Environmental Sciences B.S.

 

Information and Policies

Introduction

The UC Santa Cruz environmental sciences (ESCI) major is an interdepartmental, undergraduate-only program. The purpose of the ESCI major is to educate students interested in environmental science problems and issues, with a focus on issues within the physical sciences (as opposed to focusing on biological sciences). The major specializes primarily on the following areas:

  • Hydrosphere: water resources, water quality, aquatic chemistry, physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, glaciology

  • Pollution and transport: environmental toxicology, environmental transport/fluid mechanics, environmental monitoring

  • Global scale environment: climate, climate dynamics, global cycles of water, carbon and nutrients, remote sensing of the environment

  • Atmosphere: meteorology, air quality, atmospheric chemistry

The core faculty of the major are primarily from two departments, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Ocean Sciences. Faculty from other departments such as Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology and Environmental Studies may also be involved.

Graduates of the ESCI major are expected to continue on to a variety of careers, such as:

  • Business and industry

  • Environmental consulting

  • Governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local level

  • Non-profit organizations

  • Research at universities, governmental research institutions, or other scientific agencies

  • Graduate/professional school in areas such as science, engineering, teaching, law, public health, business

For more information about the affiliated faculty and staff for the major, including areas of interest and facilities, contact e-mails and phone numbers, and how to declare this major, please see our web site.

Academic Advising for the Program

A student who wants to become an ESCI major should contact the environmental sciences undergraduate staff adviser, epsadvising@ucsc.edu, as soon as possible. Students will submit a declaration of major petition, and are required to meet with the undergraduate adviser to plan their program in detail. Transfer students should consult the Transfer Information and Policy section for more detailed information about academic advising.

Getting Started in the Major

The bachelor of science (B.S.) program is designed for students who intend to pursue professional careers in environmental sciences, engineering, policy, law, teaching, or business or who otherwise desire the broad, quantitative training available at UC Santa Cruz. In addition to providing comprehensive preparation in the basic physical sciences, and particular breadth and depth in environmental sciences, the curriculum is structured to prepare students for the competitive graduate school and career marketplace.

The core of the major includes calculus, physics, chemistry, and core foundational upper-division environmental sciences courses. Students also select at least five additional courses from a diverse list of upper-division electives. These electives provide the student with expertise in one or more subdisciplines within environmental sciences. A senior comprehensive experience is required of all majors, and may be fulfilled in two ways, either completion of an intensive senior seminar course or a senior thesis.

Program Learning Outcomes

The ESCI major has three broad program learning outcomes, each with three specific learning outcomes:

PLO 1:  Disciplinary Knowledge Goals

  • Reservoirs: Understand and describe the properties of the various environmental “reservoirs”, which represent different, interacting physical regimes. For example, a global model might have the atmosphere, oceans, plants and soils as four primary interacting reservoirs. 

  • Processes: Understand and describe the processes governing the properties and evolution of Earth’s physical environment, i.e., the properties and evolution of reservoirs and their interactions.
  • Application: Apply the knowledge of reservoirs and processes to explain, analyze and predict phenomena within the environmental sciences.

PLO 2: Quantitative Reasoning Goals

  • Calculation: Utilize mathematical tools (e.g. algebra, calculus) to address questions in the environmental sciences.

  • Visualization: Interpret and produce visual representations of data in the environmental sciences (e.g. graphs and charts) that conform to disciplinary standards.

  • Analysis: Use quantitative analysis as the basis for drawing insights and conclusions, while expressing the appropriate assumptions and qualifications.

PLO 3: Written Communication Goals

  • Mechanics: Write sentences with correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.

  • Conventions: Accurately utilize the formatting, stylistic, citation and bibliographic conventions of environmental sciences in the written document.

  • Organization: Construct paragraphs, sections and an overall document that flows logically and persuasively argues a thesis.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

Transfer students should consult the Transfer and Information Policy section for information about major qualification.

To qualify for the environmental sciences major, a student must complete (with a minimum grade of C) the following introductory courses:

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory

2

MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics Laboratory

1

Once a student has passed all of these required courses (or equivalent), they are eligible to declare the environmental sciences major.

Appeal Process

Students who are informed that they are not eligible to declare the major may appeal by submitting a letter to the environmental sciences adviser, epsadvising@ucsc.edu, within 15 days from the date the notification was sent. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal, the department will notify the student and their affiliated college of the decision.

How to Declare a Major

Students who qualify start the declaration process by scheduling an appointment with the department staff adviser. You must consult with the department’s undergraduate staff adviser to discuss options for the degree and coursework priorities before you start the process of officially declaring your major.

