Environmental Science – Natural Science
UMW’s environmental science — natural science major explores the relationships between biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and Earth science. Our interdisciplinary program encourages undergraduate research and fosters the analytical, critical thinking, and communications skills you’ll need as a working scientist or graduate scholar.
Areas of Study
The environmental science-natural science major gives you a solid background in biological, ecological, chemical, and geological principles. With this foundation, and with guidance from faculty advisors, you’ll craft a course of study that meets your interests and career goals.
In recent years, UMW environmental sciences majors have served internships with the City of Fredericksburg, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Friends of the Rappahannock, Marstel-Day LLC, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Environmental Science Program
The Environmental Science and Geology degree (Bachelor of Science) promotes the study of our environment and the impact that human activities have on natural systems. Environmental Science majors choose either a natural science or a social science perspective according to their interests. Both tracks provide a strong background for advanced study or allow placement directly in a variety of career areas.
The Natural Science track provides a background in biology, chemistry, and geology. Analytical skills acquired in this program, coupled with an appreciation of socioeconomic considerations, will prepare the student to evaluate environmental problems and work on solutions with the limits of societal resources in mind.
The Social Science track focuses on the economic, political, and sociological impact of humans on the environment. This program, coupled with an appreciation of the biotic and physical parameters of the environment, prepares students to evaluate government, industry, and environmentalist positions on environmental issues.
The interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Science program permits students to select classes from a wide range of course offerings in multiple departments in order to best prepare for personal career goals.
The Department has modern laboratories in the Jepson Science Center equipped with advanced analytical instruments to support classroom instruction and to provide opportunities for research. Equipment for ecological studies in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments includes live animal traps, plankton, and insect nets, seines, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH meters, and fresh and saltwater aquaria. Major laboratory equipment includes petrographic microscopes, an x-ray diffractometer, a magnetic susceptibility instrument, and dedicated lab facilities for paleontology, sedimentology, and geochemistry. The Jepson Science Center has a variable pressure scanning electron microscope with chemical capabilities that is shared by the science disciplines. For environmental and geological fieldwork, the department has GPS equipment, a small fleet of research boats (including one equipped for trawling, coring, and dredging), coring and surveying equipment, and for classroom study, an extensive collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils. The department also maintains a computer lab/classroom equipped with the latest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
Majors in all of our programs are encouraged to do independent study and/or research during their senior year. Financial support for student research is available. Qualified students may also choose to do an internship with a professional organization during either their junior or senior year. Students with a 3.00 overall grade-point average and a 3.25 grade-point average in the major may pursue Honors in Environmental Science, Geology, or Environmental Geology by completing an independent research project and writing and defending a thesis.
All of our majors are encouraged to fulfill the general education experiential learning requirement by completing Undergraduate Research (URES) 197, Earth and Environmental Science (EESC) 481, 491, 493, or 499. Alternatively, majors may meet this requirement by participating in an approved supervised on-campus or off-campus summer research experience developed in consultation with the department (such as the UMW Summer Science Research Program or a similar program at another college or university). To complete the experiential learning requirement through a summer research experience, contact the department chair for more details.
Environmental Sustainability Minor
Sustainability is usually defined as the ability to meet the resource needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. At UMW, we consider four aspects of sustainability: environmental, social, economic, and cultural sustainability. The goal of the Environmental Sustainability minor is to encourage students to analyze our natural and social worlds and to examine approaches to resolving critical resource issues for the long-term. The core classes provide a common introduction to the scientific study of the environment and issues of sustainability. Students then add three additional elective classes that appeal to particular interests and their respective applications of sustainability concepts. Completing this minor will better prepare students for the complex, interdisciplinary challenges our society faces.