Environmental Biology & Ecology

When you select the Environmental Biology & Ecology emphasis at Western, you’ll study in the great classroom of the Gunnison Basin - and beyond. You’ll explore public and private lands, from sagebrush and lush riparian lowlands to deep forests and rocky alpine crags. Surrounded by six wilderness areas, the basin is truly a vast and wild classroom.

You’ll learn from passionate ecologists dedicated to hands-on, practical approaches. With connections to numerous natural resources agencies, the program provides frequent opportunities for resource professionals to interact with our students in classes, on field trips, and in training, through internships and paid, local jobs.

Western serves up a rich diversity of coursework for our small size. In addition, our Thornton Biology Undergraduate Research Program helps the most engaged students deepen their experience and gain skills, working closely with faculty mentors, while earning research stipends.

What Will You Learn? What Skills Will You Acquire?

The Ecology Emphasis helps you build knowledge and skills, starting in your freshman introductory courses. From that foundation, you add more sophisticated and applied skills as you move through the program.

You’ll learn in a field-based ecology lab that focuses on scientific methods, from experimental design to communication and numerous field techniques. You will gain the technical background and skills needed to communicate with scientists and resource managers.

You’ll learn field techniques, such as vegetation monitoring, stream assessment, radio telemetry, GIS, mapping and compass work, animal and plant identification by sight and sound, and even more diverse approaches to measuring populations, communities and ecosystems.

Beyond the Classroom

Research, service learning, adventure education, applied experiential field trips, connections with professional biologists, and fun social events help comprise the rich culture of our co-curricular program.

Western's Biology students participate in two primary clubs: the Tri Beta Biology Club and the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. They hold biweekly meetings throughout the year and organize field trips, fundraising events, and social/educational events.

Students work with the local community through a variety of service projects. They also build connections with local offices of natural resource agencies, which offer opportunities for service and field experience, such as trapping bighorn sheep, assisting with the annual kokanee salmon spawn, electroshocking and sampling fish, and volunteering at the Gunnison Sage Grouse Watchable Wildlife site.

Our budding biologists also work with agency professionals in workshops on applying for federal jobs and writing resumes, obtaining a hunter safety cards, learning to fly fish, learning basic avian taxidermy and more.

Next Steps

If you're interested in Western's Environmental Biology & Ecology Program, we invite you to take the next steps towards becoming a part of the Mountaineer family.

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  5. Find scholarships, grants, or financial aid that match your interests and situation.

Courses

FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a list of courses offered by Western State Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the current university catalog at http://www.western.edu/catalog. To determined the courses required for your major, check the "Majors and Minors" tab for your area of study.

 BIOL 150 - BIOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES GSC1 (4 credits)

An introduction to the central unifying concepts of biology including the biochemical foundations of life, cell structure and function, cell metabolism, genetics, and evolution. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. Prerequisites: A year of high school biology; and a year of high school chemistry or CHEM 101 or CHEM 111.

 BIOL 151 - DIVERSITY PATTRNS OF LIFE (4 credits)

An overview of organismal diversity and ecology. Through a taxonomic survey, students are introduced to prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity including microorganisms, plants, and animals. Organismic anatomy and physiology, as well as fundamentals of ecology, are also considered. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. Prerequisites: A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry or CHEM 101 or CHEM 111.

 BIOL 151 - DIVERSITY PATTERNS OF LIFE (4 credits)

An overview of organismal diversity and ecology. Through a taxonomic survey, students are introduced to prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity including microorganisms, plants, and animals. Organismic anatomy and physiology, as well as fundamentals of ecology, are also considered. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. Prerequisites: A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry or CHEM 101 or CHEM 111.

 BIOL 151 - DIVERSITY PATTERNS OF LIFE LAB (0 credits)

An overview of organismal diversity and ecology. Through a taxonomic survey, students are introduced to prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity including microorganisms, plants, and animals. Organismic anatomy and physiology, as well as fundamentals of ecology, are also considered. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. Prerequisites: A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry or CHEM 101 or CHEM 111.

 BIOL 301 - GENERAL ECOLOGY (3 credits)

An introduction to basic ecological principles and their relationships to natural systems. Human impact on the natural systems is assessed. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: COM 202.

