This program brings the basic sciences to bear on many crucial concerns about the environment. The environments of particular interest are terrestrial and wetland ecosystems and associated land and water resources. Specific concerns include environmental protection, pollution prevention and remediation, land-use planning, waste management, ground- and surface-water quality, reclamation and remediation of disturbed or contaminated sites, and minimizing human impacts on the environment.
The Environmental Science curriculum is multidisciplinary and strongly science and technology oriented. The basic sciences and computational skills are at the core of each of the major's three options, but specific requirements make each option unique. The curriculum prepares graduates for immediate entry into environmental careers as well as for graduate specializations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 28% between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.
The three concentrations, or curricular options, within the major and example of the career opportunities within each are as follows:
Water Resources Option
The emphasis in this option is on fresh water systems and resources, although there are obvious connections to esturine and marine settings. Both surface- and ground-water quality may become degraded as a result of human activities. Those processes, their consequences, and solutions are the focus of this option. Students in this option are entering careers in the areas of regulation, remediation, and environmental protection.
Land Resources Option
This option develops an understanding of many of the complex biological, chemical, economic, geological, and soil factors that affect land use decision-making. Because our strategy of handling waste is often to "dump it in a hole", this curriculum also deals with issues of waste management and environmental clean-up. The graduates in this option find employment with various governmental agencies and in the private sector.
Plant Resources Option
This option provides a track for students seeking environmental careers that build on their interest in plant sciences. Plants are used in a variety of ways to solve environmental problems. For example, reclamation of disturbed areas often involves establishing and managing adapted vegetation. Plants are important components of wetlands, which provide a number of important environmental functions and values. Plants are also used to remove pollutants from the soil or water.
Requirements for a Major
Students must complete all of the core requirements listed below plus the additional requirements for at least one of the three options.
Math, Technology, and Natural Sciences Core
BIOL 1105,1106: Principles of Biology
CEE 3104: Intro to Environ. Engineering
CHEM 1035,1036,1045,1046: General Chem., Lab
CHEM 2114,2124: Analytical Chem., Lab
CHEM 2535,2545: Organic Chem., Lab
CSES 1004: Intro Crop and Soil Environ. Sciences
CSES/ENSC 3114,3124: Soils, Lab
ENSC 3604: Fund. of Environ. Science
CSES/ENSC 3634: Physics of Pollution
ENSC/CSES/CHEM 4734: Environ. Soil Chem.
CSES/ENSC 4854: Wetland Soils and Mitigation
ENSC 4004: Senior Seminar
GEOG 4084 or GEOG 4354 or FOR 4114 or BSE 4344: Intro GIS or Intro Remote Sensing or Info Tech Nat Res Mgt or GIS for Engineers
GEOS 4804: Groundwater Hydrology
MATH 1016,2015,2016: Elementary Calculus with Trig. I/II
PHYS 2205: General Physics
STAT 3615: Biological Statistics
Humanities, Writing, and Social Sciences Core
AAEC 1005,1006: Econ.Food & Fiber Sys.
ENGL 1105,1106: Freshman English
Creativity and Aesthetic Experience (CLE Area 6)
Ideas, Cultural Traditions, and Values (CLE Area 2)
CSES/ENSC 4774: Reclamation of Drastically Disturbed Lands
FOR 2324: Dendrology
CSES 4444: Advanced Crop Management
Minimum total credits (all options)
Requirements for a Minor
The Environmental Science program also offers a minor. The requirements include CSES/ENSC 3114 plus 3124 (or CSES/ENSC 3134) and CSES/ENSC 3604 and 14 to 15 more hours selected from a set of 23 courses. See www.cses.vt.edu/undergraduate-programs/ensc/index.html or visit 240 Smyth Hall for more information about a minor in environmental science.
By the end of the academic year in which a student has attempted 60 hours, "satisfactory progress" will include:
declaring an option within ENSC
passing the following:
BIOL 1105, 1106
12 hours of CHEM
ENSC 3604 CSES/ENSC 3114 and 3124
9 hours of MATH and/or STAT
Opportunities to Excel
Students with outstanding records can qualify for the Honors Program and graduate "in honors" in environmental science. Other opportunities for personal and professional growth and for recognition include the department-sponsored Environmental Student Organization, membership in Alpha Zeta and other honoraries, and several scholarships designated for majors. Faculty members often offer undergraduates opportunities to become involved in a variety of environmental research projects. Many employers seek environmental science majors for internship and co-op positions.
