These introductory courses offered through the College of the Environment are a great way to explore majors in the College or round-out your schedule with an engaging elective!

Register for any of these courses using the MyPlan Academic Planner. Registration tips are available in the student online help center.

Need help? Set up a personalized advising appointment with the academic adviser for the major that you are interested in or, if you are unsure which major is right for you, contact our pre-major adviser, Christen Foehring ( for support.

Courses to explore

Spring quarter 1-2 credit seminars

Earth and Space sciences Lab tours

ESS 119 (1 credit)
Instructor: Meghan Oxley

Have you ever wondered what research opportunities are open to undergrads in the STEM fields? Take ESS 119 to get a preview of research labs in and out of the Earth and Space Science Department. Each week the class meets in a different laboratory showing the research conducted by Professors, Grad students, and Undergrads.. This gives you a chance to ask them questions such as details about their research or overall access to research in a more relaxed and informal atmosphere. Space is limited due to the small size of many labs so sign up while you can!


ESRM 300 (2 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Philip Levin

Overview of principles of sustainability, including discussion of current literature, presentation, and discussion with practitioners, and methods for balancing social, economic, and ecological consequences of proposed policies and actions. Students develop a plan to further their studies in natural resources and environmental sustainability.


ESRM 429 (1 credit)
Instructor: David Butman

Weekly presentations covering environmental topics by scientists on and off campus


ESRM 455 (1 credit)
Instructor: Christian Grue

Discussion of current research and application in wildlife biology and conservation.

MESA Tutoring Seminar

C ENV 420 (2 credits)
Instructor: Joffrey Hooks

Spring quarter 3-5 credit courses

Intro to Environmental Studies

ENVIR 100 (5 credits, NW/I&S)
Instructors:  Kristi Straus

This course explores environmental challenges and responses, from climate change to social justice. Students will work on a team project culminating in a poster symposium. This class is the first in the core series for Environmental Studies majors and minors.

The urban farm

ENVIR 240 (5 credits, NW)
Instructor: Beth Wheat

Develops students’ understanding the ecological connections between food production, human health, and planetary sustainability. Teaches basic skills needed for food production in urban areas and the ethics behind sustainable urban agriculture, including a hands-on component on the farm at the biology greenhouse.

Recreational Fisheries

FISH 260 (3/5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor:Christian Grue

Provides an overview of Washington’s recreational fisheries emphasizing science, management, and policy. Optional laboratory focuses on science and technology behind fishing tactics, tackle, and equipment, ways to minimize impacts and enhance conservation, and politics associated with opportunities for recreational anglers. Suitable for students with or without a strong science background.

Hurricane Science

ATM S 101 (3 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Dale Durran

Explores the science, history, and impacts of thunderstorms and hurricanes. Includes basic processes responsible for thunderstorms and hurricanes and for the lightning, hail, high winds, and storm surges that accompany them. Presents significant historical examples, along with the impact on human activities, strategies for personal safety, and societal adaptation.

Global WArming

ATM S 111 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Rachel White

Includes a broad overview of the science of global warming. Discusses the causes, evidence, future projections, societal and environmental impacts, and potential solutions. Introduces the debate on global warming with a focus on scientific issues. Optional Linked writing course, ENGL 199C

Climate Change

ATM S 211 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Robert Wood

The nature of the global climate system. Factors influencing climate including interactions among the atmosphere, oceans, solid earth, and biosphere. Stability and sensitivity of climate system. Global warming, ozone depletion, and other human influences. Intended for nonmajors.

Air pollution

ATM S 212 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Lyatt Jaegle

Introduction to air pollution on local, regional, and global scales, with focus on the sources, transformation, and dispersion of pollutants responsible for urban smog, acid rain, climate change, and the ozone hole. Health and environmental effects of air pollutants, technological solutions, and international policy regulations.

Intro to Environmental Science

ESRM 100 (5 credits, NW/I&S, online course)
Instructor: Robert Harrison

Covers the importance of the environment in society with particular emphasis on worldwide distribution and uses of resources, the role of natural and man-made environments, and causes of environmental degradation. Introduces ethics of conservation and recycling.

Forests and society

ESRM 101 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Kristina Vogt

Survey course covering forest ecosystems of the world, history of forestry and forest conservation, how forest ecosystems function, wildlife in forests, environmental issues in forestry, forest management, economics and products, and new approaches to forest management.

