Environmental Sciences Major: Ecosystems Option (B.S.)


The College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the interaction of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape the environment, and control the response of natural systems to human activities. Students graduating with a degree in environmental sciences will have an understanding of these interacting processes, experience working in interdisciplinary teams to apply this understanding, and the ability to communicate effectively with both scientific and lay audiences.  While in this program, students will acquire significant experience with field, laboratory and analytical methods appropriate for employment in professional environmental science positions as well as a basic understanding of environmental policy. The University of New Hampshire is a recognized leader in environmental sciences research, and the environmental sciences program capitalizes on faculty expertise in this area. Program faculty emphasize teaching and research in the areas of biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, ecosystem science, global change, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science, and water resource management among many other fields.

Employment opportunities include environmental consulting firms; educational facilities (e.g., science centers), environmental monitoring laboratories (e.g., water treatment plants, the Environmental Protection Agency), government agencies (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service), university and government research laboratories, and nongovernment environmental organizations. The environmental sciences program also constitutes an excellent preparation for graduate programs in several areas relating to the environment.

The Program has four options, and specific course requirements for the major vary by option. The ecosystems and soils and watersheds options are both managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in COLSA, and the geosystems and hydrology options are both managed by Earth Sciences in CEPS. 

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: No

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

Scope of the Major (Introduction - 3 Courses)
NR 400Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources1
NR 403Introduction to Environmental Science4
NR 435Contemporary Conservation Issues and Environmental Awareness4
or NR 437 Principles of Sustainability
The Scientific Basis (Foundation - 7 Courses)
Biology I
BIOL 412Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology4
Biology II
BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
or NR 439 Environmental Biology
Chemistry I
CHEM 403General Chemistry I4
or CHEM 405 Chemical Principles for Engineers
or CHEM 411 Introductory Chemistry for Life Sciences
Chemistry II
NR 561Chemistry of the Environment4
or CHEM 404 General Chemistry II
PHYS 401Introduction to Physics I4
or PHYS 407 General Physics I
MATH 424BCalculus for Life Sciences4
or MATH 425 Calculus I
BIOL 528Applied Biostatistics I4
or EREC 525 Statistical Methods and Applications
Earth and its Systems (Core - 6 Courses)
Earth Science
ESCI 401Dynamic Earth4
or ESCI 402 Earth History
or ESCI 409 Geology and the Environment
Aquatic Science
NR 504Freshwater Resources4
NR 501Studio Soils4
ESCI 514Introduction to Climate3-4
or GEOG 473 Elements of Weather
or GEOG 670 Climate and Society
NR 527Forest Ecology4
or NR 660 Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand
or BIOL 541W Ecology
or MEFB 530 Evolution and Marine Diversity
or MEFB 674 Ecology and Marine Environment
Human Dimensions
NR 602Natural Resources and Environmental Policy4
or NR 662 Environmental Policy, Planning and Sustainability in New Zealand
or NR 507 Introduction to our Energy System and Sustainable Energy
or NR 784 Sustainable Living - Global Perspectives
or MEFB 702 Sustainable Marine Fisheries
Environmental Toolkit (Methods - 2 Courses)
Select two courses from the following:7-8
Techniques in Environmental Sciences
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences
Applied Geospatial Techniques
Remote Sensing of the Environment
Remote Sensing Earth & Environmental Sciences
Quantitative Ecology
Coastal Habitat Field Research Methods
Ecosystem Integration (Advanced Topics - 4 Courses)
Select four courses from the following:16
Population and Community Ecology
Community Ecology
Tropical Ecology
Soil Ecology
Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand
Wildlife Population Ecology
Introduction to Biogeography
Landscape Ecology
Plant-Animal Interactions
Terrestrial Ecosystems
Aquatic Ecosystems
Restoration Ecology and Ecosystem Management in New Zealand
Marine Ecosystem Research and Management
Environmental Soil Chemistry
Watershed Water Quality Management
Biogeosciences in the Earth System
Environmental Problem Solving
Fate and Transport in the Environment
Environmental Modeling
Forest Inventory and Modeling
Addressing Arctic Challenges
Integration and Research (The Capstone Experience) 1
Applied Directed Research in New Zealand
Honors Senior Thesis
Total Credits83-85

Capstone Experience

NR 663 Applied Directed Research in New Zealand (EcoQuest if Senior Year), or NR 795 Investigations, or NR 799 Honors Senior Thesis, or approved research experience, or approved internship. Every student must complete a capstone experience senior year, or during the summer before senior year, if at least 90 credit hours have been completed.

1) A contract form provided by the program must be completed and signed by the student, the advisor, the program coordinator, and the capstone mentor (faculty or off-campus) before the capstone experience, by the end of the junior year.

2) A signed Capstone Experience Evaluation form must be submitted to your advisor by the end of the senior year in order to graduate.

Preparation for Capstone: Please discuss with your faculty advisor regularly what kind of capstone experience you would like to pursue. If you remain uncertain during the junior year, the Earth Science department offers a Capstone Preparation course, ESCI 796 Topics in the spring, but this is not required.

Individualizing Your Education (Electives)
One goal of this program is to allow students the opportunity to pursue minors, dual majors, research and study abroad opportunities, while still completing the degree in four years of full-time enrollment. To this end, the program requires a total of 85 credit hours. The University Discovery program includes 5 areas (20 credit hours) not covered by this major. These include English 401, Fine and Performing Arts, Humanities, Historical Perspectives, World Cultures (NOTE: The World Cultures category can be met by certain study abroad programs, including EcoQuest). Combined, Major and Discovery requirements total 105 credit hours. With a total of 128 credit hours required by the University for graduation, this leaves 23 credit hours that can be put towards minors, dual majors, study abroad, Directed Research, etc.


 Many students enroll in the EcoQuest program (a study abroad opportunity in New Zealand), which satisfies the policy requirement, and capstone requirement if taken senior year.

Key Learning Objectives: The primary Learning Outcome for the Environmental Science Program will be that students will master the content offered in the courses specified in the curriculum as assessed by performance on exams, labs and written assignments. This will include an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes central to the function of environmental systems, the mathematical concepts required to understand, explain and predict those processes, and the ability to determine the significance of results, both in terms of statistical probability and impact on the larger world.

The learning process leading to this mastery will require that students will have:

  • Knowledge of how physical, chemical, and biological factors interact with human activities to shape the environment;
  • Proficiency with environmental techniques including field, lab, GIS, or modeling;
  • The ability to solve environmental problems;
  • The ability to communicate orally or in writing about environmental dynamics.