Microbes are the oldest forms of life, and they dominate and sustain life on our planet.  They shaped the chemistry of the planet and continue to be significant change agents that affect the quality of our air, water, soil, and climate.  Microbes are used to produce energy and clean up polluted environments.  They might even be found beyond Earth!  Environmental microbiologists study the biogeochemical impacts of microbes in aquatic and terrestrial environments, sustainability and how climate and land-use changes impact microbes, and their impact on the health of the planet.  They also develop microbes as solutions to environmental problems. Students can study environmental microbiology as part of a broader microbiological training program that leads to a Bachelor of Science degree.

What You'll Learn

Environmental microbiology is one area of study within the Microbiology department.  Microbiology students interested in the Earth, environmental science, and sustainability can learn about the following:

  • The logic and mechanics of how different microbes function in diverse environments.
  • The diversity of microbes and how we analyze and use diversity to answer environmental questions.
  • The impact that microbes have on the chemistry of the planet.
  • Key techniques for studying microbes in the lab and field.


UMass Environmental Microbiology majors work in labs and out in the field.


Environmental microbiologists are instrumental in determining how to use microbes to clean up wastes, produce fuels and electricity, and create new products. They also understand how microbes interact with water, rocks, soil, and plants and the kinds of useful or harmful products that they produce in an environment.
  • Environmental remediation
  • Bioenergy
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Plant & Soil Science
  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Biotechnology

Students & Alumni