2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog 
    Apr 22, 2019  
2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived]

Earth and Environmental Systems

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Chairperson: Dr. C. Russell Stafford
Department Office: Science Building, room 159
Web Site:

The Department of Earth and Environmental Systems provides students with the opportunity to explore a wide range of environmental, earth, and human systems. Anthropologists, geographers, and geologists, investigate fundamental questions that relate directly to the mechanics of the Earth’s physical processes, the spatial organization of societies, the study of human diversity, and the interaction between people and their environment. The department offers environmentally focused interdisciplinary degrees as well as traditional training in anthropology, geography, and geology. Innovative minor programs that draw on the department’s interdisciplinary nature are also offered including climatology, environmental science, GIS, anthropology, and conservation. The department emphasizes experiential learning and facilitates student engagement in research.

In addition, the department contributes to the secondary education programs in science education (Earth Space Science Concentration) and social studies education. The department also collaborates with and/or offers courses in African and African American studies, international studies, women’s studies, and Foundational Studies.


Degrees Offered

As a unit within the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems offers a curriculum that leads to a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science degree in either Earth and Environmental Sciences or Human and Environmental Systems. Candidates for these degrees must complete the University requirement of a minimum of 124 credit hours, including Foundational Studies course work, as well as the requirements for the departmental majors and concentrations. Candidates for a bachelor of arts degree must also complete two years, or the equivalent, of a foreign language.

The major in Earth and Environmental Sciences includes a core of study and laboratory work in environmental science, world culture and environments, earth science, and conservation and sustainability. Students also complete a core of mathematics and science courses in chemistry, calculus, and physics. In addition, each student selects a concentration in one of the following areas. 

          Atmospheric and Surface Processes: This concentration focuses on the field and laboratory techniques needed to understand earth surface processes and climate. Course work includes physical geography, weather and climate, geomorphic processes, chemistry, and physics. Graduates are prepared for careers in fields such as environmental science, land reclamation, surface water/soil contamination, and conservation of natural resources.

          Geoscience: This concentration focuses on field and laboratory techniques needed to interpret earth and environmental processes, analyze, and evaluate scientific data, and assess new environmental issues. Course work includes earth history, mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, field geology, environmental geology, stratigraphy and sedimentation, chemistry, and physics. Graduates are prepared for professional careers as a geologist, hydrogeologist, or environmental scientist in a variety of industries or in government agencies, including those dealing with distribution and quality of groundwater, pollution problems, waste disposal, and hazards such as flooding and erosion.

The major in Human and Environmental Systems includes a core of courses and laboratory work in environmental science, world culture and environments, earth science, and conservation and sustainability. Students also complete a statistics course. In addition, each student selects a concentration in one of the following areas. 

          Anthropology: This concentration focuses on the interrelationships of humans and the environment including human adaptation, the emergence of humans, and the influence of humans on the environment.   Course work includes study in biological and cultural anthropology, and archaeology, human evolution, human ecology, and electives selected from areas such as prehistory and forensic anthropology. Graduates are prepared for careers in areas such as museum and foundation work, and positions with cultural resource or environmental management firms.

         Geography: This concentration focuses on human and physical geography, including the use of geotechniques. Graduates are prepared for careers in areas such as environmental consulting, emergency management planning, climatology, economic development, global studies, data management, land use planning, and careers in environmental protection. Students may obtain the Geographic Information Science Certificate.

        GIScience: This concentration focuses on the full range of spatial analysis tools, including statistics, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS). Graduates are prepared for careers in areas such as GIS specialist, cartographer, and remote sensing analyst as well as careers in environmental management.

Departmental Opportunities

Departmental programs emphasize interdisciplinary experiential learning. The department offers many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in field and laboratory work a part of ongoing faculty research projects around the world in the geosciences, environmental sciences, geography, and anthropology. The department houses numerous modern laboratories that provide students with access to state-of-the-art equipment and important opportunities to gain the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, complete a professional degree, or pursue graduate studies. Scholarships to support undergraduate studies are also available.

Finally, students are encouraged to participate in the department’s many extra-curricular events and organizations. To supplement the classroom experience, the department regularly hosts research colloquial and other special events. Students majoring in departmental programs are active in Gamma Theta Upsilon, the Anthropology Club, and Environmental Club. These organizations are engaged in a range of service, social, and professional activities.


Students should be thoroughly familiar with the requirements of the teaching curriculum and admission to the Teacher Education Program. Refer to the College of Education and the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Media Technology sections in this Catalog.

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