Environmental Sciences Major: Ecosystems Option (B.S.)

Environmental Sciences Major: Ecosystems Option (B.S.)

Wil Wollheim and students out in the field during an environmental science class

What is the study of ecosystems in environmental sciences?

Environmental sciences is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the interaction of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape our natural environment. In the ecosystems concentration, students focus on the interactions between living and non-living things within a specific area. Students also develop a basic understanding of environmental policy, field methods appropriate for entry-level environmental science positions, and geographic information systems (GIS) and learn how to communicate effectively with both scientific and lay audiences and contribute to multidisciplinary teams.  

Why study ecosystems in environmental sciences at UNH?

UNH is a recognized leader in environmental sciences research, and environmental sciences majors benefit from the significant depth and breadth of faculty expertise in the areas of biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, ecosystem science, global change, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science and water resource management. Students graduate with a comprehensive skillset that prepares them for work at government agencies, environmental consulting firms, and environmental and university research labs. Students are encouraged to participate in faculty research projects and UNH’s EcoQuest study abroad program in New Zealand, and many graduates continue to master’s and doctoral programs. 

Potential careers

  • Advocacy and regulatory affairs 
  • Education and outreach 
  • Environmental consulting 
  • Environmental monitoring 
  • Environmental organizations 
  • Research 


Wilfred Wollheim

Co-director, Water Systems Analysis Group
Phone: (603) 862-5022
Office: Natural Resources & the Environment, James Hall Rm 276, Durham, NH 03824

Wendy Rose

Phone: (603) 862-3933
Office: Natural Resources & the Environment, James Hall Rm 114, Durham, NH 03824
Natural Resources and the Environment
114 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

Phone: (603) 862-1022

Curriculum & Requirements

The College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the interaction of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape the environment, and control the response of natural systems to human activities.    Students graduating with a degree in environmental sciences will have an understanding of these interacting processes, experience working in interdisciplinary teams to apply this understanding, and the ability to communicate effectively with both scientific and lay audiences.  While in this program, students will acquire significant experience with field, laboratory and analytical methods appropriate for employment in professional environmental science positions as well as a basic understanding of environmental policy.  The University of New Hampshire is a recognized leader in environmental sciences research, and the environmental sciences program capitalizes on faculty expertise in this area. Program faculty emphasize teaching and research in the areas of biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, ecosystem science, global change, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science, and water resource management among many other fields.

Employment opportunities include environmental consulting firms; educational facilities (e.g., science centers), environmental monitoring laboratories (e.g., water treatment plants, the Environmental Protection Agency), government agencies (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service), university and government research laboratories, and nongovernment environmental organizations. The environmental sciences program also constitutes an excellent preparation for graduate programs in several areas relating to the environment.

The Program has four options, and specific course requirements for the major vary by option. The ecosystems and soils and watersheds options are both managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in COLSA, and the geosystems and hydrology options are both managed by Earth Sciences in CEPS. 

Scope of the Major (Introduction - 3 Courses)9
NR 400
Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources
NR 403
Introduction to Environmental Science
NR 435
Contemporary Conservation Issues and Environmental Awareness
or NR 437
Principles of Sustainability
The Scientific Basis (Foundation - 7 Courses)28
Biology I:
BIOL 412
Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology
Biology II:
NR 439
Environmental Biology
or BIOL 411
Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular
Chemistry I:
CHEM 403
General Chemistry I
or CHEM 405
Chemical Principles for Engineers
or CHEM 411
Introductory Chemistry for Life Sciences
Chemistry II:
NR 561
Chemistry of the Environment
or CHEM 404
General Chemistry II
PHYS 401
Introduction to Physics I
or PHYS 407
General Physics I
Calculus for Life Sciences
or MATH 425
Calculus I
BIOL 528
Applied Biostatistics I
or EREC 525
Statistical Methods and Applications
Earth and its Systems (Core - 6 Courses)24
Earth Science:
ESCI 401
Dynamic Earth
or ESCI 402
Earth History
or ESCI 409
Geology and the Environment
Aquatic Science:
NR 504
Freshwater Resources
NR 501
Studio Soils
ESCI 514
Introduction to Climate
or GEOG 473
Elements of Weather
or GEOG 670
Climate and Society
NR 527
Forest Ecology
or BIOL 541
Human Dimensions:
NR 602
Natural Resources and Environmental Policy
or NR 662
Environmental Policy, Planning and Sustainability in New Zealand
or NR 507
Introduction to our Energy System and Sustainable Energy
or NR 784
Sustainable Living - Global Perspectives
Environmental Toolkit (Methods - 2 Courses)7-8
Select two courses from the following:
ESCI 534
Techniques in Environmental Sciences
NR 658
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
or ESCI 777
GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences
NR 757
Remote Sensing of the Environment
ESCI 778
Remote Sensing Earth & Environmental Sciences
NR 713
Quantitative Ecology
Ecosystem Integration (Advanced Topics - 4 Courses)16
Population and Community Ecology:
NR 765
Community Ecology
or NR 734
Tropical Ecology
or NR 706
Soil Ecology
or NR 660
Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand
or NR 640
Wildlife Population Ecology
or NR 642
Introduction to Biogeography
or NR 603
Landscape Ecology
or BIOL 720
Plant-Animal Interactions
NR 730
Terrestrial Ecosystems
or NR 751
Aquatic Ecosystems
or NR 661
Restoration Ecology and Ecosystem Management in New Zealand
NR 744
or NR 761
Environmental Soil Chemistry
or NR 703
Watershed Water Quality Management
or ESCI 642
Biogeosciences in the Earth System
Environmental Problem Solving:
ESCI 654
Fate and Transport in the Environment
or NR 707
Environmental Modeling
or EREC 760
Ecological-Economic Modeling for Decision Making
or NR 749
Forest Inventory and Modeling
Integration and Research (The Capstone Experience)
NR 663
Applied Directed Research in New Zealand
or NR 786
Leadership for Sustainability
or NR 795
or NR 799
Honors Senior Thesis
Every student must complete a capstone experience senior year, or during the summer before senior year if at least 90 credit hours have been completed. A Contract form provided by the Program must be completed and signed by the student, the adviser, and the capstone mentor (faculty or off-campus) by the end of Junior Year.
Total Credits84-85

NR 791 Preparation for Capstone - is offered every spring. While not required for graduation, it is recommended for second semester juniors who need guidance in terms of developing a capstone project and completing the Capstone Contract. 

Explore Program Details

Rigorous academic pursuit and hands-on learning from the mountains to the sea. Full immersion learning at a diversity of sites in the North and South Islands.


Xi Sigma Pi is facilitated through the UNH NREN department. Its goal is to unite likeminded individuals through service and fraternal spirit through a shared enjoyment of the environment. In addition, members receive recognition for their service by earning a cord to wear during graduation. Opportunities to take up leadership roles and give back to the NREN department are abundant.

XI SIGMA PI NREN Honor Society

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