Reed College Catalog


The program in environmental studies is intended for students who wish to combine focused study in biology, chemistry, economics, history, or political science with interdisciplinary work on environmental themes across the natural sciences, history, and social sciences. Five courses of study are available, each concentrating in a home department with an environmental emphasis, augmented with cross-disciplinary requirements in environmental studies. Environmental studies majors will be identified with their home department as environmental studies–biology, environmental studies–chemistry, environmental studies–economics, environmental studies–history, or environmental studies–political science. An annually updated list of environmental studies–approved courses and Environmental Studies Committee (ESC) members is available on the environmental studies website,

Admission to the Major

To be admitted to the environmental studies program, students must obtain signatures of their academic adviser and the Environmental Studies Committee chair on their declaration of major form. Students should use this opportunity to discuss their proposed course of study with an Environmental Studies Committee member, ensuring that environmental studies courses will be offered in the semesters proposed and that all of the major requirements will be met.

Requirements for the Major

A. Common Environmental Studies Core Requirements

   1. Environmental studies–history and social sciences courses (four units). Any two from a–d:
      a. Economics 201 and one environmental studies–economics course.
      b. One 200-level political science course (except 230) and one environmental studies–political science course (except 386–415).
      c. Two units of history, including at least one environmental studies–history course.
      d. Anthropology 211 and one environmental studies–anthropology course.
   2. Environmental studies–mathematics and natural sciences courses (four and one-half to five units)
      a. Biology 101/102
      b. Chemistry 101/102
      c. One upper-level environmental studies–biology or environmental studies–chemistry course (numbered 200 or above).
   3. Environmental studies interdisciplinary requirement (one unit): Environmental Studies 300.
   4. Environmental studies thesis: Environmental Studies 470.

B. Home Department Requirements

Students must fulfill the following course requirements for their respective home departments (home department courses may be fulfilled by environmental studies core requirements):

Environmental StudiesBiology major:

  1. Five units in biology at the 200 level or above, including at least one course from each of the department’s three “clusters,” one additional lecture-lab course, and at least one unit of environmental studies–biology (Chemistry 230 can substitute for a half unit of environmental studies–biology
  2. Chemistry 201 and 202, Mathematics 111, and one of Mathematics 112, 121, or 141.

Environmental StudiesChemistry major:

  1. Chemistry 201, 202, 230, 311
  2. Two more units from among the following: Chemistry 212, 316, 332, 333, 391, 392, Mathematics 211
  3. Physics 101, 102, Mathematics 111, and one of Mathematics 112, 121, or 141.

Environmental StudiesEconomics major:

Seven units in economics. This must include Economics 201; 311 or 312; 313; 304 or 314; 351 or 352; and two additional units in economics (at least one of which is from Economics 315–469, excluding Economics 402).

Environmental StudiesHistory major:

  1. Six units of history, including History 411 or 412 (the junior seminar). Three of the units are to be drawn from a list of environmental studies–history courses. In addition, the six units would include at least one unit each in American history, European history, and the history of a region of the world other than America or Europe; and at least one would focus on the period before 1800 and one after 1800.
  2. Statistics: one of Mathematics 141, Economics 311 or 312, Political Science 311, Sociology 311, or Psychology 348.

Environmental StudiesPolitical Science major:

  1. Six units in political science. This must include three 200-level courses and at least one upper-level environmental studies–political science class.
  2. Statistics: one of Mathematics 141, Economics 311 or 312, Political Science 311, Sociology 311, or Psychology 348 (Political Science 311 cannot count as one of the six required political science units if used for the statistics requirement).

C. Junior Qualifying Examination

Environmental studies students are required to pass the junior qualifying exam in their home department. In addition, they will prepare a research proposal for the committee. The research proposal must be signed by an adviser in the home department and by a potential first reader from a different department. The research proposal must be signed by a member of the Environmental Studies Committee. These signatures indicate approval that the proposed research contains sufficient environmental content. Approval of the proposal by the Environmental Studies Committee constitutes passing the environmental studies portion of the junior qualifying exam.

D. Thesis

Students must complete a thesis with an environmental focus. The thesis orals board must include the thesis adviser from the home department and a first reader from outside the home department.

Environmental Studies 300 - Junior Seminar

Full course for one semester. This course for environmental studies majors explores the way environmental themes can be analyzed from interdisciplinary perspectives. Course topics may change from year to year; the course may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Prerequisites: completion of or concurrent enrollment in all of the environmental studies–HSS requirements and both a and b of the environmental studies–MNS requirements. Conference.

Environmental Studies 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.