Structure of the Major

Major Requirements: BA and BS Programs

Environmental Studies offers both BA and BS Programs.  Students can download a summary of requirements for the BA here, and for the BS here. A description of both Programs can be found below.

See the Yale Blue Book Online for course availability, times and descriptions. Search under “Environmental Studies” for a list of current or recent course offerings in Environmental Studies.

BA Program

Core Courses: Majors must take at least 2 core courses from both the humanities and social sciences (Group A) AND the environmental and natural sciences (Group B). Core courses can fulfill Yale College distributional requirements.

Group A: Humanities and Social Sciences

  • EVST 120: American Environmental History. (Paul Sabin) Survey of interactions between people and natural environments in North America from precolonial times to the present, including ecological, political, cultural, and economic dimensions. The rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; development of public policy.
  • EVST 226: Global Environmental History. (Harvey Weiss) The dynamic relationship between environmental and social forces from the Pleistocene to the present. Pleistocene extinctions; transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture; origins of cities, states, and civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt; adaptations and collapses of early Old and New World civilizations in the face of environmental disasters; the destruction and reconstruction of the New World by the Old.
  • EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law. (John Wargo) Exploration of the politics, policy, and law associated with attempts to manage environmental quality and natural resources. Themes of democracy, liberty, power, property, equality, causation, and risk. Case histories include air quality, water quality and quantity, pesticides and toxic substances, land use, agriculture and food, parks and protected areas, and energy.
  • EVST 340: Economics of Natural Resources. (Robert Mendelsohn) Microeconomic theory brought to bear on current issues in natural resource policy. Topics include regulation of pollution, hazardous waste management, depletion of the world’s forests and fisheries, wilderness and wildlife preservation, and energy planning.
  • EVST 345: Environmental Anthropology. (Michael Dove) History of the anthropological study of the environment. The nature-culture dichotomy, ecology and social organization, methodological debates, and the politics of the environment.

Group B: Environmental and Natural Sciences

  • EVST 201: Atmosphere, Ocean and Environmental Change (Ronald Smith) Physical processes that control Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and climate. Quantitative methods for constructing energy and water budgets. Topics include clouds, rain, severe storms, regional climate, the ozone layer, air pollution, ocean currents and productivity, the seasons, El Niño, the history of Earth’s climate, global warming, energy, and water resources. (This course is required)
  • EVST 200: Earth System Science (Jeffrey Park) A survey of geoscience. Interaction of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and Earth’s deep interior; natural controls on environment and climate in past, present, and future; rocks, minerals, glaciers, earthquakes, and volcanoes; natural hazards and natural resources.
  • EVST 223: General Ecology (David Vasseur and David Post) The theory and practice of ecology, including the ecology of individuals, population dynamics and regulation, community structure, ecosystem function, and ecological interactions at broad spatial and temporal scales. Topics such as climate change, fisheries management, and infectious diseases are placed in an ecological context.
  • EVST 242: Ecosystems and Landscapes (Peter Raymond) An introduction to concepts in ecosystem and landscape ecology. Topics covered include element cycling, food web interactions, species-area relationships, whole system metabolism, models of biodiversity, etc. The course emphasizes how to integrate knowledge to understand ecological patterns and processes at multiple scales in order to study, manage and conserve species and ecosystems.

Concentration Courses

Students plan their concentration in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. A concentration is defined as six courses that provide depth in a field of interest; four courses should be intermediate and upper level electives from a single department or program, and at least two additional electives from relevant disciplines outside the immediate area of concentration forming a coherent area of study. Common concentrations include energy, biodiversity, climate change, policy, human health, urban planning, food and agriculture, and history.  Because students work with the DUS to define the concentration courses that best suit their academic direction, concentration courses vary. Lists of possible concentration courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, for the most popular concentrations can be found by following the links above.

Senior Seminar and Essay

Seniors are required to take two semesters of Senior Research (EVST 496a and 496b) in which they work on their essay under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Seniors pursuing a double major may opt for a single term of the colloquium, but this must be approved by the DUS in advance. For examples of past senior essay topics, visit the Student Research section of our website. For a copy of the Senior Essay Handbook, click here.

  • EVST 496 (a and b): Senior Research Project and Colloquium. Independent research under the supervision of members of the faculty, resulting in a senior essay. Students meet with peers and faculty members regularly throughout the fall term to discuss the progress of their research. Projects should offer substantial opportunity for interdisciplinary work on environmental problems.

BS Program

Core Courses: Majors must take at least 2 core courses from both the humanities and social sciences (Group A) AND the environmental and natural sciences (Group B). Core courses can fulfill Yale College distributional requirements.

