Focus of Study

Environmental Sciences and Policy majors gain a broad understanding of the natural world, humans’ impacts on it, and the physical, biological and social sciences critical to finding solutions to Earth’s most pressing environmental issues.        

Within this interdisciplinary framework, students can acquire in-depth knowledge in a specialized field by pursuing a three-course “sub-discipline” in topics such as climate change, sustainability, ecotoxicology, environmental justice, marine ecology, renewable energy and environmental economics, among many others. Many students do independent research in their area of specialty to fulfill Graduation with Distinction honors. About 40% of our students are double majors or are pursuing customized interdepartmental majors.

Program Hallmarks

  • Field-Oriented Courses – B.S. and A.B. majors alike can take part in field courses to Mexico, Singapore and other locations. Many students also spend a semester or more studying and doing research at our world-renowned coastal campus, the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C.  Closer to home, many of our Durham-based courses include field trips to local sites. 
  • Small class sizes – You will enjoy frequent interaction with professors, and a tight-knit community that shares your passion for the environment
  • Graduation with Distinction option
  • Research / Independent Study option
  • Stanback Fellowship Program – Gain real-world experience through a summer fellowship

Your Future

A degree in Environmental Sciences or Environmental Sciences and Policy prepares students for careers as sustainability directors, natural or social scientists, energy analysts, environmental lawyers, policymakers, conservation specialists, ecotoxicologists, medical doctors and veterinarians, and in many other fields.

You’ll find our alums working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the National Institute of Environmental Health, and the Department of Justice. You’ll also find them at law firms, nonprofit organizations, multinational corporations, private consulting firms, hospitals and global health institutions; and in state, local and national governments, as well as other industries or sectors. 

B.S. in Environmental Sciences

The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Sciences is for students planning careers or advanced studies in the natural sciences. If you want to help forge new scientific or technological solutions to climate change and other challenges, this is the path for you. The B.S. degree requires 17-18 courses.

Co-Requisites & Gateway Course

Co-Requisites

  • Biology: BIO 201L or 202L or 203L

  • Calculus: (MATH 111L and 112L) or MATH 122L

  • Chemistry: CHEM 101DL and (CHEM 201DL or 210DL)

  • Environmental Sciences: ENVIRON 102

  • Physics: PHYS 141L or 151L or 161L

  • Statistics: STAT 101 or 102 or 111 or 130 or 199 or BIO 304

Note: Some or all of the Chemistry, Calculus, Environmental Sciences and Physics co-requisites can be satisfied by appropriate AP credit.

Gateway Course 

  • ENVIRON 201 Integrating Environmental Sciences and Policy

Core Courses - 6 Courses

Choose 6 courses, at least one from each category:
Note: 1 of these 6 courses can also count as a Focus Area course.

Environmental Health

  • ENVIRON 308A Oceans in Human and Environmental Health (Marine Lab) (Fl)
  • ENVIRON 321A Coastal Watershed Science and Policy (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 360 Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 373LA Sensory Physiology of Marine Animals (Marine Lab) (Fl)
  • ENVIRON 501 Environmental Toxicology (F)
  • ENVIRON 537 Environmental Health (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 637S Population and Environmental Dynamics Affecting Health (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 642 Air Pollution (Sp)

Ecology

  • ENVIRON 210D Conserving the Variety of Life (F)
  • ENVIRON 217 Restoration Ecology (F, occasional)
  • ENVIRON 270A Conservation Biology and Policy (Marine Lab)
  • ENVIRON 273LA Marine Ecology (F, Sp)
  • ENVIRON 375LA Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 376A Marine Mammals (Marine Lab) (F)
  • ENVIRON 503 Forest Ecosystems (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 517 Tropical Ecology (F)
  • ENVIRON 571A Urban Tropical Ecology (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 646 Urban Ecology (occasional)

Environmental Physical Sciences

  • ENVIRON 239 Our Changing Atmosphere (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 280LA Sound in the Sea: Intro to Bioacoustics (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 362S Changing Oceans (F)
  • ENVIRON 370A Physical Oceanography (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 445A Climate Change in the Marine Environment (occasional)
  • ENVIRON 542L Environmental Aquatic Chemistry (F)
  • EOS 202 Atmosphere and Ocean Dynamics (F)
  • EOS 323 Landscape Hydrology (Sp)
  • EOS 355 Global Warming
  • EOS 404S Geology of the Tropical Marine Environment (Sp)

