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Environmental Geosciences, Boston College

Information for this profile was provided by Noah Snyder in 2009. Information is also available on the program website.

Boston College is a university with graduate programs, primarily masters programs .

Overview and Context

Illustration of the Boston College environmental geosciences curriculum, constructed by Monica Bruckner, based on information provided by Noah Snyder. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Boston College's Environmental Geosciences major is designed as an interdisciplinary, flexible earth science major.
The major curriculum described here has been in place for more than a decade, and we are currently in the process of revising it to better reflect the research concentrations available in our department and the changing nature of the science. It is our most popular major. We also offer majors in Geology, Geophysics and Geology/Geophysics.

Program Design

The major prepares students for a wide range of careers, and offers great flexibility to students while in school. For instance, it is much easier to schedule a junior year abroad from this major than from our other programs.

Goals and Assessment

This major prepares students to pursue a broad range of careers ranging from leadership positions in environmental policy analysis to professional positions in the forefront of modern research in environmental sciences. Geoscientists are increasingly challenged to provide humanity with the knowledge base necessary to maintain the Earth as a habitable planet. This challenge makes it an exciting time to study the geosciences and to pursue a career in which students will participate in finding solutions to the environmental problems that we face in the 21st century. The Environmental Geoscience major provides students with the foundation in geoscience necessary to address these issues, whether it be as a scientist investigating the underlying Earth processes or as a the future leader in addressing the public policy aspects of these challenges. Environmental Geoscience majors should work out their programs closely with a departmental advisor to insure both breadth and depth in their subject area.

The Department of Geology and Geophysics is in the process of assessing undergraduate student learning throughout our curriculum by seeking input from both alumni and faculty about how successful our courses are at providing students with research and communication skills. During the 2007-2008 academic year, our Undergraduate Studies Committee conducted a comprehensive review of our most popular major (Environmental Geoscience). This process began by sending a questionnaire to recent Environmental Geoscience graduates and all faculty. We polled students on their experiences in the major and on which courses gave them skills that they found most useful in their post-BC careers. We asked faculty to describe how specific scientific research and communication skills (e.g., writing, use of numerical methods and software, laboratory and field methods) are incorporated into their courses. During this academic year, motivated by the results of these surveys, we are in the process of revising the requirements for all of our major programs. One change that we will propose to the full faculty is to require a senior research seminar for all students who are not conducting thesis research projects with department faculty. We plan to use performance of students in these courses to adjust content of courses throughout the curriculum. A goal is to provide an annual mechanism for generating feedback on how well our students are learning to approach scientific research challenges.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

  • Environmental Geosciences I
  • Exploring the Earth I

Core courses

  • Earth Materials
  • Environmental Geology


Students are required to take 6 courses (usually 18 credits) of electives, selected from the following list:
  • Geology of National Parks
  • Exploring the Earth II
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Geosciences II
  • Rivers and the Environment
  • Weather, Climate and Environment
  • Climate Change and Society
  • Geoscience and Public Policy
  • Introduction to Geochemistry
  • Stratigraphy and Sedimentation
  • Introduction to Structural Geology
  • Geological Field Mapping and Methods
  • Environmental Hydrology
  • Topics in Geobiology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Petrology I
  • Petrology II
  • Environmental Oceanography
  • Statistical Analysis of Scientific Data
  • Watershed Geomorphology
  • Site Characterization... Hazardous Waste Sites
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Environmental Contaminants
  • Applications of GIS
  • Isotope Applications in Earth Science
  • Estuarine Studies
  • Marine Geology
  • Coastal Processes
  • Plate Tectonics/Mountain Belts
  • Geophysical Data Processing
  • Environmental Biology
  • Coastal Field Ecology
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environmental Law

Other required courses

  • Two semesters of Chemistry, Physics or Biology with lab

Additional Materials

« Earth Science, Vassar College       GeoEnvironmental Studies, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania »