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Environmental Science BS

College of Sciences / Natural Sciences
Undergraduate major / Bachelor of Science

About The Program

faculty and students observing a model in environmental science classroom

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

Related minors

How to enroll

Current students: Declare this program

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

Students expressing interest in the Environmental Science Bachelor of 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 premajor 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 premajor 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.

Courses and Requirements

SKIP TO COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Each premajor 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.

Major Requirements

+ Prerequisites

Completion of college algebra or math assessment placement above college algebra is required prior to taking premajor foundation courses. These prerequisites fulfill math GELS requirements.

Choose one

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

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

+ Premajor Foundation (16 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

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

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

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 (33 - 40 credits)
Lower Division Core (15-21 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

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

Math course (4 credits)

Choose one.

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

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.

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

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

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 (19 credits)

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

Biological Science (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, environmental science and life sciences teaching majors.

Full course description for Ecology

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, environmental science and life sciences teaching majors.

Full course description for Evolution

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

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

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

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)
Integrated and Environmental Science (5 credits)

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

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, environmental science and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Limnology

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, environmental science, and life sciences teaching majors and other qualified students.

Full course description for Ecosystem and Global Ecology

+ Capstone and Elective (10 credits)

Upper division courses chosen from the Core courses listed above and the additional courses listed below. Research and internship cannot exceed five credits toward the elective requirement. A minimum of three credits must be at the 400-500 level. Either BIOL 311 or BIOL 324 may be used for this category but not both.

This course covers plant physiology across the range of organisms studied by botanists, including plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria, including the structural and biochemical features that are characteristic of the different taxonomic groups and how these features affect the distribution and abundance of the organisms. The content and methods of current research in plant physiology are emphasized. Lab activities include laboratory and field investigations. Intended for biology majors.

Full course description for Plant Physiology

The biology of invertebrate animals, particularly insects and other terrestrial arthropods: their macroevolutionary history, taxonomy, morphology, physiology, behavior, and ecology. Topics may include their identification and roles as pollinators, herbivores, predators and disease vectors in natural, agricultural, and urban ecosystems. The course includes an integrated laboratory with field and laboratory activity. Course intended for biology majors.

Full course description for Invertebrate Biology

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, environmental science and other qualified students.

Full course description for Pollution Ecology

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

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

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

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

This course presents current advanced research in environmental science, connecting students to the wealth of the scientific resources available in the Metropolitan State area. By listening, reflecting, and writing, students learn about current research in environmental science and how scientists communicate it to other scientists. This course can, with instructor permission, be taken more than once for credit. Intended for environmental science majors in their junior or senior year.

Full course description for Seminars in Environmental Science

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

This class focuses on the history and background of the social and environmental issues confronting racial and ethnic communities in the United States. Students learn about the practice and politics of ecological inequality, community initiatives which have developed to combat such inequality, and how environmental justice has emerged as a viable and powerful political movement. This course is useful to students interested in environment and public policy as well as racial and ethnic studies.

Full course description for Environmental Justice and Public Policy

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

This course surveys the history of environmentalism in America over the last 100 years. Students are introduced to the ideas of the environmentalists-from Theodore Roosevelt and Rachel Carson to EarthFirst!'s Dave Foreman and Vice President Al Gore-about wilderness preservation, resource conservation, public health and, fundamentally, about the proper relationship between humans and the natural world. Environmentalist thought and actions are considered in the context of ecological and resource crises (such as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the oil crisis of the 1970s), of problems created by technological applications (such as the widespread use of DDT) and of particular cultural developments (such as the closing of the "frontier" at the turn of the century and the growth of the counterculture in the 1960s).

Full course description for The Greening of America: Environmental History since 1900

This course surveys the key themes and developments in world environmental history; that is, the history of how human societies have changed their environments and how the environment has influenced the courses of societies. It examines pre-modern cultures' intellectual, economic, and technological approaches to the environment, the role of epidemic and environmental transformation in the colonial age, and the revolutionary changes introduced to the environment in the modern period of industrialization and population growth and the rapid consumption of resources that has involved. The course places contemporary environmental issues in their deep historical contexts.

Full course description for World Environmental History

This rich, interdisciplinary course studies how popular and classical artistic genres (such as painting, sculpture, installations, music, literature, dance, film, digital media, photography, happenings, cartoons, criticism, theories, etc.) shape our understanding of and discussions about environmental issues. We examine how artists have sought to use, recreate, idealize, manipulate, mar, intervene in, and affect the environment and public attitudes toward the environment. Key critical theories informing environmental art will be covered (e.g., ecocriticism, environmental racism, indigenous activism, animal rights, radical plant studies, ecofeminism, green screen, the Anthropocene, apocalypse, poverty, religion, etc.). This course has a community engagement element.

Full course description for Environmental Humanities

In this course we use various philosophical approaches to explore the relations among persons, non-human animals and the worlds they inhabit separately and together. We will look closely at the grounds for claiming that we have obligations and duties in relation to non-human animals and the environment, as well as the ways in which these relations provide inspiration, companionship, solace and love. Topics may include: environmental justice and the disposal of electronic waste; animals and factory farming; the real cost of cheap consumer goods; the historical evolution of the concept of environment protection, of a land ethic, and of the development of natural parks; human stewardship; the possibility that natural creatures have a value that is independent of human benefit and whether it makes sense to grant them legal standing; global climate change; the connections between feminism and environmental ethics; the population time bomb and current responses; green politics; the role…

Full course description for Environmental Philosophy

This course explores how psychological perspectives and methods are being applied to environmental problems in the modern world. The ways humans have impacted and been impacted by natural and built environments are also examined. Topics include weather and climate, disasters and toxic hazards, territoriality and crowding, urban and rural environments, planning and design for human behavior, and building sustainable environments. The application of attitudinal, humanistic, cognitive, behavioral and political approaches to environmental problems are discussed.

Full course description for Environmental Psychology

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

This course focuses on the multidisciplinary field of environmental communication and helps students understand the ways in which environmental issues and conflicts develop, the values underlying the ideologies on these issues, the ways in which these values are presented, and the variety of scientific and technical communication genres involved in understanding environmental communication messages. Significant focus is given to issues of race and racism.

Full course description for Environmental Communication

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