Department of Environmental Science and Policy

BS in Environmental Science

Environmental science students receive a broad range of environmental courses. They may choose to focus on water resources, energy, or applied ecology. Students are often involved in faculty research programs and present results of their research at local and national conferences.

Students studying water resources focus on the flow and quality of water in various environments including streams, lakes, aquifers, and soils, and students receive comprehensive training in the biology, chemistry, and ecology of soils and water bodies. The focus is on human-influenced and natural processes affecting soil quality and water quality. Courses emphasize watershed and groundwater hydrology and hydrogeology, water quality assessment and control, soil and water conservation, bioremediation and phytoremediation, and watershed management and planning.

Students who focus on energy take courses in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy systems, in addition to ecology and environmental courses.

Applied ecology is the study of interrelationships between organisms and their environment, within the context of seeking to understand and mitigate impacts of human activities on those systems. Students are provided with the core science background necessary to conduct environmental field and laboratory research. Students then gain familiarity with specific ecological systems, concepts, and methods through courses such as Water Quality Assessment, Forest Ecology, Wetlands Ecology, Field Methods, Environmental Entomology, and Limnology.

For students interested in becoming certified to teach science in Maine, a concentration in secondary teacher education is offered as part of the B.S. in environmental science.

Environmental Science and Policy courses tend to be laboratory-intensive and quantitative, with a major goal being the acquisition of advanced skills in utilizing analytical tools such as statistical software, mapping applications, and geographic information systems (GIS). This combination of a strong science core with applied environmental technologies allows a graduate in environmental science to pursue either graduate study in the sciences or immediate entry-level employment with an environmental engineering firm, government agency, or non-governmental organization.

Minimum number of credits required for the major is 72, plus the University's Core Curriculum. Some departmental major requirements may overlap with the Core Curriculum, allowing students to double-count and be efficient in course selection. A student must achieve at least a 2.0 grade point average and must earn at least a C- in each course applied toward completion of the major.

Required courses for all majors in the department:  

ESP 101 Fundamentals of Environmental Science
ESP 102 Fundamentals of Environmental Science Lab
ESP 125 Introduction to Environmental Ecology
ESP 126 Introduction to Environmental Ecology Lab
ESP 150 Field Immersion
ESP 197 Research Skills Lab
ESP 203 Environmental Communication
ESP 207 Atmosphere: Science, Climate, and Change
ESP 280 Research and Analytical Methods
ESP 340 Environmental Regulations
ESP 400 Internship (between junior and senior year)
ESP 401 Environmental Impact Assessment and Lab (capstone) 

One computational tools course; suggested courses include:

ESP 123 Environmental Problem Solving
GEO 108 Introduction to ArcGIS
GEO 308 GIS Applications I
MAT 120 Introduction to Statistics

Required courses specific to students in the B.S. in environmental science:

CHY 113, 114 Principles of Chemistry I and Laboratory Techniques I
CHY 115, 116 Principles of Chemistry II and Laboratory Techniques II
CHY 233 Analytical Chemistry with Lab
     or CHY 251, 252 Organic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry Laboratory I
ESP 260 Soil and Water Conservation Engineering
     or ESP 412 Field Ecosystem Ecology
ESP 360 Water Quality Assessment and Control
MAT 152 Calculus A

Either Biology or Physics lecture and lab:

BIO 105 Biological Principles I: Cellular Biology
BIO 106 Laboratory Biology
                 or
PHY 111 Elements of Physics I
PHY 114 Introductory Physics Laboratory I

Electives: Three environmental science classes 200-level or higher.

Students should begin with ESP 101 and 102. Advanced environmental science courses also may have biology, chemistry, and mathematics prerequisites.

For the best overall Financial Aid package, submit your USM application and complete your FAFSA by January 15. However, you can apply at any time. Undergraduate applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Learn More about the Undergraduate Application Requirements & Process

According to the 2014 edition of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 11 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Career Fields Include: Environmental Scientist, Environmental Technician, Environmental Consultant, Environmental Engineer, Conservation Biologist, Ecologist