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.

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following:

B212 General Biology I: Cellular and Molecular Biology (3 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology course that mainly covers concepts relating to the cell.  This includes cell structure and function, cellular metabolism, mechanisms of cell replication, and cellular protein expression.  This is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.

B214 General Biology II: Form and Function of Animals and Plants (3 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology course that covers introductory concepts mostly in plant and animal anatomy and physiology.  An emphasis will be placed on the impact of these topics in our everyday lives.  This course is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.

B216 General Biology III: Ecology, Evolution and Biological Diversity (3 cr. cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the topics of ecology, evolution, and natural selection and to the major groups of eukaryotic organisms, including protistans, fungi, plants, and animals.  For each group, emphasis is placed on distinguishing features, evolutionary trends, ecological roles, and interactions with humans.  This course is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.  Three lectures and one laboratory session per week.  Offered both spring and fall semesters.  

B221 Biology Field Experience (1 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology laboratory course that is an inquiry-based field experience. Students will use scientific process to solve problems. This may include generating hypotheses, designing meaningful experiments, controlling variables, gathering relevant data, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions. This is required for a biology, allied health, or environmental biology major and will satisfy the general education requirement for a science with a lab when taken concurrently with the biology course.

B223 Biology Laboratory Experience (1 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology laboratory course that is an inquiry-based laboratory experience.  Students will use scientific process to solve problems.  This may include generating hypotheses, designing meaningful experiments, controlling variables, gathering relevant data, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions.  This is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major and will satisfy the general education requirement for a science with a lab when taken concurrently with the biology course.

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.

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.

B318 Evolution and Population Genetics (3 cr.)

Evolution is a fundamental and unifying theory of biology that works on the population level.  This course explores fundamental concepts in evolutionary biology, with emphasis placed on how biologists study the patterns and processes.  Additionally, the integration of population genetics with evolutionary processes will be highlighted.  Topics will include evolutionary trees, selection, migration, drift, nonrandom mating, selection, mutation, quantitative genetics, genome evolution, and speciation.

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 and ecology.

B331 Aquatic Ecology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

Freshwater environments, such as lakes, streams, and wetlands, represent less than one percent of the earth's surface and are critically threatened by human activity.  This course will investigate the interrelationships between the physical, chemical, and biological properties of freshwater.  Lab and field studies emphasize techniques for assessing aquatic environments.

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. The course meets for two seventy-five minute lecture / computer laboratory sessions each week.  Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: BU215, ST132, or ST232.

B460 Sustainable Resource Policy and Management (3 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.

D. One of the following:

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.

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.

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:

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.

F. One of the following:

B321 Global Change Biology (3 cr.)

This course will cover topics in global change biology with a focus on climate change.  In this course, we will cover the causes of climate change and the impacts of change on numerous species.  This course will cover a variety of effects including range shifts, behavioral changes, community modifications and extinctions.  We will explore these topics using both 'classical' and modern examples.  In addition, we will examine modern literature on a variety of topics concerning the scientific study of global change biology.  The course will meet for three lecture periods each week.

B361 Animal Behavior (3 cr.)

This course will cover a variety of topics in animal behavior from an evolutionary viewpoint.  In this course we will cover both the proximate causes of behavior (genetics, development, neurology) as well as the ultimate causes of behavior (evolutionary and ecological constraints and pressures on behavior).  This course will cover a variety of behaviors including foraging, reproduction, and communication and social behavior.  We will explore these topics using both classical and modern examples.  In addition, we will examine modern literature on a variety of topics concerning the scientific study of animal behavior.  This course will meet for three lecture periods each week.

G. Either

Students may take B492 Experimental Planning and B493 Biology Research and Thesis, or B494 Environmental Experience (off campus).

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.

B494 Environmental Experience (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.

Recommended elective courses:

B210 Introduction to Mammalogy with Laboratory (3 cr.)

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the ecology and classification of mammals.  Students will be presented with information on the evolutionary history and special adaptations of mammals within the context of their ecological roles as individuals or populations in a biological community. This course also examines contemporary conservation issues related to mammals. The laboratory component of the course will allow students to practice some the techniques used by mammologists with particular emphasis on field techniques. The development of scientific literacy skills will be heavily emphasized. This course is open to science and non-science majors. Two one-hour class meetings and one two-hour lab each week.

B320 Conservation Biology (3 cr.)

This course introduces key concepts in conservation biology with an emphasis on biodiversity.  Both theory and practical applications in conservation biology will be explored.  Concepts explored include definitions and locations of biodiversity, the valuation of biodiversity, threats to biodiversity, conservation at the species and population levels, and how conservation biology intersects with current issues facing human societies.  This course will take a global perspective on issues current in the field of conservation biology.  Additionally, the development of scientific literacy skills will be heavily emphasized.

B371 Ornithology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

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

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.

B475 Ichthyology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

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

A. All of the following:

B212 General Biology I: Cellular and Molecular Biology (3 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology course that mainly covers concepts relating to the cell.  This includes cell structure and function, cellular metabolism, mechanisms of cell replication, and cellular protein expression.  This is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.

B214 General Biology II: Form and Function of Animals and Plants (3 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology course that covers introductory concepts mostly in plant and animal anatomy and physiology.  An emphasis will be placed on the impact of these topics in our everyday lives.  This course is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.

B216 General Biology III: Ecology, Evolution and Biological Diversity (3 cr. cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the topics of ecology, evolution, and natural selection and to the major groups of eukaryotic organisms, including protistans, fungi, plants, and animals.  For each group, emphasis is placed on distinguishing features, evolutionary trends, ecological roles, and interactions with humans.  This course is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major.  Three lectures and one laboratory session per week.  Offered both spring and fall semesters.  

B221 Biology Field Experience (1 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology laboratory course that is an inquiry-based field experience. Students will use scientific process to solve problems. This may include generating hypotheses, designing meaningful experiments, controlling variables, gathering relevant data, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions. This is required for a biology, allied health, or environmental biology major and will satisfy the general education requirement for a science with a lab when taken concurrently with the biology course.

B223 Biology Laboratory Experience (1 cr. cr.)

This is a general biology laboratory course that is an inquiry-based laboratory experience.  Students will use scientific process to solve problems.  This may include generating hypotheses, designing meaningful experiments, controlling variables, gathering relevant data, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions.  This is required for a biology, biochemistry, allied health, or environmental biology major and will satisfy the general education requirement for a science with a lab when taken concurrently with the biology course.

B. 13 additional credits

13 additional credits, which may not include courses specifically designed for non-science majors, chosen in consultation with a member of the biology department.