Environmental Science BS

College of Sciences
Undergraduate major / Bachelor of Science

faculty and students observing a model in environmental science classroom

About this program

Environmental Science is the study of the biological, chemical, physical and social science principles that govern the structure and functioning of the natural world. Through the study of environmental science the student develops an understanding of their own life and an appreciation for their multifaceted role in the natural world.

The Environmental Science major begins with a solid foundation of mathematics, physics, biological and social science, upon which the study of environmental science is built. The major provides students with scientific knowledge, laboratory skills, research experience, and intellectual training in analytical and quantitative reasoning. The program emphasizes the development of transferable liberal arts skills and includes the flexibility for students to pursue their own academic interests in the field as part of their degree program.

A degree in environmental science helps open the door to a wide range of fields including applied science, pollution management, conservation biology, public health and natural resource management. Environmental science graduates may choose to continue on to professional and graduate programs in research, management and education.

Student outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Read, analyze and interpret quantitative data. More specifically, students will be able to:
    • Read and interpret a graph
    • Chose a graph type appropriate for a given data set.
    • Create a graph from quantitative data
    • Interpret the results of a statistical test presented in terms of sample size and p-value
  • Demonstrate competence in physical science. More specifically, students will be able to:
    • Understand and apply knowledge of atmospheric chemistry and physics to the function of the ozone layer of Earth’s atmosphere
    • Understand and apply knowledge of atmospheric chemistry and physics to the greenhouse effect on Earth’s climate
    • Understand and apply knowledge of the role of biological processes such as photosynthesis and respiration in the history of life on Earth
  •  Demonstrate competence in Ecology and Evolution. More specifically, students will be able to:
    • Understand and apply to population genetics data the principles of Hardy-Weinberg analysis
    • Understand and apply to population data the principles of exponential growth
    • Understand and apply to community data the principles of food web analysis
  • Demonstrate numeracy and college-level skill with mathematics. More specifically, students will be able to:
    • Read and understand the representation of relationships using mathematical symbols,
    • Use algebraic techniques to solve equations for the unknown term
    • Use fractions to represent and solve problems involving quantitative data
    • Use exponents and logarithms to represent and solve problems involving quantitative data

Enrolling in this program

Program eligibility requirements

Students expressing interest in the Environmental Science BS major when they apply for admission to the university will be assigned an academic advisor in the Natural Sciences Department and will be given pre-major status

To be eligible for acceptance to the Environmental Science major, students must submit a College of Sciences Undergraduate Program Declaration Form. Students are admitted to the program upon successful completion of the prerequisite and following pre-major foundation courses:

  • BIOL 111, BIOL 112, CHEM 111, CHEM 112.

All prerequisite and required courses must be completed with grades of C- or above. Transfer coursework equivalency is determined by the Natural Sciences Department.

Current students: Declare your program

Once you’re admitted as an undergraduate student and have met any further requirements your chosen program may have, you declare your major or declare a minor.

Future students: Apply now

Apply to Metropolitan State: Start the journey toward your Environmental Science BS now. Learn about the steps to enroll or, if you have questions about what Metropolitan State can offer you, request information, visit campus or chat with an admissions counselor.

Get started on your Environmental Science BS

Program requirements

Each pre-major foundation science course must include at least one semester credit of professionally supervised on-ground laboratory experience with standard undergraduate laboratory equipment and materials. Lower-division (100- and 200-level) courses cannot be used to fulfill upper division core or elective requirements in the major.

Course requirements

Prerequisites

One of the following courses or math assessment placement score above college algebra is required. This prerequisite does not count towards total credits for this major but fulfills math GELS requirements.

Choose one

MATH 115 College Algebra

4 credits

This course develops the fundamental concepts of algebra with an emphasis on the classification and analysis of linear, quadratic, polynomial, exponential and logarithmic functions. Applications to the natural and social sciences are given throughout. It aims to provide insights into the nature and utility of mathematics, and helps students develop mathematical reasoning skills.

