Initial Publication Date: April 30, 2012

Environmental Sciences, University of British Columbia

Information for this profile was provided by Erin Lane, Earth and Ocean Science, The University of British Columbia. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The Environmental Science program concentrates on the major environmental issues facing human societies and it adopts an integrative cross-disciplinary approach to the study of these issues. The program provides a significant background in chemistry, earth and ocean sciences, life sciences, and social sciences.


The Environmental Science program is designed to give students a broad perspective on the environment.

Program Goals

Have learned, at an advanced level, science relevant to an understanding of Earth Environments. This includes physical, chemical and biological measurements, statistical data analysis, hypothesis building and research project design and execution.

Be highly trained in one, or another specialized sub-area of environmental science, and be able to design and conduct projects in at least one of these areas.

Be capable of synthesizing scientific and technical reports, based on a wide range of quantitative and qualitative information related to environmental science.

Be able to draw reasonable conclusions from their analysis of literature and data.

Be familiar with strengths and limitations of the major technical tools used in environmental science.

Be familiar with related topics such as environmental or natural resource economics, environmental law/policy, Green business, environmental education, environmental history, environmental literature.

Be able to apply their skills to the understanding of environmental questions at local, provincial, national, or global scale.

Be able to describe their work in written and oral forms to both technical and non-technical audiences. 

Be able to work collaboratively in teams made of diverse professionals.

Alumni Careers

Students leave our program and enter a diverse array of fields. They are employable across every resource sector and choose government, industry and not-for-profits jobs. Many of our students take post-graduate degrees in environmental fields as well as law, medicine and public heath. Students work across many different levels including research, consulting and management.

Program Assessment

Our learning goals are linked to assessments. We also have pre-post surveys, critical incidence questions and focus groups with students.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

Genetics, Evolution and Ecology; Laboratory Investigations in Life Science; Structural Chemistry; Physical and Organic Chemistry; First Year English; Differential Calculus; Integral Calculus; Energy and Waves Physics.

Core courses

Fundamentals of Ecology; Advanced Ecology (Prerequisite: Fundamentals of Ecology); Physical Chemistry; Coordination Chemistry or Organic Chemistry; Introduction to Environmental Science; Atmospheric Environments; Calculus III (Prerequisite: Calculus I and II); Fundamentals of Statistics; Introduction to Research in Environmental Science (Prerequisite: Introduction to Environmental Science); Research Project in Environmental Science (Prerequisite: Research in Environmental Science); Introductory Oceanography; Introduction to Hydrology or Global Biogeochemistry; "Tools Course": GIS and/or Computer Methods in Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and/or Instrumental Analytical Chemistry and or Computation 

Ecology and Conservation Area of Concentration

One of Vertebrate Structure and Function; Comparative Invertebrate Zoology; Non-Vascular Plants; Vascular Plants; and at least two of Biomathematics; Fundamentals of Evolutionary Biology; Aquatic Ecology; Ecological Methodology; Marine Ecology; Plant Ecology; Plant Ecology II; Principles of Applied Ecology; Principles of Conservation Biology; Evolutionary Ecology; Biogeography and Global Change

Land, Air and Water Area of Concentration

Students take 15 credits that must include at least one course in at least three of the four categories below:

Land Category: Introduction to Soil Science; Geological Time; Fields and Fluxes; Geochemical Thermodynamics; Principles of Geomorphology; Paleontology; Geomorphic Processes and Hazards; Natural Hazards Analysis; Fluvial Geomorphology; Watershed Geomorphology; Snow and Ice Processes 

Air Category: Atmospheric Radiation and Remote Sensing; Methods in Atmospheric Science; Microscale Weather and Climate; Synoptic Meteorology and Climatology; Air Pollution Meteorology; Atmospheric Environmental Chemistry

Terrestrial Water Category: Aqueous Environmental Chemistry; Groundwater Hydrology; Field Techniques in Groundwater Hydrology; Groundwater Contamination; Aqueous Geochemistry; Groundwater Remediation; Catchment Hydrology 

Oceans Category: Introductory Oceanography: Climate and Ecosystems; Dynamic Biological Oceanography; Chemical Oceanography and Marine Geochemistry; Methods in Oceanography; Marine Pollution; Marine Microbiology; Estuaries; Introduction to Fisheries Science


Students are required to take 38 credits or 12 courses electives, chosen from the following list:
Ecology and Conservation Area of Concentration
Weed Science; Survey of Algae; Structure and Evolution of the Bryophyta; Structure and Evolution of Ferns and Fern-allies; Structure and Reproduction of Fungi; Introduction to Seed Plant Taxonomy; Introduction to Entomology; Introductory Parasitology; Protistology; Plants and Peoples; Plant Ecology I; Phytogeography; Zoogeography; Phylogenetic Biology; Ecological Parasitology; Ornithology and Herpetology; Population Genetics; Introduction to Biogeography; 
Introductory Oceanography: Climate and Ecosystems; Biological Oceanography; Marine Pollution; Marine Microbiology; 
Structure and Function in Marine Animals; Ecological Adaptations of Seaweeds; Population and Community Ecology of Marine Organisms; Microbial Ecophysiology; Environmental Microbiology Laboratory

Land, Air and Water Area of Concentration:
Introductory Mineralogy; Fields and Fluxes; Global Climate Change; Groundwater Contamination; Groundwater Remediation; Introduction to Biogeography; Introduction to Hydrology; Quaternary and Applied Geomorphology; Introductory Remote Sensing; Global Biogeochemistry; Urban Meteorology; Vegetation Dynamics: Disturbance, Climate and Human Impacts


Research Project in Environmental Science or honours thesis