General Information
EFB Undergraduate Program

Keeping Track of Requirements: Curriculum Plan Sheets, etc.

The official description of requirements for any of the seven degree programs (majors) that are offered by the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology (EFB) can be found in the ESF Catalog that pertains to the year of a student’s first matriculation. Requirements are also presented on the individualized Curriculum Plan Sheet (sometimes called a degree audit form in administrative lingo), which also lays out a recommended schedule in a semester format. The Plan Sheet is your most important working document, so become familiar with it. It shows what courses you have taken and what core requirements remain. It indicates your cumulative credit-hour totals and your grade-point average. It also tracks your progress toward meeting your General Education requirements and other elective distribution requirements.

You and your advisor have “real-time” access to your official Plan Sheet at all times, through the Registrar’s webpage. Should you need a paper copy, you can print it, or get one from the Registrar’s office. A blank Plan Sheet for each of the seven majors is included in this handbook, so that the programs can be easily compared. The real-time Plan Sheet reflects your official record in the Registrar’s office, so if you think you’ve found an error bring it to the attention of your advisor. It is important to remember to work with your own Plan Sheet.; your friend’s requirements can be quite different for a variety of reasons.

A Note for Transfer Students

If you are a transfer student planning to enter as a junior, we strongly recommend that lower division deficiencies be satisfied during the summer before you matriculate at ESF, to allow for flexibility in taking upper division biology electives and to prevent delay in graduation.

Some Terms...

We historically recognize “Lower Division” (Freshman and Sophomore) and “Upper Division” (Junior and Senior) parts of the program, because many of our students transfer from other institutions as juniors (or nearly so). We also talk about “core” courses (courses or subjects specifically required) and elective courses within each division. “Elective distribution requirements” are designed to ensure a level of breadth in your field of interest. They relate to general themes, or to a spectrum of allowable courses, rather than specifying which course to take. For example, two such requirements for the degree in Environmental Biology are the structure/function course and the three courses in organismal diversity.

General Education Requirements

Any undergraduate degree from the State University of New York requires having completing a suite of so-called “general education” courses; for ESF students, this means one course from each of nine “Knowledge and Skill Areas,” totaling 27 credit hours. This requirement is designed to ensure that you experience the academic breadth necessary to become a well-rounded world citizen, in addition to becoming knowledgeable in your special area of study. Details of the requirement for each major are given on the respective Plan Sheet, but in all majors four subject areas are automatically satisfied by core courses: Mathematics (APM 105), Natural Sciences (EFB 226), Humanities (CLL 290) and Basic Communication (CLL 190). For most majors, the areas that must be satisfied by elective courses include: Social Science, American History, Western Civilization, Other World Civilization, and The Arts.

Two majors have an additional core course that meets another of these areas: students in Aquatic and Fisheries Science all take FOR 207 (Introduction to Economics) , which satisfied the Social Science requirement; students in Environmental Education and Interpretation all take EFB 215 (Interpreting Science Through Art), which satisfies The Arts requirement. We recommend that most of the General Education requirements be completed during freshman and sophomore years, leaving the junior and senior years as free as possible for advanced electives.

For each General Education area, the relevant elective courses taught at ESF are listed below. Certain Syracuse University courses may be used to satisfy one or more of these requirements. These are usually listed on the ESF Registrar’s website during the relevant semester ( and can always be found on the SUNY website, HERE.

Social Sciences

  • EST 221 – Introduction to American Government (Fall, 3 cr)
  • EST 225 – Introduction to Legal Processes (Spring, 3 cr)
  • EST 366 – Attitudes, Values and the Environment (Spring, 3 cr)
  • EST 390 – Social Processes and the Environment (Spring, 3 cr)
  • FOR 202 – Introduction to Sociology (Fall, 3 cr)
  • FOR 207 – Introduction to Economics (Spring, 3 cr)

American History

Available for all students

  • EST 296 – American History
  • FOR 296 – American History

For students scoring above 84 on the U. S. History Regents examination:

  • EST 361 – History of the Environmental Movement (Fall, 3 cr)

Western Civilization

  • EIN 471 – History of Landscape Architecture (Fall, 3 cr)
  • FOR 203 – Western Civilization and the Environment (Spring, 3 cr)

Other World Civilizations

  • EST 200 Cultural Ecology (Spring, 3 cr)

