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Overview Environmental sciences is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the interaction of physical processes which shape our natural environment. The Department of Environmental Sciences offers instruction and conducts research in the areas of atmospheric science, hydrology, geology, ecology, environmental chemistry, and land and resource analysis. It offers students the opportunity to understand how these processes interact in time and space, and how a change in any one may effect others. The research efforts of faculty and students deal largely with understanding the fundamental science of physical processes, and to a lesser extent with applications of this understanding to environmental problems, management, or policy making. Majors can specialize in one area or diversify across all areas depending on career goals.
The environmental sciences major provides strong preparation for (1) graduate school in environmental sciences or one of the disciplines it involves through its in-depth training in the theory and methods of atmospheric science, hydrology, geology, ecology and environmental chemistry; (2) professional schools through a focus on reasoning, analysis, and management skills that involve natural processes; and (3) employment in natural resource fields through liberal arts science training. Many environmental sciences majors concentrate their programs in one or two fields with graduate or professional schools in mind. Others use the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum to prepare for careers in science writing, scientific methods, mathematical modeling and computing, teaching, or environmental management.
Work in any of the areas of study within the department requires the acquisition of knowledge for related fields. Ecology depends upon a basic understanding of chemistry and biology. Hydrology, geology, and atmospheric science depend more on physics and chemistry. All of these areas depend on calculus and the techniques of statistics and computer programming. Most applications and analyses of legal or policy issues depend on basic economics. The department's required related work in many of these areas encourages a student's success in research, and in the competition for top graduate schools and jobs.
Faculty There are more than thirty faculty members in the department. Many of these faculty are world-renowned for their research in such areas as atmospheric composition, global warming, transport of bacteria and other contaminants in groundwater, transport of Saharan dust to the Amazon, and coastal processes. All of the faculty are committed to teaching and working with students.
The University recognizes that environmental processes and concerns are among the most important issues of our time, and has enabled the department to link its research with scientists and others worldwide who deal with global environmental change.
Students There are currently more than 150 students majoring in environmental sciences. Students may specialize in one or select work from 2 or more of the four areas of studies. Majors who aim for continued education in graduate and professional schools or specific job paths generally concentrate in one or two areas. Others interested in such careers as science writing, computing, or teaching select advanced courses from a broader range. Majors are employed in consulting, government agencies, forestry and agricultural firms, lobbying, weather forecasting, and many other exciting and enjoyable careers.
Introductory courses are usually conducted in a lecture format; some are large, but faculty members are easily accessible. Advanced courses are quite small, and all are taught by faculty. The department encourages all majors to explore opportunities to work with faculty and graduate students in research projects which provide practice in using the tools and concepts of various disciplines and help develop career goals and opportunities.
Special Resources Departmental facilities include field vehicles, boats, electronics shops, greenhouses, environmental chambers, extensive computing facilities, a Geographic Information Systems laboratory, aerial photographic interpretation equipment, the Office of the State Climatologist, Internet access to the McIDAS-X and GEMPAK weather information services, and four environmental research sites including the barrier islands of Virginia's eastern shore, two piedmont sites, the Blandy Farm Experimental Research Station at Front Royal, Virginia and the Pace site near Charlottesville, and the Mountain Lake Biological Research Station in Giles County, Virginia. Majors are encouraged to take advantage of all of these facilities.
Requirements for Major The Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Sciences requires 30 graded credits of departmental course work. Three credits of non-core 100- or 200-level course work, taken prior to the third year, may be counted toward the major. EVSC 280, EVSC 320, EVSC 340, and EVSC 350 with their laboratories are required core courses. At least 11 credits of non-core courses at the 300 level or higher must be taken. The department also requires related work in math and science. The required related work includes one semester of calculus and two semesters of college-level chemistry, biology, or physics with laboratories. The courses recommended to fulfill this requirement include: MATH 131; and any two of the following: CHEM 141, CHEM 142, BIOL 201, BIOL 202, PHYS 231 or PHYS 232 with their labs.
Completing Core Courses by the Fourth Year The interdisciplinary nature of most of environmental science's advanced courses is one of the great strengths and unique features of the major. To take maximum advantage of these interdisciplinary courses, students should complete the four core courses by the beginning of their fourth year.
Environmental sciences interact with many disciplines, and the related physical science work is usually selected on the following basis. Ecology depends on a basic understanding of chemistry (CHEM 141, 142) and biology (BIOL 201, 202). Geology, hydrology and atmospheric science depend more on chemistry and physics (PHYS 231, 232). All the areas depend on calculus (MATH 131, 132 recommended) and on the techniques of statistics (MATH 112 or SOC 311) and computer programming (CS 120 "C" or CS 182 FORTRAN). Many applications depend on basic economics (ECON 201, 202).
The department requires related work to insure minimum preparation for work in environmental sciences. To do serious research and compete effectively in graduate school and employment, additional math and science is generally needed. It is strongly recommended that students begin this prerequisite and related work in their first year. If the related work has been accomplished, students can begin the department's core courses in the first or second year. With college-level chemistry and calculus most students are prepared for EVSC 280 (Physical Geology) and EVSC 320 (Fundamentals of Ecology). Training in biology is important for ecology, and training in physics is important for hydrology and atmospheric science. Students are advised to obtain computer skills and an understanding of statistics as early as possible, and to take additional related science as their interests develop.
Requirements for Minor A minor in environmental sciences consists of at least 16 credits of environmental sciences course work in a program of study to be proposed by the student and approved by the faculty of the department. The program must include at least two core courses (EVSC 280, EVSC 320, EVSC 340, EVSC 350) with laboratories, and one non-core course at 300 level or higher, with no more than six credits of non-core courses below the 300 level. To take advantage of advanced interdisciplinary courses, the core courses should be completed early.
Environmental Sciences Organization The Environmental Sciences Organization is recognized by Student Council. The organization presents an undergraduate professionalization seminar, field trips, career and job search activities, curriculum review and planning, and many good parties. All University students are welcome to join.
Distinction and Prizes The department participates in the College's Distinguished Majors Program designed for highly qualified students. This program must be started early. Information can be obtained from an advisor.
Each year, the department gives the following five awards to members of the graduating class who have distinguished themselves academically during their four years of study at the University:
The Blandy Experimental Farm and the Orland E. White Arboretum of the University of Virginia are located in Boyce, Virginia at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. At this facility faculty and students conduct research on the ecology of plants, mammals, and insects, and field classes from the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Biology conduct laboratory exercises. Each year an extensive summer program of course work is presented. The farm contains a wide array of habitats including forest, successional fields, pasture, cropland, ponds and marshes. The Orland E. White Arboretum, the State Arboretum of Virginia, contains a beautifully landscaped collection of 1,000 species and varieties of trees and shrubs. The facilities also include greenhouses, laboratories, computer facilities, and housing, laundry and dining facilities. Students may participate in supervised research or independent study at Blandy Farm primarily during the summer.
Research Opportunities Research projects throughout the department provide a number of employment and experience opportunities for undergraduates.
Students in their third and fourth year are encouraged to gain research experience by participating in faculty research or initiating their own research projects with faculty supervision. These projects can be conducted for credit by arranging with a faculty member to supervise an independent study (EVSC 493, 494) or research project (EVSC 495, 496).
Additional Information For more information, contact Wallace Reed, Faculty Advisor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7761.
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