Environmental Sciences: foundational science and perspectives on the environment

 The UBC calendar page for Environmental Sciences has formal degree specialization details.


Understanding and managing the pressing environmental challenges of today depends upon solid scientific foundations. Students taking the Environmental Sciences Specialization will gain both a strong foundational science background and a broad perspective on the environment. The focus is on understanding the major environmental issues facing human societies and adopts an integrative cross-disciplinary approach to the study of these issues. Students are required to select an Area of Concentration that includes required and elective courses.

Students graduating from Environmental Science at UBC will develop skills in both analytical and field or community-based methods. Team-work, writing and oral presentations are embedded in the ENVR courses.

Students generally choose to focus their studies on one of the following: (i) chemical, physical or computational approaches to Earth Sciences (via the Land, Air and Water Area of Concentration), (ii) areas that are more related to the biological, ecological and conservation sciences (via the Ecology and Conservation Area of Concentration), or (iii) environmental sciences in relation to sustainability issues (via the Sustainability Sciences Area of Concentration). The Areas of Concentration draw upon courses offered by our own department (EOAS), the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, the Department of Geography, and the Department of Biology.

All environmental science students are required to do a major project (two terms) in their senior year. Majors students engage in a team project in collaboration with a community partner organization, while Honours students undertake an individual research project with a faculty supervisor.

For career opportunities – see our Career Pathways page.

Degrees Offered

Guidelines for current students

Your ENSC Faculty Advisor can provide help related to ENSC program matters. However, many advising needs fall outside the scope of what ENSC Faculty Advisors can help with. Please review the following FAQs as a starting point for your advising question. Feel free to contact your ENSC Faculty Advisor after reviewing the FAQs. Questions about your general degree requirements, your degree standing, or any blocks to registration should be referred to Faculty of Science Advising.

  1. If you can’t register for a course that you want (e.g., you don’t meet the course prereqs, or don’t have the required standing, or the course is full), contact (email) the instructor(s) of the course. Only the course instructor(s) can waive the prereqs and force register you into their course.
  2. If you can’t register for a course that is required for you to graduate on time (e.g. BIOL 306), contact the Program Office for the department that offers the course to explain that the course is required for your program completion. The department’s Program Office administrator will need to force register you into the course. For Biology courses, please contact the Biology Program Office administrator Tammy Tromba tammy.tromba@ubc.ca.
  1. Please review the information at Go Global.
  2. Also, contact your ENSC Advisor to help think about the optimal timing to go abroad to ensure the transfer credits will help you graduate on time or with minimal delay. Remember that core courses ENVR 200, 300, and 400 cannot be substituted with any courses taken abroad.
  1. Review the Co-op Program information.
  2. Note that we recommend not doing a Co-op before you get into the 3rd year of your program. The more skills you gain through the courses, the more meaningful work placement and experience you will get.
  1. ENSC students can choose courses that allow them to qualify for professional registration as a Professional Geoscientist, Biologist, or Agrologist, although this generally requires additional courses beyond the basic degree requirements. 
  2. Requirements for registration as a Professional Geoscientist.
  3. Requirements for registration as a Professional Biologist.
  4. Requirements for registration as a Professional Agrologist.
  1. General considerations: The 24 credits of ‘Electives’ in the upper years of the ENSC curriculum allow you quite some room to consider getting a Minor.
  2. Next steps: Contact the Advisor or Admin Office of the Minor program you are interested in to get the form where you will list the courses you propose to take as part of the Minor program. This form needs to be signed by an advisor from the Minor program and your ENSC Advisor.
  1. The Degree Navigator can be used for checking your academic progress and visualising what credits you have and what you are still missing. However, sometimes, there are glitches with the portal. If it seems that something is missing from your Degree Navigator, please check with Faculty of Science Advising.
  1. The current ENSC curriculum is set for this year and won’t change, but a year or two from now, the curriculum may change. If the curriculum changes, the one that applies to you (e.g., for your graduation requirements) is the curriculum that was in place when you entered ENSC (e.g., in your second year).
  2. Contact your ENSC Advisor if you want to switch from your curriculum year to an updated curriculum (if changes have been posted on the Calendar).
  3. Contact your ENSC Advisor if you need to discuss any changes in course offerings that impact your course list (e.g. to drop a course that is no longer required in the new curriculum, or to add a new course, or substitute courses).
  1. Contact your ENSC Advisor - that is what we are here for!
  2. Common issues we have assisted with in the past:
    1. Checking if you are on track to graduate on time (but first review the Degree Navigator), 
    2. Helping you develop your course plan (what courses to take and when, but you need to make the first draft of the plan),
    3. Helping you to decide which AoC is right for you.
  1. Contact us by email to book an appointment.
  2. Many questions can be answered by email, but we are happy to meet with you in person or via Zoom.

Faculty and Teaching

Our faculty in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences conduct research and teach in the broad fields of geology, mineralogy, geophysics, groundwater hydrology, physical & biological oceanography, climatology, environmental science, glaciology and related disciplines. They are experienced in modern pedagogical practices that emphasize active learning, a balance of solo and group or team learning, and project-based, application-oriented settings. Also, we are constantly innovating and collaborating on educational development with colleagues both within UBC and beyond. Environmental Sciences students in particular also encounter a wide range of faculty in other Departments across UBC’s Faculty of Science.

Student Experiences

Students gain scientific skills and perspectives on environmental issues that are applicable in wide range of occupations or studies. Students will benefit particularly from our …

  • interdisciplinary courses, faculty, and research
  • attention to students, including small classes and a vibrant student community
  • community-focused emphasis in all ENVR courses
  • connections with geoscience, oceanographic, resource sector, and government organizations
  • a departmental commitment to ongoing support of course-development


Courses involve hands-on labs, equipment and computing facilities related to geology, geochemistry and isotope studies, field studies and many more. Examples of the many facilities at EOAS include:

  • A new, modern field station in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley for housing researchers and students and supporting their studies and research,
  • World-class equipment, expertise and capabilities in geochemical research and isotope studies
  • Laboratory facilities to support geological and mineralogical studies
  • Several active student clubs with dedicated space for undergraduates
  • The Pacific Museum of Earth with a large collection of minerals, fossils and rocks,
  • Oceanographic field and research facilities including access to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
  • Extensive computing capacity for numerical modeling and mapping work.