Environmental Studies


The program in environmental studies (ES) is intended for students who wish to combine 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 ES. ES majors will be identified with their home department as ESbiology, ESchemistry, ESeconomics, EShistory, or ESpolitical science.

Admission to the Major

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

Dual Degree Program

You may also be intersted to learn more about the 3:2 Dual Degree Program in Forestry- Environmental Sciences, an arrangement with the Nicholas School of the Environment of Duke University, in which a student may obtain a bachelor of arts degree at Reed and a professional master’s degree from Duke (master of forestry or master of environmental management).


A. Common ES Core Requirements

  1. ES–history and social sciences courses (four units). Any two from a–d:*
    1. Economics 201 and one ES–economics course.
    2. One introductory empirical political science course (220, 240, or 260) and one ES–political science course (except 280–298, 380–415).
    3. Two units of history, including at least one ES–history course.
    4. Anthropology 201 or 211 and one ES–anthropology course.
  2. ES–mathematical and natural sciences courses (four and one-half to five units):**
    1. Biology 101 and 102.
    2. Chemistry 101 and 102.
    3. One upper-level ES–Mathematical and Natural Sciences course (numbered 200 or above).
  3. ES interdisciplinary requirement (two units): Environmental Studies 200 and 300.
  4. ES thesis: Environmental Studies 470.

*ES–mathematical and natural science majors (ES–biology and ES–chemistry) may substitute Environmental Studies 200 for one course in any ES–history and social science discipline (a–d). Note: Environmental Studies 200 does not necessarily satisfy the prerequisite for upper-division courses in history and social science disciplines that require specific 200-level history and social science courses.

**ES–history and social science majors (ES–history, ES–political science, and ES–economics) may substitute Environmental Studies 200 for one of Biology 101 or 102 or Chemistry 102. Note: Environmental Studies 200 does not necessarily satisfy the prerequisite for upper-division mathematical and natural science courses that require Biology 101 or 102 or Chemistry 102.


B. Home Department Requirements

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

ES–biology major
  1. Five units in biology at the 200 level or above, including at least one course from each of the department’s four “clusters,” at least one of which must be a unit designated as ES–biology. The fifth unit may be filled by a lecture-laboratory course, a combination of two one-half-unit courses, or Chemistry 230. 
  2. Chemistry 201 and 202, and two units in mathematics or computer science.
ES–chemistry major
  1. Chemistry 201, 202, 230, and 311 or 313.
  2. Two more units from among the following: Chemistry 212, 315, 316, 332, 333, 391, 392, Mathematics 201.
  3. Physics 101,* Mathematics 111, and one of Mathematics 112 or 141 or Computer Science 121.

*After consultation with a member of the environmental studies faculty, ES–chemistry students may take Physics 102 in place of either Biology 101 or Biology 102.

ES–economics major
  1. 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).
ES–history 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 ES–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.
ES–political science major
  1. Six units in political science. This must include two empirical introductory political science courses (220, 240, or 260) and at least one upper-level ES–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).
  3. Junior Seminar.

C. Junior Qualifying Examination

The Environmental Studies Junior Seminar serves as the qualifying exam in Environmental Studies. ES students are also required to pass the junior qualifying exam in their home department.

D. Thesis

Students must complete a thesis with an environmental focus.

Sample Course Plans

For examples of how one might fulfill the Environmental Studies requirements, please see the following.

The Registrar's Office has prepared major planners for each Environmental Studies major.  

For examples of how one might fulfill the Environmental Studies requirements and study abroad, see the example study plans on the International Programs Office website.