The Arts

  • EFB 215 – Art Through Interpretation (Fall, 3 cr)
  • EIN 205 – Art, Culture and Landscape I (Fall, 3 cr)
  • EIN 206 – Art, Culture and Landscape II (Spring, 3 cr)
  • LSA 182 – Drawing Studio (Spring, 3 cr)

Field Experience

All majors ofered by the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology are very much “hands-on” programs that emphasize laboratory and field experience as well as classroom studies. As part of this emphasis, each student in most majors (not Biotechnology) are required to complete 6 or more credit-hours of approved field-experience course work in biology. Three credits of these credits are associated with a required (“core”) course, EFB 202 (Ecological Monitoring and Biodiversity Assessment), taken at the college’s Cranberry Lake Biological Station (CLBS) in the Adirondack Mountains. We recommend that it be done in the summer between freshman and sophomore years, or as early as possible if you are a transfer student (even the summer before arrival on campus).

The remaining credit hours of Field Experience are elective, and can be obtained in various ways, depending on the degree program. In most cases, field electives also may be obtained at CLBS. Information about the courses and scheduling of the program at our Cranberry Lake Biological Station can be obtained from the CLBS Director. Information about other field programs or questions about the field experience requirement should be addressed to the EFB Field Programs Coordinator (see pg. 3). With approval, internships (see below) and undergraduate research projects that are based on field work can also satisfy field-experience requirements./

Cranberry Lake Biological Station

The Cranberry Lake Biological Station (CLBS) is a focus for field experience courses, as noted immediately above. Cranberry Lake, the third largest body of water in the Adirondacks, and its environs are ideally suited for a biology summer program. The surrounding topography is rolling hill and lake country dotted with numerous small ponds, bogs and stream drainages. Because 80 percent of the shoreline is in state ownership, the lake remains pristine, unspoiled by recreational developments and pollution problems. Much of the original forest cover in the region was harvested a century ago; today a rich variety of community types occupy those sites as the vegetation reverts to natural conditions. The remaining virgin forests also provide students with many examples of stable ecosystems, each type reflecting the particular environmental conditions controlling forest development. A wealth of wildlife parallels the variety of cover types. The area provides easy access to a wide range of additional ecosystems, ranging from bog to alpine vegetation.

Facilities include four classroom-laboratories; a computer cluster; field and laboratory equipment; a dozen power boats; dining facilities for 120; faculty quarters and cabins; an administration building; 12 cabins housing 6-8 students each; a recreation hall; and several smaller, supporting buildings.

The program extends through June and July, divided into two sessions. Courses are designed to emphasize and effectively utilize the unique nature of this Adirondack setting, and all involve daily field trips into the surrounding forest and aquatic ecosystems.

Information about the summer program, including courses and fees, may be obtained by mail (Director, Cranberry Lake Biological Station, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, N.Y. 13210), or from the Internet (

Internships and Research Opportunities

A variety of internships are available to undergraduate students, either in the summer or academic year. These are arranged in cooperation with the student’s advisor and may carry course credits under EFB 420, Internship in Environmental and Forest Biology. Agencies actively involved with the internship program include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Upstate Freshwater Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Internships also are commonly associated with a local zoo. Several federal agencies (e.g., the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), have Cooperative Aid agreements whereby students can receive a salary and preferential employment opportunities after graduation. Field-based internships can, with approval, count toward the field experience elective required by most EFB majors.

Faculty and graduate students also frequently employ undergraduate students on hourly wage to help with research projects. Students who are inclined toward graduate school should talk to professors in their area of interest about opportunities for undergraduate research (EFB 498).

Taking Syracuse University Courses.

A rich variety of undergraduate courses is available to you at Syracuse University and, in general, you have the same access to such courses as does a student enrolled at SU. However, there are certain restrictions that are closely enforced by the Registrar:

  1. No student may be registered for only SU courses unless accepted into a special cooperative program with S.U. which requires block registration.
  2. No SU course may be audited except under extraordinary conditions that must be authorized by the EFB Chairman or Curriculum Director. Physical education courses, when taken, must always be for credit and never audited.
  3. Students may not retake an SU course in which credit has been previously earned.
  4. Upper-division undergraduate students are normally expected to take upper-division, rather than lower-division, courses at SU.
  5. If courses offered at SU and ESF have essentially the same content, the SU version may not be taken, except under extraordinary conditions authorized by EFB Chairman or Curriculum Director.
  6. Generally, students in their last semester may register for no more than six credits of SU courses beyond those credits necessary to meet EFB requirements..

Taking Graduate-level courses.

