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Environment & Sustainability Major and Minor

Develop multiple perspectives to solve today’s complex challenges

The program in Environment and Sustainability (E&S) is guided by a single principle: understanding and resolving environmental problems requires an interdisciplinary approach.

The interdisciplinary core curriculum (10 classes) will help you understand where the more focused concentration that you select fits together with the larger set of disciplinary skills needed to derive sustainable solutions to environmental challenges.

Major in Environment & Sustainability

Bachelor of Science (B.S.; CALS students or Bachelor of Arts (A&S students)

The Environment and Sustainability undergraduate major is available to students in both the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the College of Arts & Sciences. The two colleges have somewhat different college-level course requirements, but the E&S curriculum is the same regardless of college origin.

The E&S core curriculum provides an integrated view of the biological, physical-chemical, ecological, economic, and social dimensions of environment and sustainability issues. It’s designed to improve your ability to analyze and address real-world environmental problems by appreciating interactions among environmental policy approaches, resource management strategies , biodiversity conservation, and social justice.

The Environment and Sustainability core curriculum prepares students during their freshmen and sophomore years to choose and pursue an in-depth concentration. 

Concentrations are designed to provide greater depth within a discipline, but also include integrative classes and skill development. The final core course is a capstone class where students from different concentrations work together to apply their knowledge in either a seminar- or practicum engaged-learning format class.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English
  • 4 Units of Mathematics (including pre-calculus)
  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry and physics recommended)
  • Also recommended: an additional unit of science

Visit the E&S Curriculum page for more information.

In addition to the ten required core courses (including some options), all students must select one of six concentrations, each consisting of seven to nine  additional courses. Descriptions of the concentrations and their course requirements are at the links below. E&S concentrations are:

  1. Environmental Biology and Applied Ecology (EBAE)
  2. Sustainable Business and Environmental Economics (SBEE)
  3. Environmental Humanities (EH)
  4. Environmental Policy and Governance (EPG)
  5. Land, Air and Water Resources (LAWR)
  6. Student-Designed Concentration (SD)

BIOEE 1610: Ecology and the Environment

This course provides an introduction to ecology, covering interactions between organisms and the environment at scales of populations, communities, and ecosystems. Ecological principles are used to explore the theory and applications of major issues facing humanity in the 21st century, including population dynamics, disease ecology, biodiversity and invasive species, global change, and other topics of environmental sustainability.

EAS 2680: Climate and Global Warming

This course familiarizes students from a range of disciplines with such contemporary issues in climatology as global warming and El Nino. It introduces the natural greenhouse effect, past climates, and observed and projected climate changes and impacts, and covers natural climate variations and their consequences and predictability.

HIST 2581: Environmental History

This lecture course serves as an introduction to the historical study of humanity’s interrelationship with the natural world. Environmental history is a quickly evolving field, taking on increasing importance as the environment itself becomes increasingly important in world affairs. The course is designed as an intensely interdisciplinary course: we’ll view history through the lenses of ecology, literature, art, film, law, anthropology, and geography.

NTRES 2201/ BSOC 2201/ GDEV 2201: Society and Natural Resources

The actions of people are crucial to environmental well-being. This course addresses the interrelationships between social phenomena and the natural (i.e., biological-physical-chemical) environment. It is intended to (1) increase student awareness of these interconnections in their everyday lives; (2) introduce students to a variety of social science perspectives, including sociology, economics, psychology, and political science, that help us make sense of these connections; (3) identify the contributions of each of these perspectives to our understanding of environmental problems; and (4) discuss how natural resource management and environmental policy reflect these perspectives.

Upon completion of the E&S major, students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast multiple perspectives on the sustainability of human-environment relationships, including implications for food, land, air, water, energy, climate, and biodiversity.
  • Evaluate claims about sustainability using approaches and perspectives from the biophysical sciences, humanities and social sciences.
  • Apply diverse scholarly approaches to critically evaluate information and build knowledge about how the environment influences human resource use.
  • Work collaboratively and across disciplines to formulate approaches to environmental challenges that could help build sustainable human-ecological systems.
  • Communicate and collaborate across disciplines, and demonstrate the capacity to enter the public dialogue regarding complex environmental issues using a variety of communication strategies.

Minor in Environment & Sustainability

The minor in Environment & Sustainability offers a structured yet flexible pathway for students interested in an integrated analysis of environment and sustainability issues. Students develop relevant knowledge and skills through a combination of courses in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

In order to apply for the minor, have your course plan ready (including what semester and year you intend to complete the courses). 