Undergraduate Course Descriptions (ENSC)
1015-1016: FOUNDATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Interrelationships between human activities and the environment; emphasis on biological, chemical, and physical principles that govern the flow of energy, materials, and information among physical, ecological and human systems. (3H,3C)
1115-1116: FOUNDATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE LABORATORY
Lab component for ENSC 1015 and 1016. Selected experiments illustrate principles and concepts relating to environmental science. Co-requisite ENSC 1015 (for ENSC 1115) and ENSC 1016 (for ENSC 1116). Co: 1015 for 1115; 1016 for 1116. (3L,1C)
2964: FIELD STUDY
Variable credit course.
2974: INDEPENDENT STUDY
Variable credit course.
2984: SPECIAL STUDY
Variable credit course.
3114 (CSES 3114) (GEOS 3614): SOILS
Characterization of soils as a natural resource emphasizing their physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological properties in relation to nutrient availability, fertilization, plant growth, land-use management, waste application, soil and water quality, and food production. For CSES, ENSC, and related plant- and earth-science majors. Partially duplicates 3134. Junior standing. Pre: CHEM 1036. Co: 3124. (3H,3C) I.
3124 (CSES 3124) (GEOS 3624): SOILS LABORATORY
Parent materials, morphology, physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils and related soil management and land use practices will be studied in field and lab. Partially duplicates 3134. Co: 3114.
3134 (CSES 3134): SOILS IN THE LANDSCAPE
A study of soils as functional landscape components, emphasizing their physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological properties in relation to plant growth, nutrient availability, land-use management, and soil and water quality. Primarily for FOR/FIW, LAR, and other plant/earth science-related majors. May not be taken by CSES or ENSC majors. Partially duplicates 3114 and 3124. Pre: one year of introductory CHEM or BIOL or GEOS. (2H,3L,3C) II.
3604: FUNDAMENTALS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Interrelationships between human activities and the environment; provides national and global perspective; emphasis is on the physical, chemical, and biological principles and processes that are essential to an understanding of human-environment interactions; the role of energy in human and natural systems; environmental legislation and human behavior. I. Pre: BIOL 1105 or CHEM 1035. (3H,3C)
3614 (CSES 3614): SOIL PHYSICAL AND HYDROLOGICAL PROPERTIES
Soil physical and mechanical properties and the physical processes controlling soil water retention and flow in agronomic and natural settings. Grain size distribution, weight-volume relationships, specific surface, electrical charge density, consistency, stress, compaction, rainfall runoff, water retention, steady/non-steady water flow in saturated/unsaturated soil, infiltration, bare soil evaporation, and soil water balance. Pre: (CSES 3114, CSES 3124) or (GEOS 3614, GEOS 3624).
3634 (CSES 3634): PHYSICS OF POLLUTION
Physical processes that control the fate of pollutants in our land, air, and water resources. Types and sources of pollutants, physical processes in the soil-water-atmosphere continuum controlling the dispersion and deposition of pollutants, the movement of pollutants, including radionuclides, by surface and subsurface water flow in soils, and physics of disturbed soils. I. Pre: CSES 3114, PHYS 2206, (MATH 2016 or MATH 2024). (3H,3C)
3644 (CSES 3644): PLANT MATERIALS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION
Overview of ecological principles related to revegetation and restoration of disturbed sites. Function and species requirements of plants in stabilizing disturbed areas including mines, rights-of-way, constructed wetlands, and for the remediation of contaminated soils. Pre: BIOL 1106.
Co: CSES 3114. (3H,3C)
4134 (CSES 4134): SOIL GENESIS AND CLASSIFICATION
Formation of soils across landscape, soil-forming factors and processes, applied soil geology/geomorphology, applied soil biochemistry, soil hydrology, diagnostic horizons and characteristics used in Soil Taxonomy; soil classification and mapping. Three outdoor lectures and one 3-day field trip are mandatory. Pre: (CSES 3114, CSES 3124) or (ENSC 3114, ENSC 3124) or (GEOS 3614, GEOS 3624) or CSES 3134 or ENSC 3134. (3H,3C)
4164 (BIOL 4164) (CEE 4164) (CSES 4164): ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY
Ecology, physiology, and diversity of soil and aquatic microorganisms; incorporates the significance of these topics within the context of environmental applications such as bioremediation, wastewater treatment, control of plant-pathogens in agriculture, and pollution abatement in natural systems. The laboratory portion of the course will stress methodology development, isolation and characterization of microorganisms from natural and engineered systems, and examination of the roles of microorganisms in biogeochemical cycling. Pre: BIOL 2604. (2H,3L,3C) II.
4314 (CSES 4314): WATER QUALITY
Provide comprehensive information on the physical, chemical, biological, and anthropogenic factors affecting water quality, fate and transport of contaminants in water, water quality assessment and management, and current water quality policies. Pre: (3604 or BIOL 4004), MATH 2015, (BIOL 1105 or BIOL 1106), (CHEM 1035 or CHEM 1036). (3H,3C)
4324 (CSES 4324): WATER QUALITY LABORATORY
Teach students a variety of laboratory chemical and biological techniques for water quality analysis. Complementary to ENSC/CSES 4314. Pre: CHEM 1046. Co: CSES 4314, 4314. (3L,1C)
4414: MONITORING AND ANALYSIS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Provides comprehensive hands-on-laboratory-and field-based experience and information on the principles and methods for field monitoring and sampling, as well the physical, chemical, and biological analysis of soil, surface water, groundwater, and solid wastes within the context of regulatory compliance. Optional 40-hour Hazards Materials (HAZMAT) training will be available. Senior standing required. Pre: (3604 or 4314 or CSES 4314 or BIOL 4004), (MATH 1026 or MATH 2015, CHEM 1036, BIOL 1105). (1H,3L,2C)
4444 (CSES 4444): MANAGED ECOSYSTEMS, ECOSYSTEM SERVICES, AND SUSTAINABILITY
Description and interactions of climate, soils, and organisms within intensively managed ecosystems used to produce food, fiber, bioenergy, fresh water, recreation, cultural, and other ecosystems services essential for human well-being. Ecological concepts applied to agricultural, grassland, and urban/turf ecosystems. Ecologically-based principles for sustainably managed ecosystems. Regional and global significance of managed ecosystems in context of sustainable food systems, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Pre-Requisite: Junior or Senior Standing required. Pre: CSES 3114 or CSES 3134. (3H,3C)
4734 (CHEM 4734) (CSES 4734): ENVIRONMENTAL SOIL CHEMISTRY
Chemistry of inorganic and organic soil components with emphasis on environmental significance of soil solution-solid phase equilibria, sorption phenomena, ion exchange processes, reaction kinetics, redox reactions, and acidity and salinity processes. I. Pre: CSES 3114, CSES 3124, CHEM 2514 or CHEM 2535, CHEM 3114, (MATH 2015 or MATH 1026). (3H,3C)
4764 (CSES 4764): BIOREMEDIATION
Overview of environmental biotechnology and the use of microbes and other organisms to remove contaminants and improve environmental quality. Topics include treatment of contaminated soils, waters, and wastewaters, as well as remediation of industrial waste streams. Pre: BIOL 2604. (3H,3C)
4774 (CSES 4774): RECLAMATION OF DRASTICALLY DISTURBED LANDS
Remediation, rehabilitation, revegetation strategies for lands disturbed by mining, construction, industrialization, and mineral waste disposal. Disturbed site characterization and materials analysis procedures. Regulatory and environmental monitoring frameworks for mining sites and other disturbed lands. Prediction and remediation of water quality impacts from acid drainage. Pre: CSES 3114 or ENSC 3114 or GEOS 3614 or CSES 3134 or ENSC 3134 or CSES 3304 or GEOG 3304 or GEOS 3304. (3H,3C)
4854 (CSES 4854): WETLAND SOILS AND MITIGATION
Wetland soils as components of natural landscapes: biogeochemistry, hydrology, geomorphology, hydric soil indicators, and wetland functions under various land uses. Soil and hydrologic factors important to wetland delineation and jurisdictional determination. Mitigation of wetland impacts with emphasis on restoration and creation. Outdoor lectures at local wetlands and a two-day long field trip to observe and identify wetlands soils are mandatory. Pre: (CSES 3114, CSES 3124) or (ENSC 3114, ENSC 3124) or (GEOS 3614, GEOS 3624) or CSES 3134 or ENSC 3134. (2H,3L,3C)
4964: FIELD STUDY
Variable credit course.
4974: INDEPENDENT STUDY
Variable credit course.
4984: SPECIAL STUDY
Variable credit course.
4994: UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
Variable credit course.