Posted 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, 2024

UWL's new environmental science major draws from the natural and social sciences to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to address pressing environmental issues.

New major to prepare students for fast-growing field

UW-La Crosse has launched a new major designed to prepare students for careers in the critical, fast-growing field of environmental science. 

UWL students are now able to declare an Environmental Science major after the Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved the program in December.  

The major, housed in the newly renamed Department of Geography and Environmental Science, draws from the natural and social sciences to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to address pressing environmental issues facing society. 

“This is a really unique major because it’s interdisciplinary across colleges and departments,” says Professor Joan Bunbury, who played a key role in the major’s development. “You’re pulling in natural science and social science courses from the College of Science and Health and the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.”

The new major will take advantage of the Coulee Region's rich and diverse natural landscape.

The major consists entirely of existing courses in geographybiology, chemistry, microbiology, and sustainability and environmental studies, before branching into higher-level courses and experiential opportunities. 

The major complements minors offered through the Departments of Geography and Environmental Science, Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology, and Sustainability and Environmental Studies. 

“It makes sense to have a major like this at a time when we’re experiencing major environmental change that can directly impact the communities we live in,” explains Professor Colin Belby, chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Science. “We’re also perfectly situated geographically — on the Mississippi River, adjacent to marshland and the bluffs. We have these wonderful outdoor laboratories at our doorstep.” 

Belby also notes the potential for collaboration with local employers, such as WisCorps, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, JF Brennan, the Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey's Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center. The new major is specifically tailored to students interested in pursuing environmental science academically and professionally with an interdisciplinary perspective. 

Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% increase in jobs for environmental scientists and specialists nationwide, with demand expected to outpace supply in the Midwest.  

Those who earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science will be positioned for careers in climate change mitigation, natural resource management, air and water quality monitoring, pollution remediation, consulting and more.

Learn more about UWL's environmental science major.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for environmental scientists to continue to rise.