The New and Improved Environmental Science Major: What You Need to Know

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Last spring the Faculty Senate voted unanimously in favor of a proposal to completely overhaul Rice’s Environmental Science degree program. Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary program that addresses environmental issues in the context of what we know about the earth, ecology, and society. In addition to its science core, the major seeks to provide students with an appreciation of social, cultural, and policy dimensions of environmental issues. Starting this fall, undergraduates now have the choice of pursuing a B.S. or a B.A. in Environmental Science.

The overhaul of the Environmental Science degree program is the outcome of a multi-year effort that included a survey of undergraduate students, town hall meetings, benchmarking with peer institutions, and collaboration between multiple departments, schools, and centers at Rice.

Students graduating from this program will be able to: demonstrate foundational knowledge in the natural sciences that is fundamental to the environmental sciences; integrate knowledge of natural and applied sciences to understand complex natural systems and cycles; synthesize knowledge from natural sciences and engineering and apply it to the study of the environment; and understand environmental issues from a scientific perspective and be able to solve issues using a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives (e.g., social sciences, economics, humanities, and/or architecture). For students pursuing the B.S. degree in Environmental Science, and additional learning outcome is that students will be able to apply methods and theories to develop and test hypotheses or to propose and analyze solutions to environmental issues.

Key components of the environment science major include:

  • Foundational coursework in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.
  • A set of six undergraduate core courses to acquaint undergraduates with a range of environmental topics encountered by scientists, engineers, managers, and policy makers. Core courses stress the components of the global environment and their interactions, concluding with a topical seminar that integrates studies from across the field.
  • One or more field courses within the Natural Sciences.
  • Concentration in one area to enhance depth, requiring three courses in that area of concentration. Student must select a field of concentration when enrolling in the major: either Ecology & Evolutionary Biology or Earth Science.
  • Three courses of electives to enhance breadth spread across Social Sciences and Economics, Humanities and Architecture, and Natural Science and Engineering.
  • A capstone field course or research experience within the Natural Sciences (B.S. students only).

The degree program will be co-administered by the BioSciences and Earth Science departments. The major advisors are Dr. Evan Siemann (BioSciences) and Dr. Andre Droxler (Earth Science). To view the major requirements, please see the General Annoucements.