Majors Newsletter


Dear Major:

We hope you are having a productive year! In preparation for the spring 2021 semester, this newsletter presents important information on advising, courses, placement, research opportunities, awards, and graduation.


The Department of Environmental Sciences is recruiting students for both its BS and BA degrees. We encourage you to recommend our department to fellow students who may not have selected their major at this time.  Anyone needing assistance in determining whether a degree in Environmental Sciences is right for them should see Mr. Bob Davis-Director of Undergraduate Programs.

Spring 2021 Courses

Lower Division:

EVSC 1010 Introduction to Environmental Sciences, Mr. T. Smith, 3 credits

EVSC 1300 Earth’s Weather and Climate, Mr. Davis, 3 credits

EVSC 2010 Materials That Shape Civilization, Mr. Kelly, 3 credits

EVSC 2050 Introduction to Oceanography, Mr. Macko, 3 credits

EVSC 2850 Polar Environments, Ms. Simkins, Mr. Doney, 3 credits

Core Courses: Each of our four required core courses is offered every semester, and each consists of a 3-credit lecture and a 1-credit laboratory. The offerings and instructors for Spring 2021 are:

EVSC 2800, 2801 Fundamentals of Geology, Mr. Limaye, 3 credits, 1 credit

EVSC 3200, 3201 Fundamentals of Ecology, Mr. Castorani, 3 credits, 1 credit

EVSC 3300, 3301 Atmosphere & Weather, Mr. De Wekker, 3 credits, 1 credit

EVSC 3600, 3601 Physical Hydrology, Mr. Reidenbach, 3 credits, 1 credit

*Note that EVSC 3201 meets the Second Writing Requirement for the College.

Upper Division: Planned upper division offerings for Spring 2021 include:

EVSC 3020 GIS Methods, Mr. Porter, 4 credits

EVSC 3880 Watersheds Lewis and Clark, Ms. Herman, 3 credits

EVSC 4002 Undergraduate Seminar, Mr. Macko, Ms. Simkins, 1 credit

EVSC 4012 Advanced Remote Sensing, Mr. Yang, 3 credits

EVSC 4050 Topics in Oceanography, Mr. Macko, 3 credits

EVSC 4150 Terrestrial Plant Ecology, Mr. T. Smith, 3 credits

EVSC 4290 Limnology, Mr. Pace, 3 credits

EVSC 4490 Air Pollution, Ms. Pusede, 4 credits

EVSC 4650 Water Sustainability, Mr. Richter, 3 credits

EVSC 4670 Drinking Water Quality, Mr. Mills, 3 credits

EVSC 4870 Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Mr. Galloway, Mr. Mills, 3 credits

EVSC 4991 Conservation Theory and Practice, Mr. D. Smith, Mr. Epstein, Mr. Szeptycki, 3 credits

EVSC 4993 Independent Study

EVSC 4995 Supervised Research

EVSC 4999 Thesis Research

Undergraduate students are reminded that courses at the 5000-level are open to them, and most advanced majors should be able to handle the subject material in those courses as well as they can handle 4000-level courses.

EVSC 5020 GIS Methods, Mr. Porter, 4 credits

EVSC 5030 Applied Stats for Environmental Science, Mr. D. Carr, 4 credits

EVSC 5050 Advanced Oceanography, Mr. Macko, 3 credits

EVSC 5060 Coastal Oceanography, Mr. Reidenbach, Mr. Doney, 3 credits

EVSC 5082 Nitrogen Seminar, Mr. Galloway, 1 credit

EVAT 5410 Atmosphere Dynamics, Mr. Grise, 4 credits

EVEC 5220 Terrestrial Ecology, Mr. Epstein, Mr. Yang, 4 credits

EVGE 5860 Isotope Geochemistry, Mr. Macko, 4 credits

EVHY 5640 Catchment Hydrology, Mr. Scanlon, 3 credits

We will be offering six new courses next spring:

EVSC 2559 AgroEcology: (Mr. Lerdau, MWF, 1:00-1:50pm)

This class will cover the fundamental principles of agro-ecology, the science of using ecological theory to improve agricultural practice.  We will begin with the basics of plant-crop science and integrate the fundamental biology of crops into an ecological view of growth and production.  Specific topics we will cover include, but are not limited to, mono- vs. poly-culture approaches, drought stress, disease, and genetically modified organisms.

EVSC 4559 Geomorphology and Ecology of Debris Flows in Virginia: (Mr. Limaye, W, 02:00-02:50PM)

This seminar will focus on the geomorphic and ecological legacy of debris flows in Virginia. Lectures and discussions of scientific literature will introduce geologic context, the mechanics of debris flows, and historic debris flow events in the region; Hurricane Camille, which triggered intense flooding and debris flows in 1969; the ecological responses to hillslope disturbance; and the human impacts of flood and debris flow hazards.

