Distinguished Professors Bradley, Margulis; Professors Brigham-Grette, Brown, Burns, Gaubatz, Graham, Leckie, Rhodes, Williams, Yuretich; Associate Professors Condit, Cooke, DeConto, Jercinovic, McCoy, Petsch, Seaman, Stevens; Assistant Professors Boutt, Vogel, Woodruff, Yu; Adjunct Faculty Barten, Coombs, Dolan, Duncan, Francis, Goldstein, Goodwin, Groisman, Keimig, Mabee, Mann, McEnroe, Panish, Voss.
The Department of Geosciences has undergraduate programs leading to the B.A. and B.S. degrees in Geology and in Geography, and to the B.S. degree in Earth Systems.
Degrees: Bachelor of Science
Contact: Steven Petsch
The primary objectives of geology are to understand the processes that constantly change the earth and other terrestrial planets, and to decipher the history of the earth and terrestrial planets from the time of origin of the solar system to the present day. Achieving those objectives involves diverse activities. Geologists study active natural features such as coastlines, glaciers, lakes and rivers, and volcanoes. Geologic mapping of rocks, sediments, and other features is done to learn of past events and conditions, and field/laboratory studies are conducted to determine fundamental chemical and physical properties of minerals, rocks, sediments, and surface and ground waters. Finding and developing deposits of industrial minerals and rocks, metallic ores, gas and oil, and groundwater aquifers, as well as managing geologic hazards and toxic waste all require insight into geological relationships and processes. One major focus of the geosciences and of the department is the study of climate history from the perspectives of both terrestrial and marine environments.
All students majoring in Geology are required to maintain a 2.000 average for all upper-division courses taken to fulfill degree requirements. The Junior Year Writing requirement is fulfilled by GEO-SCI 307 Geologic Writing.
The B.A. degree program is intended to provide a firm background in geology while allowing sufficient flexibility to pursue other areas as well. This degree is suitable for Pre-Law and Pre-Dental/Pre-Medical students or as a second major. Requirements include 15 credits of supporting science and mathematics, GEO-SCI 101 (or any other introductory geology course plus GEO-SCI 131) and GEO-SCI 201, and 21 credits of upper-division geology or physical geography courses (GEO-SCI 231 or courses numbered 300 and above) with a minimum of 15 credits in geology. Upper division courses should be selected in consultation with a geology adviser.
For the B.S. Degree, Geology Track
Commonly Selected Upper-Division Electives
For the B.S. Degree, Earth Science Track
The Earth Science Track is recommended to students interested in teaching at the secondary school level, or in pursuing graduate studies leading to the M.A.T. or M.Ed. degrees. The program requires completion of courses (some specified) comprising four blocks. The Basic Earth Science Block (13 cr) requires GEO-SCI 101 and 103 and ASTRON 100 and 105 (or GEO-SCI 354). The Supporting Sciences Block (23-24 cr) requires at least one course in biology (BIOLOGY 100, 102, or 103), at least one course in calculus (MATH 127, 131, or 135), two semesters of chemistry (CHEM 111-112, or equivalent), and two semesters of physics (PHYSICS 131-134 or 151-154 or 171-174). The required courses in the Geology Block (15 cr) are GEO-SCI 201 231, 311, and 321. An Electives Block (9 cr) consists of upper-division courses in Geology or Physical Geography (courses numbered 300 and above). Students are encouraged to take an environmental geology or related course as part of the Electives Block.
Teacher Certification: Undergraduate students must achieve a passing score on the Communication and Literacy Skills Test of the Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests (MECT) prior to admission into professional preparation programs for educators. In addition to meeting other preparation program requirements, each student in a program for which there is an MECT Subject Test must pass the appropriate Subject Test as a prerequisite for enrolling in his or her practicum.
A wide variety of employment opportunities are open to geologists. Most are employed in private industry by firms involved in environmental and engineering geology and groundwater, and in exploration for oil and mineral resources. A growing number of geology graduates obtain employment with federal or state geological surveys, or with agencies involved with the environment or with energy. Although government agencies and industrial firms hire some geologists with B.S. or B.A. degrees, these employers generally prefer geologists who have obtained the M.S. degree. Currently a few colleges and secondary schools also hire geologists.
The minor in geology is flexible, so that it can complement the student’s major in the best possible manner. A student desiring to minor in geology must complete the following requirements:
1. GEO-SCI 101 The Earth and GEO-SCI 201 History of the Earth
2. 12 credits in upper-division geology courses (GEO-SCI 231 and courses numbered 300 and above), no more than 3 credits of which may be in Seminars, Special Problems, or Independent Study. Courses must be approved by one of the regular geology advisers.
3. All prerequisites for courses selected for the minor, both in geology and in supporting science and mathematics.
Note: All students minoring in Geology are required to maintain a 2.000 average for all upper-division courses taken to fulfill degree requirements.
Degrees: Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Science
Degrees: Bachelor of Arts
Contact: William McCoy
In a world challenged by diminishing resources, a rapidly growing population, and increasing tensions over cultural values and economic development and environmental issues, it is imperative that students learn about the earth and their place on it. Geography offers students the opportunity to study the dynamics of global change and to place their local experience in a global perspective.
Human geography seeks to identify and explain patterns and variations of settlement, social organization, culture, economies, political systems, and environmental impacts. This involves human geographers in studying issues such as population change and migration, urbanization and urban change, land and water use, environmental change, conservation, sustainability, and development. The department offers courses in subfields of human geography, including conservation geography, political ecology, urban ecology, environmental history and issues, cultural geography, environmental perception and sense of place, humanistic geography, economic geography, urban geography, and remote sensing and GIS analysis and applications.
Physical geography involves studying the physical processes, both natural and anthropogenic, that affect the earth’s surface, atmosphere, and biosphere. The department has strengths in the study of climate, climate change, landforms and land surface processes, remote sensing of the environment, and GIS analysis and applications.
Careers in Geography. For some students, a major in geography serves as a flexible foundation on which to build a broad-based liberal education. It can serve as an appropriate preparation for graduate school studies in geography, other social and natural sciences, and for careers in government, NGOs, journalism, teaching, GIS, cartography, urban and regional planning, and conservation anddevelopment work.
Advising. Majors are strongly encouraged to have an individual adviser, selected with advice of the chief undergraduate adviser for Geography. Individual advisers assist in designing courses of study and can also advise on internships, graduate schools, and careers. The Geography program chief undergraduate adviser should be consulted on questions concerned with university, college, and major requirements.
Senior Thesis. Geography majors are encouraged to undertake a senior research project leading to a senior thesis. Students design and carry out their projects in consultation with their advisers. Independent study and thesis writing credits can be used.
Study Abroad. Many geography students find that a semester or year of study abroad is a highly valuable part of their education.
The major combines a solid grounding in required courses with the maximum opportunity to shape an individual program serving personal interests and career intentions. Students should consult with their faculty adviser to ensure that a sound individual program is developed.
Requirements for B.A. Degree:
Introductory Courses (6 cr)
Skills and Techniques (9 cr)
Upper-Division Elective Courses (24 cr)
Areas of concentration for majors:
Geography majors are encouraged to choose an area of concentration such as Environmental Issues and Conservation; Urban and Economic Geography; Cultural and Humanistic Geography; Physical-Environmental Geography; and Maps, GIS and Visualization Geography.
Requirements for B.S. Degree in Physical Geography
In addition to the courses required for the B.A. degree (listed above):
Three advanced physical geography courses (9 credits), including:
General Science Courses (18-24 credits)
General Geoscience Courses (7 credits)
A wide range of careers demanding knowledge of geographic concepts and mastery of geographic techniques are open in business, government, teaching, and cartography. Many opportunities are becoming available in the field of environmental management and planning. The Federal government will need additional personnel to work in programs such as regional development, environmental quality, and intelligence. Employment of geographers in state and local government is expected to expand, particularly in areas such as conservation, environmental quality, highway planning, and city, community, and regional planning and development. Private industry also is expected to employ increasing numbers of geographers for market research and location analysis. Graduates who have only the Bachelor’s degree in geography may find positions connected with making, interpreting, or analyzing maps; or in research, either working for government or industry. Others may obtain employment as research or teaching assistants in educational institutions while studying for advanced degrees. Some Bachelor’s degree holders do teach at the high school level, although in some states, the Master’s degree is becoming essential for high school teaching positions. Others earn library science degrees and become map librarians.
There are several options in the Geography minor. Each is consistent with the general structure of the discipline and its specific sub-fields and: a) provides students with exposure to fundamental concepts in the field; b) enables them to become familiar with the application of these concepts; and c) complements concepts and perspectives emphasized in the student’s declared major field of study. In practical terms the minor in geography enables students to acquire specific skills and competencies (e.g., cartography) which qualify them for employment with various federal, state, and local agencies. For those students interested in careers in teaching, the geography minor broadens their perspectives in the area of social studies education. In many cases the elected minor in a sub-field of geography complements perspectives provided by the student’s academic major, and in doing so potentially enhances the scope of employment prospects.
The minor requires 15 credit hours of courses in Geography. One of the courses should be at the 100 level and the other four courses should be at the 300 level or above.
No Pass/Fail courses are allowed in the minor. Independent Study/Practicum courses: maximum of 6 credits allowed. Relevant examples are listed in the above options. In general we expect students to take 3 credits of these at most.
Degree: Bachelor of Science
Contact: Robert DeConto
Global environmental changes require a comprehensive understanding of the earth’s major systems, and of the important ways in which these systems are linked. The major systems are the geosphere—processes of the Earth’s surface and interior; biosphere—life on land and in the sea; atmosphere—weather and climate; hydrosphere—water in the oceans, air, and on the continents; and cryosphere—snow and ice-covered regions, as well as the impact of human activities on these systems. The goal of earth system science is to obtain a scientific understanding of the entire earth system on a global scale. Recent studies of the continents, oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and ice cover have revealed a far more complex and dynamic world than hitherto imagined.
The purpose of the Earth Systems degree is to provide students with a holistic understanding of the Earth’s geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere, as well as the impact of human activities on these systems. The degree is suitable for students interested in the interface of earth science and related fields, and in issues related to the long-term management and sustainabilty of the planet.
Requirements for the B.S. Degree
A. Supporting Sciences (7 courses; 25-28 credits)
1. Two courses in Biology (at least one must be a laboratory course)
2. Two semesters of Mathematics
3. Three courses in Physics and Chemistry (at least one from each discipline)
B. Earth Systems Core Courses (27-28 credits)
1. One of the following four introductory Geoscience courses:
2. 102 The Human Landscape
3. 131 Experiencing Geology or 231 Introduction to Field Geology
4. 201 History of the Earth
5. 354 Climatology or 391A Meteorology
6. 420 Political Ecology
7. One of the following:
8. Select one of the following courses:
9. 483 Environmental Evolution (seniors only)
C. Earth Systems Electives (12 credits)
Students should select at least 12 credits from a list of approved courses in Geosciences (including a second course from B-3, B-7, and B-8 above), Biology, Computer Science, Environmental Sciences, Forestry, Microbiology, Natural Resources Conservation, Physics, Plant and Soil Sciences, Political Science, Resource Economics, Resource Planning, Statistics, and Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation. The list is available from the department. Courses should broaden knowledge in one or more areas of Earth Systems and must be selected in consultation with an adviser.
Earth Systems majors will be well placed for careers in a wide range of environmental fields. Their rigorous science training, combined with a broad perspective on global environmental systems, will equip them for employment in government agencies and businesses concerned with environmental issues. Students will also be well positioned to continue their studies at the graduate level in specializations related to earth science, geography, and environmental management, thereby enhancing their career potential.