Environmental Science program

Undergrad major

Water, air and soil monitoring. Pollution remediation. Natural resource management. Climate change mitigation.

An environmental science major will give you the scientific skillset to better understand and address pressing environmental issues like these.

In UWL’s Environmental Science major, you will delve into an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to cultivate a holistic understanding of environmental challenges, setting the stage for a future career where your expertise will be in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6 % increase in career opportunities for environmental scientists over the next decade from 2022-2032. Demand is projected to outpace supply in the Midwest.

Careers in Environmental Science?

Environmental scientists often work on interdisciplinary teams involving ecologists, engineers, geographers, chemists and others. They work for private companies, environmental conservation non-profits, local, state and federal agencies.

A high demand for environmental scientists is projected for the Midwest through 2032. These professionals also receive competitive pay with the median salary for an environmental scientist in 2022 at $76,480 per year.


  • Environmental consultant
  • Climate change analyst
  • Environmental health and safety specialist
  • Environmental restoration (prairies/wetlands)
  • Natural resource management

Further education

Students may continue their degree with a graduate degree in

  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental studies
  • Environmental science
  • Natural resource management
  • Water resources management


What distinguishes UWL’s Environmental Science program?

Community partners offer internship and job connections

Students often find internships during school and full-time jobs after graduation with community partners who collaborate closely with the university department such as the Mississippi Valley Conservancy; USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center; J.F. Brennan; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Coulee Region Trout Unlimited and others.

Study abroad and around the U.S.

Students may participate in small group extended field trips to selected parts of the U.S. and abroad. Geography and environmental science students have traveled to study and conduct research in places such as Tanzania, Nepal, Belize, Cook Islands, Iceland, and Puerto Rico.

Research with faculty

Students have the opportunity to work on local and international research projects with faculty. Students regularly receive funding to support their efforts and to present their results at local and national conferences.

Access to field equipment

Students have access to field equipment including boats, unmanned aerial systems (drones), field mapping and surveying technology, sediment and soil sampling equipment, sonar for aquatic mapping, and much more.

Driftless area natural surroundings

Marshes, rivers, and bluff land create an outdoor laboratory for classes and undergraduate research in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin.

Prepare yourself for interdisciplinary work

UWL’s major is interdisciplinary — meaning that classes span diverse majors and colleges. Through a broad curriculum, students will gain a holistic understanding of environmental issues and approaches.

Sample courses

GEO 101 Earth Environments This course concentrates on understanding the earth's dynamic environments through the study of processes and physical and human interactions related to the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. A scientific approach is used to examine fundamental concepts in earth and environmental science related to topics such as plate tectonics, landform development, atmospheric processes, global climate, and water resources, in order to provide an understanding of how the earth system functions and the human role in these phenomena. Lect. 3, Lab 2. Offered Fall, Spring.

GEO 428 Past Environmental Change An overview of the study of environmental change during the Quaternary. Approaches used to understand past climatic conditions and effects on terrestrial and marine ecosystems at global, regional and local scales will be explored, as will physical, geochemical and biological methods associated with continuous and depositional environments. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: GEO 221 and GEO 222; junior standing. Offered Alternate Years.

ENV 101 Introduction to Sustainability and Environmental Studies This interdisciplinary, introductory seminar explores current sustainability and environmental issues from a variety of perspectives (historical, social, and scientific) and disciplines (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences). Attitudes toward the natural world and approaches to public and private decision-making are examined in terms of environmental justice issues. Field trips are taken to examine local and regional practices and issues. Offered Fall, Spring.

BIO 307 Ecology A study of interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of living organisms. The basic principles of ecology are presented in order to develop an understanding of the nature of these interactions at the individual, population and community levels of biological organization. Prerequisite: BIO 203. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHM 412 Aquatic and Soil Chemistry This course examines the role of chemistry in shaping our environment, focusing specifically on aquatic and terrestrial systems. Students will learn how to apply fundamental chemical principles to complex real systems in order to characterize environmental behavior. Learning to understand and predict the fate of organic and inorganic pollutants in soil-water systems will be emphasized. Special topics that relate to current events will also be explored, and the connection between environmental issues and social/economic challenges will be examined. Prerequisite: CHM 300 or CHM 303. Offered Fall.

MIC 434 Aquatic Microbial Ecology An ecological study of bacteria, cyanobacteria and algae of aquatic ecosystems. Topics include microbial strategies for survival under various environmental conditions, the role of microorganisms in biogeochemical cycling of elements, interactions of microorganisms with other aquatic biota, the role of microorganisms in pollution problems, and applications of microbial ecology to biotechnology. Laboratory emphasis is on experimental design and sampling techniques, quantification of microbial biomass, and measurement of microbial activities in aquatic habitats. One weekend field trip required. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Lect. 2, Lab 3. Prerequisite: MIC 230; three semesters of college chemistry; junior standing. BIO 341 strongly recommended. Offered Fall - Even Numbered Years.