Environmental Studies

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The Environmental Studies major

The Environmental Studies major is designed for students who want to act critically and creatively in response to the environmental challenges facing the world today.

Environmental Studies teaches students to integrate environmental knowledge across the natural and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities. Hands-on learning, field experiences, and problem-based instruction focus on finding answers to complex problems that include scientific, social, political, cultural, and ethical dimensions.

Career focus

Graduating Environmental Studies students develop careers in management, planning, advocacy, communications, and policy-making across a wide array of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They also pursue disciplinary and interdisciplinary graduate education in environmental fields that range across the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. 

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Major requirements

Recommended preparation

Interested in exploring this major, but not ready to commit? Consider taking one of the below courses! Any of these selections will help familiarize you with the academic program and prepare you for advanced coursework in the major.

  • BEARTH 154 Introduction to Oceanography
  • BIS 240 Introduction to Sustainable Practices               
  • BIS 243 Introduction to Environmental Issues            
  • BIS 244 Wetlands Discovery     
  • BIS 245 Environment and Humanities       
  • BIS 246 Introduction to Sustainability        
  • BIS 252 Politics of Science    


  • One introductory-level course in environmental studies (5 credits) :
    • BEARTH 154 Introduction to Oceanography
    • ​BIS 240 Introduction to Sustainable Practices 
    • BIS 242 Environmental Geography 
    • BIS 243 Introduction to Environmental Issues 
    • BIS 246 Introduction to Sustainability 
  • Prerequisites can also be completed with an equivalent course that transfers to the UW as one of the following:
    • ESRM 100 Introduction to Environmental Science
    • ESRM 101 Forests and Society
    • ESRM 150 Wildlife in the Modern World
    • ENVIR 100 Introduction to Environmental Studies
    • ENVIR 239 Sustainability: Personal Choices, Broad Impacts
    • OCEAN 102 The Changing Oceans
    • FISH 230 Economics of Fisheries and Oceans
    • GEOG 205 Our Global Environment: Physical and Human Dimensions
    • GEOG 270 Geographies of International Development and Environmental Change
    • GEOG 272 Geographies of Environmental Justice 

Degree Requirements

Environmental Studies Core Requirements (ENV STUDIES:CORE)

  • BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry* - min. 2.0 grade (5 credits)
  • BIS 499 Portfolio Capstone - min. 2.5 grade (5 credits)

One core course in Philosophical Foundations (5 credits) **

  • BIS 245 Environment and Humanities 
  • BIS 345 American Environmental Thought
  • BIS 356 Ethics and the Environment.

One core course in Political Economy/Environmental Justice (5 credits)**

  • BIS 307 Environmental Justice
  • BISGST 324 International Political Economy 
  • BIS 304 Political Economy and the Environment

One core course in Ecology or Earth Systems (5 credits)**

  • BEARTH 201 Mapping the Earth System,
  • BEARTH 202 Modeling Global Systems
  • BIS 241 Nature and the Northwest,
  • BIS 390 Ecology and the Environment or
  • BES 312 Ecology

Distribution Requirements

40 credits from the below options

TOTAL = 70 Credits

Note: Courses in this major are offered primarily during daytime hours.

*Should be taken in the first quarter of IAS enrollment.

**The course list will be maintained by School of IAS.

Learning Objectives

The Environmental Studies curriculum advances the five core IAS learning objectives. Students taking courses and/or majoring in Environmental Studies:

  1. Develop a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of Earth’s natural and cultural systems at both bioregional and global scales. 

  2. Engage multiple ways of knowing to develop interdisciplinary skills and approaches to environmental practice, and strengthen collective and individual leadershiptoward an environmental career.

  3. Analyze and synthesize diverse forms of knowledge to bring a holistic understanding to bear on issues of environmental policy, management, and other social and cultural forms of human-environment interactions.

  4. Explore how dominant narratives have shaped how environmental efforts are approached today, and how integration of different ways of knowing and doing can reconstruct environmental goals to be responsive to environmental justice, environmental integrity, and the rights of all species. 