 BIOL 302 - ECOLOGY LABORATORY RECITATN (2 credits)

An experimental approach in both field and laboratory to explore fundamental ecological principles. Students gather and analyze data to address ecological hypotheses, learn practical ecological skills (performing field techniques, using statistical and graphical tools, and interpreting ecological software), and develop oral and written communication skills. Prerequisites: BIOL 150, BIOL 151, and CHEM 113. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 301.

 BIOL 310 - CELL BIOLOGY (3 credits)

An introduction to cellular function and structure. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 231 or CHEM 331; and COTH 202.

 BIOL 312 - GENETICS W RECITATION (4 credits)

A course in Mendelian inheritance, linkage, chromosomal aberrations, molecular genetics, gene regulation, genetic engineering, and population genetics. Prerequisites: BIOL 301, BIOL 310, CHEM 231, and CHEM 234; or CHEM 331.

 BIOL 320 - ORNITHOLOGY W/ LAB (4 credits)

An introduction to the study of bird evolution, ecology, and conservation. This course has a strong field component providing frequent opportunities to observe birds in their native environments. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission. 

 BIOL 322 - MAMMALOGY (W LAB RECITAT) (4 credits)

An introduction to the study of mammal taxonomy, evolution, ecology and conservation. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission.

 BIOL 327 - FIELD ENTOMOLOGY W LAB (4 credits)

An introduction to the world of the most diverse and abundant form of animal life on Earth through an experiential, field, and laboratory class. The course emphasizes field study, collection and preservation, identification, ecology, and natural history. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission.

 BIOL 352 - BOTANY WITH LABORATORY (4 credits)

Using field and laboratory experiences this course explores the diversity within the plant kingdom using a comparative approach to examine evolutionary trends and relationships. Students are introduced to the structure and function of plants through an investigation of plant cells, tissues, organs, and basic physiological processes. Economic importance, human uses, and significance of plants to society are emphasized. Prerequisites: BIOL 150, BIOL 151, and ENG 102; or instructor permission.

 BIOL 353 - ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLORA (3 credits)

A field and laboratory course focusing on identification of flowering plants common to the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This course covers methods of plant collection and preservation, field identification, natural history, and ecology as well as local plants of particular human interest, including those that are medically important, edible, and poisonous. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151; or instructor permission.

 BIOL 362 - EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY-THEORY APPLICATION (3 credits)

This course provides a comprehensive overview of evolutionary processes and mechanisms within an applied framework. Evolutionary perspectives in human health and medicine,environmental and conservation biology, agriculture and natural resource management, and biotechnology are covered. Topics include organismic adaptation to changing environments and long-term responses to environmental perturbation, and insights into many issues of growing social importance such as climate change, land use change, and emerging diseases. Prerequisites: BIOL 312; or ENVS 350, ENVS 370, ENVS 390, and either BIOL 151 or both BIOL 130 and BIOL 135; or instructor permission.

 BIOL 430 - WILDLIFE ECOLOGY & MANGEMENT W/ LAB (4 credits)

Principles of ecology are applied to population and habitat management towards wildlife conservation. Tools used by wildlife biologists to restore endangered species, harvest sustainable populations, reduce overpopulated species, and to monitor and study populations are emphasized. Habitat management approaches are discussed, along with human dimensions in wildlife conservation. A field component allows students to investigate wildlife populations and habitat issues in the Gunnison Basin. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission. Co-requisite: BIOL 431. 

 BIOL 431 - WILDLIFE TECHNIQUES WORKSHOP (1 credits)

A one week intensive field course focuses on wildlife conservation issues and wildlife management techniques such as trapping and marking wildlife, radio telemetry, population monitoring, GPS and GIS, and wildlife conflict resolution. The course includes a trip outside the basin; a field trip course fee is required. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission. Co-requisite: BIOL 430. 

 BIOL 440 - CONSERVATION BIOLOGY (3 credits)

This course addresses the reduction in biological diversity of the planet and suggested solutions to prevent further reduction. Integrating themes are drawn from scientific disciplines such as population genetics, ecology, evolutionary biology, botany, zoology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and wildlife management. Prerequisites: BIOL 312; or ENVS 350, ENVS 370, ENVS 390, and either BIOL 151 or both BIOL 130 and BIOL 135; or instructor permission. 

