Environmental Studies Classes

The Environmental Studies department offers many courses that have elements of natural history in them. For current quarterly course offerings, please see the Environmental Studies Course Catalog. Courses offered vary quarter to quarter and are not guranteed to be offered every year. Please visit the class search portal under myucsc.edu for the most current offerings of classes for the quarter. 


ENVS 15 – Natural History of UCSC (Fall) 

Introduces students to the range of natural species  and communities occurring on the UCSC campus. All class time is spent outside, and each week a different area of campus is visited. This class is specifically designed for incoming first-year and transfer students. Admission is by application only.  There are no prerequisites and anyone may apply. 

ENVS 17  - Curation of Natural History Collections (Winter)

Introduction and training in the skills needed to create, manage, and exhibit natural history collections, including plants, insects, fungi, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

ENVS 18 - Natural History Illustration (Winter) 

Thanks to a generous donor the Norris Center will be offering this class in Spring 2018. It is a lower division 5-unit course and is open to students from any major. Click here for a tentative class syllabus.

ENVS 24 - General Ecology (Fall)

Covers principles of ecology including limits to species abundances, evolutionary ecology, population dynamics, community interactions and patterns, and ecosystem patterns and dynamics.

ENVS 104A – Introduction to Environmental Field Methods (Summer)

A course in the process of field research and monitoring, with emphasis on use of the scientific method; experimental design, data handling, statistical analysis and presentation; and basic field methodologies. Application of basic field skills, including habitat description; methods for sampling plants, animals, soils, water, and microclimate; and observational and manipulative techniques to address ecological, conservation, and management questions.

ENVS 106A – Natural History of Birds (Summer)

The evolution, taxonomy, physiology, behavior, ecology, and management of birds. Lecture, discussion, field format. Birds observed in habitats including bay, marsh, meadow, and forest. Evaluations based on a field journal and examinations. Students are billed a materials fee.


ENVS 108/108L – General Entomology (Every Other Spring)

Introduction to entomology including anatomy, physiology, systematics, evolution, behavior, and reproduction of the world's most diverse group of organisms. These topics are illustrated in several contexts, from the importance of insects as disease vectors to the historical and contemporary uses of insects by humans.

ENVS 120 – Conservation Biology

Introduces biological and anthropogenic influences on the diversity and scarcity of organisms. Explores the mathematical models and research tools that provide the foundation for many conservation and management decisions regarding endangered and/or declining species. Topics explored in the context of various examples of conservation decision-making in the real world.

ENVS 159 - Nature Literature (Winter)

Introduction to 19th- and 20th-century American writers who have influenced our understanding of humans' place in the natural world. Readings include original works as well as biographical and critical texts. Discussions, field trips, and writing assignments emphasize active learning.

ENVS 160 – Restoration Ecology (Winter)

A multidisciplinary overview of restoring degraded ecosystems. Among the topics addressed are linkages between ecological principles and restoration, planning and implementing restoration projects, evaluating restoration success, and case studies of restoration of specific ecosystem types. Participation in one work day is required

ENVS 161, 161L – Soil and Plant Nutrition (Every Other Winter)

Provides fundamentals of soils and plant nutrition. The physical, biological, and chemical components of soils are investigated in relation to their ecological functions, fertility to plants, and sustainable management.

ENVS 162, 162L – Plant Physiological Ecology (Spring)

Introduces the theory of plant interactions with the physical environment. Emphasizes influence of abiotic stresses on the recruitment, survival, growth, productivity, and reproduction of plants. Prior coursework in ecology and/or plant physiology is recommended.

ENVS 163, 163L – Plant Disease Ecology (Every Other Spring)

Introduction to ecological roles of plant diseases, including their importance in regulating plant population dynamics, community diversity, and system function in natural ecosystems; considerations of plant diseases in conservation ecology; and ecological approaches to managing diseases in agroecosystems. Students cannot receive credit for this course and course 263.

ENVS 167 – Freshwater and Wetland Ecology (Fall)

Field and lecture course teaches the physical and biological patterns and processes in freshwater and wetland systems, primarily focusing on Central Coast systems from headwaters to coastal marshes.

ENVS 177 – Environmental Interpretation (Fall)

Designed for environmental studies majors interested in teaching environmental education in the K-12 school system. Students investigate incorporation of environmental education in the classroom; design an environmental education school project; and are placed in a school where they observe environmental education in practice.