Environmental Social Sciences

  • ENVIRON 212 US Environmental Policy (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 214S Environmental Ethics (occasional)
  • ENVIRON 265 Environmental Law and Policy (F, occasional)
  • ENVIRON 270A Conservation Biology and Policy (Marine Lab)
  • ENVIRON 275SA Global Fisheries Conflicts
  • ENVIRON 286A Marine Policy (Marine Lab) (F)
  • ENVIRON 305SA Social Impact Analysis (Marine Lab)
  • ENVIRON 345 Environmental Politics in the US
  • ENVIRON 363 Environmental Economics and Policy (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 374SA Community-Based Marine Conservation (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 520/521Resource and Environmental Economics (F)
  • ENVIRON 528SA Community-based Marine Conservation in the Gulf of California (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 533A Marine Fisheries Policy (Marine Lab) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 551DA Conservation and Development (Marine Lab) (Sp)

Environmental Tools / Skills

  • ENVIRON 226S or 226SK Field Methods (F)
  • ENVIRON 322 Hydro and Environmental Data Analysis (F)
  • ENVIRON 335LA Unoccupied Aircraft Systems in Scientific Research (Marine Lab)
  • ENVIRON 359 GIS (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 361LS Terrestrial Field Ecology (F)
  • ENVIRON 362LS Aquatic Field Ecology (F)
  • ENVIRON 369LA Biological Oceanography (Marine Lab) (F, Sp)
  • CEE 160L Intro to Environmental Engineering (F)

 

(F) Typically offered fall semester
(Sp) Typically offered spring semester
(Marine Lab) taught at Duke University Marine Lab

Focus Area - 3 Courses

Students will focus on one area for depth of expertise in consultation with their major advisor. At least 3 courses must contribute to this focus, with 1 being at the 500 level or above. Courses listed as Core can be used to fulfill this requirement.

Students are encouraged to pursue a Research Independent Study as part of the focus requirement (Only one unit of Independent Research Study will count towards the focused area). 

Focus Essay

Students should submit advisor-approved focus essays in their senior year, a week after the Spring Registration period ends in November. If students subsequently change plans during Add/Drop in their final semester, a revised essay will have to be submitted.

The focus essay should prepare an argument that ties together courses taken previously that relate to the area, the 3 chosen courses to be taken to further their depth, and any relevant experience. Students are encouraged to deliberately consider how they structure their focus area from the outset, and not simply tie together disparate courses after the fact in the essay.

Focus Essay Form >

Courses in Other Departments

Relevant courses from other departments can be used to fulfill the focus area requirement, see linked list below. Note that this is not an exhaustive list nor is it a menu from which to choose courses – rather, students should carefully consider, in consultation with their academic advisors, as to how each course adds depth in their chosen focus area and articulate this in the focus essay.

Focus Studies Course Suggestions >

Capstone Experience

Select 1 of the following:

ENVIRON 495

Project-based course that examines current environmental issues from both the NS, SS, and Humanities. Students in the BS and AB majors will work together to further their knowledge and skills in solving environmental problems.

Graduation with Distinction (GWD)

One semester of Independent Research required, 2 recommended 

Graduation with Distinction requirements & deadlines

Major Worksheets

B.S. Major Requirements Worksheet

B.S. (with MSC Concentration) Major Requirements Worksheet

 

A.B. in Environmental Sciences & Policy

The Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in Environmental Sciences and Policy prepares students to be science-literate decision makers. Students seeking a strong foundation for careers in policy, business, law, human health, education or public service are well served by this curriculum. The A.B. degree requires 14-15 courses.

Co-Requisites & Gateway Course

Co-Requisites

  • Biology: BIO 201L or 202L or 203L
  • Calculus: (MATH 105L and 106L) or MATH 111L or MATH 122L
  • Chemistry: CHEM 101DL or 110DL
  • Economics: ECON 101 or ENVIRON 155 or POLICSCI 145
  • Environmental Sciences: ENVIRON 102
  • Statistics: STAT 101 or 102 or 111 or 130 or 199 or BIO 304 or SOC 333

Note: Some or all of the Chemistry, Calculus and Environmental Sciences co-requisites can be satisfied by appropriate AP credit.

Gateway Course 

  • ENVIRON 201 (Integrating Environmental Sciences and Policy)

Topical Areas - 3 Courses

3 courses, one from each category

Environmental Humanities

  • ENVIRON 209S (Food, Farming and Feminism) (F)
  • ENVIRON 214S (Ethical Challenges in Environmental Conservation) (F or Sp alternate)
  • ENVIRON 315S: (Environmental Issues and Documentary Arts) (Sp alternate)
  • CULANTH 419S (Global Environmentalism and the Politics of Nature) (F occasional)
  • HISTORY 345 (North American Environmental History) (Sp)
  • PHIL 215 (Applied and Environmental Ethics) (Occasional)

