The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies requires a minimum of 120 credits.

Along with the general education requirements of VCU Life Sciences, this curriculum requires 32-33 credits in core science and mathematics courses and 37-38 credits in environmental studies core courses.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Demonstrate comprehension of basic biological concepts and their integration
  • Demonstrate comprehension of basic earth science concepts and their integration
  • Demonstrate comprehension of basic ecological concepts and their integration
  • Relate the principles of environmental science and policy
  • Use basic environmental skills within the research process

Special requirements

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies requires a minimum 2.0 cumulative average in all major course work.

Degree requirements for Environmental Studies, Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

General Education requirements

University Core Education Curriculum (minimum 21 credits)
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IFocused Inquiry I3
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IIFocused Inquiry II3
UNIV   200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
Total Hours21-24
Additional general education requirements
LFSC   301Integrative Life Sciences Research3
STAT   210Basic Practice of Statistics3
or STAT   212 Concepts of Statistics
Completion of a foreign language through the 102 level or an equivalent course or by placement0-8
Total Hours6-14

Collateral requirements

ENVS   201Earth System Science (satisfies University Core natural/ physical sciences)3

Major requirements

BIOL   151
BIOZ   151
Introduction to Biological Sciences I
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory I
4
BIOL   152
BIOZ   152
Introduction to Biological Sciences II
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory II
4
BIOL   317Ecology3
CHEM   101
CHEZ   101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM   102
CHEZ   102
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory II
4
ECON   325Environmental Economics3
Select one of the following:4
Physical Geology
and Physical Geology Laboratory
Physical Geography: Geomorphology and Soils
and Physical Geography Laboratory: Geomorphology and Soils
ENVS/POLI 311Politics of the Environment3
ENVS 330/BIOL   332Environmental Pollution3
ENVS   335
ENVZ   335
Environmental Geology
and Environmental Geology Laboratory
4
ENVS   401Meteorology and Climatology3
ENVS   411Oceanography3
ENVS   490Research Seminar in Environmental Studies (capstone)3
MATH   151Precalculus Mathematics4
PHYS   201General Physics4-5
or PHYS   207 University Physics I
PHYS   202General Physics4-5
or PHYS   208 University Physics II
SOCY/POLI 320Research Methods in the Social Sciences3
STAT   314Applications of Statistics4
Select one additional environmental studies course chosen with adviser’s approval3
Total Hours67-69

Open electives

Select 14-27 open elective credits14-27

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
CHEM   100 Introductory Chemistry 3
ENVS   201 Earth System Science (satisfies University Core natural/physical sciences) 3
MATH   141 Algebra with Applications 3
POLI   103 U.S. Government (satisfies University Core social/behavioral sciences) 3
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
BIOL   151
BIOZ   151
Introduction to Biological Sciences I
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory I
4
CHEM   101
CHEZ   101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
MATH   151 Precalculus Mathematics (satisfies University Core quantitative literacy) 4
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II 3
 Term Hours: 15
Sophomore year
Fall semester
BIOL   152
BIOZ   152
Introduction to Biological Sciences II
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory II
4
CHEM   102
CHEZ   102
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory II
4
UNIV   200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3
Foreign language (101-level) 4
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
BIOL   317
BIOZ   317
Ecology
and Ecology Laboratory
5
ENGL   215 Textual Analysis (satisfies University Core humanities/fine arts) 3
LFSC   301 Integrative Life Sciences Research 3
Foreign language (102-level) 4
 Term Hours: 15
Junior year
Fall semester
ENVS   105
ENVZ   105
Physical Geology
and Physical Geology Laboratory
4
ENVS   330
Environmental Pollution
or Environmental Pollution
3
PHYS   201 General Physics 4
STAT   210 Basic Practice of Statistics 3
 Term Hours: 14
Spring semester
ECON   325 Environmental Economics 3
ENVS   311
Politics of the Environment
or Politics of the Environment
3
PHYS   202 General Physics 4
ENVS   335
ENVZ   335
Environmental Geology
and Environmental Geology Laboratory
4
 Term Hours: 14
Senior year
Fall semester
ENVS   490 Research Seminar in Environmental Studies 3
SOCY   320
Research Methods in the Social Sciences
or Research Methods in the Social Sciences
3
STAT   314 Applications of Statistics 4
Open electives 6
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
ENVS   401 Meteorology and Climatology 3
ENVS   411 Oceanography 3
Open electives 10
 Term Hours: 16
 Total Hours: 120

Environmental Studies

ENVS   103. Environmental Science. 4 Hours.

Hybrid semester course taught mostly online; 3 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Online presentations, assignments, debates and exams require students to understand situations and ideas that involve scientific, social and economic concepts associated with Earth’s environment. Laboratory exercises reinforce major course concepts. Integrates aspects of biology, chemistry, geology, physics and sociology. Topics include ecology, evolution, natural resources, air and water resources, energy and recycling, population biology, and sustainable global societies. Not applicable as a prerequisite for any biology course at the 200 level or above, nor for credit toward the B.S. in Biology. Crosslisted as: BIOL   103.

ENVS   105. Physical Geology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A descriptive approach to physical geology dealing with the history and structure of the earth, catastrophic events and geology as it relates to the contemporary environment. An optional laboratory, ENVZ   105, may be taken with this course.

ENVS   201. Earth System Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. An introduction to the processes of and linkages among the major systems that drive planet Earth. The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and sociosphere are presented as dynamic and interdependent systems. Labs/discussion sections will include both computer modeling of integrated systems and lab activities/field trip(s) at the Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences.

