.pdf)

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree program is designed for students interested in an interdisciplinary scientific perspective on environmental and sustainability issues, analysis, and management. The degree program provides the broad foundation in physical, life, and social sciences needed for a career or graduate study in environmental science and related fields such as climate change, ecology, and conservation. Students who complete the program successfully will be able to assess environmental issues critically from multiple perspectives; to perform field, laboratory, and computer analyses; and to conduct original research. The program is designed to prepare graduates for careers in local, state, and federal government laboratories and nonprofit agencies, environmental consulting firms, environmental education and outreach agencies, and universities and other research settings. The degree is offered by the College of Natural Sciences with a focus on biological sciences, by the College of Liberal Arts with a focus on geographical sciences, and by the Jackson School of Geosciences with a focus on geological sciences. The degree programs share common prescribed work, but each degree has its own specific requirements. Students may earn only one Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree from the University.

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science curriculum consists of 126 semester hours of coursework. All students must complete the University’s Core Curriculum. The specific degree requirements consist of prescribed work, major requirements, and electives. In some cases, a course that is required for the degree may also be counted toward the core curriculum.

A course in one prescribed work area may not also be used to fulfill the requirements of another prescribed work area; the only exception to this rule is that a course that fulfills another requirement may also be used to fulfill a flag requirement, unless otherwise specified.

In the process of fulfilling the core curriculum and other degree requirements, all students are expected to complete the following Skills and Experience flags:

  1. Writing: three flagged courses beyond Rhetoric and Writing 306 or its equivalent; students in the College of Natural Sciences and the Jackson School of Geosciences must complete only two flagged writing courses. For students in the College of Natural Sciences, at least one writing flag must be from an upper-division course.
  2. Quantitative reasoning: one flagged course
  3. Global cultures: one flagged course
  4. Cultural diversity in the United States: one flagged course
  5. Ethics and leadership: one flagged course
  6. Independent inquiry: one flagged course

Prescribed Work Common to All Environmental Science Majors

Major Requirements 

BS EVS:  Option I: Biological Science

  1. One of the following foreign language/culture choices:

    1. Beginning level proficiency coursework, or the equivalent, in a foreign language.

    2. First course in a foreign language and a three-semester-hour course in the culture of the same language area.

    3. Two three-semester-hour courses in one foreign culture area; the courses must be chosen from an approved list available in the dean’s office and the college advising centers.

  2. Three hours in statistics chosen from Statistics and Data Sciences 328M and 321; with the consent of the undergraduate adviser, an upper-division statistics or probability course may be used to fulfill this requirement.

  3. Three hours in conservation and environmental biology chosen from Biology 351,  375, and Marine Science 356. Marine Science 356 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 10c and requirement 14. Marine Science 352 may count with prior approval of the faculty adviser.

  4. Biology 325 or 325H (for students completing Biology 315H), and 370.

  5. One of the following taxon/systems-based diversity courses or pairs of courses: Biology 321L, 324 and 124L, 327 and 127L, 340L, 448L, 353F, 453L, 354L, 455L, 364, 369L, 471G, Marine Science 352D, 352E, 354C, 354E, 354U, or 357. Biology 337 may count with prior approval of the faculty adviser.

  6. One of the following physiology, neurobiology, and behavior courses or pairs of courses: Biology 322 and 122L, 328 and 128L, 438L, 339, 345E, 346, 359J, 359K, 359R, 361, 361T, 365S, 371L, Marine Science 355C, Neuroscience 365R.

  7. Complete one upper-division laboratory course in addition to the laboratory requirements in the Prescribed Work Common to All Environmental Science Majors. A laboratory course taken to meet requirement 16 or 17 may be used to fulfill this requirement.

  8. Enough additional coursework to make a total of 126 hours.

BS EVS:  Option II: Biological Sciences Honors

  1. To fulfill requirements 1 through 4 of the prescribed work common to all options above, students complete the following breadth requirement: An honors mathematics course; Biology 315H and 325H; Chemistry 301H and 302H; Physics 301 and 101L; and a designated honors statistics course. Credit earned by examination may not be counted toward this requirement.

  2. Chemistry 204.

  3. A section of Undergraduate Studies 302 or 303 that is approved by the honors program adviser.

  4.  A section of Rhetoric and Writing 309S that is restricted to student in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program.