As with undergraduate courses (100-400 level), there are different levels of graduate courses at ESF and Syracuse University. As an undergraduate, you need no special approval to register for 500-level courses, but be aware that these courses will be more demanding. Registering for 600-level courses requires senior standing, a superior grade-point average (3.0 or higher), written permission from the course instructor and an approved (or at least pending) petition. Undergraduates cannot take courses with numbers above 700.

Your Advisor

Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who must approve course selections and who is the first to sign any petition. An advisor’s role is to assist you in program development and decision making, but they are not responsible for any failure to meet your degree requirements. It is your responsibility to know these requirements and to meet them. Based on available information, the EFB Advising Coordinator tries to assign each student to an advisor who works in the same area of interest. If your academic direction is uncertain the advisor assignment will be random, but your advisor can be changed if your plans become more focused. To help foster a good relationship, take the time to read the section near the end of this handbook entitled “Being a Good Advisee”.


Petitions are used to request a variance from established College or Faculty policy or procedure: in other words, this is how you ask for permission to do something out of the ordinary. You can obtain a petition form from the Registrar's office in Bray Hall or from the EFB Curriculum Director. With your advisor's guidance, fill it out and append any supporting documents or letters that pertain to your request.

Writing a Petition

  • Be clear, concise and neat - no one will approve an illegible petition.
  • Provide all the contact information (e-mail, local address to where petition copy will be mailed) at the top of the petition. You will be contacted by e-mail if there are any questions.
  • The Request: Write this section as a specific instruction to the Registrar to apply a certain class, class sequence, or experience to a specific curricular requirement on your plan sheet. Remember, you and your advisor may know what you are asking, but this needs to be written so that your intentions are clear to the Curriculum Coordinator, Associate Provost and Registrar. A couple examples are provided below.
    • "Apply BIO344 (4 credits) from State University to replace EFB 307/308 (Principles of Genetics lecture and lab)".
    • "Slot BIO275, 'Coral Reef Ecology', (3 credits) from Hometown College to fulfill Field Experience Directed Elective requirement."
  • The Justification: Provide rationale for why you believe the course/experience/program you are proposing should fulfill a particular degree requirement.
      • Attach the course syllabus (or catalog description at the very minimum) to the petition and highlight the content in the course description that you believe makes it a candidate for fulfilling a requirement.
      • Sometimes the justification can be as simple as indicating that the course has already been determined to fulfill particular degree requirement through an existing articulation agreement between ESF and one of several Cooperative Transfer Colleges (NYS community colleges and other local institutions). In such cases, no course description needs to be appended. These are usually referred to as TAG-courses (Transfer Articulation Guidelines) and can be found through the Admissions Office webpage: ( If you want to make up a course deficiency over the summer, this webpage is the perfect place to preview which course from a college close to home will match our requirement.
  • If the petition involves a late drop/late add, you must obtain the instructor's signature.
  • Signatures:
    • Your advisor will sign, date and add any necessary comments.
    • Obtain the signature of your major Curriculum Coordinator.
    • Field Study Petitions: IF you are petitioning to replace EFB202 with an alternative experience OR IF you are proposing to apply an Internship (EFB420) or Independent Research (EFB498) experience for your Field Study Directed Elective Requirement, THEN you must submit your petition for review by the EFB Curriculum Committee. Deliver the petition to the EFB Curriculum Director for this review.
    • If your peition does not involve field study, then no other departmental signatures are necessary. After receiving the Curriculum Coordinator signature, deliver it to 227 Bray Hall for approval by the Associate Provost for Instruction.
  • Final action should be completed within two to three weeks. A copy showing the College's action will be mailed to the address you indicate at the top of the petition form; keep this copy in a safe place. If the request affects your Plan Sheet, the change will appear on the sheet very quickly after a decision is made. If you wish to appeal a rejected petition, arrange to meet with the Associate Provost for Instruction.


Getting non-Academic Help

Your advisor, the relevant Curriculum Coordinator and the Curriculum Director can help you with many non-academic problems, but the College provides student services in Bray Hall:

  • Career & Counseling Services (110 Bray)
  • Student Affairs and Educational Services (204 Bray)
  • Financial Aid (113 Bray)

Take Full Advantage

Broaden your educational horizons. Throughout the school year there are a variety of seminars offered by the various academic departments, and special interest groups both at ESF and SU. Check bulletin boards and flyers for times, topics and places. On our own campus there are a number of clubs and student professional organizations which can aid materially in your learning process.

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