ENVS   300. Sustainable Societies: James River Basin. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. This course explores the 25 most critical social, economic and environmental issues in the region in a global context. It examines how people are tackling the issues of sustainably and turning them into opportunities.

ENVS   301. Introduction to Meteorology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introductory course designed to provide the student with an overview of the structures and processes that cause weather. These include atmospheric circulations and the weather patterns that we observe. Emphasis will be placed upon the tracking and display of weather phenomena, as well as their forecast movement and impact.

ENVS   310. Introduction to Oceanography. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introductory course designed to provide the student with an overview of the structures and processes of the world's oceans. These include the systems that impact the oceans: the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the geosphere, the biosphere and the sociosphere. Emphasis will be placed upon hands-on techniques for understanding these systems, including online simulations and in-class activities.

ENVS   311. Politics of the Environment. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An exploration of the current controversy about environmental politics and the issues and crises it centers on. Special attention will be given to the constitutional, political and geographical factors in the development of environmental policy and the organized effort to deal with governmental actions and inaction and its impact on policy outcomes. Crosslisted as: POLI   311.

ENVS   314. Man and Environment. 3 Hours.

Semester course. 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A comparative study of the ecology and natural history of human populations, including the environments as determining factors in the evolution of human institutions and technology, resources management, and population crises; cultural traditions as mechanisms of population control; basic theory of population biology. Crosslisted as: INTL   314.

ENVS   315. Energy and the Environment. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing. Open to non-physics majors; not applicable to the physics major. A study of society's demand for energy, how it is currently being met, the environmental consequences thereof and some discussion of alternatives. Crosslisted as: PHYS   315.

ENVS   330. Environmental Pollution. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: eight credits in biology. The study of pollution in the environment with emphasis on the procedures for detection and abatement. Crosslisted as: BIOL   332.

ENVS   332. Environmental Management. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GEOG 204 or URSP   204. An interdisciplinary review of domestic and international environmental problems and their underlying causes, current management frameworks, alternative management approaches and strategies, and barriers to their implementation. Other topics include: environmental history and economics, population growth, natural resources use, biodiversity, pollution. Crosslisted as: URSP   332.

ENVS   335. Environmental Geology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: ENVS   105 or URSP   204. The relationship between humankind and the physical environment, Earth materials and processes, geological hazards, water, mineral and energy resources, land use and environmental health and law.

ENVS   368. Nature Writing. 3 Hours.

Semester course 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: ENGL   201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 211, 215, 236, 291 or 295. A study of the literary genre of nature writing in English. Crosslisted as: ENGL   368.

ENVS   401. Meteorology and Climatology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. Prerequisite: PHYS   201 or PHYS   207. A basic, semiquantitative course in the elements of weather and climate, their driving forces and their spatial and temporal distribution and variability. Atmospheric motions and circulation, weather forecasting, human impact on weather and climate.

ENVS   411. Oceanography. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL   151, BIOL   152 and CHEM   102. A basic course in the physical, chemical and geological properties of oceans and ocean basins. Origin and character of ocean basins, properties of oceanic waters, oceanic circulation, land-sea interactions, marine environments and ecology.

ENVS   490. Research Seminar in Environmental Studies. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: senior standing and at least 12 hours of approved environmental studies course work. An interdisciplinary examination of problems and issues central to environmental studies. Environmental research of VCU faculty will be reviewed, and selected local environmental problems will be studied. Each student will complete a research project focusing on a specific environmental question.

ENVS   491. Topics in Environmental Studies. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits per semester. May be repeated with different topics for a maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisites vary by topic. An in-depth study of a selected environmental topic. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester and prerequisites.

ENVS   492. Independent Study. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. Variable credit. Maximum of 3 credits per semester; maximum total of 6 credits for all topics courses. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing, and permission of instructor.

ENVS   493. Environmental Studies Internship. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits per semester. Maximum total of 6 credits. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing, and permission of instructor. Graded as pass/fail.

Life Sciences

LFSC   251. Phage Discovery I. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will purify phage from soil, visualize phage using electron microscopy and isolate genomic material for nucleic acid sequencing. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: BNFO   251.

LFSC   252. Phage Discovery II. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will learn about the genomes of viruses infecting bacteria. Students will be given the genome sequence of a novel virus, which will be the basis for a series of computer-based analyses to understand the biology of the virus and to compare it with other viruses that infect the same host. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: BNFO   252.

LFSC   301. Integrative Life Sciences Research. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 1 recitation hours. 3 credits. Pre- or corequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. Students will leave this course knowing enough about science and the process of science to feel confident in critically evaluating scientific information and/or embarking on their own process of discovery with a faculty mentor. They will gain an appreciation of the interdisciplinary and complex nature of life sciences and will hone their critical thinking about how science interacts with and informs society.

LFSC   307. Community Solutions: Multiple Perspectives. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PYSC 101. Explores possibilities for addressing social concerns of the Richmond community by understanding the complex nature of social issues as essential to their successful amelioration via perspectives of life and social sciences. Toward this end, expertise from the social sciences, the life sciences and the community are integrated. Includes a service-learning experience (a 20-hour volunteer requirement). Crosslisted as: PSYC   307.

LFSC   401. Faith and Life Sciences. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. Open to students of any school or program. Explores the complex relationships between faith traditions and the life sciences. Topics include epistemology, impact of life sciences on ideas of fate and responsibility, limits of science and technology, and scientific and religious perspectives on human origins, consciousness, aggression, forgiveness, health, illness and death. Crosslisted as: RELS   401.