Environmental Sciences

  • ENVIRON 205 (Marine Megafauna) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 210D (Conserving the Variety of Life on Earth) (F)
  • ENVIRON 217 (Restoration Ecology) (SP [last 2015])
  • ENVIRON 226s (Field Methods in Earth and Environmental Sciences) (F)
  • ENVIRON 228 (Food and Fuel for a Growing Population) (F, alternate)
  • ENVIRON 231 (Energy and Environment) (F)
  • ENVIRON 239 (Our Changing Atmosphere) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 273LA (Marine Ecology) (F/Sp)
  • ENVIRON 274 (People, Plants, and Pollution) (F)
  • ENVIRON 319A (Aquaculture) (F)
  • ENVIRON 359 (Intro to GIS) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 360 (Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 361LS (Field Ecology)
  • ENVIRON 362S (Changing Oceans) (F)
  • ENVIRON 369LA (Biological Oceanography) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 370A (Physical Oceanography) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 373LA (Sensory Physiology of Marine Animals) (Fl)
  • ENVIRON 375LA (Biology & Conservation of Sea Turtles (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 445A (Marine Climate Change) (F)
  • EOS 202 (Atmospheric and Ocean Dynamics) (F)

Environmental Policy

  • ENVIRON 212 (US Environmental Policy) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 216S (Environment and Conflict) (Occasional)
  • ENVIRON 265 (Environmental Law and Policy) (F)
  • ENVIRON 286A (Marine Policy) (F)
  • ENVIRON 305SA (Social Impact Analysis) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 314 (Managing the Oceans to Solve Global Problems) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 321A (Coastal Watershed Science & Policy) (Sp)
  • ENVIRON 345 (Environmental Politics in the US) (Sp alternate)
  • ENVIRON 348 (Global Environmental Politics) (F alternate)
  • ENVIRON 363: Environmental Economics and Policy (Sp, F 2017)
  • ENVIRON 366 (Green Germany: World leader in environmental policy) (Sp)

Focus Area - 3 Courses

Students will choose a focus area in consultation with their major advisor. Three courses fulfill this requirement, with at least one being at the 500 level or above. Students will choose between natural sciences and social sciences to develop the skills, knowledge, and capacity to evaluate environmental issues from a perspective of depth. For example, students may choose to study energy and will take 3 natural science courses in this area.

Focus Essay

Students should submit advisor-approved focus essays in their senior year, a week after the Spring Registration period ends in November. If students subsequently change plans during Add/Drop in their final semester, a revised essay will have to be submitted.

The focus essay should prepare an argument that ties together courses taken previously that relate to the area, the 3 chosen courses to be taken to further their depth, and any relevant experience. Students are encouraged to deliberately consider how they structure their focus area from the outset, and not simply tie together disparate courses after the fact in the essay.

Focus Essay Form >

Courses in Other Departments

Relevant courses from other departments can be used to fulfill the focus area requirement, see linked list below. Note that this is not an exhaustive list nor is it a menu from which to choose courses – rather, students should carefully consider, in consultation with their academic advisors, as to how each course adds depth in their chosen focus area and articulate this in the focus essay.

Focus Studies Course Suggestions >

Capstone Experience

Choose 1 of the following:

ENVIRON 495

Project-based course that examines current environmental issues from both the NS, SS, and Humanities. Students in the BS and AB majors will work together to further their knowledge and skills in solving environmental problems.

Graduation with Distinction (GWD)

One semester of Independent Research required, 2 recommended

Graduation with Distinction requirements & deadlines

Field Experience or Internship

Could include a semester at the Marine Lab, Study Abroad that includes field work/field course, Duke Engage, Summer REU programs relevant to student’s major or research independent study not used elsewhere in the major. Complete the UG Summer Field Experience or Internship Report for approval of your internship/experience.

*Approval of substitute courses taken at other universities must be obtained from the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department offering the course. Please note that some of these courses are prerequisite to some upper-level courses in this major.

Major Worksheets

A.B. Major Requirements Worksheet

A.B. (with MSC Concentration) Major Requirements Worksheet

 

Minor in Environmental Sciences & Policy

The minor in Environmental Sciences and Policy allows students to demonstrate an environmental science knowledge in addition to their own major. The minor consists of five courses.

Core Courses - 2 Courses

  • ENVIRON 102: Introduction to Environmental Sciences and Policy (a survey course; taught in the Fall and Spring).  Students with AP credit must select an additional ENVIRON course in place of ENVIRON 102 to equal five courses. (F/Sp offering)
  • ENVIRON 201: Integration of Environmental Sciences and Policy (a case-based course that develops conceptual frameworks for interdisciplinary analysis of environmental problems using examples from local, regional and global levels). (Spring)

Electives - 3 Courses

The remaining three courses are selected from the 200-level and above ENVIRON or EOS courses. One approved substitution of a course in another department may be included.

 

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