Freshwater Science and Sustainability Major

Freshwater Science and Sustainability

 In the freshwater science and sustainability program, you'll join students who will tackle the regional, national, and global sustainability challenges of freshwater in the 21st century. You'll blend a rigorous academic core with electives meant to further your individual career goals- whether conservation biology, aquatic ecology, resource management, water quality, public health, environmental writing, policymaking, law, or others. You'll become part of a community of practitioners devoted to the wise stewardship of our most precious resource.

  • An interdisciplinary focus on freshwater systems and their stewardship: Integrate scientific training in freshwater systems with the human dimensions of their management and vulnerabilities.
  • Learning and doing: Take courses designed for field experience and real-world applications. Examples include fish inventories with DNR biologists, stream and wetland biodiversity sampling, and meeting with local and state officials to discuss urgent water issues.
  • Professional pathways: Consult with advisors and faculty on course electives and hands-on opportunities to further your career aspirations.
  • Twenty-first-century alignment: Develop competencies that employers demand: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, creativity and imagination, and effective communication.
  • A culture of care and support: IES believes that your well-being is essential to your academic success and sense of fulfillment at WMU.

The freshwater program of study is interdisciplinary and integrative, providing students with the knowledge, training, and skills to:

  • Understand and research freshwater ecosystems, including biology, chemistry, hydrology, and limnology, along with the scientific dimensions of freshwater resource management.
  • Situate freshwater science within the larger environmental, socio-economic and cultural dimensions of sustainable management and problem-solving in freshwater systems.

Program details

The program is available on the WMU Main Campus. Students enrolled in the Freshwater Studies Associate's Degree programs at Northwestern Michigan College can transfer to WMU to complete their B.S. in Freshwater Science and Sustainability.

As a freshwater science and sustainability major, you will take 72 to 74 credit hours of required coursework focused on freshwater and sustainability. Because of the rigorous interdisciplinary nature of the freshwater program, and the large number of credit hours required for the degree, the program does not require a minor. Additionally, this program offers a number of courses in hybrid or online formats. These may include significant fieldwork components required to successfully complete the course. Summer coursework may be required to complete the program.

Program Details

Beyond the classroom

  • Students are encouraged to gain valuable experience outside the classroom by taking part in cutting-edge research projects with a faculty mentor or pursuing an internship. Research programs and internships provide real-life, hands-on experience in subjects you learn about during class and may help identify specific career paths.
  • Student organizations such as Students for a Sustainable Earth, the BioClub, and working with WMU's Office for Sustainability also offer ample opportunities for you to get involved and gain real-world experience.

After you graduate

Career opportunities for graduates of WMU's freshwater science and sustainability program include:

  • Aquatic biologists
  • Conservation scientists
  • Freshwater quality analysts
  • Watershed managers
  • Sustainability coordinators
  • Environmental and resource managers
  • Corporate social responsibility coordinators
  • Environmental consultants or advocates

The degree will also prepare you to pursue graduate studies in a wide variety of disciplines such as freshwater biology and ecology, hydrology, water resource management, environmental policy, and environmental law.


Speak with the SEGS Director about general program details and career information, or schedule an advising appointment for specifics about programs requirements, course transfers, and scheduling.