Society and Environments

ESRM 200 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Peter Kahn

Introduces the application of social concepts and theories to understanding and managing urban, urbanizing, and wildland landscapes in a sustainable manner. Of particular interest are factors that shape patterns on the landscape and resulting social and economic benefits. Explores landscapes across the urban to wildland gradient.

Intro to GIS

ESRM 250 (5 credits, NW, QSR)
Instructor: Benjamin Dittbrenner

Applications of GIS technology to forest science and management. Fundamentals of GIS systems: data sources, preprocessing, map analysis, output; remote sensing as a source of GIS data, image analysis, and classification. Emphasis on GIS as a source of management and technical information requests.

Marketing and management from a sustainability perspective

ESRM 320 (5 credits, I&S/NW)
Instructor: Dorothy Paun

Introduction to business concepts relating to marketing, human resource management, small businesses and entrepreneurship, and economics in the context of environmental resource management.

Intro to Geological Sciences

ESS 101 (5 credits, NW)
Instructor: Terry Swanson

After taking this course students will never look at the Earth the same! This course relates the physical processes operating on and the materials that comprise our planet to individuals and society as whole. Students will learn about how the Earth evolved from primordial dust to form the compositionally zoned planet upon which life now exists. Students will learn about the unifying concept of plate tectonics, which will provide them with a framework to understand the why and where of earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain belts, ocean basins and rock types in their surrounding world. Students will become amateur geologists and drive their friends and families crazy with their new-found knowledge. Students will also learn about time and its importance to the geologic record. Students will learn that geologists pay more for their dates than Hollywood’s most elite stars! This course will provide students with important information about geologic hazards, which will perhaps one day save lives or personal property. If students love the outdoors, this course will give them many opportunities to visit spectacular geologic sites around Washington state through the ESS 101 optional weekend field trip program. This course is an excellent introduction to the field for students who are looking to complete Natural World (NW) credits, interested in geology, or considering the Earth & Space Sciences minor. It also provides useful background for students considering the Earth & Space Sciences major.

Space and Space Travel

ESS 102 (5 credits, NW/I&S, W optional)
Instructor: Erika Harnett

This course discusses the environment above the Earth’s atmosphere. We will cover how the Sun acts as both a source of energy for life on Earth (in the form of light and heat) but also as a source for lethal radiation once we leave the confines of the Earth. We will cover the similarity and differences between Earth and other planets in the solar system and those found around other stars. We will also cover different methods for traveling to other planets and what humans would need to do to stay alive during the journey. This is an excellent course for students looking to earn I&S, NW, or W credit; students who are interested in space and space travel, or students considering the Earth & Space Sciences minor.

Prehistoric Life

ESS 104 (3 credits, NW)
Instructor: Ruth Martin

Fossils and how they are preserved. What fossils tell us about past life and environments. How the history of life unfolded and what caused the great events in biological evolution. Open to non-science majors, but also lays a foundation for higher-level geobiology courses.

Living with Volcanoes

ESS 106 (3 credits, NW/I&S)
Instructor: George Bergantz

The lectures will begin with an introduction to the large-scale planetary structures and processes that give rise to volcanism, initially with an emphasis on Earth. We will continue with an examination of the types of volcanoes and their eruptive styles and products, followed by a consideration of specific volcanoes and the threats they pose, along with the resources they provide. Next we shall consider historic and prehistoric volcanic activity and the possibilities for predicting future eruptions, then conclude with an overview of volcanism elsewhere in the solar system. This course is a great option for students looking to earn NW or I&S credit, students who are interested in volcanoes, or students who are considering the Earth & Space Sciences minor.

Introduction to Oceanography

OCEAN 200/201 (3/2 credits, NW)
Instructor: Paul Quay/Anitra Ingalls

Focuses on importance of ocean processes for the functioning of our planet. Interdisciplinary case studies are used to examine relationships and interactions at macro-, meso-, and microscales in the ocean. Case studies build upon previous topics and examines human influence on these systems.

Arctic Change

OCEAN 235 (2/3 credits, I&S, NW)
Instructor: Rebecca Woodgate

Investigates the Arctic system of ocean, ice, atmosphere, and sea-floor; how human interact with it, and what the future of the Arctic means to the world. Includes sea-ice loss, climate impacts, and Arctic resource exploitation.