The Major in Environmental Biology is designed to offer students a rigorous program in environmental biology as well as fundamental skills in communicating science to the broader community. 

For questions on this major, consult your academic advisor or the Director of the Environmental Biology major Prof. Martha Weiss (202-687-1822;

Program for majors

The Environmental Biology program is described in detail below in the following sections:

  • Biology Courses (required and elective), Additional Science Courses; RISE (optional) Completion of all requirements is necessary to obtain the major.
  • All majors in the department will fulfill the University Integrated Writing Requirement by completion of the coursework in the major. Students will gain exposure and instruction in Foundations of Biology, the Gateway course in the major, and upper-level coursework. No additional coursework is necessary. 
  • Declaration of the major will occur in the second year.

AP- and IB- credit in Biology

The Department of Biology accepts one of the following: the AP Exam in Biology, the AP Exam in Environmental Biology, or the IB Higher-level Biology exam.

  • The Biology AP or Environmental Science AP exam will apply for credit.
  • Students who receive a score of 5 on either AP exams will receive 2 credits of upper division biology and will receive the equivalent of a 4-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course). 
  • Students with a score of 4 on either AP exam will receive 1 credit of upper division biology and will receive the equivalent of a 3-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course). 
  • Students with a score of 6 or 7 on the IB Higher-level Biology Exam will receive 2 credits of upper division electives that will count towards the major and will receive the equivalent of a 4-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course).

Courses in the first year

Normally, the first year includes biology, chemistry, mathematics and general education courses:

Fall term: We recommend 4 courses and our first year seminar:

  • Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103/113) 
  • First year seminar (BIOL-101) 
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-001, -009) 
  • Mathematics (which course depends on background and goals) 
  • General education (one course): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology

Spring term: 5 courses is the normal load:

  • First year seminar (BIOL-101) 
  • Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104/114) 
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-002, -010) 
  • Mathematics (unless requirement is completed)
  • General Education (two courses): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology
courses in the upper years
  • Second year, fall term: BIOL-180 Ecology OR BIOL-152 Genetics
  • Second year, spring term: BIOL-192 Gateway to Environmental Biology
  • Second year, spring term: BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes 
  • Third year, fall term: BIOL-152 Genetics OR BIOL-180 Ecology
  • Third or fourth year, fall term: BIOL-386 Ecological Analysis
  • Fourth year, fall term: BIOL-401 Senior seminar

Programs for majors





1. Biology Courses
Required core courses

(32 credits):

  • BIOL-101 First-year seminar (1 credit).  This course is required for first year students and is recommended for transfer students and those students who enter the program after the first year (contact the department chair or your advisor). 
  • BIOL-103/113 Foundations in Biology I with separate lab course (5 credits)
  • BIOL-104/114 Foundations in Biology II with separate lab course (5 credits)
  • BIOL-152 Genetics (4 credits)
  • BIOL-180 Ecology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-192 Gateway to Environmental Biology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (4 credits)
  • BIOL-386 Ecological Analysis (4 credits)
  • BIOL-401 Senior Seminar (1 credit)
Distribution courses (6 courses, 1 credits minimum)  Students must take one course from each of Groups A, B and C, and three other courses from Groups A, B or C, or Other Upper-level Electives. 

Students should note that course offerings change frequently, most courses are offered in only a single semester each year, and not all courses are offered every year. Furthermore, courses offered outside of Biology may have limited enrollments for Environmental Biology majors, and some courses may have prerequisites not listed here or require permission of the instructor. Students should talk with their advisors and also look carefully on the departmental and Registrar's website to identify course offerings.  

Group A: Ecology and Behavior

  • BIOL-226 Animal Behavior
  • BIOL-253 Plants and Society
  • BIOL-320 Forest Ecology
  • BIOL-364 Microbiology
  • BIOL-365 Conservation Biology
  • BIOL-366 Marine Biology
  • BIOL-368 Global Climate Change Ecology
  • BIOL-375 Plant-Animal Interactions

Group B: Environmental and Earth Sciences

  • STIA- 227/28 Environmental Science 
  • STIA-311 Environmental Geomorphology
  • STIA-412 Climate Science and Policy
  • STIA-441 GIS in Environment and Health
  • STIA-454 Remote Sensing
  • BIOL-368 Global Climate Change Ecology 

Group C: Populations, Genes and Genomes

  • BIOL-360 Molecular Evolution
  • BIOL-367 Population Genetics
  • BIOL-379 Bioinformatics 
  • BIOL-387 Genetic Conflict
  • BIOL-388 Microbial Genomics
  • BIOL- 395 Biology of Sex
  • BIOL-422 Modeling Biological Populations 

Other Upper-level Electives

  • COSC-051 Computer Science I
  • BIOL-261 Science and Society: Grand Challenges
  • BIOL-262 Shaping National Science Policy
  • BIOL-340 Research Tutorial
  • BIOL-341/-342 RISE (see below for more information)
  • BIOL-359 Dynamic Processes in Biological Physics
  • ECON-275 Environmental Economics (NB-requires ECON-001)
  • GOVT-331 Politics of Natural Resources
  • GOVT-354 Environmental Politics
  • GOVT-488 Environmental Law
  • HIST-404 War and Environment in the Modern World
  • HIST-481 The Environment in Pre-Industrial America
  • HSCI-332 Health Impacts of the Environment
  • INTH-320 Ecology of Global Hunger
  • INTH-440 Health, Environmental Issues, and Development
  • STIA-330 Green Revolutions
  • STIA-350 Gender and Sustainability
  • STIA-352 Journalism in Science, Environment & Health
  • STIA-355 Environment and Migration 
  • STIA-370 Oceans
  • STIA-374 Environmental Security
  • STIA-379 Energy & Environment in China
  • STIA-408 Environmental Reconstruction and Restoration
  • STIA-418 Natural Resources and Security
  • STIA-419 Energy & Environment in Eurasia
  • STIA-497 Environmental Sustainability and Business Strategy

Total credit requirements: a minimum of 50 credits

2. Additional Science Courses Required
  • CHEM-001/-009 and -002/-010 General Chemistry with laboratory (10 credits total) 
  • MATH-035 Calculus I (4 credits)
  • MATH-040 Probability and Statistics or MATH-140 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (4 credit total)

3. RISE - Research Intensive Senior Experience

RISE is an optional experience for Environmental Biology majors.

RISE is a commitment for two semesters and is intended to be selective. Research will be conducted over two semesters in the senior year and is awarded a total of six credits. However, students may begin research earlier, generally in the third year and in the summer between the third and fourth years by enrolling in Research Tutorial (Bio-300) 

The RISE options include research in the laboratory or field, as well as computer-based research, or meta-analysis of data (but not teaching). Students may find primary research mentors from among department faculty, or faculty in other units across the university. If the primary faculty mentor is not from the Biology department, the student must also find a co-mentor from among department faculty. Students register for the Research Tutorial or RISE section of their department mentor.

RISE -  (6 credits total)

  • BIOL-341 (fall) and BIOL-342 (spring) RISE