Full course description for College Algebra

MATH 120 Precalculus

4 credits

This course is designed to prepare students for calculus. Topics include polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions; the algebra of functions; multiple function representations; and an introduction to analytic geometry.

Full course description for Precalculus

Requirements (120 credits)

Pre-Major Foundation (16 credits)

BIOL 111 General Biology I

4 credits

The first semester of the comprehensive first year course in biology. Covers the biochemistry and inner workings of cells, energy metabolism, genetics, cellular physiology, population genetics and evolutionary pattern and process. Laboratory topics include use of the microscope, biochemistry, cell structure and function, genetics, and evolution. Intended for students who are pursuing, or considering, the major in biology or life sciences teaching.

Full course description for General Biology I

BIOL 112 General Biology II

4 credits

The second semester of the comprehensive first year course in biology. Covers the evolution and diversity of life, plant biology, animal biology and ecology. Lab activities include use of the microscope, examination of organisms, and experiments in plant physiology and ecology; may include animal dissection. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors.

Full course description for General Biology II

CHEM 111 General Chemistry I

4 credits

The first semester of the comprehensive first year course in chemistry. Covers measurement, stoichiometry, solution chemistry, atomic structure, bonding, molecular structure, molecular visualization, and problem solving. Lab includes basic laboratory techniques, instrumentation, methodology, chemical analysis, and laboratory notebook procedures. The labs are also designed to engage students in critical thinking and concept building and are directly coordinated with the lecture part of the course. Intended for students who are pursuing, or considering, the biology or life sciences teaching major and/or chemistry minor, and qualified students seeking a general education science course with lab.

Full course description for General Chemistry I

CHEM 112 General Chemistry II

4 credits

The second semester of the comprehensive algebra-based first year course in chemistry. Covers acid/base theory, chemical equilibria, nuclear and electrochemistry, redox reactions, terminology, functional groups, reactivity of organic compounds and an introduction to biochemistry. Includes lab. Intended for students pursuing the biology or life sciences teaching major and/or chemistry minor.

Full course description for General Chemistry II

Core Requirements

ECON 202 Microeconomics

3 credits

This course focuses on the interactions between the consumer and the producer. It begins with the theory of markets, supply and demand, and the price system. Then it covers demand elasticity, the costs of production including the various factor inputs, the four major market structures (pure competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly and monopoly), and ways to increase the competition in markets.

Full course description for Microeconomics

Choose one of the two courses below

GEOL 110 Introduction to Earth Sciences

4 credits

This course is an introduction to geology, meteorology and astronomy. Topics include measurement and the scientific method, rocks and minerals, weathering and erosion, earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, geologic time and the history of the Earth, structure and composition of the atmosphere, weather patterns, climate, a history of modern astronomy, the solar system, light and the sun, and stars beyond our solar system. Check the Class Schedule for the dates and times of required field trips. Includes Lab.

Full course description for Introduction to Earth Sciences

GEOL 118 Environmental Geology

4 credits

This course introduces the geological materials, processes and events of the earth's surface and crust that are most relevant to human populations. The phenomena studied include natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, floods, and hurricanes, as well as important resources such as water, soil, traditional and alternative energy resources, and pollution and remediation of water and air quality.

Full course description for Environmental Geology

MATH 208 Applied Calculus

4 credits

This course provides an overview of the differential calculus for single and multivariable functions and an introduction to the integral calculus and differential equations, with an emphasis on applications to the natural and physical sciences. Particular topics covered in the course include limits, ordinary and partial derivatives, applications of derivatives, definite integrals, fundamental theorem of calculus, applications of definite integrals, models involving differential equations, Eulers method, equilibrium solutions.

Full course description for Applied Calculus

STAT 201 Statistics I

4 credits

This course covers the basic principles and methods of statistics. It emphasizes techniques and applications in real-world problem solving and decision making. Topics include frequency distributions, measures of location and variation, probability, sampling, design of experiments, sampling distributions, interval estimation, hypothesis testing, correlation and regression.