  5. Two semesters of Biology 379H; these courses may be used to fulfill requirement 9.

  6. Biology 370.

  7. Three semester hours in conservation and environmental biology chosen from Biology 375, 351, Marine Science 356. Marine Science 356 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 10c and requirement 18.

  8. One of the following taxon/systems-based diversity courses or pairs of courses: Biology 321L, 324 and 124L, 327 and 127L, 340L, 448L, 353F, 453L, 354L, 455L, 364, 369L, 471G; Marine Science 352 (Topic: Principles of Estuarine Ecology), or Marine Science 352 (Topic: Marine Invertebrates), 352D, 354C, 354E, 354U or 357. Biology 337 may count with prior approval of the faculty adviser.

  9. Six semester hours of coursework in the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Fine Arts.

  10. Complete one upper-division laboratory course in addition to the laboratory requirements in the Prescribed Work Common to All Environmental Science Majors. A laboratory course taken to fulfill requirement 19 may be used to fulfill this requirement. 

  11. Enough additional coursework approved by the honors adviser to make a total of 126 semester hours.

Special Requirements

Students must fulfill both the University's general requirements for graduation and the college requirements. They must also earn a grade of at least C- in each mathematics and science course required for the degree, and a grade point average in these courses of at least 2.00. More information about grades and the grade point average is given in the General Information Catalog.

To graduate under the honors Option, students must remain in good standing in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program, must submit an honors thesis approved by the program honors adviser, and must present their research in an approved public forum, such as the college’s annual Undergraduate Research Forum. More information about the Undergraduate Research Forum is available at https://cns.utexas.edu/.

  1. Mathematics: Mathematics 408C, or 408N and 408S, or 408K and 408L.
  2. Chemistry: Chemistry 301 or 301H; 302 or 302H; and 204.
  3. Physics: Physics 317K and 117M, or another four-hour calculus-based physics sequence.
  4. Biological Sciences: Biology 311C and 311D, or 315H.
  5. Ecology:
    a. Biology 373 or Marine Science 320. Marine Science 320 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 5a and requirement 10c.
    b. Biology 373L or Marine Science 120L. Environmental science majors in the College of Natural Sciences must choose Biology 373L.
  6. Geological Sciences: Geological Sciences 401 or 303, 346C, and an approved geological sciences course in sustainability.
  7. Geography: Geography 335N.
  8. Field experience and research methods: Environmental Science 311 and 121.
  9. Senior field/research experience: one of the following pairs:
    1. Environmental Science 271and 371 or Environmental Science 171 and 471.
    2. Environmental Science 172C and 472D or Environmental Science 272C and 372D.
    3. Environmental Science 271 or Marine Science 348, and one of the following: Chemistry 320M, Geography 360G, 368C, 462K, Geological Sciences 327G, Mathematics 408D or 408M. Note: Geography 360G, 462K, and Geological Sciences 327G may not be used to satisfy both requirement 9c and 10b. Biology 277 may substitute for Environmental Science 271 with prior approval of the faculty adviser.
  10. Environmental and sustainability themes: one course in each of the following thematic areas:
    1. Environmental and sustainability policy, ethics, and history: Geography 334, 336C, 339K, 340D, 342C, 344K, 356C, Journalism 346F, Marine Science 367K, and Philosophy 325C. Biology 337, Geography 356, 356T, or Sociology 321K may be counted with prior approval of the faculty adviser.
    2. Geographic information systems: Geography 360G, 462K, Geological Sciences 327G.
    3. Climates and oceans: Biology 456L, Geography 333K, Geological Sciences 347D, 347G, 377P, Marine Science 320, 440, 352, 354Q, 354T, 356. Marine Science 320 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 5 and requirement 10. Marine Science 356 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 10c and requirement 14 in Option I. Marine Science 356 may not be used to satisfy both requirement 10c and requirement 18 in Option II. Geography 356T, Geological Sciences 371C, and Marine Science 352 may count with prior approval of the faculty adviser.
    4. Environmental economics, sustainability, and business: Economics 304K, 330T. Advanced Placement credit for Economics 304L may be used to satisfy this requirement.
  11. ​Environmental Science 141 and 151.

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