 BIOL 444 - COLORADO ECOREGIONS (3 credits)

A survey of the three main ecoregions of Colorado including the Great Plains, the Southern Rocky Mountains, and the Colorado Plateau. Students travel throughout Colorado and explore the ecology and natural history of the ecosystems by hiking, backpacking, and river rafting. Content includes an evolutionary perspective on ecosystem features and the adaptations of species characterizing each system, as well as applied issues in natural resources management. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission.

 BIOL 476 - AQUATIC ECOLOGY W/ LAB (4 credits)

A study of physical, chemical, and biological parameters of lakes and streams in the functioning of freshwater eco-systems. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or GEOL 320; or instructor permission.

 BIOL 477 - PLANT ECOLOGY W/ LAB (4 credits)

An introduction to plant populations and communities, including their role within terrestrial ecosystems. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission. 

 BIOL 481 - FOREST ECOLOGY W LABORATORY (4 credits)

Ecology of forest species, communities, landscapes, and ecosystems, with a focus on the Gunnison Basin. Topics include tree physiology, species interactions, fire and disturbance, succession, forest types, climate, forest management and restoration. Labs and field trips will provide hands-on experience and practical skills in tree identification, forest mensuration, vegetation sampling, statistics and GIS. Students will develop and conduct independent/group research projects. Prerequisites: BIOL 301, MATH 213

 BIOL 495 - SR SEM: HUMAN EVOLUTION (1 credits)

An examination of biological subdisciplines through an investigation of the primary literature. The professional practices, procedures, and standards of the subdiscipline are discussed. This course may be repeated for credit and must be taken twice to fulfill the Capstone Course requirement. Graded Satisfactory/ Unsatisfactory only. Prerequisites: Biology Nucleus and MATH 213.

 BIOL 496 - SENIOR THESIS (2-4 credits)

An advanced research experience resulting in a Senior Thesis, supervised by a thesis committee of three faculty members including at least one biologist. A proposal of the project must be approved by the thesis committee prior to project initiation. In addition to completing the written thesis, students must present the results of their work in a departmental seminar. This course satisfies the capstone course requirement. Graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory only. Prerequisites: Biology Nucleus, and MATH 213. 

 CHEM 111 - GENERAL CHEMISTRY I GSC2 (3 credits)

An introductory course designed for science majors focusing on principles and applications of chemistry. Topics covered in this course are stoichiometry, bonding models, intermolecular forces, and periodic trends. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 140 or Accuplacer college-level mathematics test score of 85 or above, ACT math score of 24 or above, or instructor permission.

 CHEM 112 - GENERAL CHEMISTRY LAB I GSC1 (1 credits)

An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 111. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory notebook keeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Corequisite: CHEM 111.

 CHEM 113 - GENERAL CHEMISTRY II (3 credits)

A continuation of CHEM 111. Topics covered in this course are thermodynamics, kinetics, equilibrium, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Prerequisite: CHEM 111.

 CHEM 114 - GENERAL CHEMISTRY LAB II (1 credits)

A continuation of CHEM 112. An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 113. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory notebookkeeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Prerequisite: CHEM 112. Corequisite: CHEM 113.

 CHEM 231 - INTRO ORGANIC CHEM BIOCHEM (3 credits)

A descriptive survey course which introduces the essential topics and applications of organic chemistry and biochemistry. The course is designed for non-majors who need the second semester of a one-year chemistry core that includes general, organic, and biochemistry. This course may not be counted for credit toward the Chemistry Major or Minor. Prerequisite: CHEM 101 or CHEM 113.

 CHEM 234 - INTRO ORGANIC BIOCHEM LAB (1 credits)

An introductory laboratory to accompany CHEM 231. Experiments focus on reactions of organic functional groups, organic synthesis, and the chemistry of biological molecules. This course may not be counted for credit toward the Chemistry Major or Minor. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 231.

