Soils and Biogeochemistry

Track Leader: Jorge Rodrigues,

Soil science and biogeochemistry are concerned with the chemical, physical, geological and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment, and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space. This track teaches students scientific principles, ranging from the molecular to global scales, for managing soil, water and plant resources. The track includes land use, GIS, remote sensing, soil and ecosystem management and restoration, nutrient management, soil and water pollution remediation, and global change. The track emphasizes practical work experience through student internships with state and federal agencies, soil, water and plant labs, and growers. Graduates are qualified for managerial and technical positions with environmental and agricultural businesses. They are prepared for positions in advising, planning, land appraisal, research, and teaching with private, government, and international organizations involved with soil and water development, use, and conservation and global change issues. Some graduates continue in master's and doctoral programs in soil science, environmental toxicology, hydrology, ecology, and plant sciences.

Faculty perspective:

“Soils are the foundation of society. In order to use them properly and conserve them, we must understand them. Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize recipient said in his Nobel lecture ‘...the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.’ If we are to provide that component, along with a quality environmental, we must understand soils.” - Michael J. Singer

Potential Graduate Programs:
Students from the former Soil and Water Science major that has now become a track in ESM have gone on to graduate school at the best schools in the country including Cornell, North Carolina State, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin to name just a few.

Major Requirements

Preparatory Subject Matter Requirements

Course IDs Course Title Quarters Offered Units Notes
Written and Oral Expression
UWP 101, 102A-G, 104A-F Upper Division Writing I, II, III, IV 4 May test out of requirement
CMN 1, 3, or DRA 10 Public Speaking I, II, III, IV 4
Biological Sciences
BIS 2A Essentials of Life on Earth I, II, III, IV 5
BIS 2B Principles of Ecology and Evolution I, II, III, IV 5
BIS 2C Biodiversity and the Tree of Life I, II, III, IV 5
Geology (choose one of the following)
GEL 1 The Earth I, II, III 4
GEL 50 Physical Geology I, II 3 (recommended)
CHE 2A or 2AH General Chemistry I, II, IV (2A or 2AH) 5
CHE 2B or 2BH General Chemistry II, III, IV (2B or 2BH) 5
CHE 2C or 2CH General Chemistry I, III, IV (2C or 2CH) 5 (recommended, not required)
Physics (Complete either 1AB or 7ABC)
Physics 1A General Physics I, II, IV 3
Physics 1B General Physics II, III 3
Physics 7A General Physics I, II, III, IV 4
Physics 7B General Physics I, II, III, IV 4
Physics 7C General Physics I, II, III, IV 4
ECN 1A Principles of Microeconomics I, II, III, IV 4
MAT 16A, 17A, or 21A Calculus I, II, III, IV 3-4 Mat 17AB recommended
MAT 16B, 17B, or 21B Calculus I, II, III, IV 3-4
Environmental Science and Policy
ESP 1 Environmental Analysis I, IV 4

I = fall quarter, II = winter quarter, III = spring quarter, IV = summer session

Depth Subject Matter Requirements

NOTE: Students graduating with this major are required to attain at least a C average (2.0 GPA) in all courses taken at the university in Depth Subject Matter and pass all coursework. See requirements of the College of Agriculture & Environmental Science in the UC Davis General Catalog.

Course IDs Course Title Prerequisites Quarters Offered Units
Global Environment
ESM 120 Global Environmental Interactions One college-level chemistry and biology course II 4
Ecology (Choose one of the following)
ESP 100 General Ecology BIS 2A-C; MAT 16A-B or 17A-B or 21A-B; STA 13 recommended I, II, IV 4
EVE 101 Introduction to Ecology BIS 2A-C; MAT 16A-B or 17A-B or 21A-B; or equivalent I, II, III, IV 4
ESP 162 Environmental Policy ECN 1A II 4
Statistics (Choose one of the following - Statistics 100 recommended)
STA 13 Elementary Statistics Two years of high school algebra or equivalent in college I, II, III, IV 4
STA 100 Applied Statistics for Biological Sciences MAT 16B or 17B or 21B I, II, III, IV 4
Environmental Monitoring (Choose one of the following)
ESM 108 Environmental Monitoring Entry level course in the environmental sciences III 3
ESP 179 Environmental Impact Assessment ESP 1 or the equivalent II, IV 4
GIS Technology
ABT/LDA 150 Introduction to GIS None I, III 4
ESM/ESP 92 or 192 Internship Upper division standing, permission of instructor

