Environmental Science Major Requirements

The Major in Environmental Science requires the completion of 47 credits distributed among four categories of requirements presented in sections I-IV below. Plans of study for the subdisciplines of environmental geology, environmental geochemistry, hydrology, climate change, and energy and resources follow the requirements sections. See the Columbia College Bulletin for course descriptions.

I. Foundational Courses in the department:

  • UN2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate (4.5 credits)
  • UN2200 Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth (4.5 credits)
  • UN2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: Life (4.5 credits)

II. Supporting Math and Science Courses:

  • Calculus I or Calculus II (3 credits)
  • Three semesters of Chemistry, Physics, and Biology:
    • C1403-C1404 Chemistry and V1201 Physics (10 credits)
    • V1201-V1202 Physics and C1403 Chemistry (9.5 credits)
    • V1201 Physics, C1403 Chemistry and EEEB 2001 Environmental Biology (10.5 credits)

III. Capstone Experience - Research and Thesis:

  • BC3800/BC3801 Research Seminar (3 credits)
  • UN3901 Senior Seminar (3 credits)

IV. Depth, Breadth and Related Fields

Additional courses in earth and environmental science and in related fields are required, for a minimum of 15 credits. A minimum of three courses should be chosen to provide depth in the field of earth and environmental science, building on the preparation described under requirements I and II.

Depth courses are courses with an earth and environmental science focus that build on the foundational and supportive courses listed under requirements I and II above. Courses in the department specifically designed for this purpose and offered each year are:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics

Students should include at least one of these in their course of study. Several graduate-level courses offered in the department are appropriate for undergraduates, and several advanced courses offered at Barnard College and in other departments are also appropriate. See specific recommendations under plan of study below.

Breadth and related field courses are science courses relevant for an environmental science major that do not require an earth science background. Several such courses are offered in the department at the 2000, 3000 and 4000 level and at Barnard College:

  • UN3010 Field Geology
  • BC3017 Environmental Data Analysis
  • GU4050 Remote Sensing
  • GU4600 Earth Resources and Sustainable Development
  • GU4917 Earth/Human Interaction

Also included among breadth and related fields courses are science, mathematics, statistics and engineering courses offered by other departments that count toward fulfilling degree requirements in those departments.

Plans of Study

Students discuss and develop individual plans of study with their academic adviser. This ensures that the depth courses provide a coherent focus in some area of earth science. Normally, students wishing to focus in the following subdisciplines should include three or more of the listed courses in their plan of study:

Depth courses for students wishing to focus in environmental geology:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • GU4223 Sedimentary Geology
  • GU4480 Paleobiology and Earth System History
  • E3221 Environmental Geophysics
  • Also recommended: GU4050 Remote Sensing

Depth courses for students wishing to focus in environmental geochemistry:

  • UN3015 The Earth's Carbon Cycle
  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • GU4885 The Chemistry of Continental Waters
  • GU4886 Isotope Hydrology
  • GU4886 Isotope Geology I
  • GU4886 Isotope Geology II
  • GU4924 Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • GU4926 Introduction to Chemical Oceanography

Depth courses for students wishing to focus in hydrology:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • GU4835 Wetlands and Climate Change
  • GU4885 The Chemistry of Continental Waters
  • GU4886 Isotope Hydrology
  • BC3025 Hydrology
  • E3221 Environmental Geophysics

Depth courses for students wishing to focus in climate change:

  • UN3015 The Earth's Carbon Cycle
  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • GU4008 Introduction to Atmospheric Science
  • GU4330 Introduction to Terrestrial Paleoclimate
  • GU4480 Paleobiology and Earth System History
  • GU4835 Wetlands and Climate Change
  • GU4920 Paleoceanography
  • Also recommended: GU4050 Remote Sensing

Depth courses for students wishing to focus in energy and resources:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • GU4113 Mineralogy
  • GU4223 Sedimentary Geology
  • GU4701 Petrology
  • BC3019 Energy Resources
  • E2002 Alternative Energy Resources

Substitutions

  • Higher-level courses may be used to satisfy the requirements of section II for students with Advanced Placement preparation. These courses may be selected from depth, breadth and related fields courses under requirement IV.
  • 1000-level department courses may NOT be used toward meeting degree course requirements.
  • The following courses are NOT suitable for undergraduates and may not be used toward meeting degree course requirements:​
    • GU4400 Dynamics of Climate Variability and Climate Change
    • GU4401 Quantitative Models of Climate-Sensitive Natural and Human Systems
    • GU4404 Regional Climate and Climate Impacts
    • GU4930 Earth's Oceans and Atmosphere