Jul 22, 2024  
Undergraduate Record 2023-2024 
Undergraduate Record 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Environmental Sciences

Requirements for Major

The Department of Environmental Sciences offers both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.) degrees. The B.A. degree is intended for students interested in environmental sciences, environmental regulation, environmental planning, or secondary school teaching positions. Additionally, this degree can provide a strong base for entry into graduate studies in any of the environmental sciences or in other areas such as medicine, law, or business. The B.S. degree is a more course-intensive experience, excellent for students planning for graduate school or especially for professional careers in the environmental sciences. Each program has an optional thesis program that is an excellent entry into research, and it is recommended for students planning on going to graduate school.

Distinguished Major’s options are available in both degree programs.

For all degree programs, students who score a 4 or a 5 on the Environmental Science Advanced Placement exam will receive 3 credits for EVSC 1010. Any three credits of non-core, lower division courses, or advanced placement credit on the Environmental Science exam, may be counted toward the major if taken prior to declaration of the major. (Note that only 3 credits of non-core courses below the 3000 level may count toward the major.)

Requirements for Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sciences

Students must complete 30 graded credits of departmental course work with a 2.000 cumulative grade point average in major’s courses. EVSC 2800, 3200, 3300, and 3600 with their laboratories are required core courses; the lectures and labs for any specific core class should (and in many cases must) be taken simultaneously.  The interdisciplinary nature of the environmental science’s advanced courses is one of the program’s great strengths and unique features. To take maximum advantage of these courses, students should try to complete the four core courses by the beginning of their fourth year. Three credits of non-core 1000- or 2000-level course work, taken prior to declaring the major, may be counted toward the major. At least 11 credits of non-core courses at the 3000 level or higher must be taken. Once a student is enrolled at the University, transfer credits that count toward the major must be approved prior to taking the course and must be consistent with the curricular goals of the department. The department’s Director of Undergraduate Program is responsible for overseeing the pre-approval of transfer credits.

The department requires one semester of calculus and two semesters of college-level chemistry, biology, or physics with laboratories. Students should begin to fulfill this requirement in their first year by taking MATH 1190, MATH 1210 or MATH 1310 and any two of the following: CHEM 1410, CHEM 1420, BIOL 2100, BIOL 2200, PHYS 2010 or 1425, PHYS 2020 or 2415, all with their associated labs (BIOL courses have the labs included).

Although not required for the degree, to do serious research and compete effectively in graduate school and employment, additional math and science is generally needed. Work in any environmental sciences area necessitates developing an understanding of related fields. Thus, to encourage each student’s success in research and the competition for top graduate schools and jobs, the department suggests students take related work based on their primary areas of interest.  Ecology depends on a basic knowledge of chemistry (CHEM 1410, 1420) and biology (BIOL 2100, 2200). Geoscience, hydrology, and atmospheric science depend on chemistry and physics (PHYS 2010, 2020 or 1425, 2415). All of these areas depend on calculus (MATH 1190, 1210, 1220, 1310, 1320) and the techniques of statistics (STAT 2020, 2120 or EVSC 5030). If the appropriate related work has been accomplished, students can begin the department’s core courses in the first or second year. Students are advised to obtain computer skills and an understanding of statistics as early as possible, and to take additional related sciences as their interests develop.

Requirements for Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences

Students must complete 40 graded credits of departmental course work with a 2.000 cumulative grade point average in major’s courses.  The B.S. degree in Environmental Sciences is similar to the B.A., except that the course requirements are much more extensive. Because of the more ambitious structure of the B.S. degree, careful planning of course selection and scheduling is essential very early. Interested students should contact the department as soon as possible to get help with establishing a program quickly with appropriate adjustments for AP or transfer credits. AP credits in related science or math are especially helpful, as is a strong performance on the foreign language placement exam to remove some of the obligation for these proficiency requirements to be completed upon arrival at the university.