Variable unit – must take at least 3 units of internship
May complete internship in a different area with prior approval
(e.g.: PLS, SSC, ATM)

I, II, III, IV 3
ESM 195 Integrating Env Science & Management Senior standing; Environmental science major (e.g.: ESM, EPAP, ETX, WFC) III 2
Honors Thesis (Optional)
ESM 194H Senior Honors Thesis Senior standing, Overall GPA of 3.50 or higher

Consent of the master adviser


I = fall quarter, II = winter quarter, III = spring quarter, IV = summer session

Required Courses

NOTE: Courses taken for the depth subject matter or track cannot be used to fulfill more than one major requirement.

Course IDs Course Title Prerequisites Quarters Units
SSC 100 Principles of Soil Science College-level course in each of CHE, PHY, BIS, and GEL recommended I 5
Select four soils and biogeochemistry courses
ESM 100 Principles of Hydrologic Science CHE 2B; Math 16B; PHY 7A or 9A I 4
HYD 134 Aqueous Geochemistry CHE 2B III 6
SSC 102 Environmental Soil Chemistry SSC 100 or equivalent and general chemistry II 3
SSC 105 Field Studies of Soils in CA Ecosystems SSC 100 and 120 or equivalent recommended IV 5
SSC 107 Soil Physics SSC 100; ESM 100; MAT 16A or the equivalent I 5
SSC 109 Sustainable Nutrient Management SSC 100 or the equivalent III 4
SSC 111 Soil Microbiology CHE 2C; BIS 2C II 4
SSC 112 Soil Ecology BIS 2B and 2C or SSC 100 I 4
SSC 120 Soil Genesis, Morphology, & Classification SSC 100; GEL 50 recommended III 5
Select two environmental policy courses
ESM 121 Water Science & Management PHY 10 or GEL 1 III 3
ESP 165 Climate Policy ECN 1A, ESP 1, or consent of instructor III 3
ESP 166** Ocean & Coastal Policy ESP 1 or consent of instructor II 3
ESP 171 Urban & Regional Planning ESP 1 recommended III 4
ESP 172 Public Lands Management ECN 1A recommended I 4
ESP 179 Environmental Impact Assessment ESP 1 or equivalent II, IV 4
SOC 160 Sociology of the Environment SOC 1 or 2 or 3 recommended I 4
Select one land-use analysis course
ESM 185 Aerial Photo Interp. & Remote Sensing Upper division standing I 4
HYD 147 Runoff. Erosion, & Water Quality PHY 7B or 9B; MAT 16C or 21C; ECI 142, HYD 141, or ESM 100 I 3
Management in the Tahoe Basin
SSC 118 Soils in Land Use & the Environment SSC 100 or consent of instructor III 4
GEL 134 Env Geology & Land Use Planning One course in Geology or consent of instructor 3
Select two biological processes courses
ATM 160* Intro to Atmospheric Chemistry CHE 2B II 4
ESM/PLS 144 Trees & Forests PLS 2 or BIS 2C I 4
ESP 116N* Oceanography GEL 1 or 2 or 16 or 50 II 3
ESP 150A** Physical & Chemical Oceanography ESP 116N, PHY 9B, MAT 21D, CHE 2C, consent of instructor III 4
ESP 150C Biological Oceanography Acceptance into the Bodega Marine Lab summer program IV 4
ESP 151 Limnology BIS 2A and 2B; BIS 2C and ESP 100 or EVE 101 recommended III 4
ESP 155** Wetland Ecology BIS 2A or equivalent; ESP 100 or EVE 101 recommended I 4
PLB/EVE 117 Plant Ecology BIS 2A-C; PLB 111 recommended I 4
PLS 130 Rangelands: Ecology, Cons, & Restoration PLS 2 or BIS 2B or BIS 2C or consent of instructor II 3
I = fall quarter, II = winter quarter, III = spring quarter, IV = summer session
*Course is offered in odd years only (2015, 2017, etc.)
**Course is offered in even years only (2016, 2018, etc.)


Soils and Biogeochemistry requirements