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Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Study of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Earth and environmental sciences incorporate the disciplines of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology to investigate natural processes and their interactions with humans. The earth system is studied as four interrelated spheres: the geosphere, comprising the materials and geologic processes that form the Earth; the atmosphere, responsible for weather and climate; the hydrosphere, including water and its interactions with the Earth’s surface; and the biosphere, consisting of living organisms and their ecosystems. The tools of study in Earth and Environmental Sciences range from the basic scientific principles to advanced field techniques and computer-based mapping and modeling.

Capstone Experience. The department members recognize the variety of ways that students learn and thus offer several different ways that students can demonstrate their learning through two forms of the Capstone Experience. Students may choose between Environmental Internships and Research in Earth and Environmental Sciences. The department recommends on-the-job, practical experiences for majors, particularly those interested in immediate employment in the private consulting or governmental sectors. Approved internships may include work in private industry, planning commissions, consulting firms, environmental law firms, or state and federal environmental departments.

For students who are interested in advanced training in graduate school, Research in Earth and Environmental Sciences represents a way for students to demonstrate their skills through an individual investigation in collaboration with a member of the department faculty. Students extend learning through exploration of an original problem, and demonstrate their progress though a thesis and public presentation. Students have presented at regional and national scientific meetings sponsored by geology, meteorology, soil science, or ecology societies.

All students are encouraged to enroll in an approved geologic or environmental field camp, which provides a field experience in which students are trained in current mapping and exploration methods. Graduate schools often require these courses prior to enrollment, and the field-based training is extremely valuable to those seeking a professional career immediately following graduation. After the off-campus experience, students complete on-campus presentations and reflections of their learning. Approval for this option as a Capstone Experience is pending.

Teaching Certification is expected to be available to earth and environmental sciences majors who fulfill additional Department of Education requirements. The department sought initial certification in Earth and Space Science (Secondary Education) as well as Environmental Education (K-12) in early 2005. Check with the department for the updates. Additional information regarding certification in education is available in the Department of Education section of the catalog.. Majors in this program must complete student teaching during their senior year, so the student teaching Capstone Experience is accepted as an alternate to the department’s Capstone Experience requirement.

Study Abroad. The department faculty members encourage students to explore opportunities to learn in another cultural setting as part of their collegiate experience. The department has ties with the School for Field Studies and encourages student participation in this or other international study abroad programs.

Honors. Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences encourages and recognizes the superior academic performance in the major. To graduate with departmental honors, candidates must:

  • successfully complete the B.S. program requirements,
  • petition the department by September 15 of their senior year,
  • maintain a 3.25 GPA in the major and a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and
  • submit a written scholarly report to the faculty and give an oral presentation at a public forum on their research project.


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