The Washington State University General Catalog

School of the Environment

The online catalog includes the most recent changes to courses and degree requirements that have been approved by the Faculty Senate, including changes that are not yet effective.

School of the Environment
Webster Physical Science Bldg, 1226

Director and Career-Track Associate Professor, A. B. King; Associate Director for Undergraduate Education and Career-Track Associate Professor, K. M. Whitman; Associate Director for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor, L. A. Shipley; Professors, S. M. Bollens, A. K. Fremier, C. K. Keller, M. Ostrom, C. T. Robbins, J. Vervoort; Associate Professors, H. D. Adams, C. M. Cooper, C. S. Goldberg, J. Harrison, S. Henderson, M. Kramer, S. P. Long, J. McIntyre, K. Moffett, S. Roley, G. Rollwagen-Bollens, R. D. Sayler, M. Swanson, D. H. Thornton; Career-Track Associate Professors, M. Berger, J. Padowski, M. Pelch; Assistant Professors, H. Haemmerli, J. Haemmerli, J. Manning, A. Meddens, J. Scott, D. Singh; Career-Track Assistant Professors J. Menard, J. Rosso, A. Stahl; Lecturers, M. Billings, M. Ritts, W. Schlosser, B. Walker, S. Woodley; Adjunct Faculty, H. Brenkert-Smith, S. Caddy, J. Chappell, S. Converse, R. Cook, D. Dauble, R. Everett, J. Forbey, R. Gootee, B. Green, J. Gross, C. Grue, L. Heinse, T. Johnson, E. Laija, B. T. Maletzke, O. Neill, T. Paveglio, P. L. Pavek, P. Regan, J. L. Rachlow, L. Reed, T. S. Ridel, M. Rowe, M. A. Schroeder, S. Self, E. W. Shallenberger, K. Strickler, B. Tissot, T. N. Tollefson; Affiliate Faculty, J. Bishop, C. Bustamante, L. Carpenter-Boggs, A. Felsot, J. Freed, J. Garcia-Pabon, J. Goldberger, T. Hudson, P. Jacoby, C. Mack, L. New, T. Norton, A. Perleberg, C. Shultz, J. Stark, S. Sylvester, P. Thiers, K. Zobrist; Professors Emeriti, D. M. Baumgartner, K. A. Blatner, W. Budd, R. C. Chapman, F. F. Foit, A. Ford, D. Gaylord, D. P. Hanley, L. H. Hardesty, G. W. Hinman, P. Larson, B. Moore, J. R. Pratt, P. E. Rosenberg, R. L. Shew, A. Watkinson, G. D. Webster, J. A. Wolff, G. I. Young.

Humans are rapidly altering planetary biogeochemical processes and earth systems without fully knowing the consequences. Environmental challenges include food, water, and energy shortages, changing climate and weather patterns, rising and acidifying oceans, depleted soil and forest resources, and endangerment of a third or more of all the natural biological diversity of life on Earth. In response, society is shifting priorities to address these issues and students are looking for degrees that provide interdisciplinary training to tackle these emerging problems. Never before has there been such urgent need to address complex, multidimensional environmental and social problems.

The WSU School of the Environment strives to create synergy by integrating research, teaching, and extension efforts to ensure an ecologically sound, socially responsible, and economically viable future for communities in Washington.  The School integrates the geosciences (the physical context for global change), ecosystem and natural resource sciences (the biological context), and social/sustainability sciences (the human context).  School faculty are located throughout WSU – in Pullman, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and the WSU research and extension centers.

Faculty and students in the School are:

  • Generating fundamental knowledge about the Earth, environmental and ecological processes, natural resources, and human-environment interactions.
  •  Developing solutions to state, national, and global environmental problems (e.g., sustainable use of water, forests, wildlife, and other natural resources).
  • Providing cutting-edge interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate training to the next generation of research scientists, environmental and natural resource managers, environmental leaders, policy makers, and global citizens.
  • Facilitating the integrated research and education necessary to support the Land Grant mission to achieve a sustainable future.
  • Promoting the long-term conservation and enhancement of biological diversity and natural resources in an ecologically sustainable manner.

 The WSU School of the Environment has defined several core themes to better address new and emerging challenges in the study of earth, environment, and ecology. These include:

•“Water:  Connecting Earth and Life,” current strengths in eco-hydrology: modeling land and water interactions, biophysical, chemical and ecological dynamics in freshwater ecosystems and water resources in the Columbia River Basin.

•“Global Change:  Sustaining Healthy Landscapes and Communities,” existing strengths in landscape and spatial ecology, wildlife ecology and conservation of biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, and environmental social science.

