Freshwater Science and Sustainability Major

In 2014, Western Michigan University and Northwestern Michigan College joined forces to expand the study of fresh water—a critical natural resource that is in limited supply and under threat.

The institutions developed an interdisciplinary curriculum that allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science in freshwater science and sustainability. Students wishing to conduct all of their freshwater science and sustainability studies in Traverse City may enroll at NMC and earn an associate degree, then seamlessly transfer to WMU-Traverse City and complete the final two years of coursework required for the bachelor's degree. Students also may enroll in the bachelor's-only version of the program offered on WMU's main campus in Kalamazoo.

Major (91 hours)

The freshwater science and sustainability major is an interdisciplinary and integrative program that provides students with the scientific knowledge and skills to:

  • Understand and research freshwater ecosystems, including biology, chemistry, hydrology, limnology, resource management and flow processes.
  • Integrate scientific research with the environmental, social and economic issues of sustainable management.

The program fosters an understanding of both the core principles within and the intersections between three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic systems, with a particular emphasis on freshwater sciences. The degree will prepare students to address the complex regional, national and global challenges related to the sustainability of freshwater resources. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program and the large number of credit hours required, this program does not require students to have a minor. Several courses (totaling 29 credits) required for the major also satisfy general education requirements.

Academic standards

Students in this program must earn a grade of C or better in all courses counted toward their major.


Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, it is very important that students work regularly with program advisors. Additionally, this program contains a number of courses that will be offered in hybrid or online formats, and that include significant fieldwork components. Please consult with a program advisor and review the schedule of courses closely when selecting your classes.

Baccalaureate-level writing requirement

Students who have chosen the freshwater science and sustainability major will satisfy the baccalaureate-level writing requirement by completing the following course:

  • ENVS 3200: Major Environmental Writings (Credits: 3)

Required courses

Introductory courses

Transfer students should consult the relevant transfer guides and with a program advisor to discuss specific course equivalencies. The specific course equivalencies for students entering the program from NMC are detailed in supporting materials.

  • ANTH 1200: Peoples of the World (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 4)
  • ECON 2010: Principles or Microeconomics (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 5) -or- ECON 2020: Principles of Macroeconomics (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 5)
  • MATH 1110: Algebra II (Credits: 4)
  • STAT 3660: Introduction to Statistics (Credits: 4; satisfies general education Proficiency 3)
  • GEOG 2250: Introduction to Meteorology and Climatology (Credits: 4)
  • GEOS 3220: Ocean Systems (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 7)
  • BIOS 1610: Molecular and Cellular Biology (Credits: 4)
  • BIOS 1620: Ecology and Evolution (Credits: 4)
  • CHEM 1100: General Chemistry I (Credits: 3, with Chemistry 1110; satisfies general education Area 6)
  • CHEM 1110: General Chemistry Laboratory I (Credits: 1, with Chemistry 1100; satisfies general education Area 6)

Sustainability core

  • ANTH 3470: Ethnicity/Multiculturalism (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 3)
  • PHIL 3160: Ethics in Engineering and Technology (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 2)
  • ECON 3190: Environmental Economics (Credits: 3)
  • ACTY 3990: Sustainable Accounting (Credits: 3)
  • MGMT 3120: Sustainable Operations (Credits: 3)
  • MKTG 3330: Sustainable Marketing (Credits: 3)
  • ENVS 2150: Environmental Systems and Cycles (Credits: 3)
  • ENVS 2250: Environmental Ecology (Credits: 3)
  • ENVS 3000: Introduction to Sustainability (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 7)
  • ENVS 3400: Environmental Policy (Credits: 4)
  • GEOG 3500: Conservation and Environmental Management (Credits: 3; satisfies general education Area 7)

Freshwater core

  • BIOS 5535: Freshwater Ecology (Credits: 4)
  • BIOS 5545: Human Impact on Great Lakes Ecosystem (Credits: 3) -or- GEOG 5530: Water Resources Management (Credits: 3)
  • ENVS 5400: Freshwater Policy (Credits: 3)

Freshwater science elective courses

A minimum of 12 credit hours should be chosen from any of the following courses:

  • BIOS 4990: Independent Research in Biological Sciences (Credits: 1-4)
  • BIOS 5440: Global Change Ecology (Credits: 3)
  • BIOS 5970: Topics in Biological Sciences (Credits: 3-4)
  • BIOS 5525: Fish Biology (Credits: 3)
  • GEOG 4120: Professional Practice (Credits: 1-3)
  • GEOG 5550: Contemporary Issues in Resources Management (Credits: 3)
  • GEOG 5570: Environmental Impact Assessment (Credits: 3)
  • GEOG 5630: Surveying Techniques (Credits: 4)
  • GEOS 5090: Surface Water Hydrology (Credits: 3)
  • GEOS 5120: Principles of Hydrogeology (Credits: 3)
  • GEOS 5230: Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response (Credits: 1)
  • GEOS 5240: Remediation Design and Implementation (Credits: 1)
  • GEOS 5270: Principles of Well Drilling and Installation (Credits: 1)
  • GEOS 5280: Principles and Practices of Groundwater Sampling and Monitoring (Credits: 1)
  • GEOS 5500: Environmental Field Geochemistry (Credits: 3)