Environmental Sciences


The UCSC Environmental Sciences (ESCI) major is an interdepartmental, undergraduate-only degree program. The purpose of the ESCI major is to educate students interested in environmental science problems and issues, with a focus on issues within the physical sciences (versus focusing on biological sciences).

The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program is designed for students who intend to pursue professional careers in environmental sciences, engineering, policy, law, teaching, or business or who otherwise desire the broad, quantitative training available at UCSC. In addition to providing comprehensive preparation in the basic physical sciences, and particular breadth and depth in environmental sciences, the curriculum is structured to prepare students for the competitive graduate school and career marketplace.

The core of the major includes calculus, physics, chemistry, and core foundational upper-division environmental sciences courses. Students also select at least five additional courses from a diverse list of upper-division electives. These electives provide the student with expertise in one or more subdisciplines within environmental sciences. A senior comprehensive experience is required of all majors, and may be fulfilled in a variety of ways, including completion of an intensive senior seminar course or senior thesis.

Degrees Offered

  • B.S.

Study and Research Opportunities

The major specializes primarily in the following areas of study:

  • Climate and climate change: Earth's past, present, and future climate
  • Global biogeochemical cycles: Cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, mercury, etc.
  • Fresh Water: Water resources and water quality
  • Pollution: Water pollution, air pollution, pollutant transport
  • Oceans: Physical, chemical, and biological oceanography
  • Atmosphere: Meteorology, air quality, and atmospheric chemistry

Courses in other areas are also available. The core faculty of the major are primarily from two departments, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Ocean Sciences. Faculty from other departments such as Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Environmental Studies may also be involved.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students who intend to major in Environmental Sciences should take high school courses in chemistry, advanced mathematics (precalculus and/or calculus), and physics.

Information for Transfers

The Environmental Sciences program welcomes applications from community college students who are prepared to enter as junior-level majors. To be considered for admission to UCSC as an ESCI, transfer students must pass equivalents of the following courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or higher:

CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B/M and CHEM 1C/N and

MATH 11A or MATH 19A and Math 11B or 19B

Students transferring to UCSC as an ESCI major from a California community college should reference assist.org to determine which courses are equivalent to required courses and should consult the Environmental Sciences website for more information on preparing to transfer. 


Graduates of the ESCI major will be prepared to continue on to a variety of careers, such as:

  • Business and industry
  • Environmental consulting
  • Governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local level
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Research at universities, governmental research institutions, or other scientific agencies
  • Graduate/professional school in areas such as science, engineering, teaching, law, public health, business


The Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study at more than 100 host universities and colleges in over 43 countries as part of their regular UC academic program. Students receiving financial aid can apply their award to a program abroad. Students participating in EAP may petition to the major adviser to determine if they can receive credit toward the Environmental Sciences major.


The Environmental Sciences program has a wide range of laboratory and computational facilities. Please go to the faculty webpages for more information. esci.ucsc.edu/faculty

Department Website

More Information

Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Advising Office

Earth & Marine Science Building A234A

University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064