Environmental Science


  1. Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate, EESC V2100 with lab
  2. Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth, EESC V2200 with lab
  3. General Chemistry I, CHEM BC2001 with lab
  4. Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, BIOL BC1500 + Laboratory, BIOL BC1501
  5. 2 other courses in chemistry, physics and/or biology
  6. 2 courses in calculus, statistics, data analysis, and/or economics
  7. 4 elective courses
  8. Senior Research Seminar EESC BC 3800x, 3801y (or Guided Research, EESC BC3997y, 3998x)

For details, see Environmental Science Major Worksheet, envsciworksheet.doc.


Students with a strong science background who are interested in majoring in Environmental Science are advised to take Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate (ENV V2100) followed by Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth (ENV V2200). These two courses are required for all Environmental Science majors.

If you are interested in exploring Environmental Science or are concerned about your science background, you could take Environmental Science I (ENV BC1001x) in the fall. In the spring, you can decide to take Environmental Science II (ENV BC1002y) for non-majors, or shift into the major sequence of ENV V2100. Please note the following:

  • ENV BC1001x is not required for the major, but does count toward the major as an elective.

  • ENV BC1002y does not count toward the major.

  • ENV BC1001x must be taken before ENV BC1002y.

We recommend that Environmental Science majors take General Chemistry (CHEM BC 2001) and Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, BIOL BC1500x (formerly BC2002x) plus the corresponding lab, BIOL BC1501 (formerly BIO BC2003), early in their academic career at Barnard in order to prepare for upper level courses with prerequisites. However, we do not recommend taking both these courses in the same semester. If you want advice on taking an Introductory Biology or Physics course, read Placment in Courses for Majors and Potential Majors in Credit & Placement

Students wishing to go on to graduate school or careers in the earth and physical sciences are recommended to take at least two semesters each of calculus, physics and chemistry. Those considering graduate school or careers in biological/chemical fields are recommended to take calculus, as well as upper level courses in biology and chemistry, and may wish to consider enrolling in minors in these fields or the Environmental Biology major.

Internships or some type of work or field experience are extremely valuable in preparing students for careers in Environmental Science. Go to Opportunities and Affiliations for listings and follow up in Credit and Placement. Studies have shown that students who have had related work experience are more attractive to employers and graduate schools. Students might want to consider a semester or summer program at might want to consider a semester or summer program at the SEE-U, SEA Semester at Woods Hole, the School for Field Studies  the Organization for Tropical Studies, or some other field or internship program.In addition, we recommend that those students planning to go abroad in the junior year elect to do so in the Fall Semester rather than the Spring Semester in order to take best advantage of senior seminar research planning and programming.

Students should check the catalogue and the department for additional information on the major, minor and courses offered by Barnard and Columbia. Classes with grades less than C- or taken pass/fail can not be counted towards the major.

See also Senior Research Seminar for information on senior thesis requirements.

Environmental Science Majors and Potential Majors:

Which introductory Biology class should you take?

As stated in the catalog, you can enroll in the BIOL BC1500/2 classes with an AP score of 4 or higher. But you should also know that if you have had prior experience in Biology and are at all adventurous, you are also advised to enroll directly in BIOL BC1500x in the fall. If you have had other science courses already you should consider this option. Environmental Science majors are definitely encouraged to take the 1500 level sequence.

The 1001 course is really designed for students with little preparation and an uncertain commitment to studying science. For example, if you have not had biology since 9th grade and are uncertain about your abilities or interest, then the 1001 level course is probably the place to start. Those students should enroll in 1001 in the fall and then think about taking 1502 in the spring.

Students concerned about placement should speak with Jessica Goldstein or the Director of Introductory Biology and check the Biology Department website, or stop by their office in 1203 Altschul.

Which introductory Physics class should you take?

We think that the best course for you to take is PHY BC 1206-7 here at Barnard. The course is calculus-based, and the support system the Physics Department offers is very strong. Camaraderie develops among the students, there is plenty of team problem-solving, and the class-size is manageable (40-50), providing a real small college experience. The other students in the class are likely to be astro, physics, chem, and biochem majors, along with a couple of interesting others. Perhaps you're not ready for it now, but you might be once you've had the time to take the calculus pre-requisites.

The PHY 1201-2 sequence offered by CU is very large, pre-med and algebra-based. If you're interested in taking this class, you might want to discuss it first with Tim Halpin-Healy. You might also want to consider taking the first semester in the spring (off sequence), when the class sizes tend to be smaller.

Environmental Science majors and potential majors should shop and compare to appreciate the very big differences between the CU course and the Barnard offering. You could try sitting in on both courses for a lecture or two when you are trying to make your decision.