Jul 22, 2024  
2024-25 Western Washington University Catalog 
2024-25 Western Washington University Catalog

Environmental Science — Marine Science Emphasis, BS

Location(s): WWU - Bellingham

Department of Environmental Sciences, College of the Environment

109-110 credits


The marine emphasis connects knowledge about marine processes to broader systems such as climate, terrestrial and freshwater systems, and human communities and activities. Marine Science is a highly interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the processes that shape our oceans and coasts. We incorporate the tools and insights of physical, chemical, biological, and geological sciences to better understand marine systems and how they interact with local and global processes and support communities.

Students can select courses in oceanography, environmental chemistry, ecology, and toxicology to build an understanding of the various human impacts on the ocean. The major includes a capstone course, where students integrate concepts from environmental science and ocean science to address marine environmental problems. It also includes an internship, senior thesis or project, or foreign study that enables students to gain experience in their chosen field.

How is this emphasis different from the Environmental Science, BS major?

The Marine Science Emphasis has the same preparatory courses, required credits and basic required course structure as the Environmental Science major.  The Marine Science Emphasis includes courses specifically focused on oceanography and the marine environment, including topics such as marine ecology, marine conservation, climate change, and Salish Sea oceanography.

As with the general Environmental Science BS degree, students wishing to complete an Environmental Science - Marine Science degree in four years should complete the general chemistry series during their freshman year and the general biology series during their sophomore year. Prospective Marine-Science-Emphasis Environmental Science majors are strongly advised to take additional preparatory courses in physics and calculus. Environmental Science preparatory courses are listed with the major; preparatory classes may also be used to fulfill GURs. All preparatory courses required for admission should be completed on a lettered or numeric grading scale, not P/NP, and must be completed with a grade of C- or better. 

How is the Environmental Science Major - Marine Emphasis different from other marine options like MACS or Marine Biology?

The points in why you may want to consider this emphasis (below) are also the key differences between this program and others at WWU. The ESCI marine emphasis differs these ways:

  • You can focus on the marine environment and its connections to terrestrial and freshwater systems.
  • The program emphasizes human impacts such as pollution and climate change on the coastal marine environment.
  • Many of our courses explore the interdependences between our communities and marine systems including conservation and restoration.
  • With fewer required courses, you can create a customized degree pathway that fits your interests and get hands on experience in internship and capstone experiences. 

Why Consider an Environmental Science Major with Marine Emphasis?

  • Focus on the marine environment and its connections to terrestrial and freshwater systems. This degree will allow you to:
    • Pair ecology courses focused on terrestrial, marine and/or wetlands ecology to gain an understanding that spans different systems.
    • Explore how the marine environment impacts organisms at a variety of scales, through courses ranging from algae to marine invertebrates, to fishes including salmon.
  • Explore the interdependences between our communities and marine systems.
    • Understand how climate change influences the ocean on large and small scales and how marine systems are important in climate feedbacks and controls.
    • Investigate how people steward marine systems through conservation and resource management, including Indigenous resource management.
    • Learn about the presence of contaminants in our waters and the systems in place to detect, prevent and control their effects.
  • Create a customized degree pathway that fits your interests and emphasizes applied learning.
    • The ESCI degree is flexible, with few required courses beyond the preparatory courses.
    • Students can select a suite of courses that correspond with their interests as they learn and grow within the program.
    • Both the internship and capstone requirements give you additional chances to practice applied learning and to form connections between your course work and real-world questions and solutions.   
 Contact Information

Department Chair
Ruth Sofield
Environmental Studies 344

College of the Environment
Admissions Advisor

Kathryn Patrick
Environmental Studies 539

 Major/Career Resources


How to Declare (Admission and Declaration Process):

Admission to the Bachelor of Science program in Environmental Science is selective, based upon prior academic performance and a written application that addresses an applicant’s experience, motivation, and goals.

Students may apply for pre-major status at any time if they are in good academic standing (cumulative GPA ≥ 2.0). It is strongly advised that pre-majors meet with a College of the Environment Admissions Advisor as they begin their preparatory classes. Students can also declare as an Environmental Science pre-major during their first advising meeting to receive access to some 300-level courses, be assigned a faculty advisor and join the College of the Environment student listserv. Students will remain at pre-major status until all the preparatory classes have been completed. Students may then apply to be considered for full-major status by completing the major application.

The admission application can be found on the CENV Undergraduate Application webpage. Priority for admission will be given to students who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the preparatory courses (averaged across the preparatory classes). Students with a GPA below 3.0 in the preparatory courses will be considered for admission on a case-by-case basis.

Applications are accepted by April 18 for fall, October 6 for winter and January 15 for spring.

Grade Requirements

A grade of C- or better is required for a student’s major or minor courses, and supporting courses for majors and minors.

Environmental Science prep and major requirements

Major (65 credits)


Under advisement (11-32 credits) to fulfill the total major requirements of 65 credits:

Marine Science Emphasis (34 credits minimum)

Complete the following courses to fulfill the Marine Science Emphasis. Courses used to fulfill requirements in the emphasis may also be used to fulfill above major requirements.