The Environmental Studies Major 2013-14

The environmental studies major prepares students for meaningful lifetime engagement with the major environmental challenges facing society. Students pursue an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines course work in ecology and the social sciences. The program emphasizes the integration of ecological knowledge with an understanding of social institutions and policies in ways that support the conservation of biodiversity, the practice of sustainable agriculture, and the careful management of other ecological and environmental systems.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A. in environmental studies
  • Combined B.A. majors available in environmental studies/biology, environmental studies/Earth sciences, and environmental studies/economics
  • Ph.D.
  • As a complement to classroom instruction and research, many courses have field components. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in faculty-directed research on specific problems. The Environmental Studies Internship Program offers a variety of opportunities for internship placements.

High School Preparation

High school students who plan to major in environmental studies need no special preparation other than the courses required for UC admission. AP scores for calculus may apply to the prerequisites.

Transfer Preparation

Students transferring to UC Santa Cruz are expected to fulfill the lower-division requirements for the major (see Lower-Division Requirements for the Single Major section) by completing equivalent courses, with a grade of C or better, at another recognized institution before transferring to UC Santa Cruz. A lower-division requirement in the physical and chemical environment (Environmental Studies 23, The Physical and Chemical Environment) may be satisfied by completing a college-level introductory chemistry course. Two courses—one in politics, one in economics—are required to satisfy the political economy and the environment requirement (Environmental Studies 25, Environmental Policy and Economics). Environmental Studies 25 is offered during Summer Session at UC Santa Cruz and transfer students are encouraged to take it. Those students attending an institution not offering an acceptable general ecology course should plan to complete this prerequisite (Environmental Studies 24, General Ecology) at UCSC in the fall quarter of transfer. Applied Mathematics and Statistics 7/L, Statistical Methods for the Biological and Environmental Sciences Laboratory, must be completed at UCSC; no alternative biostatistics courses will fulfill this requirement. Transfer students are encouraged to complete this course during the UCSC Summer Session or in the fall quarter of transfer. Preparation for AMS 7/L requires a lower-division math course of Precalculus (Math 3 or AMS 3) and must be taken prior to transfer. The upper-division program begins with the Environmental Studies 100 core course, offered only in winter and spring quarters.

While it is not a condition of admission, students from California community colleges may complete the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) in preparation for transfer to UC Santa Cruz. However, the environmental studies major and combined majors require additional courses in preparation for the major (see Prerequisites for the Single Major section on the reverse.

Transfer course agreements and articulation between the University of California and California community colleges can be accessed on the ASSIST.ORG web site.


Professor Greg Gilbert co-directs the National Science Foundation-funded Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences program, which partners UCSC graduate students in Environmental Studies and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with teachers at Watsonville High School.

Professor of Environmental Studies Erika Zavaleta received a prestigious grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to investigate the ecological impacts of the loss of plant species in California ecosystems.

Professor of Environmental Studies Brent Haddad directs a $2.6 million project to help communities assess the viability of desalinizing ocean water in California. In addition, Prof. Haddad has being appointed as the Associate Dean of Engineering for Technology Management. As Associate Dean of Engineering, Professor Haddad is helping build connections between UCSC students and faculty in the areas of entrepreneurship and technology development, as well as sustainability.

Associate Professor Jeff Bury recently received a $1.1 million grant to study the effect of climate change on human communities in the Peruvian Andes.

Professor Gregory Gilbert, "Dimensions: Testing the Potential of Pathogenic Fungi to Control the Diversity, Distribution, and Abundance of Tree Species in a Neotropical Forest Community," Smithsonian, $366,418. 4-year award.

Professor Carol Shennan and Joji Muramoto, "Implementing Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation for Soilborne Disease Control in Strawberries and Apple Nurseries," from USDA in the amount of $455,000 for the Environmental Studies Department. 3 year grant. And Professor Carol Shennan and Joji Muramoto, "Integrated Pesticide Reduction Strategies for Insect and Disease Management in Cole Crops," from the CA EPA Department of Pesticide Regulation in the amount of $399,304 for the Environmental Studies Department. 3-year award. Professor Shennan has received over $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Strawberry Commission to continue working on non-chemical alternatives to the use of soil fumigants in agriculture. This is in addition to a $2.6 million USDA grant she is working on to improve the performance and environmental footprint of organic strawberry and vegetable production systems.