•“Dynamic Earth,” Earth system science, with existing strengths in earth system chemistry, planetary evolution and deep time, and geologic and environmental hazards.

Specific information below describes courses and majors under the Bachelor of Science in Earth and Environmental Sciences.


The School of the Environment offers a BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences with majors in: Earth Sciences, Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences, Forest Ecology and Management, and Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Sciences.  Additional information about the School can be found at:

Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the School of the Environment are concerned with the diverse environmental challenges confronting the future of all life on Earth. Students learn to communicate and use critical thinking and creative problem solving to address pressing issues confronting global ecology and sustainability on a dynamic and changing Earth. Students apply scientific methods, quantitative and symbolic reasoning, and decision-making processes as individuals or teams to explore complex scientific and environmental issues and analyze problems in both the natural and social sciences. We emphasize realistic experiential education (e.g., hands-on labs, field trips and camps) to prepare students for graduate studies or employment in the fields of natural resources, environmental science or earth sciences.  Graduates achieve expertise in a professional specialty and develop the technical skills and a deeper understanding of the science and environmental management needed to succeed in a global society increasingly dependent on developing a sustainable future.

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Earth Sciences Major

Earth Science is the study of the Earth, its composition, processes, structure, origin and evolution. Virtually every aspect of modern life is in some way dependent on the science of geology. The geologic record provides the context for understanding episodes of past rapid global change.  It is also the geologist’s job to evaluate groundwater quality and quantity for drinking water supply, discover new reserves of energy and raw materials, assess geologic hazards in land-use planning and unravel the mechanisms of volcanism, earthquakes, plate tectonics and the origins of life.

In addition to the University Common Requirements (UCORE), basic science courses and the School of the Environment common core, students majoring earth sciences complete a series of 300-400-level courses designed to provide training for professional geological work as well as preparation for postgraduate study.

The School of the Environment has well-equipped geological laboratory facilities, including electron microprobe, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instruments, a laser ablation cell and 6 mass spectrometers for the determination of trace elements, isotope ratios, and organic compounds. There are active research programs in volcanology, geochemistry, tectonics, groundwater and contaminant hydrology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and astrobiology.

Earth Sciences majors are expected to graduate with a complete understanding of earth, including its constituent materials, environments, and processes through which these materials form and interact, and its physical, chemical, and biological evolution. Students are expected to be capable of examining and interpreting relations among geologic materials in the field. Problem solving and critical thinking will be applied in the classroom, laboratory, and field, and effective communication skills will be expected. Students will demonstrate quantitative understanding of earth materials and processes.

The Geology Club is open to all students interested in geology and allied sciences.  It provides additional opportunities for our students to learn about local and regional geology. Weekend field and mineral collecting trips take advantage of the very diverse geology of the inland northwest region, and provides other out-of-class opportunities for students to informally interact with each other, faculty and professionals outside of WSU.

As preparation for work toward an advanced degree in geology, a student should have completed, or plan to take without graduate credit, the following or their equivalents: SOE 102, 207, 210, 315, 320, 340, 350, 356; one year of general physics; one year of general inorganic chemistry; mathematics through two semesters of calculus. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is normally required for admission.

Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences Major

The Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences major is offered for students interested in biological, physical, or socioeconomic aspects of environmental and natural sciences. This is the most flexible of our majors, offering exceptional opportunities for tailoring of courses to match individual student interests and needs within the realm of environmental and ecosystem sciences.

Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences is concerned with natural and managed environments and their interactions with biological and human systems. Emphasis is put on the comprehensive understanding of environmental and ecological contexts, assessment of beneficial and disruptive anthropogenic impacts, and methodologies to analyze and resolve conflict in complex systems. Students acquire interdisciplinary perspectives and understanding necessary to prepare them for a variety of roles in the study, planning and management of the environment.

All students in Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences major will receive a well-rounded, general science background in the physical and life sciences. They will develop an in-depth, interdisciplinary expertise in an area of concentration within the field.  In addition to the University Common Requirements (UCORE), basic science courses and a common core taken by all students completing a BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences, students select a structured set of courses in concert with their advisor based upon their area(s) of primary interest.  Lists of approved electives are available from an advisor.

The School of the Environment has well-equipped laboratory facilities for physical, chemical, and biological assessment of aquatic ecosystems (streams and lakes), modeling environmental processes, and evaluating impacts of human activities.  There are active research programs examining effects of invasive species, ecosystem restoration, and many aspects of water resource management.