Full course description for Statistics I

Physics requirement (4 or 10 credits)

One course or set of courses. Either PHYS 110 or, PHYS 211 and PHYS 212.

PHYS 110 Introduction to Physics

4 credits

This is an introductory course in physics covering one-dimensional and two-dimensional linear motion and forces, vibrations and wave motion, the behavior of light, and electricity and magnetism. Laboratories emphasize real world applications of the concepts and problem solving skills taught in this course. Includes lab. Intended for general education students and students majoring in Life Sciences Teaching.

Full course description for Introduction to Physics

PHYS 211 Calculus Based Physics I

5 credits

This is the first course of a two semester sequence covering the fundamental concepts of physics. This course covers Newton's laws of motion, work, energy, linear momentum, rotational motion, gravity, equilibrium and elasticity, periodic motion, fluid mechanics, temperature, heat, and the laws of thermodynamics. Laboratories emphasize application of physics concepts and quantitative problem solving skills. Intended for science majors and general education students with strong mathematical background.

Full course description for Calculus Based Physics I

PHYS 212 Calculus Based Physics II

5 credits

This is the second course of a two semester sequence covering the fundamental concepts of physics. This course covers oscillatory motion, waves, superposition and interference of waves, diffraction, electricity and magnetism, electric circuits, light, mirrors and lenses. Laboratories emphasize application of physics concepts and quantitative problem solving skills. Intended for science majors.

Full course description for Calculus Based Physics II

Upper-division Core Courses (18-19 credits)

Select one course or set of courses in each of the three core categories

Biological Science (5 credits)

BIOL 310 Ecology

5 credits

This course covers the science of ecology, focusing on population and community ecology, the investigation of patterns in the distribution and abundance of organisms and the processes responsible. The content and methods of modern ecological research are emphasized. Students read ecological research papers and do field investigations, experiments and computer modeling. Most of the weekly labs take place outdoors. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors.

Full course description for Ecology

BIOL 312 Evolution

5 credits

This course covers the science of evolutionary biology, including population genetics, microevolution, speciation, phylogenetics and macroevolution. The content and methods of modern research in evolutionary biology are emphasized; student read primary source scientific literature. Lab activities include field investigations, lab experiments, and computer modeling. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors.

Full course description for Evolution

BIOL 316 Behavioral Ecology

5 credits

This course covers the science of animal behavioral ecology. The content and methods of modern ecological research are emphasized. Students read research papers in the field of animal behavior and conduct field investigations, experiments and computer modeling. Many of the weekly labs take place outdoors. Intended for biology majors.

Full course description for Behavioral Ecology

Physical Science (5 credits)

One course or set of courses; either CHEM 311 AND CHEM 311L or GEOL 314

CHEM 311 Environmental Chemistry

3 credits

This class addresses the principles of atmospheric chemistry, energy and climate changes, water chemistry, and soil chemistry. During the course of the semester, students will learn the chemistry behind modern challenges to our environment. It will include and examination of the sources, reactions, transport, and fates of different chemical species in the environment. The following topics will be covered: a) atmospheric chemistry and air pollution; b) energy and climate change; c) water chemistry and water pollution; d) toxic organic compounds e) wastes, soils and sediments.

Full course description for Environmental Chemistry

CHEM 311L Environmental Chemistry Lab

2 credits

This course is intended for Chemistry and Environmental Science majors; this course contributes to the Category 2 electives for the Chemistry major and Physical Science Core Courses for Environmental Science. This two-credit lab course must be taken concurrently with CHEM311 Environmental Chemistry. This course continues the introduction of the techniques, specialized equipment, instrumental methods and safety procedures that was begun in CHEM 112. Students get hands-on experience with the instrumentation, equipment, and hazardous material procedures. Students will learn techniques relevant to the study of atmospheric and water chemistry. Students will gain experience with bench analytical techniques such as titrations and instrumental analysis using mass spectrometry and atomic absorption.

Full course description for Environmental Chemistry Lab

GEOL 314 Earth Surface Environments

5 credits

This course develops topics in earth surface processes, including geomorphology and general hydrology. Studies of Late Cenozoic landscape change will focus on glacial and fluvial processes in the Upper Midwest. We will examine surface water and groundwater hydrology with an emphasis on the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota. The course will employ college algebra skills to develop a semi-quantitative approach to groundwater and surface water hydrology. Mandatory Saturday field trips are an essential component of this course.

Full course description for Earth Surface Environments

Economics and Political Science (4 credits)

One upper division course.

Integrated and Environmental Science (4-5 credits)

One upper division course or set of courses (as indicated) in each category.

ESCI 305 Earth's Climate, Past and Future

4 credits

A fundamental question surrounds discussion of the current evidence for recent global climate change: to what extent is climate variation a normal feature of earth-system history? Through a series of investigations using data from a variety of climate archives, this course develops the history of earths climate on a range of time scales. We will investigate the scientific data used in recognition of multiple controls on climate, including long- and short-term patterns in solar output, plate tectonic and ocean circulation patterns, variations in earths orbit, ocean oscillations, ice sheet dynamics, and biogeochemical cycles. Having established this background knowledge, students in this course will be well-equipped to analyze the evidence for human-caused climate change. Although this course is intended primarily for non-scientists, it builds on established quantitative skills and basic scientific knowledge of earth systems.

Full course description for Earth's Climate, Past and Future

ESCI 315 Limnology

5 credits

This course covers the biology, chemistry and physics of aquatic habitats with an emphasis on the ecology of lakes in Minnesota. The content and methods of modern limnological research are emphasized. Labs focus on field and lab investigation of water bodies in the metropolitan area. Most of the weekly labs take place outdoors. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Limnology

ESCI 320 Ecosystem and Global Ecology

5 credits

This course covers ecosystem theory, nutrient cycling, energy flow, and related global environmental topics including acid rain, greenhouse effect, climate change and mercury pollution. The content and methods of modern ecosystems research are emphasized. Lab activities may include field investigations, lab experiments, and computer modeling. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Ecosystem and Global Ecology

BIOL 315 Limnology

5 credits

This course covers the biology, chemistry and physics of aquatic habitats with an emphasis on the ecology of lakes in Minnesota. The content and methods of modern limnological research are emphasized. Labs focus on field and lab investigation of water bodies in the metropolitan area. Most of the weekly labs take place outdoors. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Limnology

BIOL 320 Ecosystem and Global Ecology

5 credits

This course covers ecosystem theory, nutrient cycling, energy flow, and related global environmental topics including acid rain, greenhouse effect, climate change and mercury pollution. The content and methods of modern ecosystems research are emphasized. Lab activities may include field investigations, lab experiments, and computer modeling. Intended for biology and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Ecosystem and Global Ecology

Capstone and Elective (10 or 11 credits)

Upper division courses chosen from the Core courses listed above and the additional courses listed below. Must include at least one 400-level course.

BIOL 415 Pollution Ecology

3 credits

This course examines the ecology of environmental pollution from biological, paleolimnological and international perspectives. Topics include acidification, eutrophication, metal and organic contamination, species introductions, and climate change. Students develop skill with structured decision making, risk assessment and public presentation. Intended for biology majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Pollution Ecology

BIOL 416 Invasion Biology

3 credits

BIOL 416 is intended to serve as an upper division elective within the Biology (B.A. and B.S.) and Environmental Science (B.S.) majors; as such, enrollment is restricted to juniors and seniors within these majors. This advanced lecture course examines the biology of exotic organisms that cause ecological or economic harm upon establishment in a novel environment. Topics include the stages of biological invasion and the ecological processes that mediate them (e.g., propagule pressure, biotic interactions, disturbance), the impacts and management of invasive species, risk assessment and post-invasion evolution. Field trips to local ecosystems may be incorporated.