Professor Daniel Press has been appointed as the Executive Director of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). CASFS is one of the country's oldest and best sustainable agriculture research and training center located at a university. Many Environmental Studies students take classes and internships based at our 30-acre Farm and Garden.

Associate Professor Stacy Philpott, and Professors Deborah Letourneau, Daniel Press, and Carol Shennan, were awarded a $730,000 grant from the USDA Higher Education Challenge grant. The project has two major goals: 1) improve and strengthen the curriculum in agroecology at UCSC, including working towards a formal recognition for students pursuing an agroecology-based curriculum, and 2) increase recruitment of underrepresented groups in agroecology from high schools and community colleges.


  • Environmental consulting
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Sustainable development
  • Environmental law
  • Environmental policy/research
  • Government
  • Journalism
  • Environmental/science education
  • Natural resource ecology/conservation
  • Parks/natural reserve management
  • Land use research/ management
  • Science education
  • Restoration ecology
  • Conservation biology research
  • Agroecology
  • Integrated pest management
  • Environmental advocacy
  • Sustainable agriculture

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.

Student Scholarships and Awards

The Environmental Studies Department is proud to offer undergraduates the opportunity to earn awards and scholarships for their achievements. Each year several awards become available and are open to all undergraduate students or environmental studies majors.

For further information about scholarships and awards offered through Environmental Studies, contact the department office, 405 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, (831) 459-2634.

Environmental Studies Internship Program

Open to all UC Santa Cruz students, the Environmental Studies Internship Program is an integral academic component of the environmental studies major, and it augments the research and professional development of undergraduate and graduate students. Placements include interning with faculty, graduate students, and partner research institutes locally, statewide, and internationally. Students can complete a senior project, and often find future employment, with the agency where they interned. Many students complete two to four internships, completing undergraduate careers with not only career-building experiences but significant professional contacts and impressive resumes as well.

Further information is available from the Environmental Studies Internship Program Office, 491 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, (831) 459-2104,,

Lower-Division Requirements for the Single Major

Continuing UC Santa Cruz students are required to complete six prerequisite courses. Environmental Studies 23, The Physical and Chemical Environment; Environmental Studies 24, General Ecology; Environmental Studies 25, Environmental Policy and Economics; Applied Mathematics and Statistics (AMS) 7/L, (Biostatistics); one course from Cultural Anthropology/Sociology/Ethics; and Precalculus or Pre-Statistics (Math 3, Precalculus, AMS 2, Pre-Statistics, or AMS 3, Precalculus for Science and Engineering), must be completed before taking Environmental Studies 100/L, Ecology and Society, which is the core course. The specific prerequisites are listed below. See course descriptions in the UC Santa Cruz General Catalog online for more specific information.

  • Environmental Studies 23: The Physical and Chemical Environment. Students completing a combined or double major with biology or Earth sciences may substitute general chemistry by completing Chemistry 1A (General Chemistry).
  • Environmental Studies 24: General Ecology. Offered in fall quarter or Summer Session.
  • Environmental Studies 25: Environmental Policy and Economics. Offered in winter quarter or Summer Session.
  • Statistics. Course in either Applied Math and Statistics (AMS) 7/L or Economics 113, Introduction to Econometrics (for combined majors with economics ONLY)
  • Cultural Anthropology/Sociology/Ethics. One course from the following list:
    • Anthropology 2, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 
    • Sociology 1, Introduction to Sociology
    • Sociology 10, Issues and Problems in American Society
    • Sociology 15, World Society
    • Philosophy 21, Wilderness Studies
    • Philosophy 22, Introduction to Ethical Theory
    • Philosophy 24, Introduction to Ethics: Contemporary Moral Issues
    • Philosophy 28, Environmental Ethics
    • Philosophy 80G, Bioethics in the 21st Century: Science, Business, and Society
  • Precalculus/Pre-Statistics. Math 3 or Applied Math & Statistics 2 or 3 or a score of 31 or higher on the Math placement exam, or a score of 3 or higher on the College Board AP calculus exam (either AB or BC).

More Information

Environmental Studies Department
405 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-2634

See Also