Transfer Information and Policy

Transfer Admission Screening Policy

The Environmental Sciences program welcomes applications from prospective transfer students. Students should reference assist.org to determine course equivalencies. To be considered for admission to UC Santa Cruz as an environmental sciences major, transfer students must pass equivalents of the following courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or higher:

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory

2

MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics Laboratory

1

Transfer students planning on attending UC Santa Cruz to pursue an environmental sciences major should contact the undergraduate adviser for transfer preparation information and reference assist.org to determine which courses are equivalent to these required courses. Having this coursework completed prior to transferring allows students greater flexibility in scheduling and completing their major.

In addition, we strongly recommend that all transfer students complete equivalents of the following preparatory course prior to transfer:

PHYS 6B and PHYS 6M, Introductory Physics II with Laboratory

Getting Started at UCSC as a Transfer Student

Whether you are planning for your future transfer or are already admitted to UC Santa Cruz, we aim to provide our transfer students the information and support needed to successfully complete a science degree at UC Santa Cruz. 

If you are planning on transferring to UC Santa Cruz to pursue an environmental sciences major, our Transfer Preparation information provides a list of the coursework you should complete prior to transfer. Completing coursework prior to transfer allows you more time and flexibility to take advantage of the educational opportunities our programs provide and can reduce the cost of your education. For more information please visit Transfer Preparation.

For information regarding applying for admission to UC Santa Cruz as a transfer student, visit the UCSC Admissions web site. 

Once you have submitted your intent to register at UC Santa Cruz, here is a step-by-step guide to transferring your coursework and getting enrolled:

  1. Confirm you are a proposed environmental sciences major.
    If you are not sure of your status, log on to your MyUCSC portal to view your proposed major. If your major is proposed environmental sciences you are all set. If the proposed major listed is not environmental sciences, you will need to meet with the adviser for environmental sciences to determine if you are eligible for the major.
  2. Once your courses have been articulated, you will receive an email from our office.
    This email will include information on how your coursework articulated, suggestions for fall enrollment, and invite you to make an appointment to talk with your major adviser.
  3. Make an appointment to talk to an adviser.
    Your confirmation email will include instructions for scheduling an advising appointment. Appointments are available either by phone or in person.
  4. Participate in Transfer Orientation and Welcome Week.
    Transfer Orientation provides instructions on how to transfer your coursework to UC Santa Cruz, the advising and support available, and how to enroll. Our online transfer orientation provides all the critical information you need to transition to UC Santa Cruz and begin your major coursework. The department also hosts a transfer student welcome in the fall that provides new transfer students an opportunity to meet other transfer students, familiarize themselves with the campus and the available resources. Welcome Week includes presentations on the environmental sciences major, including an overview of the field courses offered and an introduction on how to get involved in undergraduate research.
  5. Declaring the environmental sciences major.
    In order to declare the environmental sciences major transfer students entering at the junior level must complete CHEM 1A, CHEM 1C and CHEM 1N, MATH 11A, MATH 11B, and PHYS 6A and PHYS 6L or an approved equivalent course  (with a C or better) by the end of their first quarter at UC Santa Cruz and meet with the Environmental Sciences adviser by the declaration deadline.

Letter Grade Policy

All courses used to satisfy requirements for the environmental sciences major must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of the following courses, which may be taken pass/no pass: ESCI 195 Senior Thesis, EART 198 Earth Sciences Internship, and EART 199 Tutorial.

Course Substitution Policy

Relevant courses taken at UC Santa Cruz or other institutions may be substituted for degree requirements by approved petition. Please see the undergraduate adviser for the substitution petition form and more information about this process.

Honors

Honors in the major are determined by a review of grades (typically 3.50 or above) at the time a student applies for graduation. A faculty committee makes the decision based on the quality of all coursework, but especially in the courses required for the major. Extra coursework or independent study as well as more intensive or rigorous coursework and the quality of a capstone project may also be taken into consideration. Highest honors may also be awarded in exceptional cases when a student’s overall grade point average (GPA) is above 3.75 and performance in the senior capstone requirement is equally outstanding. The program reserves the right to withhold honors and highest honors based on other criteria, such as an incident of academic dishonesty.

Honors in the senior thesis are determined independently of major honors, and must be approved by two faculty readers.

