Majors & Programs


Environmental Studies

Programs of Study

We offer three environmental majors to prepare students to understand and address current environmental issues. These majors are founded on the strength of key academic departments and include the interdisciplinary connections essential to the study of the environment. We also offer an interdisciplinary minor.

Environmental Biology major
  • Ecology, conservation, and restoration of biodiversity
  • Sustainable food production through understanding plant development, genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and genetic engineering
  • Solar energy and advanced biofuels
Environmental Earth Science Major
  • Climate and Energy
  • Life in its environment
  • Impacted/human altered environments
Environmental Policy Major
  • How humans shape, affect, and are affected by their natural environments
  • Assessment of environmental issues, policies, and responses
Environmental Studies Minor
  • This interdisciplinary minor includes core courses from each of the three majors plus flexible elective options.
Interdisciplinary environmental analysis minor
  • This minor was developed to better prepare students to tackle real-world environmental challenges by providing more robust opportunities for interdisciplinary knowledge and skill development.
Other Options
  • Minor in Environmental Engineering
  • Minor in Landscape Architecture
  • Global Health and the Environment (track in Anthropology Major)

Research and Internships

Students can gain practical experience that will help prepare them for graduate school or careers through internships and research experiences. We encourage students to seek out these opportunities as early as possible. Many lab and field research opportunities are available with our faculty in Biology, Earth Science, and Policy. Students can conduct research on a volunteer, work study, course credit, paid, or summer fellowship basis. Students can receive course credit for internships through Environmental Studies (ENST 299).

Latin Honors and Independent Study

Latin Honors Thesis and Independent Study options are available to conduct research with faculty in the Biology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Political Science departments.

Tyson Summer Undergraduate Research Program (TSURP)

Undergraduate students have opportunities to conduct research projects with professors and research scientists at Washington University’s field research station, located just 20 miles southwest of main campus. Research is conducted on biodiversity conservation and restoration, invasive species ecology, plant-animal and plant-soil interactions, and infectious disease ecology (

Core Courses

These Introductory courses are required for all environmental majors and the interdisciplinary minor. We recommend taking these in the freshman or sophomore year.

  • Introduction to Environmental Biology (BIO 2950)—Fall
  • Earth and the Environment (EPSC 201)—Fall/Spring
  • Introduction to Environmental Policy (BIO 2010)—Fall/Spring

Opportunities for Freshman

We offer a variety of courses and programs for freshman. These provide an introduction to contemporary environmental issues, local and global scales, local natural environments, and interdisciplinary analytical skills and problem solving skills. These courses have a low student to faculty ratio so they provide an opportunity for students to work closely with each other and with faculty.

  • Pathfinder (PATH 201/202)—Fall/Spring
  • Missouri Natural Heritage (Focus 2431/2432)—Fall/Spring
  • Engineering the Climate (EPSC 112)—Fall 2015
  • A Sense of Place: Discovering the Environment of St. Louis (ENST 122)—Fall
  • Earth’s Future: Causes and Consequences of Global Climate Change (EnSt 101)—Spring

Enhanced Skill Courses and Capstone Courses

These courses provide the specialized training in analytical tools, critical thinking, and technical writing that will equip students to be competitive for graduate training, future careers, and interdisciplinary problem solving.

  • Applications in GIS (ENST 380)—Training in conceptual and computational tools for solving geospatial problems, a skill which is becoming essential for all environmental disciplines.
  • Sustainability Exchange (EnSt 405)—Students work in interdisciplinary teams to tackle real-world energy, environmental, and sustainability problems through an experiential form of education.
  • Urban Ecosystems Principles Integration (EnSt 406)—The mission of this interdisciplinary course is to advance the interrelationships of ecological and human systems toward creating a healthy, resilient, and biodiverse urban environment.
  • Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (ENST 539)—Environmental students have the opportunity to work with lawyers and law students on real environmental law cases (
  • Study Abroad—We encourage students to study abroad and get an international perspective on current environmental issues. Approved environmental study abroad programs are located all over the world, including Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Ecuador, Tanzania and Iceland.

Tyson Research Center

The Tyson Research Center is a 2,000-acre field station owned by Washington University and located approximately 20 miles southwest of main campus. Tyson consists of oak-hickory forest, streams, ponds, old-fields and glades, and the scenic Meramec River borders Tyson to the north. Tyson provides a hub for field-based research programs in environmental studies at Washington University. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work with faculty and research scientists on cutting-edge research projects that are funded by the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, several Washington University courses use Tyson for field trips and outdoor laboratories.

Local Resources

We lie in close proximity to Forest Park, the St. Louis Zoo, the Mississippi, Meramec, and Missouri Rivers, and many state and county natural areas, which provide a wealth of opportunities for exploring the natural environment, internships, and research. We maintain close relationships with the Office of Sustainability, the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-Cares), and other Washington University organizations, which provide opportunities for internships, seminars, events, and research.


There are many opportunities for students to engage in the local community and get involved in extracurricular activities through student groups such as Green Action, VERDE, the Burning Kumquat, Wilderness Project, WUSICE, and Green Events Commission.

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