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

Course Title Hours
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
Course Title Hours
Additional general education requirements
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 Hours3-11

Major requirements

Course Title Hours
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 I
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM 102
CHEZ 102
General Chemistry II
and General Chemistry Laboratory II
4
ECON 325Environmental Economics3
ENVS 105Physical Geology3
or URSP 204 Physical Geography: 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 Physics I4-5
or PHYS 207 University Physics I
PHYS 202General Physics II4-5
or PHYS 208 University Physics II
STAT 314Applications of Statistics4
Additional electives (see list of possible electives below)9
Total Hours69-71

Open electives

Course Title Hours
Open elective credits (up to a total of 120 credits)14-27
Total Hours14-27

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

Possible electives for major requirements

Course Title Hours
BIOL 103Environmental Science4
BIOL 307Aquatic Ecology3
BIOL 312Invertebrate Zoology3
BIOL 313Vertebrate Natural History3
BIOL 314Animal Reproduction3
BIOL 320Biology of the Seed Plant4
BIOL 321Plant Development3
BIOL 322Economic Botany3
BIOL 323Plant Physiology3
BIOL 332Environmental Pollution3
BIOL 333Evolution of the Angiosperms3
BIOL 335Global Change Biology3
BIOL 402Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy5
BIOL 403Primatology4
BIOL 411Animal Physiology3
BIOL 415Mangrove Avian Field Ecology4
BIOL 416Ornithology3
BIOL 422Forest Ecology4
BIOL 425 Play VideoPlay course video for Field BotanyField Botany3
BIOL 459Infectious Disease Ecology3
BIOL 480Animal-Plant Interactions3
BIOL 491Topics in Biology1-4
BIOL 497Ecological Service Learning1
BIOL 498Insects and Plants Service-learning2
BIOL 507Aquatic Microbiology4
BIOL 508Barrier Island Ecology3
BIOL 510Conservation Biology3
BIOL 512Plant Diversity and Evolution4
BIOL 514Stream Ecology4
BIOL 516Population Genetics3
BIOL 518Plant Ecology4
BIOL 519Forest Ecology4
BIOL 520Population Ecology3
BIOL 521Community Ecology3
BIOL 522Evolution and Speciation3
BIOL 532Water Pollution Biology3
BIOL 535Wetlands Ecology4
BIOL 545Biological Complexity3
BIOL 550Ecological Genetics3
BIOL 591Special Topics in Biology1-4
BIOZ 307Aquatic Ecology Laboratory1
BIOZ 312Invertebrate Zoology Laboratory1
BIOZ 313Vertebrate Natural History Laboratory1
BIOZ 317Ecology Laboratory2
BIOZ 416Ornithology Laboratory2
ENGL 368Nature Writing3
URSP 332Environmental Management3
ENVS 201Earth System Science3
ENVS 300Sustainable Societies: James River Basin3
ENVS 301Introduction to Meteorology3
ENVS 310Introduction to Oceanography3
ENVS 332Environmental Management3
ENVS 368Nature Writing3
ENVS 421Environmental Data Visualization3
ENVS 491Topics in Environmental Studies1-4
ENVS 492Independent Study1-3
ENVS 493Environmental Studies Internship1-3
ENVS 515Tropical Field Ecology4
ENVS 521Introduction to Geographic Information Systems3
ENVS 541Principles of Waste Management3
ENVS 550Ecological Risk Assessment3
ENVS 556Historical and Cultural Landscapes3
ENVS 591Topics in Environmental Studies1-4

Open electives

Course Title Hours
Open elective credits (up to a total of 120 credits)14-27
Total Hours14-27

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 I
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 II
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 Reading Literature (satisfies University Core humanities/fine arts) 3
Elective 3
Foreign language (102-level) 4
 Term Hours: 15
Junior year
Fall semester
ENVS 105
Physical Geology
or Physical Geography: Geomorphology and Soils
3
ENVS 330
Environmental Pollution
or Environmental Pollution
3
PHYS 201 General Physics I 4
STAT 210 Basic Practice of Statistics 3
Elective 1
 Term Hours: 14
Spring semester
ECON 325 Environmental Economics 3
ENVS/POLI 311 Politics of the Environment 3
ENVS 335
ENVZ 335
Environmental Geology
and Environmental Geology Laboratory
4
PHYS 202 General Physics II 4
 Term Hours: 14
Senior year
Fall semester
ENVS 490 Research Seminar in Environmental Studies 3
SOCY 320
Research Methods in Political Science
or Research Methods in Political Science
3
STAT 314 Applications of Statistics 4
Electives 6
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
ENVS 401 Meteorology and Climatology 3
ENVS 411 Oceanography 3
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. Enrollment restricted to non-physics majors with junior or senior standing; not applicable to the physics major. A study of society's demands 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: 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 421. Environmental Data Visualization. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: STAT 314. This is an introductory course in using databases and geospatial technology. The course will introduce students to computer technology, project development and management skills, database management skills, and geospatial technology. Students will use in-class applied environmental analyses to guide skill-set development. The course will introduce the students to working with data in various formats and using the ArcGIS software suite to visualize the data. Students will be introduced to Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, ESRI ArcGIS software suite and ESRI ArcGIS Online.

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. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; 1-4 lecture hours. 1-4 credits. May be repeated with different topics for a maximum of 12 credits. 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.

ENVS 499. Environmental Studies Capstone Experience. 0 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 0 credits. Corequisite: ENVS 490, ENVS 491 (when topics implement core competencies required for a capstone experience and are approved by the director of the Center for Environmental Studies), ENVS 492 or ENVS 493. Enrollment restricted to students who have completed 90 hours of undergraduate course work. Any of the corequisite courses qualify as a capstone experience if taken with this course. Graded as pass/fail.

Life Sciences

LFSC 101. Academic and Career Options in Life Sciences. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. Students interested in the life sciences at VCU are faced with an enormous variety of academic options from bioinformatics and biomedical engineering to exercise science and nursing. Students outside of these programs have post-graduate opportunities in the life sciences, such as health care administration and government policy. This course will introduce students to an overview of all of the academic programs in life sciences available at VCU and their associated potential career options. Graded as pass/fail.

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: PSYC 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.