  5. Learn to collaborate in creatively addressing complex real-world environmental problems through cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary approaches.


Please contact the Environmental Studies Faculty Coordinator if you have any questions, concerns or ideas about the Environmental Studies major. To declare the Environmental Studies major, please contact the First Year and Pre-major Program.

Academic Advisor

Research Librarian


Distribution Requirements

Courses taken to fulfill the Environmental Studies core requirements CANNOT be used to fulfill the Environmental Studies distribution requirements. 

Research Methodologies (ENVST:METHODS)

  • BES 301 Science Methods & Practice
  • BES 303 Environmental Monitoring Practicum
  • BES 316 Ecological Methods
  • BES 440 Remote Sensing of the Environment
  • BIS 215 Understanding Statistics
  • BIS 232 Introduction to Data Visualization
  • BIS 312 Approaches to Social Research
  • BIS 340 Approaches to Cultural Research
  • BIS 342 Geographic Information Systems
  • BIS 343 Geographic Visualization
  • BIS 344 Intermediate GIS
  • BIS 442 Advanced Geographic Information Systems
  • BISGWS 303 Approaches to Feminist Studies

Environmental Humanities (ENVST:HUMAN)

  • BIS 245 Environment and Humanities
  • BIS 282 Globalization
  • BIS 319 Public Arts and Environmental Restoration
  • BIS 345 American Environmental Thought
  • BIS 353 Human Rights Theory and Practice                                                                                                     
  • BIS 356 Ethics and the Environment
  • BIS 372 Representation, Colonialism, and the Tropical World
  • BIS 391 Environmental History of the Pacific Northwest
  • BIS 385 Art & Climate Change
  • BIS 468 Human Rights and Sustainable Development    
  • BISSTS 355 History of Science and Technology                                                                                                      

Environment and Society (ENVST:SOCIETY)

  • BIS 252 Politics of Science
  • BIS 307 Environmental Justice
  • BIS 304 Political Economy and the Environment
  • BIS 320 Comparative Political Economies
  • BIS 338 Political Institutions and Processes
  • BIS 346 Topics in Environmental Policy
  • BIS 359 Principles & Controversies of Sustainability
  • BIS 386 Climate Change Adaptation Policy
  • BIS 392 Water & Sustainability
  • BIS 394 Comparative Economic Development
  • BIS 395 Environmental Change in Washington State
  • BIS 396 Topics in Sustainability
  • BIS 405 Environmental Education
  • BIS 406 Urban Planning and Geography
  • BIS 415 Public Policy and Law
  • BIS 419 Urban Politics and Policy
  • BIS 458 Energy, Environment and Society
  • BIS 459 Conservation & Sustainable Development
  • BIS 483 Community Organizing
  • BST 445 Political Economy of Energy
  • BISGST 303 History and Globalization
  • BISGST 324 International Political Economy
  • BISSTA 304 Institutions and Social Change

Environmental Science and Geography (ENVST:ENVSCI)

  • BEARTH 155 Introduction to Climate Science
  • BEARTH 201 Mapping the Earth System
  • BEARTH 317 Soils in the Environment 
  • BEARTH 318 Hydrogeology
  • BEARTH 320 Impacts of Climate Change
  • BEARTH 321 Geomorphology
  • BEARTH 341 Natural Hazards and Human Disasters
  • BES 312 Ecology
  • BES 330 Limnology
  • BES 331 Estuarine Science and Management
  • BES 362 Introduction to Restoration Ecology
  • BES 460 Water Quality
  • BES 485 Conservation Biology
  • BES 488 Wetland Ecology
  • BES 489 Pacific Northwest Ecosystems
  • BES 490 Pacific NW Plants in Restoration & Conservation
  • BIS 141 Natural History and Environmental Science
  • BIS 218 Power of Maps
  • BIS 306 Marine Diversity and Conservation
  • BIS 360 Pollinator Diversity and Conservation 
  • BIS 390 Ecology and Environment (* if not taken as core requirement)

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