Requirements and Planners

Course Requirements

Lower-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory

2

Plus one of the following options:
Either these courses

MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

or these courses

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

or these courses

AM 15ACase-Study Calculus I

5

AM 15BCase-Study Calculus II

5

Plus all of the following courses:
EART 20Environmental Geology

5

EART 20LEnvironmental Geology Laboratory

1

ENVS 25Environmental Policy and Economics

5

ESCI 30Biological Principles of Environmental Sciences

5

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics Laboratory

1

PHYS 6BIntroductory Physics II

5

PHYS 6MIntroductory Physics Laboratory

1

* ESCI 30 students who were formerly proposed or declared majors in biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, or other related majors may have other options to fulfill this requirement. Please inquire with the adviser.

Upper-Division Courses

All of the following courses:
ESCI 100AIntroduction to Environmental Sciences

5

ESCI 100BIntroduction to Environmental Processes

5

ESCI 160Data Analysis in the Environmental Sciences

5

At least five elective courses.

At least five elective courses from upper-division Earth sciences, environmental sciences or ocean sciences offerings must be completed.

NOTE: Lecture/lab combinations count as one course. Courses from other departments may also be considered for upper-division elective credit by permission of a faculty adviser. Please consult with an adviser for more details.

Students are encouraged to take more than the minimum number of elective courses and may craft an elective distribution from many areas of specific research and career interests.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students fulfill the disciplinary communication (DC) requirement through successful completion of either (1) one of the environmental sciences senior capstone seminars (ESCI 191) or (2) a senior thesis based on original research performed by the student (completion of ESCI 195: Senior Thesis is required).

ESCI 191Capstone Seminar

5

OR

ESCI 195Senior Thesis

5

Comprehensive Requirement

All students must satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement. The intent of this requirement is to synthesize knowledge and skills from a student’s undergraduate career.  Students should consult an adviser if they have any questions about the timing of their proposed comprehensive requirement activity.

Other capstones will not be considered unless they also satisfy the DC requirement.

Courses that are used to satisfy the capstone may not also count toward fulfilling the upper-division elective requirement.

Satisfactory completion of one of the following capstone course offerings:
Senior Thesis
ESCI 195Senior Thesis

5

ESCI 195 requires original research performed by the student. Approval from a faculty sponsor is required prior to embarking on a senior thesis. Completion of the senior thesis is necessary to pass ESCI 195.

ESCI 195 also satisfies the DC requirement.

Capstone Seminar
ESCI 191Capstone Seminar

5

Enrollment in ESCI 191 is limited to environmental science majors with senior standing.

ESCI 191 also satisfies the DC requirement.

Planners

Students planning a professional career in environmental sciences should take more than the minimum number of courses required for the major, if possible. Four-year students have ample flexibility to take additional electives if they begin with the required courses in their second year. Junior transfers also have flexibility if they have taken most of their lower-division preparatory courses before entry. Further advice can be obtained from the undergraduate adviser and from faculty members.

 

Sample Four-Year Planner

Note: CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B and CHEM 1M, CHEM 1C and CHEM 1N, and MATH 11A and MATH 11B are offered every quarter. PHYS 6A and PHYS 6L are offered every quarter, but PHYS 6B and PHYS 6M are not offered in fall.

Year Fall Winter Spring
1st (frosh) CHEM 1A MATH 11A EART 20 & EART 20L
  CHEM 1C & CHEM 1N MATH 11B
     
2nd (soph) ESCI 30 ESCI 100A ESCI 100B
PHYS 6A & PHYS 6L PHYS 6B & PHYS 6M Upper-division
lective
     
3rd (junior) ESCI 160 ENVS 25 Upper-division
elective
  Upper-division
elective
 
     
4th (senior) Upper-division
elective
Upper-division
elective
ESCI 191 or ESCI 195† 
     
     

In addition to the specific courses shown in these planners, a student must complete courses satisfying the CC, ER, IM, SR, TA, PE, and PR general education requirements.

†Students expecting to write a senior thesis (course 195) for their comprehensive requirement should contact the department at least three quarters before graduation to identify the intended project and faculty adviser. Senior theses usually require at least three quarters for completion.

Sample Transfer (Two-Year) Planner

This planner assumes that students have completed all lower-division requirements other than ESCI 30, ENVS 25, and EART 20 and EART 20L.

Year Fall Winter Spring
3rd (junior) ESCI 30 ENVS 25 ESCI 100B
ESCI 160 ESCI 100A EART 20 & EART 20L
     
4th (senior) Upper-division
elective
Upper-division
elective

ESCI 191
or ESCI 195

Upper-division
elective
Upper-division
elective
Upper-division
elective
     

†Students expecting to write a senior thesis (course 195) for their comprehensive requirement should contact the department at least three quarters before graduation to identify the intended project and faculty adviser. Senior theses usually require at least three quarters for completion.