The Environmental Science Club provides opportunities for students with common interests to share ideas and discuss relevant topics concerning environmental issues.  The club contributes to sustainability programs at WSU and helps promote environmentally conscious activities on and around the WSU campus. In addition, it provides out of class opportunities for students to interact with faculty and other professionals. These interactions create opportunities for networking that helps students find summer and permanent employment as well as internship opportunities in their chosen field.

Forest Ecology and Management Major

The Forest Ecology and Management major is designed to provide students the educational basis for successfully pursuing a professional career in forestry.  Each forestry student, in addition to completing the university UCORE requirements, basic science requirements, the School of the Environment environmental common core takes a block of forestry classes in such areas as forest measurements, sampling, remote sensing, geographic information systems, plant ecology and silviculture.  In addition, students completing the basic requirements of this degree also have the option to select a limited number of professional electives to further focus their basic skill set.  For example, by selecting the correct courses students may easily complete a minor in geospatial analysis.  Students completing this degree also meet the qualifications required in U.S. Office of Personnel Management for forester.

The student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (Forestry Club) provides out of class opportunities for students to interact with each other socially and professionally, with the faculty and other professionals in the region. Students regularly work on forestry related projects for landowners in the area under the supervision of faculty members, gaining practical field experience and further insights into the profession.  These experiences are often helpful in obtaining summer jobs, internships and professional employment upon graduation.

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Major

The Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major provides students with a basic background in the sciences plus additional courses emphasizing wildlife ecology and management of wildlife habitats and populations. Students are prepared to pursue a variety of careers focusing on wildlife biology and wildlife management. The core requirements plus approved wildlife electives may allow majors to meet the US Office of Personnel Management requirements for wildlife biologist, wildlife refuge manager, general biologist, and zoologist. Through judicious use of electives a student can also meet additional civil service requirements for fish biologist and range conservationist. Wildlife students can further individualize and often enhance their professional credentials by minoring in another subject such as criminal justice, geospatial analysis, or forestry.

In addition to the University Common Requirements (UCORE), basic science courses and the School of the Environment common core, students in this major complete a core of wildlife classes emphasizing wildlife ecology, management, nutrition, population ecology, and conservation biology. Opportunities for specialization and pursuit of individual student interests beyond the wildlife core are provided through approved electives in the areas of habitat ecology, aquatic ecology, animal ecology, and conservation biology.  Students seeking to complete the key science perquisites for admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine may do so as a part of this major through the pre-vet option.

The student chapter of The Wildlife Society provides out of class opportunities for students including lectures, field trips, hands-on learning while interacting with socially and professionally with each other, faculty and other professionals. These types of contacts along together with employing organizations and interaction with career services on campus help students obtain summer and permanent employment, as well as internship and cooperative education opportunities in their chosen field.

Teaching and research facilities and laboratories on campus provide students with knowledge and training in wildlife ecology and conservation, including Bear Research Education and Conservation Program, Wild Ungulate and Small Mammal Research Facility, Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, Endangered Species Lab, Conservation Genetics and Environmental DNA Lab, Geographic Information System Lab, and the E.H. Steffen Center. These facilities and nearby natural forest, rangeland and aquatic ecosystems provide opportunities for field and experiential learning.

Pre-Veterinary Medicine

Students seeking to complete the key science perquisites for admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine may do so through the proper selection of basic science courses and through the use of their electives within the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Sciences.


The School of the Environment offers minors in: Earth Science, Environmental Science, Forestry, Natural Resources, and Wildlife Ecology.  Please contact one our offices for more information.

Transfer Students

Transfer students should plan to complete the basic required courses in English composition, chemistry, speech, biological sciences, mathematics, microeconomics, social sciences, and arts and humanities by the end of their sophomore year. Students may be granted credit for equivalent technical courses taken at other academic institutions. Refer to WSU Transfer Guides for Community Colleges, available through the web, for details.

Graduate Programs

Graduate programs provide students with an increased depth of knowledge of the scientific basis of their profession and a more complete understanding of the holistic nature of global change science.

The School of the Environment offers thesis-based MS degrees in:

  • Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
  • Geology

PhD degrees are offered in:

  • Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
  • Geology

For each graduate degree, students may specialize in a variety of biological, geochemical, physical or social science aspects of Earth, environmental or natural resource science through advanced coursework and graduate research. Graduate course requirements are flexible, and students with degrees in related fields are encouraged to apply. To be accepted to graduate study, applicants must (1) meet the Graduate School’s minimum admission requirements, (2) complete the department’s supplemental application form, (3) submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and (4) have at least one member of the department’s faculty willing to serve as the student’s major advisor. (Note: the School of the Environment does not have a minimum required GRE score for admission.) Students interested in graduate study should consult the WSU Graduate Bulletin and contact the School of the Environment for further information on opportunities and requirements.


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