Learn about the impacts of climate change and how different interventions can help curb it.
Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future using the Environmental Biology and Climate Change Major Guide.
Use your foundational studies in biology, chemistry, mathematics and analysis to inform and solve critical environmental issues related to climate change. Conduct one-on-one research and apply geographic information systems as you develop solutions to this existential threat.
You’ll study the impacts of climate change on ecosystems in Texas and around the world, with extensive field experience locally and beyond. When you graduate, you will be able to identify critical components of climate change issues, analyze them and offer sustainable solutions.
What do our graduates do?
Students who earn this degree will be prepared for a variety of careers, as well as graduate school. Potential careers include:
- Natural resource management with federal, state and public agencies
- Sustainability specialists with private corporations
- Public policy advisory positions
- Excellent preparation for a variety of graduate programs
The Classroom and Beyond
The major in Environmental Biology and Climate Change will prepare you to use science to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental problem. Austin is within 60 miles of half of Texas’ major ecosystems, and local field sites and reserves offer opportunities to study the ecology of these systems on day trips. As part of your curriculum, you’ll also choose from among several classes that immerse you in different ecosystems through longer expeditions farther afield. And you can get involved on campus in clubs that focus on science research, conservation and caring for the earth.
In Ecology, you’ll take two or more field trips to different ecosystems such as the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma, the Four Corners of the U.S. Southwest or the Texas coast.
Entomology, which focuses on the evolutionary adaptations and biodiversity found among insect groups, includes a field-based collection component. You’ll travel to different sites and learn how to collect, preserve, and identify insects. You may study how the density of a particular grass changes between Austin and the border or examine the differences between the stands of loblolly pines in the Lost Pines region just east of Austin and the denser pine forests of East Texas.
A hallmark of the Environmental Biology and Climate Change major is the course in Expeditionary Ecosystem Studies, in which you’ll go on a two- or three-week expedition to a completely different ecosystem to public lands in the Intermountain West states of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and/or Utah.
Students for Sustainability educates the St. Edward’s community about eco-friendly practices and works with the St. Edward’s administration to implement environmental initiatives. Members help maintain the campus garden, learn about biking and public transportation, encourage fellow students to reduce their use of plastic water bottles, and have clothing swaps and upcycled craft nights.
The St. Edward’s chapter of the Texas Academy of Science supports student research, including presentation and publication opportunities. Members also tutor in the sciences and complete other service projects.
Students with strong academic achievement in the sciences are eligible to join the St. Edward’s chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the National Biological Honor Society.
You can contribute to the launch of new organizations like the St. Edward’s student chapters of the Ecological Society of America and The Wildlife Society.
Major Requirements: The BS in Environmental Biology and Climate Change requires 71 hours of major courses, including courses in subjects such as Bioinformatics, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Mathematics and Philosophy.
General Education Requirements: In addition to the major program requirements, all students must satisfy the general education requirements. Talk with your success coach and faculty advisor about which courses are right for you.
Examples of major courses:
- General Biology I and II
- Environmental Conservation / Climate Change
- Terrestrial and Plant Ecology
- Expeditionary Ecosystem Studies
- General Chemistry I and II
- Climate Change Science, Impacts & Responses
- Biological Programming
Examples of electives:
- Vertebrate Biology
- Environmental Controversies in Austin
- Environmental Politics and Policy
View or download the full degree plan for the BS in Environmental Biology and Climate Change degree plan (PDF)
All Environmental Biology and Climate Change students will complete at least a year of research individually mentored by a professor. You’ll have the opportunity to complete field work at Blunn Creek, right next to campus; at Wild Basin, an urban preserve in West Austin; or at the St. Edward’s ecolab in Spicewood, in the Hill Country. Along with fellow students, you’ll attend professional conferences to network with professionals in the field, learn about others’ research and present your own work.
Outstanding students complete Research Experiences for Undergraduates, in which they join the lab of a professor at a major research university over a summer. These competitive experiences, funded by the National Science Foundation, introduce you to research with different mentors and help you evaluate whether a research career is right for you.
As a student in the Environmental Biology and Climate Change program, you are afforded access to the funding programs, including paid internships, offered exclusively to STEM students at St. Edward’s University by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Science (i4). For more information on these programs please visit the Institute for Interdisciplinary Science (i4).
Minor in Environmental Biology and Climate Change
Learn about the impacts of global change on ecosystems in Texas and around the world with an Environmental Biology and Climate Change minor.
Through this program, you’ll gain the tools needed to identify, understand, and analyze climate change issues with the goal of developing solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.
In addition to fundamental topics in environmental biology and climate change, this program combines courses that will broaden your knowledge and participation in the sub-disciplines of ecology, conservation, and evolution.
This minor is designed to dramatically enhance your connection to the Austin community through an experiential learning-based curriculum in which you will help implement meaningful environmental projects at the local, regional and global scales. For example, students in Environmental Conservation and Climate Change are helping local researchers understand the impacts of urbanization on vegetation at different locations within Austin and the nearby Texas Hill Country. Our faculty also support student opportunities to investigate environmental problems internationally — e.g., to investigate the impacts of climate change on South African savannas.
Based in the Department of Biological Sciences, the minor in Environmental Biology and Climate Change is available to all St. Edward’s undergraduates.
This type of training supports professionals in field research, GIS (geographic information system) analysis and biostatistics. However, the experience and skills you gain can be leveraged in any major, whether it’s business, communication or political science. Climate change is a pervasive problem that has dramatic impacts on many aspects of human life — e.g., infectious diseases, social justice, food security and the global economy. Furthermore, fields such as technology, public policy and business enterprises will be central to helping mitigate these impacts. This minor will be relevant to those that are interested in a wide range of fields such as medicine, public health, biotechnology, environmental law, sustainable agriculture, sustainable business practices and more!
Minor Core Courses (16 credit hours)
- General Biology II, Lab (BIOL 1308, 1108): 4 credit hours
- Environmental Conservation / Climate Change (BIOL 2423): 4 credit hours
- Terrestrial and Plant Ecology (BIOL 2427): 4 credit hours
- Population Biology and Ecology, Lab (BIOL 4342, 4142): 4 credit hours
Choose a minimum of 5 credit hours from the following courses:
- Biostatistics (BINF 3322): 3 credit hours
- Biological Programming (BINF 3325): 3 credit hours
- Geographic Information Systems (BIOL 3353): 3 credit hours
- Ecophysiology (BIOL 3363): 3 credit hours
- Expeditionary Ecosystem Studies (BIOL 3460): 4 credit hours
- Research in Biology (BIOL 4157): 1-3 credit hours
- Evolution (BIOL 4344): 3 credit hours
- Natural Resources Conservation & Management (ENSP 3326): 3 credit hours
- Environmental and Ecological Field Methods (ENSP 3329): 3 credit hours
- Environmental Controversies in Austin (ENSP 3340): 3 credit hours
Our faculty are teacher-scholars who have extensive research backgrounds in a variety of fields — e.g., plant ecology, climate change biology, biofuels, biodiversity, herpetology, entomology and bioinformatics. Additionally, they all share a passion for excellence in teaching, engaging students in meaningful experiential learning opportunities and mentoring students in undergraduate research.
For more information about the Environmental Biology and Climate Change minor, please contact Dr. Kim O’Keefe, assistant professor of Biology.