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:

  • Environmental Studies 3200 - Major Environmental Writings (3 credit hours)

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.

  • Anthropology 1200 - Peoples of the World (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 4)
  • Economics 2010 - Principles or Microeconomics (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 5) or Economics 2020 - Principles of Macroeconomics (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 5)
  • Mathematics 1110 - Algebra II (4 credit hours)
  • Statistics 3660 - Introduction to Statistics (4 credit hours, satisfies general education Proficiency 3)
  • Geography 2250 - Introduction to Meteorology and Climatology (4 credit hours)
  • Geosciences 3220 - Ocean Systems (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 7)
  • Biological Sciences 1610 - Molecular and Cellular Biology (4 credit hours)
  • Biological Sciences 1620 - Ecology and Evolution (4 credit hours)
  • Chemistry 1100 - General Chemistry I (3 credit hours with Chemistry 1110, satisfies general education Area 6)
  • Chemistry 1110 - General Chemistry Laboratory I (1 credit hour with Chemistry 1100, satisfies general education Area 6)

Sustainability core

  • Anthropology 3470 - Ethnicity/Multiculturalism (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 3)
  • Philosophy 3160 - Ethics in Engineering and Technology (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 2)
  • Economics 3190 - Environmental Economics (3 credit hours)
  • Accountancy 3990 - Sustainable Accounting (3 credit hours)
  • Management 3120 - Sustainable Operations (3 credit hours)
  • Marketing 3330 - Sustainable Marketing (3 credit hours)
  • Environmental Studies 2150 - Environmental Systems and Cycles (3 credit hours)
  • Environmental Studies 2250 - Environmental Ecology (3 credit hours)
  • Environmental Studies 3000 - Introduction to Sustainability (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 7)
  • Environmental Studies 3400 - Environmental Policy (4 credit hours)
  • Geography 3500 – Conservation and Environmental Management (3 credit hours, satisfies general education Area 7)

Freshwater core

  • Biological Sciences 5535 - Freshwater Ecology (4 credit hours)
  • Biological Sciences 5545 - Human Impact on Great Lakes Ecosystem (3 credit hours) or Geography 5530 - Water Resources Management (3 credit hours)
  • Environmental Studies 5400 - Freshwater Policy (3 credit hours)

Freshwater science elective courses

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

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