The department requires one semester each of each of the three basic sciences with their associated labs, viz., BIOL 2100, CHEM 1410/1411, and PHYS 1425/1429 (note that PHYS 2010/2020 is not acceptable for the B.S. degree), along with one year of Calculus, MATH 1310 and MATH 1220, or MATH 1310 and MATH 1320 (with the latter sequence required by the math department for students who plan to take higher-level mathematics courses). Students should discuss the calculus requirement with their advisor before deciding on the appropriate option. Additionally, two more semesters of related sciences or math are required (e.g. BIOL 2200, CHEM 1420/1421, PHYS 2415/2419, MATH 2310 or equivalent courses or STAT 2020, 2120 or EVSC 5030), one of which must be a science with a lab.

The lectures and labs for any specific core course—EVSC 2800, 3200, 3300, or 3600 and their associated labs EVSC 2801, 3201, 3301, and 3601 respectively, for a total of 16 core credits—should (and in many cases must) be taken simultaneously. An additional 24 credits of graded EVSC courses are required. Three of these credits may be taken below the 3000-level (i.e., 1000- or 2000-level), if they are completed prior to declaring the major. The remainder must be taken at or above the 3000-level, and at least one must meet the analytical course requirement. Once a student is enrolled at the University, transfer credits that count toward the major must be approved prior to taking the course and must be consistent with the curricular goals of the department. The department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies is responsible for overseeing the pre-approval of transfer credits.

Requirements for Specialization in Environmental and Biological Conservation

The Department of Environmental Sciences, in conjunction with the Department of Biology, offers an opportunity for students to obtain the Bachelor of Arts or Science in Environmental Sciences with a Specialization in Environmental and Biological Conservation. Candidates for the Specialization must fulfill all the requirements for the Environmental Sciences major.

The requirements for the Specialization are as follows: (1) Related math and science courses are calculus (MATH 1210 or 1310), organismal biology with lab (BIOL 2200), and either chemistry with lab (CHEM 1410/1411) or physics with lab (PHYS 2010/2030 or PHYS 1425/1429); (2) Two courses in environmental conservation and biodiversity (EVSC 2220, BIOL 3450), population ecology (BIOL 4130) and a capstone seminar in environmental and biological conservation (EVSC 4991); (3) an additional four upper-level courses in either Environmental Sciences or Biology. The courses must cover each of the following areas: Biological Diversity—a course focused on a particular group of organisms (e.g. plants, birds, mammals); Environmental Diversity—a course focused on a particular habitat (e.g. wetlands, oceans, forests, grasslands, tundra); Techniques in Conservation—a course focused on policy, related chemical or physical sciences, statistics, modeling, geospatial analysis or field methods; and a dedicated Field Experience—this can be fulfilled through any field-oriented class (e.g. Stream Watch Internship, Hydrological Field Methods), a field-based independent study or Supervised Research with faculty in Environmental Sciences or Biology, a course at a University of Virginia field station (Mountain Lake Biological Station, Blandy Experimental Farm, the Anheuser Busch Coastal Research Center, or an internship with a conservation agency. Substitutions for these classes can be approved by the Specialization faculty coordinator.

Students who are interested in this Specialization should consult with the Environmental Conservation Program Coordinator, preferably when declaring their major.

Requirements for Minor

A minor consists of at least 16 graded credits of environmental sciences course work in a program of study proposed by the student and approved by the Director of Undergraduate Program. The program must include at least two core courses (EVSC 2800, 3200, 3300, 3600) with laboratories, and one non-core course at the 3000 level or higher, with no more than six credits of non-core courses below the 3000 level. To take advantage of advanced interdisciplinary courses, the core courses should be completed early.

Environmental Sciences Organization

The Environmental Sciences Organization, recognized by Student Council, presents an undergraduate professionalization seminar, field trips, career and job search activities, curriculum review and planning, and many social events. All University students are welcome to join.

