Freshwater scientists provide scientifically sound management of natural and constructed water systems for productive and equitable use while sustaining natural biota, diversity and freshwater availability. They also generate solutions to the problems facing freshwater through a complete understanding of water resources, the social systems in which they operate, and the application of technology, conservation, and sustainable management practices. Students take a broad curriculum within Freshwater Sciences and choose from the Water Policy or Aquatic Sciences track. Both tracks combine core classes in natural sciences, mathematics, economics and computer science with additional coursework in areas such as sustainability and environmental law.

Studies in Freshwater Sciences will help students prepare for careers in ecological and environmental sciences, natural resources, technology, and policy relevant to freshwater systems and resources. A degree in Freshwater Sciences also prepares students for professional careers in business and industry, government, non-profit organizations, as well as graduate studies in freshwater and environmental sciences.


Students must earn a minimum of 120 credits to complete the BS in Freshwater Sciences degree. Students in this program must complete at least 30 credits in residence at UWM and must maintain an average of at least 2.00 in all 300-level and above courses in the freshwater sciences major.

General Education Requirements (GERs)

UW-Milwaukee has General Education Requirements that must be met in order to earn a bachelor’s degree. Some of the requirements of your program, including Foundation Courses, fulfill the campus GERs. Please review the requirements and consult with your academic advisor.  

Foundation Courses

BIO SCI 150Foundations of Biological Sciences I (satisfies GER-NS+)4
BIO SCI 152Foundations of Biological Sciences II (satisfies GER-NS+)4
CHEM 102General Chemistry5
CHEM 104General Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis5
COMPSCI 202Introductory Programming Using Python3
ECON 103Principles of Microeconomics (satisfies GER-SS)3
MTHSTAT 215Elementary Statistical Analysis (satisfies QL-B)3
MATH 213Calculus with Life Sciences Applications4
or MATH 231 Calculus and Analytic Geometry I
Total Credits31

Core Courses

FRSHWTR 101Elements of Water3
FRSHWTR 120Preparing for a Career in Freshwater Sciences1
FRSHWTR 201The Water Environment3
FRSHWTR 202Life in Water4
FRSHWTR 391Water and Natural Resource Economics3
FRSHWTR 392Water, Energy, Food, and Climate3
FRSHWTR 361Introduction to Environmental Data Systems3
Select one of the following:3-4
Chemical Hydrogeology
Water Quality
Environmental Surface Hydrology
FRSHWTR 660Professional and Capstone Planning1
or FRSHWTR 662 Thesis Research Planning and Proposal Development
FRSHWTR 661Undergraduate Capstone3
or FRSHWTR 663 Undergraduate Research and Thesis
GEOG 215Introduction to Geographic Information Science3
Total Credits30-31

Water Policy Track Requirements

Required Courses
FRSHWTR 393Water Law, Policy, and the Environment3
Choose at least 9 credits from the following list, including at least 3 FRSHWTR credits:9
Topics in Freshwater Sciences:
Politics and Policy of Sustainability
Economics, Policy and Management of Water
Cost-Benefit Analysis for Environmental Resource Decisions
Aquatic Ecosystem Services Valuation
Applied Water Statistics and Data Manipulation
Environmental Politics
Data Analytics
Geographic Information Science
Intermediate Geographic Information Science
Economic Statistics
Intermediate Microeconomics
Research Methods for Economics
North American Environmental History
Total Credits12


With the help of their academic advisor, students will select electives to complete the 120 total credits required for the degree. Electives are tailored to each student’s interests and career goals. Students may choose a related area of specialization outside of the Freshwater Sciences by completing any minor or interdisciplinary certificate offered by UWM, typically comprised of 18-22 credits. In some cases, students may choose to study two related areas, or they may complement a certificate or minor with other courses of interest.

Water Policy Example Pathway

Plan of Study Grid
Year 1
Semester 1Credits
FRSHWTR 120 Preparing for a Career in Freshwater Sciences 1
CHEM 100 Chemical Science 4
MATH 105 Introduction to College Algebra (QLA) 3
ENGLISH 101 Introduction to College Writing 3
Humanities GER 3
Semester 2
FRSHWTR 101 Elements of Water 3
CHEM 102 General Chemistry 5
MATH 115 Precalculus 4
BIO SCI 150 Foundations of Biological Sciences I 4
Year 2
Semester 3
FRSHWTR 202 Life in Water 4
CHEM 104 General Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis 5
MATH 213 Calculus with Life Sciences Applications 4
BIO SCI 152 Foundations of Biological Sciences II 4
Semester 4
FRSHWTR 201 The Water Environment 3
ENGLISH 102 College Writing and Research 3
1st semester World Language 4
MTHSTAT 215 Elementary Statistical Analysis (QLB) 3
Arts GER 3
Year 3
Semester 5
ECON 103 Principles of Microeconomics (SS) 3
COMPSCI 202 Introductory Programming Using Python 3
FRSHWTR 361 Introduction to Environmental Data Systems 3
FRSHWTR 393 Water Law, Policy, and the Environment 3
2nd semester World Language 4
Semester 6
FRSHWTR 392 Water, Energy, Food, and Climate 3
FRSHWTR 391 Water and Natural Resource Economics 3
FRSHWTR 464 Chemical Hydrogeology 4
Social Science GER 3
Year 4
Semester 7
FRSHWTR 660 Professional and Capstone Planning 1
GEOG 215 Introduction to Geographic Information Science 3
WP Elective 3
WP Elective 3
Humanities GER 3
Semester 8
FRSHWTR 661 Undergraduate Capstone 3
WP Elective 3
Additional Elective 3
Cultural Diversity GER 3
 Total Credits120

Freshwater Sciences BS Learning Outcomes

Students graduating from the Freshwater Sciences BS program will be able to: 

  • Describe the intricacies of aquatic life and ecological interactions within the physical environment. 
  • Examine and analyze the interconnectedness of biological, ecological, physical, climate, and economic systems related to water. 
  • Analyze the hydrologic cycle, including atmospheric, surface, and groundwater dynamics, and address water quality concerns. 
  • Examine chemical and biogeochemical interactions within global earth systems and water management. 
  • Engage in multidisciplinary data collection, analysis, and communication, utilizing various methodologies including geographic systems, modeling, sampling, and genomics. 

Accelerated Program Option

This program is offered as part of an accelerated graduate program. For more information, see Accelerated Graduate Degrees.

School of Freshwater Sciences Dean's Honor List

GPA of 3.500 or above, earned on a full-time student's GPA on 12 or more graded credits in a given semester.

Honors College Degree and Honors College Degree with Distinction

Granted to graduating seniors who complete Honors College requirements, as listed in the Honors College section of this site.

Commencement Honors

Students with a cumulative GPA of 3.500 or above, based on a minimum of 40 graded UWM credits earned prior to the final semester, will receive all-university commencement honors and be awarded the traditional gold cord at the December or May Honors Convocation. Please note that for honors calculation, the GPA is not rounded and is truncated at the third decimal (e.g., 3.499).

Final Honors

Earned on a minimum of 60 graded UWM credits: Cum Laude - 3.500 or above; Magna Cum Laude - 3.650 or above; Summa Cum Laude - 3.800 or above.