EVSC 4559  Ecosystem Physiology: (Mr. Lerdau, TBD)

The class will emphasize carbon, water, nitrogen, and phosphorus metabolisms and will look across systems from tropical to boreal.  A particular emphasis will be on biological diversity and ecosystem processes, from both taxonomic and functional perspectives.  Patterns and processes will be placed in an evolutionary framework to provide guidance in developing prognostic as well as diagnostic models. 

EVSC 4559. Air Pollution for Environmental Justice: (Ms. Pusede, TR, 09:30AM-10:45AM)

This course will start from the fundamental science of air pollution, surveying the aspects influencing pollutant spatial heterogeneity, atmospheric lifetime, and health impacts of air pollution. We will also discuss the political, economic, and historical factors that have caused and continue to maintain environmental injustice around the world.

EVAT 5559 Tropical Meteorology: (Ms. Schiro, TR, 12:30-1:45PM)

This course describes the behavior and dynamics of the tropical troposphere. Topics include: tropical cyclones; cumulus convection; the Hadley and Walker circulations; monsoons; tropical boundary layers; intraseasonal oscillations; equatorial waves; El Niño/Southern Oscillation.

EVHY 5610 GIS: Watershed Resilience: (Mr. Band, TR, 12:30-1:45PM)

This course will cover methods of spatial data handling and modeling for the analysis and management of the environmental resilience of watersheds.  Techniques include desktop and cloud commercial and open source GIS and spatial modeling packages. Topical areas addressed will emphasize urban and rural watersheds and ecosystems, freshwater quantity and quality, green infrastructure and carbon sequestration.

Revamped Major—Environmental Thought and Practice

We are also offering new classes for the new (revamped) interdisciplinary major Environmental Thought and Practice (ETP). This major teaches undergraduates to “think about environmental issues within an interdisciplinary framework that includes natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.” This program seeks to produce students who:

  • comprehend and think critically about scientific information, economic analysis, and the various ethical constructs that enter into environmental decisions; and,
  • Appreciate how political and social context, historical events, and cultural expectations shape the way we perceive and solve environmental problems.
  • Connect classroom theory with real-world practice.

For more information, please contact Ms. Deborah Lawrence, who is the new director of this major (

ETP Classes

ETP 2030 Politics, Science, and Values, Mr. Freedman (Politics), Ms. Marcom (English), and Ms. Lawrence (EnviSci), MWF 12-12:50PM

What is our relationship to the environment? Physical, chemical or biological phenomena can be described by environmental scientists but “problems" are defined by our response to them, contingent on culture, history and values more than measurements. Solving environmental problems lies in the political sphere, but our debates draw on discourses from philosophy, economics and ethics. Explore the basis for environmental thought and practice.

ETP 2559 Write Climate in the Community, Ms. Nelson, 3 credits

Students will explore the history of climate science, policy, and environmental art, as well as the psychology of climate action and engagement using a variety of expressive tools. The class is based on learning while doing--engaging with high school students and other community members, co-developing climate science curricula, contributing to a climate action campaign, and creating a collaborative public artwork. 4-6 hrs/wk outside class.

Faculty Advisors  

The Department's Undergraduate Academic Requirements Committee (UGARC) is Mr. Todd Scanlon, Hydrology,, Mr. Tom Smith, Ecology,; Mr. Ajay Limaye, Geosciences,, and Mr. Bob Davis (Chair), Atmospheric Sciences,  When deciding on a major, students may contact any of these committee members. At that time, a faculty advisor will be assigned, and each student’s advisor preferences will be considered. During the course of the student's time in the department, their assigned advisor is the primary source of information. For more complicated issues, they can contact their area representative on the UGARC. Students with questions about interpreting requirements, transfer credits, SIS-related problems, and study abroad should see Mr. Davis.


Environmental Sciences majors have the opportunity to pursue research within the Department as part of the Distinguished Majors Program, a senior thesis, or through independent study and supervised research (  We also have a graduate mentoring program through which undergraduates work with a faculty member and one of their graduate students on a joint research project (  For more information, contact any Environmental Sciences faculty member.

Departmental Awards Ceremony and Reception

We will make an announcement regarding the annual Award Ceremony at a future date.

The Environmental Sciences Graduation Ceremony

The University of Virginia will make an announcement regarding graduation by March 15, 2021.


You will get the most benefit from your experience as an Environmental Sciences major if you engage with the faculty, graduate students, and other undergraduate students in taking advantage of the broad range of academic, professional, and social activities in the Department. Please get to know your advisor, your professors, your teaching assistants, your research colleagues, and your fellow students. If you need any more information about your chosen field of study or about our program, please ask any member of the Department.