Environmental Biology Major

The environmental biology major at Saint Mary’s accommodates a wide variety of student interests and career goals. 

It may lead directly to employment in a career in the environmental field, but also serves as an excellent preparation for advanced study. This major is suited for those who desire to enter such areas as zoology, aquatic biology, water quality management, fisheries biology, wildlife ecology, environmental toxicology, environmental planning, natural resource management, and conservation biology.

Saint Mary’s Winona Campus offers biology students access to a diversity of ecological communities.

Career Options

Environmental consultants; field biologists; fisheries biologists; environmental educators; conservation biologists; outdoor naturalists and interpreters; water resources technician planners; wildlife biologists

High School Preparation

Biology; Calculus; Chemistry; Environmental Science; Physics

Enhance Your Experience

Students who major in environmental biology oftentimes pursue a double major or minor in chemistry or physics, or participate in the pre-chemical engineering program.

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following:

B110 Botany and Zoology I (3 cr.)

Emphasis is placed upon photosynthesis and respiration,and physiological processes including nutrition, gas exchange, transportation and regulation of body fluids. It is an investigation of the structure and function of both plants and animals and intended as an introductory overview.

B111 Botany and Zoology I Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B110. Investigations including physiological and molecular relationships and interactions are the basis for the course.

B120 Botany and Zoology II (3 cr.)

Emphasis is placed on plant and animal phyla, organs and organ systems of both plants and animals.

B121 Botany and Zoology II Laboratory (1 cr.)

Laboratory studies complementing B120 include plant and animal hormones and reproduction, bacterial techniques, and phylogenetic investigations.

C131 General Chemistry I (3 cr.)

This course covers the fundamental principles upon which the study of chemistry is based. Stoichiometry, atomic structure, molecular structure, chemical bonding, behavior of gases, kinetic molecular theory, properties of solutions, chemical reactivity and thermochemistry are included.

C133 General Chemistry I Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

C142 General Chemistry II (3 cr.)

This course includes the study of the chemistry of molecular forces, redox reactions, chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium theory, electrochemistry, chemical dynamics, organic chemistry, phase behavior and solution chemistry.

C144 General Chemistry II Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

C321 Organic Chemistry I (3 cr.)

Organized by chemical functional groups and reaction mechanisms, this course presents both classical and modern theories of organic chemistry while rigorously exploring chemical structure reactivity relationships. The fundamentals of nomenclature, physical properties, chemical structure, stereochemistry, organic-reactions, mechanisms, synthesis, purification, and compound characterization are emphasized. Biological, medical, and familiar real-world examples are discussed in the context of organic chemistry.

C323 Organic Chemistry I Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory complements the lecture segment of the course by demonstrating and utilizing the concepts learned in the classroom to acquire, isolate, and characterize desired organic reaction products. In this laboratory, students become familiar with the equipment, glassware, techniques, and expertise required to implement the chemistry proposed on paper, to optimize it, and to communicate it to the chemical community. A practical context for the developed chemical intuition is provided.

B. Either M148 and M149 or M151:

M148 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 1) (4 cr.)

This course, followed by M149, provides a two-semester sequence that covers the material of M151 along with built-in coverage of precalculus topics. Topics in M148 include: solving equations, functions, classes of functions (polynomial, rational, algebraic, exponential, logarithmic), right triangle trigonometry, angle measure, limits and continuity, derivatives, rules for derivatives. Credit is not granted for this course and M151 or courses equivalent to college algebra and college trigonometry.

M149 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 2) (4 cr.)

This course completes the two-semester sequence that begins with M148, and together with M148 provides a two-semester sequence that covers the material of M151 along with built-in coverage of precalculus topics. Topics in M149 include: trigonometric and inverse trigonometric functions, rules for derivatives, applications of derivatives, and definite and indefinite integrals. Credit is not granted for this course and M151.

M151 Calculus I (4 cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the differential and integral calculus. Topics include: the concepts of function, limit, continuity, derivative, definite and indefinite integrals, and an introduction to transcendental functions. Credit is not granted for this course and M148 and M149.

C. All of the following:

B301 Ecology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A study of the theoretical and practical ecological concepts pertaining to species, populations, communities and ecosystems; stress is placed on the concepts of energy flow, nutrient cycles, limiting factors, population dynamics and succession.

B310 Genetics with Laboratory (4 cr.)

The principles underlying hereditary variation in living organisms are the focus of this course. These topics are centered about the transmission of hereditary traits, cytogenetics, basic gene concepts, introductory molecular biology, population genetics, and the genetic basis of evolution.

B315 GIS Theory and Applications with Laboratory (2 cr.)

The first half of this course introduces the basic concepts necessary to an understanding of geographic information systems (GIS) including their purpose, hardware, software, data bases, and applications. Special attention is paid to the concept of map projections, coordinate systems and geo-referencing data. The second half introduces and spurs the development of core competencies with the desktop GIA Arcview. Students learn how to conduct queries, undertake simple and complex spatial analyses and develop presentations, incorporating views, charts, and images, among others.

B323 Plant Communities and Taxonomy with Laboratory (3 cr.)

A course that combines collection and identification of local terrestrial and aquatic plants with a survey and analysis of plant communities.

B340 Limnology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

Lecture emphasis is placed on physical and chemical principles and their interpretation. Attention is given to taxonomy, adaptations, distributions and abundance of organisms.

B392 Biostatistics (3 cr.)

This course introduces basic and fundamental statistics with emphasis on the more sophisticated tests and analyses common to biologists and other researchers. Substantial attention is given to analysis of variance procedures and experimental design. Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: BU215, ST132, or ST232.

B460 Sustainable Resource Policy and Management (2 cr.)

A course that examines the causes of environmental problems and the interconnections among environmental issues, along with their social, economic, and political context.  The major course focus is to provide a framework for exploring long term solutions.

B461 Environmental Seminar (1 cr.)

A course that permits presentations and discussions of ecological and environmental topics, with an emphasis on the primary literature. In any given semester, the course may be organized around a particular issue or involve consideration of a significant book or other work.

D. One of the following:

B313 Physiology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course explores the functions of the body systems of humans. The interrelationships of organ systems processes to maintain homeostasis are emphasized. Laboratory sessions provide experiences with procedures and instrumentation to gather data that highlight the function of the body systems. Course topics are particularly relevant to the health sciences.

B380 Earth Science with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This lecture and lab course introduces students to the Earth's dynamic systems. An overview of physical geology is first presented. The class then examines specific processes of erosion, transport and deposition and the resultant land forms that are produced. Other geomorphological processes are also discussed. Throughout, emphasis is placed on the inter-relatedness of these processes, and how they may impact and be altered by humans.

B434 Microbiology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course deals with the morphology, physiology and biochemistry of a variety of microorganisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae. Emphasis is placed on the control of microbial growth, the characteristics of these organisms and their relationship to disease.

E. One of the following:

B384 Pollution Ecology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course involves an examination of major pollutants and their sources; ecological, health, and economic effects; and control technology. Class sessions emphasize industry, transportation, agriculture and energy production.

B385 Freshwater Ecology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

Advanced studies of the freshwater aquatic ecosystems, both lotic and lentic, are undertaken. Emphasis is placed on ecological adaptations, life histories, and interactions between organisms and their physical environment. Secondary emphasis is placed on aquatic ecosystem production and measurement.

F. Section F or G

B494 Environmental Experience 1 (5 cr.)

This experience is designed for those students who want exposure to the world of post-graduate work, but not to the degree required for an internship. It would consist of a part-time assignment off-campus with an environmental agency. The work experience must be approved by the environmental committee and completed during one semester or one summer.

G. Section F or G

All of the following:

B492 Experimental Planning (1 cr.)

The purpose of this course is to design a research project. The necessary reconnaissance, review of the literature, and other preparations are included. Some emphasis is also given to thesis writing and presentations.

B493 Biology Research and Thesis (2 cr.)

The course consists of an independent investigation of a field or laboratory problem of the student's choice in a specific area of biology. A written report of the research project in the form of a thesis is required; an oral presentation may be required, at the discretion of the research advisor. This course is a graduation requirement for biology majors.

Recommended elective courses:

B371 Ornithology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course examines birds from aspects of ecology, behavior, taxonomy, physiology, and identification.

B465 Herpetology with Laboratory (2 cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the biology of amphibians and reptiles, with an emphasis on the ecology, distribution, and conservation of the species found in Minnesota and neighboring states.

B475 Ichthyology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

A course on the classification, morphology, physiology, and ecology of fishes.

B490 Fisheries Biology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

An introduction to fisheries biology, this course has a lecture emphasis on population dynamics and lake, pond, and stream fishery management. Attention is given to the recreational and commercial value of freshwater fish species.

B491 Wildlife Ecology and Management with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to wildlife ecology with emphasis on techniques, population dynamics, recreational and commercial value. Wildlife management techniques are also introduced through study of case histories of selected species.

C322 Organic Chemistry II with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A continuation of C321/C323, this course builds upon the fundamentals presented in C321/C323. It is organized by functional groups and reaction mechanisms, while integrating this knowledge into chemical synthesis. Additional topics include aromaticity, NMR and IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, carbonyl chemistry, synthetic strategy, and advanced C–C bond forming reactions.

H335 American Environmental History (3 cr.)

The course introduces students to environmental history as an academic discipline and teaches American history through the lens of that discipline. It emphasizes the reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between human beings that historically have occupied North America and their surroundings—the natural environment as these human beings encountered and transformed them. As such, the course introduces students to the various strands in environmental thought, environmental science, environmental practices, religious belief as it pertains to the relationship between human beings and the environment, and environmental politics that have shaped the history of North America and the United States. The course also familiarizes students with the practices of historiography and the specific historiography of environmental history.

P201 Introductory Physics I (3 cr.)

This course is the first half of a two-semester introductory, calculus-based, physics course for all students planning to enter one of the scientific professions. It covers the fundamental principles of mechanics, oscillations, and fluid mechanics.

P202 Introductory Physics I Laboratory (1 cr.)

One three-hour laboratory is held each week covering topics studied in the lectures.

PH346 Ethical Issues in the Sciences (3 cr.)

This course provides non-science as well as science majors the opportunity to examine key issues in the sciences in the light of major ethical theories. Among the issues to be examined are: abuses and uses of nuclear energy, behavior control and psychosurgery, chemical wastes and the environment, computerized files of personal information, computerization and depersonalization, experimentation with human subjects and animals, genetic engineering and screening, reproductive techniques, organ transplants, physician-patient relationships, and euthanasia.