Master's in Environmental Sciences

As the 21st century unfolds, the environmental consequences of human activities are manifest on many levels. While technological advances and our understanding of natural processes and human behavior have the potential to help solve environmental problems, there is a great need to integrate ideas across academic disciplines and among relevant agencies. At its core, the Master of Science in Environmental Sciences at Emory seeks to integrate ecological and earth sciences with policy and social sciences.

Students in the M.S. program in Environmental Sciences will gain significant research experience through thesis coursework, faculty mentoring and a required intensive research opportunity. In tandem with research, the program will emphasize proficiency in quantitative skills; students will engage in two semester sequence of environmental statistics. Students will gain teaching experience by serving as a Teaching Assistant for at least one semester of their program.

Ready access to faculty is an essential component of the program. Students will work closely with ENVS faculty to develop a research focus and thesis. Graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of settings upon completion of the program, having gained the expertise to relate scientific findings to policy decisions through an in-depth understanding of the complexities of scientific understanding and training.



The curriculum for the Master of Science in Environmental Sciences will combine research experience with developing quantitative skills while integrating courses in the natural and social sciences. The curriculum comprises the following coursework:

REQUIRED COURSES: 17 credit hours

Quantitative skills (6-8 credit hours):
Two (2) courses chosen in consultation with your primary faculty advisor.

Natural Science (3 credit hours):
One course

Environmental Policy (3 credit hours):
One course

Science/Policy Integration (3 credit hours):
Choose one of the following:
ENVS 521- Natural Resource Management
ENVS 526  - Climate Change & Society

Graduate Seminar (2 credit hours):
1. ENVS 590: Graduate Seminar in ENVS

ELECTIVE COURSES: 9 credit hours

THESIS: 9 credit hours to begin during the second year of study



ENVS 500: Spatial and Landscape Ecology (3 credits)
This course will examine conceptual topics in ecology related to spatial processes and patterns.  We will cover the fundamental quantitative spatial ecological models and their applications to conservation problems, such as nature reserve design.  Course material will focus on quantitative patterns, processes, and predictions.

ENVS 521: Natural Resource Management (3 credits)
This course will focus on interdisciplinary theories that underpin ecosystem dynamics and natural resource management, and review experiences from applying those theories in practice to a wide range of natural resource issues. The course will focus on theories of change, including models of resilience, adaptation and transformation. The course will examine approaches of management that are based upon scientific assessments as well as integrative approaches such as ecosystem management and adaptive management.
The course will be divided into three parts. The first section will explore existing theories, concepts and methods of environmental management. The middle section will review case histories of various forms of environmental management have been applied. The final section of the course will allow students to assess a resource issue in a specific geographic locale.

*ENVS 524: Environmental Economics (3 credits)
This course is designed to cover the expanding field of ecological and environmental economics. Students will learn to investigate the interactions between economic systems and the environment. The course will provide basic knowledge in environmental economics as well as in global environmental problems, with a focus on application to the real-world policy questions.

*ENVS 526: Climate Change & Society (3 credits)
This course draws upon the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a way to explain issues related to the science, policy, and business of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective.

ENVS 542: Ecological Mutualisms (3 credits)
This course is an advanced ecology course, offering students an in-depth immersion into the biology of species interactions that are beneficial for both interacting species. There is a focus on quantitative ecological theory.
Readings will come from the primary scientific literature. This course fits into the graduate program by improving students’ literacy of topics in advanced ecology, and by improving student abilities in understanding and formulating quantitative ecological models, particularly models related to ecological interactions. The prerequisite for the course is an introductory ecology course of some kind. This course will not be a prerequisite for any other course.

*ENVS 545: Conservation Biology (3 credits)
This is a foundational course in conservation biology, which is a central discipline of the environmental sciences.  The course introduces students to ways that ecological and evolutionary principles can be used to conserve and protect species and ecosystems at risk. Specific topics include the causes and consequences of biodiversity, systematics and endangered species, the demography and genetics of small populations, invasive species, habitat loss and fragmentation, design of reserves, and restoration ecology.   
There are no prerequisites, but instructor permission will be required.

