Environmental Science BS

Total Units Required: 120

A student stands in thigh-high creek water as she does an experiment.

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science program strives to best prepare students to be engaged in solving environmental and sustainability problems with a strong scientific foundation. This is accomplished through a broad curriculum that covers the fundamentals of biology, geology, chemistry, and physics and then moves students through key principles of environmental science. During the first two years, students complete ERTH coursework in geology, atmospheric science, soil science, and energy. During the last two years, students complete coursework in hydrology, ecology, environmental sensing, and Earth system science. In addition, students are required to choose one of four degree options (applied ecology, atmosphere and climate, energy and earth resources, or hydrology). The degree options provide students with the opportunity to choose three upper-division courses in an area of their interest. 

The option in applied ecology. Applied ecology considers the application of the science of ecology to real-world questions and problems. The goal of an applied ecologist is to provide recommendations on resource management that are based in science. In our department, we ask questions like: How will climate change and drought impact vegetation communities? How do wetland communities change after restoration? How do invasive species growing alongside streams impact aquatic organisms? How does wildfire affect the growth and reproduction of vegetation communities? What is the long-term success of riparian restoration?  

The option on atmosphere and climate. The atmosphere plays one of the largest roles in shaping the environment. At any given moment and location, the state of the atmosphere (weather) controls important parameters such as the evaporation of water, the vertical movement of greenhouse gasses, and the dispersion of pollutants. On larger scales, the rotation of the Earth and the arrangement of bodies of water and landforms, have a profound impact on circulation and climate. California State University, Chico uses several technologies to study the atmosphere. The Raman-shifted Eye-safe Aerosol Lidar (REAL) provides images of the distribution of dust and wind over scales ranging from about 10 m to 5 km. Fast-response in situ sensors, such as ultrasonic anemometers and open path CO2/H2O analyzers enable the measurement of vertical fluxes. A rotating tank allows students and faculty to visualize the profound, and often non-intuitive, effects of the Earth’s rotation on atmospheric and oceanic circulations.  

The option in energy and earth resources. Energy demands consume a tremendous amount of resources. This option allows students to explore energy resources and conservation, alternative energy, sustainability, and apply those concepts to mine reclamation, solar and wind farm projects, and resource-heavy industries. Students can be involved in many projects that involve remediation (cleaning-up) including mercury contamination of abandoned hydraulic mines, or testing materials for supporting plant growth on tailings left behind from processing copper ore. 

The option in hydrology. Hydrology is the science of water movement, composition, and distribution on earth. In our department, students learn the theoretical basis for the physical processes of precipitation, streamflow, evaporation, infiltration, subsurface flow, and hydrological storage within the context of the most current techniques and software used by practitioners. These processes govern water quantity and quality in creeks, soils, vegetation, and aquifers that are critical to sustainable water use in California and water-limited regions globally. Outdoor experiential learning is a central component to our courses on water resources management, field methods, and water quality. Hydrologists also integrate knowledge from ecology and advanced physics in ecohydrology and environmental fluid mechanics courses. Class projects have included feasibility studies for communities with limited water resources, inventories of water composition at Lassen Volcanic National Park, and performance assessments of green infrastructure for urban storm runoff remediation.