Distinction and Prizes

The department participates in the College’s Distinguished Majors Program designed for highly qualified students. This program must be started early. Information can be obtained from an advisor.

Each year, the department gives the following awards to members of the graduating class who have distinguished themselves academically during their four years of study at the University:

  1. The Wallace-Poole Award to the most outstanding major.
  2. The Wilbur A. Nelson Award, the Mahlon G. Kelly Award, the Michael Garstang Award and the Hydrology Award to students who are outstanding in the areas of geoscience, ecology, atmospheric sciences, and hydrology.
  3. An Interdisciplinary Award to the student who has performed the most meritorious interdisciplinary research.
  4. The Joseph K. Roberts Award to the student who delivered the best paper at a national conference.
  5. The Trout Unlimited Award for excellence in aquatic ecology.

Each year, the department also offers the Bloomer and Mitchell Awards for geosciences-oriented students, and the Hart Family Award to support a student pursuing supervised research during their 4th year.

Blandy Experimental Farm and the State Arboretum of Virginia

The Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum of Virginia are University of Virginia facilities located in Boyce, Virginia at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. At this facility, faculty and students conduct research on the ecology of plants, and animals. Field classes from the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Biology conduct laboratory exercises at the facility, and each year an extensive summer program of course work is presented. The research site contains a wide array of habitats including forest, successional fields, pasture, cropland, ponds, and marshes. The State Arboretum of Virginia contains a beautifully landscaped collection of 1,000 species and varieties of trees and shrubs. The facilities also include greenhouses, laboratories, computer facilities, and housing, laundry and dining facilities. Students may participate in supervised research or independent study at Blandy Farm primarily during the summer.

Research Opportunities

Research projects throughout the department provide a number of employment and experience opportunities for undergraduates.

Students in their third and fourth years are encouraged to gain research experience by participating in faculty research or initiating their own research projects with faculty supervision. These projects can be conducted for credit by arranging with a faculty member to oversee a Supervised Research project (EVSC 4995) or by conducting an Independent Study (EVSC 4993). Students with a qualifying overall GPA may complete a senior thesis through the Distinguished Major Program.

Additional Information

For more information, contact the Director of the Undergraduate Program, Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall, P.O. Box 400123, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123; (434) 924-7761; www.evsc.virginia.edu.

Course Descriptions

Environmental Sciences

Atmospheric Sciences

  • EVAT 5300 – Introduction to Climatology Credits: 3
  • EVAT 5310 - Tropical Meteorology Credits: 3
  • EVAT 5320 – Mountain Meteorology Credits: 4
  • EVAT 5350-  Atmospheric Chemistry Credits: 3
  • EVAT 5400 – Boundary Layer Meteorology Credits: 4
  • EVAT 5410 – Atmospheric Dynamics Credits: 4


  • EVEC 5220 – Terrestrial Ecology Credits: 4
  • EVEC 5230 – Microbial Ecology Credits: 3 
  • EVEC 5231 – Microbial Ecology Laboratory Credits: 1
  • EVEC 5250 – Ecological Issues in Global Change Credits: 4


  • EVGE 5820 – Geomorphology Credits: 4
  • EVGE 5840 – Sediment Processes and Environments Credits: 3
  • EVGE 5841 – Sediment Processes Laboratory Credits: 1 
  • EVGE 5850 – Geochemistry Credits: 4
  • EVGE 5860 – Isotope Geochemistry Credits: 4
  • EVGE 5870 – Aqueous Geochemistry Credits: 4
  • EVGE 5880 - Glaciology Credits: 3


  • EVHY 5610 - GIS: Watershed Resilience Credits: 3
  • EVHY 5640 – Catchment Hydrology: Process and Theory Credits: 3
  • EVHY 5650 – Hydrological Transport Processes Credits: 4
  • EVHY 5670 – Environmental Fluid Mechanics Credits: 4
  • EVHY 5700 – Forest Hydrology Credits: 4