If you have further questions, contact the E&S Program at environment [at] cornell.edu (environment[at]cornell[dot]edu)

General requirements:

  • Any undergraduate student at Cornell may enroll in the minor (except E&S majors).
  • Five courses plus one colloquium.
  • All courses except ENVS 2000 must be taken for a letter grade, and a grade of “C” or better must be recorded.
  • At least two courses must be at the 3000-level or higher.
  • AP credit will not be accepted.
  • Overlap of no more than two courses between the E&S minor and a student’s other major(s) and/or minors will be accepted.
  • No course substitutions are allowed with two exceptions: 1) external transfer students may use one course from a prior institution, and 2) a course for the minor has a forbidden overlap with a course taken for a student’s major.
  • Environment & Sustainability (choose 1):
    • NTRES 1101: Environment & Sustainability (F)
    • NTRES 1201: Global Water Sustainability (S)
    • NTRES 2010: Environmental Conservation (S)
  • Environmental biology (choose 1):
  • Environmental physical sciences (choose 1):
  • Environmental humanities & social sciences (choose 2):
    • NTRES 2201: Society and Natural Resources (S)
    • NTRES 3311: Environmental Governance (F)
    • AEM 1500: An Introduction to the Economics of Environmental and Natural Resources (S)
    • AEM 2500: Environmental and Resource Economics (F)
    • Any course from the Environmental Humanities Concentration
    • Any course from Additional Environmental Courses in the Environmental Policy and Governance Concentration
  • Environment & Sustainability colloquium (choose 1):
    • ENVS 2000/2010: Environment and Sustainability Colloquium (F)
    • BEE 2000/2010: Perspectives on the Climate Change Challenge (S)

Transfer Student Admissions

Gain a comprehensive and integrated view of the biological, physical-chemical, ecological, and social dimensions of the environment. Students will advance their critical ability to solve real-world problems, affect decisions involving environmental policy, resource management, biodiversity conversation and human health. Concentrations include: environmental biology and applied ecology; environmental humanities; environmental policy and governance; land, air, and water resources and sustainable business and environmental economics; A student-designed concentration is available for qualified students.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.
  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.
  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

For information about AP/IB/GCE Credit, Visit our Cornell Policy on Advanced Placement Credit for English, Math, Science, and Foreign Language. CALS adheres to these guidelines unless otherwise noted by the major.  

For information about College Credit Earned in High School, Visit CALS Policy on College Credit While Earned in High School  

Below are requirements for Transfer Students applying to CALS for Fall 2025 

For transfers entering as sophomores or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application.

Required

One semester of Introductory Biology 

  • Lab strongly encouraged 
  • AP, IB & GCE credit in Biology not accepted 
  • Necessary Content: Ecology or Evolution 
  • Equivalent to BIOEE 1610, BIOEE 1780  

Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking 

Strongly encouraged (but not required) 

  • Concentration interest: EBAE, LAWR, or SBEE: Calculus (MATH 1110) OR Statistics (AEM 2100) 
  • Concentration interest: EBAE, LAWR: General Chemistry I (CHEM 2070) 
  • Concentration interest: SBEE: Introductory Micro- or Macroeconomics (ECON 1110, ECON 1120

For transfers entering as juniors or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application.

Required:

Two Semesters of Introductory Biology 

  • Labs strongly encouraged 
  • AP, IB & GCE credit in Biology not accepted 
  • Necessary Content: Ecology or Evolution 
  • Equivalent to BIOEE 1610, BIOEE 1780 

General Chemistry I (CHEM 2070) OR one semester of Physics (PHYS 1101

Statistics (AEM 2100) 

Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking 

Strongly encouraged (but not required): 

  • Concentration interest: EBAE, LAWR, or SBEE: Calculus (MATH 1110) OR Statistics (AEM 2100) 
  • Concentration interest: EBAE, LAWR: General Chemistry I AND Physics I 
  • Concentration interest: SBEE: Introductory Micro- or Macroeconomics (ECON 1110, ECON 1120
  • Courses that meet the CALS Social Science and Humanities requirements  

Careers in Environment & Sustainability

plastic debris floating in ocean

Business

  • Financial analyst
  • eCommerce category specialist
  • Global associate
  • Real estate associate
  • Derivative trade assistant
  • Business development representative
  • Electrical project manager

Education

  • Assistant program manager
  • Development coordinator
  • Environmental educator
  • Parks program instructor

Law/Legal Services

  • Environmental litigation paralegal
  • Policy analyst
  • Environmental paralegal
  • Asbestos litigation paralegal

Natural Resources and Environment

  • Vegetation management technician
  • State park sustainability coordinator
  • Solar consultant
  • Staff scientist
  • Climate and sustainability assistant
  • Wilderness coordinator
  • Natural resource specialist
  • Clean water analyst

Research

  • Environmental research assistant
  • Carnivore monitoring research assistant
  • Oceans research assistant
  • Invasive grass research assistant
  • Communication research assistant

More

  • Civic analyst
  • Cooperative extension aide
  • Energy policy assistant

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.