ENVS 549: Remote Sensing of the Environment (3 credits)
This course will teach the fundamental principles of land remote sensing and provide hands-on training using case studies focused on applications of remote sensing in environmental science. Students will learn the basic principles of satellite remote sensing and, through computer labs and case-studies based on real environmental problems, receive training in how to collect, process and analyze environmental information derived from earth-orbiting satellites.
Pre-requisites: Quantitative methods/statistics and Geographic Information Systems

*ENVS 550: Cartography & GIS (4 credits)
This is a graduate level course that covers introductory to advanced topics in the study and design of maps and the use of geographic information systems (GIS) as a problem-solving tool for geographic and spatial analysis. The design of the course engages students not to just learn GIS software, but how to utilize it part of their research design. This is exhibited in their individual final projects and accompanying technical paper.

ENVS 555: Applications of Ichnology (3 credits)
This course will provide a theoretical background and practical skills in ichnology, the study of plant and animal traces. Among its topics, the course will emphasize: (1) plant and animal behaviors that result in traces in a broad range of ecosystems; (2) aspects of behavioral ecology pertinent to ichnology; (3) explore connections between ichnology and the history of life; (4) how ichnology – particularly tracking animals - is used as a tool in conservation biology; and (5) introduce students to zoogeomorphology, the study of how animal traces dominate or otherwise alter ecosystems.

Field work on and off campus will be an essential component of the class, in which we will investigate (minimally) evidence of arthropod-plant interactions, insect nests, crayfish burrows, and vertebrate tracks, burrows, and other sign. Students will also receive an introduction to CyberTracker as a GIS-based tool for documenting, mapping, and interpreting terrestrial animal traces.

*ENVS 559: Ecology & Evolution of Disease (3 credits)
From plagues of prehistory to pandemics of disease emergence today, pathogens have played a central role in our existence. This course will provide insights into why we get sick and how we heal by examining human disease within the context of ecology and evolution. There are no prerequisites, but instructor permission will be required.

*ENVS 560: Research Design & Practice in Environmental Sciences (4 credtis)
This graduate-level course teaches students key concepts in study design, advanced statistical methods and statistical software. For most students, this course will be a foundation for their thesis research. Instructors will use the student’s data and research experience to draw attention to key components in the design of research studies and the analysis of data collected either in the field, laboratory or through computer simulations.

The course has one pre-requisite: A basic-level quantitative methods class

*ENVS 561: Ecosystems Through Time (3 credits)
The main goals of the course is for the graduate students to gain a “deep time” perspective in their study of modern ecosystems, or give them the tools for further investigation of paleoecological topics. This will relate to the program’s focus and goals by giving Environmental Sciences graduate students an opportunity to learn the important environmental lessons provided by the geological past, such as when the earth previously went through major changes that we now regard as mainstream environmental concerns, e.g., global climate change, mass extinctions, and natural disasters (tsunamis, tropical storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions). This knowledge of pre-human mass climate change, extinctions, and catastrophic events thus give us a baseline for comparison when examining the effects of humans on modern ecosystems.
Prerequisites are intermediate earth science or ecology courses

*ENVS 569: Urban Ecology and Development (4 credits)
This is one of the few graduate-level courses that focuses on the importance of urbanization and urban areas in general, and the only one within ENVS. The course is currently cross-listed with the Masters in Development Practice (MDP583) and will continue to be offered throughout the Laney Graduate School as an academic option for those students interested in urbanization as a topic area of research or inquiry. 
The course has 2 pre-requisites: A basic-level quantitative methods class (e.g. ENVS260) and an introductory Geographic Information Systems (e.g., ENVS250, INFO530).  Or permission of instructor.

ENVS 570: Institutions and Natural Resources (3 credits)
This course is designed to introduce students to the institutional and governance dilemmas human societies face as they seek to use natural resources in a sustainable manner. Students will develop an understanding of a core set of theories and analytic skills to understand and assess the strengths and weaknesses of natural resource governance institutions. The will also learn how to apply these analytical skills in a policy setting. First and second year students may take the class together. Over the course of 2 years MS, every student will participate in this course. There are no prerequisites for the course.

ENVS 575: Global Change Science and Policy (3 credits)
This course is designed to introduce students to both science and policy of the three important global environmental problems: 1) air pollution; 2) stratospheric ozone depletion; and 3) climate change. Students will learn the atmospheric science behind these three issues as well as the environmental policy/politics theories that have been used to solve these problems. First and second year students may take the class together.