Full course description for Invasion Biology

BIOL 511H Honors Freshwater Ecology and Quality

3 credits

Advanced course in freshwater ecology with applications to water quality assessment and monitoring, lake management, and drinking water supply. Students learn and apply techniques in water quality monitoring and taxonomic methods used in the science of phycology. Course is open to students who have met the criteria and been granted honors biology status, a process administered by the Natural Sciences Department.

Full course description for Honors Freshwater Ecology and Quality

BIOL 512H Honors Insect Ecology and Management

3 credits

This is an advanced course in the study of insect ecology, with particular emphasis on application to the management of pest species of agricultural, medical/veterinary, and urban importance. Topics addressed include, but are not limited to: insect population dynamics and regulation, sampling techniques, insect-plant interactions, disease vector biology, theories and practices of integrated pest management (IPM) and insecticide resistance management (IRM), and insect taxonomy. Students will read and discuss primary literature articles in entomology, and will engage in active field/laboratory exercises in insect ecology and taxonomy. Intended for biology and environmental majors who have taken considerable upper-division classwork in the sciences.

Full course description for Honors Insect Ecology and Management

ESCI 350I Environmental Science Individualized Internship

1-4 credits

Students obtain internships in selected areas of study to gain deeper understand of knowledge, skills and the context of a given field. Site supervisors give guidance and direction to customized internship projects. Faculty members serve as liaisons between the internship sites and the university, providing information to students and potential supervisors and supervising the learning experience. Students should contact the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship (ICES) at Metropolitan State University for more information.

Full course description for Environmental Science Individualized Internship

ESCI 469 Seminars in Environmental Science

1 credits

This course takes advantage of the many scientific seminar presentations offered in the Twin Cities Area by educational institutions such as Metropolitan State University and the University of Minnesota and by non-profit organizations such as the Minnesota Native Plant Society, Minnesota Geological Society, St. Paul Audubon Society etc. Each student chooses ten one-hour seminars to attend. This course can, with instructor permission, be taken more than once for credit. Intended for Environmental Science majors in their senior year.

Full course description for Seminars in Environmental Science

ESCI 489 Senior Research in Environmental Science

1-5 credits

This course provides students with laboratory or field research experience under the supervision of a resident science faculty member. Students must complete a research proposal and it must be approved by the instructor before registering for the course. Prior successful completion of an upper division course with the instructor is generally required. Intended for Environmental Science majors in their senior year.

Full course description for Senior Research in Environmental Science

GEOL 340 Water Resources

3 credits

Water use and management lie at the core of human civilization and of environmental quality. The first half of this course investigates the physical, chemical, and geological aspects of hydrology that determine the availability of water resources around the globe. The remainder of the course investigates the management of water resources in municipal and agricultural settings, wastewater management and treatment, water protection legislation, and water management case studies. The current and expected future impacts of climate change on water resources will be considered throughout the course.

Full course description for Water Resources

STAT 353 Environmental Statistics

4 credits

This course covers the intermediate statistical methods in analyzing environmental and biological datasets. This course is built on the knowledge of an introductory statistics and hypothesis testing. The contents of the course include paired T-test, unpaired T-test, F-tests, one-way and two-way ANOVA, multivariate ANOVA, repeated measures, regression, principle component analysis and cluster analysis. Students will learn how to use statistical software to perform all the analyses. This course covers the intermediate statistical methods in analyzing environmental and biological datasets. This course is built on the knowledge of an introductory statistics and hypothesis testing. The contents of the course include paired T-test, unpaired T-test, F-tests, one-way and two-way ANOVA, multivariate ANOVA, repeated measures, regression, principle component analysis and cluster analysis. Students will learn how to use statistical software to perform all the analyses.

Full course description for Environmental Statistics