Group A: Humanities and Social Sciences

  • EVST 120: American Environmental History. (Paul Sabin) Survey of interactions between people and natural environments in North America from precolonial times to the present, including ecological, political, cultural, and economic dimensions. The rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; development of public policy.
  • EVST 226: Global Environmental History. (Harvey Weiss) The dynamic relationship between environmental and social forces from the Pleistocene to the present. Pleistocene extinctions; transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture; origins of cities, states, and civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt; adaptations and collapses of early Old and New World civilizations in the face of environmental disasters; the destruction and reconstruction of the New World by the Old.
  • EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law. (John Wargo) Exploration of the politics, policy, and law associated with attempts to manage environmental quality and natural resources. Themes of democracy, liberty, power, property, equality, causation, and risk. Case histories include air quality, water quality and quantity, pesticides and toxic substances, land use, agriculture and food, parks and protected areas, and energy.
  • EVST 340: Economics of Natural Resources. (Robert Mendelsohn) Microeconomic theory brought to bear on current issues in natural resource policy. Topics include regulation of pollution, hazardous waste management, depletion of the world’s forests and fisheries, wilderness and wildlife preservation, and energy planning.
  • EVST 345: Environmental Anthropology. (Michael Dove) History of the anthropological study of the environment. The nature-culture dichotomy, ecology and social organization, methodological debates, and the politics of the environment.

Group B: Environmental and Natural Sciences

  • EVST 201: Atmosphere, Ocean and Environmental Change (Ronald Smith) Physical processes that control Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and climate. Quantitative methods for constructing energy and water budgets. Topics include clouds, rain, severe storms, regional climate, the ozone layer, air pollution, ocean currents and productivity, the seasons, El Niño, the history of Earth’s climate, global warming, energy, and water resources. (This course is required)
  • EVST 200: Earth System Science (Jeffrey Park) A survey of geoscience. Interaction of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and Earth’s deep interior; natural controls on environment and climate in past, present, and future; rocks, minerals, glaciers, earthquakes, and volcanoes; natural hazards and natural resources.
  • EVST 223: General Ecology (David Vasseur and David Post) The theory and practice of ecology, including the ecology of individuals, population dynamics and regulation, community structure, ecosystem function, and ecological interactions at broad spatial and temporal scales. Topics such as climate change, fisheries management, and infectious diseases are placed in an ecological context.
  • EVST 242: Ecosystems and Landscapes (Peter Raymond) An introduction to concepts in ecosystem and landscape ecology. Topics covered include element cycling, food web interactions, species-area relationships, whole system metabolism, models of biodiversity, etc. The course emphasizes how to integrate knowledge to understand ecological patterns and processes at multiple scales in order to study, manage and conserve species and ecosystems.

Concentration Courses

Students plan their concentration in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies and the student’s adviser. A concentration is defined as six courses that provide depth in a problem or issue of interest, as well as disciplinary expertise. For the B.S. degree, the concentration must contain 3 SC designated courses approved by the director of undergraduate studies.  1 course must be an advanced seminar (200 level or above) that exposes students to primary literature, extensive writing requirements and experience with research methods.  The final two courses in the concentration are electives, and are meant to provide interdisciplinary context to the concentration.  Past concentrations have included Biodiversity and Conservation; Climate Change and Energy; Environmental History; Environmental Policy; Food and Agriculture; Human Health and Environment; and Urban Environment. Students also have the opportunity to design a unique concentration within the major, working with the director of undergraduate studies. Lists of possible concentration courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, for the most popular concentrations can be found by following the links above.

Senior Seminar and Essay

Seniors must complete two terms of an independent empirical research project and participate in the senior colloquium, taken as EVST 496 a and b.  Students consult with their advisers on the design of the project and submit a preliminary plan to the director of undergraduate studies for approval.  For examples of past senior essay topics, visit the Student Research section of our website (only BA projects prior to 2016). For a copy of the Senior Essay Handbook, click here.

  • EVST 496 (a and b): Senior Research Project and Colloquium. Independent research under the supervision of members of the faculty, resulting in a senior essay. Students meet with peers and faculty members regularly throughout the fall term to discuss the progress of their research. Projects should offer substantial opportunity for interdisciplinary work on environmental problems.

Faculty Advising

Environmental Studies students are expected to work closely with Yale faculty from various departments. Faculty advisors share responsibility with the DUS for advising students on their course selection, graduation requirements, and most importantly on their senior research project. The faculty advisor is also a valuable mentor to students during and after their education at Yale by aiding students in planning their curriculum, providing career advice, and writing recommendations for students. To learn more about choosing and working with your faculty advisor, please visit this page.