ENVS 580: Primate Disease Ecology (3 credits)
This seminar will follow the major themes of Infectious diseases in primates: behavior, ecology, and evolution by Nunn and Altizer. Most weeks, members of the course will lead discussion related to a given theme within the realm of primate disease, supplementing the sections of the book with material from the primary literature. The course will also include a lab-based tutorial in non-invasive methodologies for monitoring primate pathogens and two case studies. This course will provide a theoretical framework for, and working understanding of applications of this foundation to public health and conservation. This course will ensure a more robust training at the interface of health and ecology for Emory ENVS students. This course will not have prerequisites, but will require consent of the instructor.

ENVS 581: Environmental Disease Ecology (3 credits)
The general theme of the course will be the study of the underlying principles that influence the spatio-temporal patterns of diseases in the environment. It will combine general principles of ecology, environmental health and management, epidemiology and urban and global health. Examples will include environmental diseases such as toxins (lead poisoning), cancers and environmental shortages, (famine), directly transmitted diseases (influenza, tetanus, diarrhoeal diseases), zoonoses (Rabies, schsitosomiasis, Nippah virus), Vector-borne disease (WEST Nile virus, Lyme disease, Chagas disease). Most examples will be presented by small student groups with presentations prepared under guidance of the instructor.

*ENVS 583: Spatial Analysis in Disease Ecology (4 credits) Cross-listed course with EH 583
This course explores patterns of health and disease in place and time, application of geospatial technologies and methods for epidemiology, analysis of time-space relations, clusters and diffusion of disease, and geographical epidemiology of selected infectious and noninfectious diseases.

ENVS 585: Special Topics in ENVS (3-5 credits)
This is a variable topics course. New and specific topics taught for the first time. 

ENVS 590: Graduate Seminar in Environmental Science and Policy (2 credits)
This seminar course is required for all students in the program. The course will be structured around a variable topic, such as environmental governance, climate change, resilience, or modeling environmental processes. The course will be a series of readings, which will introduce a student to key literature on the topic. The weekly meeting will consist of student led discussions on the topical readings/ articles. This will develop the student’s capacity to develop and understand literature research as part of their graduate education. Graduate student standing will be the required, but no prerequisite courses.

ENVS 599R: Master's Thesis Research (3-6 credits)This course is for students who are engaged in research and writing of their thesis topic. Graduate student standing will be the required, but no prerequisite courses. This course will cover literature search, methods development, data collection in the laboratory or field, data organization and analysis, synthesis and writing of a master’s thesis. The goal will be to develop a thesis that can be submitted for publication.

*ENVS 524, 526, 545, 550, 559, 560, 561, 569, and 583 are offered at the undergraduate level as ENVS 324, 326, 345, 250, 349, 460, 361, 459, and 483 respectively. Students in the 4+1 BS/MS program must enroll in these courses at the graduate level to receive credit toward the master’s degree. If the course is taken at the undergraduate level, it cannot be repeated at the graduate level for credit.


The M.S. in Environmental Sciences is an interdisciplinary program and as such, applicants may have undergraduate backgrounds across a wide range of disciplines. The curriculum is designed to develop quantitative skills and provide research practice for graduates; it is recommended, though not required, that students have some foundational coursework in statistics

Applicants to the Master of Science in Environmental Sciences must complete the application through the Emory Laney Graduate School. Applicants must submit the following information for admission consideration:

  • Emory Laney Graduate School Application
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is recommended, but not required (scores must be from the last five years)
  • Transcripts from all colleges attended
  • Statement of Purpose: In addition to the general requirements set forth by the Laney Graduate School for the Statement of Purpose, please address how your research interests match with one or two faculty members within the Department of Environmental Sciences.
  • Identify Possible Faculty Mentor: Carefully review our faculty research profiles and reach out directly to an ENVS faculty member about your research interests.
  • Resume/CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Application fee of $75
  • Application Deadlines for fall 2020 enrollment:

Preferred Consideration: January 15, 2020

Secondary Consideration: April 1, 2020


Comprehensive information about tuition and fees for the graduate program is available through the Laney Graduate School:

We offer a limited number of tuition scholarships for accepted students. Notice of awards will be made when an applicant is offered admission to the program.

For students seeking additional funding support, we have compiled a small sample of organizations and agencies that offer graduate funding support (this is by no means a comprehensive list): GRADUATE FUNDING RESOURCE DOCUMENT




We welcome your inquires about graduate programming and look forward to hearing from you about the MS in Environmental Sciences.

Director of Graduate Studies
Professor Eri Saikawa

Graduate Program Coordinator
Leah Thomas