 GEOL 101 - PHYSICAL GEOLOGY GSC2 (3 credits)

An introductory class that emphasizes the environmental aspects of geology. The course covers the basic principles of physical geology, such as minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and origin of landscapes by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and nearshore processes. Throughout this course, focus is on the effect of geology on human society through the study of geologic hazards, energy resources, and mineral resources.

 GEOL 105 - PHYSICAL GEOLOGY LAB GSC1 (1 credits)

An introduction to identification of minerals and rocks and a discussion of their genesis followed by a study of landscapes formed by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and nearshore processes. Many of these principles are observed on local field trips. Prerequisite or corequisite: GEOL 101.

 MATH 213 - PROBABILITY STATISTICS GMA1 (3 credits)

An introduction to descriptive statistics, probability concepts, and inferential statistics. The topics for the course include presentation of data, counting principles, probability rules, and discrete and continuous probability distributions. Prerequisite: MATH 141 with a minimum grade of "C-,"' or Accuplacer College-Level Mathematics test score of 85 or above; or instructor permission.

 PHYS 140 - INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS GSC1 (4 credits)

A semi-quantitative introduction to the fundamental concepts of physical science, particularly the laws of physics as they relate to the structure of matter. Laboratory experiences play an important role in the investigations. This course may not be taken for credit toward the Physics Minor. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 19 or above; SAT math score of 460 or above; MATH 099; Accuplacer Elementary Algebra test score of 85 or above.

Scholarships

Scholarships associated with academic programs usually have a specific scholarship application form that can easily be obtained by contacting that academic program's office or visiting that academic program's web page. If you have any questions, please contact the Financial Aid office at 970.943.3085 or 800.876.5309. To find scholarships based on year of study (e.g. - Freshmen Scholarships), please see the navigation to the left.

 Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship

Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship is Available to:

 Full-time students who are majoring in Environmental Studies, Environmental Biology or a related field. Must be junior level (60 credits) or above and have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Preference given to students with financial need who are residents of the Western Slope of Colorado and have expressed interest in a career in park operations/park management or a career in the earth sciences.

Environmental Studies Scholarship Provided by:

Barbara Kastellic and gifts from others to honor Joseph, who was the first Superintendent of the Black Canyon National Monument from 1975-1984.

Amount: Award depends on funds available.

Application: Complete and submit The Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship application which is available in the Office of Financial Aid. A recommendation and a one page essay will be needed to complete the application.

Find out more about Western's Environmental Studies Program at www.western.edu/environmental-studies

Faculty & Staff

Faculty

Professor of Biology; Chair, Department of Natural and Environmental Sciences
B.A., University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D., University of North Texas
Phone: (970) 943-3405
Office Location: Hurst Hall 143C
Professor of Biology
B.A., University of Vermont; M.A., Ph.D., University of Colorado.
Phone: (970) 943-3355
Office Location: Hurst Hall 222
Assistant Professor in Biology and Environment & Sustainability
B.A., Biology, University of California–Santa Cruz, 1995, Ph.D., Botany, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2005
Phone: (970) 943-2565
Office Location: Kelly Hall 105
Lecturer in Biology
B.A., Occidental College, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore
Phone: (970) 943-2287
Office Location: Hurst Hall 132
Professor of Biology
B.S., St. Joseph’s University; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University.
Phone: (970) 943-2094
Office Location: Hurst Hall 238B
Associate Professor of Biology
B.A., University of Colorado; B.A., University of Colorado; Ph.D., University of Oregon
Phone: (970) 943-2552
Office Location: Hurst Hall 238C
Biology Laboratory Coordinator
B.A., Western State Colorado Universtiy, M.S., San Francisco State University, Ph.D. candidate - University of Washington, Seattle. Current
Phone: (970) 943-2437
Office Location: Hurst Hall 128A
Thornton Chair in Biology
B.S, Colorado State University. M.S., University of Missouri; Ph.D., University of Missouri.
Phone: (970) 943-7121
Office Location: Hurst Hall 143A
Professor of Biology
B.S., Allegheny College; Ph.D., Dartmouth College.
Phone: (970) 943-3181
Office Location: Hurst Hall 238A
Emeritus Professor of Biology
B.S., University of California-Davis; Ph.D., University of Idaho.
Phone: 970.943.2063
Office Location: