2011-2012 Graduate Catalog 
    Jul 20, 2024  
2011-2012 Graduate Catalog [Archived]

Earth and Environmental Systems

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Master of Arts in Geography
Master of Science in Earth and Quaternary Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in Spatial and Earth Sciences with Concentrations in:
   Earth Sciences

Department of Earth and Environmental Systems
Science Building, room 159
Phone: 812-237-2444
Fax: 812-237-8029
Web site:

Department Chairperson: Dr. C. Russell Stafford



Gatrell, Jay, Ph.D., West Virginia University
Professor of Geography and Women’s Studies and
Dean, College of Graduate and Professional Studies
Specializations: Industrial and Economic Geography, Spatial Research Methods, Public Policy

Pontius, Steven, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Professor of Geography
Specializations: Cultural Geography, Economic Development, Communications, Tropical Africa, Southeast Asia

Rathburn, Anthony, Ph.D., Duke University
Professor of Geology
Specializations: Oceanography, Paleontology, Paleoclimatology, Ecology and Geochemistry of Marine Ecosystems, Paleoecology, Geobiology

Speer, James, Ph.D., University of Tennessee
Professor of Geography and Geology
Specializations: Dendrochronology, Quaternary Paleoecology, Paleoclimatology 

Stafford, C. Russell, Ph.D., Arizona State University
Department Chair, Professor of Anthropology, and Director, Archaeology and Quaternary Research Laboratory
Specializations: Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, Hunter-Gatherers, GIS, and Midwest

Weng, Qihao, Ph.D., University of Georgia
Professor of Geography and Director, Center for Urban and Environmental Change
Specializations: Remote Sensing, GIS, Environmental Modeling

Associate Professors

Berta, Susan M., Ph.D., University of Oklahoma
Associate Professor of Geography
Specializations: Physical Geography, Geomorphology, Remote Sensing

Bierly, Gregory D., Ph.D., Michigan State University
Associate Professor of Geography, and Director of University Honors
Specializations: Synoptic and Dynamic Climatology and Meteorology, Remote Sensing

Brake, Sandra S., Ph.D., Colorado School of Mines
Associate Professor of Geology
Specializations: Environmental Geology and Geochemistry, Economic Geology

Heath, Kathleen M., Ph.D., University of Utah
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Specializations: Evolutionary Ecology, Mating and Parenting Strategies, Life History, Collective Action 

Latimer, Jennifer, Ph.D., Indiana University
Associate Professor of Geology
Specializations: Environmental Geology, Biogeochemistry, Oceanography

Obermeyer, Nancy, Ph.D., University of Chicago
Associate Professor of Geography
Specializations: GIS, Urban Geography, Cultural Geography

Ould-Mey, Mohameden, Ph.D., University of Kentucky
Associate Professor of Geography
Specializations: Global Studies, Development Theory and Policy, Middle East and Africa, Islam Geographic Thought

Phillips, Shawn, Ph.D., State University of New York—Albany
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Specializations: Biological Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology, Bioarchaeology, Health and Disease

Assistant Professor

Aldrich, Stephen, PhD., Michigan State University
Assistant Professor of Geography
Specializations: Geographic Information Systems, Amazon


The department is staffed with 14 full-time tenured/tenure-track graduate faculty with teaching and research experience covering a broad range of environmental and geoscience topics. The recently revised graduate programs include exciting interdisciplinary courses and research options while continuing to provide students with a solid background in geography and the geosciences. Programs emphasize hands-on, experiential learning in the field and in the laboratory, and focus on applied, interdisciplinary research in earth and environmental systems.  State-of-the-art research facilities are available for graduate research projects, and include laboratories for remote sensing/GIS, climatology, urban environment and sustainability, environmental geology, biogeochemistry, geomorphology, biogeography, spatial analysis, paleoceanography, marine science, micropaleontology, sedimentary petrology, dendrochronology, geoarchaeology, archaeology, and bioanthropology.

Students finishing the Earth and environmental systems graduate programs have been extremely successful in securing university-level academic positions and high salary, decision-making positions with the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, CIA, ESRI, Inc., ERDAS, Inc., British Geological Survey, Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and environmental firms.


The department offers a Doctor Of Philosophy in Spatial and Earth Sciences, (with concentrations in Earth Sciences and Geography), a Master of Arts in Geography and a Master of Science in Earth and Quaternary Sciences (thesis and non-thesis options).  The non-thesis option is designed as a professional degree for students wishing to enhance professional career opportunities. Department graduate programs emphasize innovative, interdisciplinary applied research that offers graduate students hands-on learning opportunities to develop the professional skills they desire. Faculty work closely with students to achieve research and learning goals.  Students interested in Earth and environmental systems offerings should contact the department’s graduate coordinator or the faculty member working in the student’s area of interest.

Research funding comes primarily from federal and Indiana state agencies, as well as private industry. The College of Graduate and Professional Studies at Indiana State University also provides monetary support on a competitive basis for graduate research and for meeting presentations. The department has well-equipped research facilities, and faculty members and graduate students work with scientists from other departments at the University and with colleagues from other universities and government agencies.


The main objectives of the graduate programs in Earth and environmental systems are to:

  1.  Enable students to gain experience in conducting research, teaching, and communicating research results in presentations and/or publications;
  2. Provide students with a strong educational foundation in Earth and environmental systems through interdisciplinary course work and field work;
  3. Prepare students for academic and professional careers through hands-on training in their chosen area.


A student must have a baccalaureate degree with preferably the equivalent of a major in geography, geology, or earth sciences before being admitted to the Master of Arts (Geography) or the Master of Science (Earth and Quaternary Sciences) majors. To be admitted, applicants must submit their official scores on the General Tests of the Graduate Record Examination. Admission is based on the overall quality of the application.


Candidates for the Master f Science in Earth and Quaternary Sciences are required to submit a thesis or complete the non-thesis option as described in this Catalog.  A student’s course of study is tailored for each individual, depending on his/her goals and initial academic background and skills.  In the first semester after entering the program, a two-year course of study is established and then followed to completion.

All candidates for the Master of Arts in Geography are required to submit a thesis or its equivalent in research reports as one of the requirements for the degree. A list of courses making up the core program of 18 credits for each departmental degree is provided by the advisor. A minor outside the department of not more than ten credits may be counted toward the degree.

Students should expect to take two years to complete the master’s program in geography or Earth and quaternary sciences.


Students seeking admission to the Doctor of Philosophy Program in Spatial and Earth Sciences must meet the criteria for admission to the College of Graduate and Professional Studies. All requests for admission to the program will be screened by the Graduate Committee and the Chairperson of the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems. Meeting the minimal standards listed below does not guarantee admission. The Chairperson will make recommendations to the Dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies for approval or denial of each applicant to the Program. Official notice of admission will be sent to the student by the College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Applicants should note:

  1. A minimum score of 500 on each of the sections of the General Tests of the Graduate Record Examination is expected. (See GRE or GMAT section of chapter concerning admissions.)  If entering with a master’s degree, students may submit their written thesis or a draft of their thesis to be evaluated as a demonstration of   competence in writing original material and quantitative analyses.
  2. Applicants should possess an undergraduate average of at least 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale, or if an international student, be in compliance with the requirements of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Students entering with advanced standing or with the master’s degree from another institution must possess a graduate average of 3.25.
  3. Admission is based on the overall quality of the application.
  4. Students are expected to contact potential faculty advisors to discuss possible research opportunities. 


The Department of Earth and Environmental Systems offers a graduate curriculum leading to a Doctor of Philosophy with specialization in Earth Sciences or Geography. Completion of the program provides graduates with the skills and experience for teaching and research in academia or professional work in their discipline. Each student’s course of study and research is based on his/her goals and prior preparation.  Degree requirements include completion of core courses, passing a qualifying examination, and an acceptable dissertation based on original research.

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy is based upon successful completion of minimum residence requirements (a normal course load for two consecutive semesters), demonstration of research tool proficiencies, and passing of written and oral qualifying examinations.

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