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Environmental Geoscience, Northern Illinois University

Information for this profile was provided by Mark Fischer in 2007. Information is also available on the department's undergraduate programs web page.

Jump down to Overview and Context * Connecting to the Future of Science * Goals and Assessment * Courses and Sequencing * Additional Materials

Overview and Context

Northern Illinois University Environmental Geoscience program curriculum. Diagram constructed by Carol Ormand from information provided by Mark Fischer. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Our major is divided into three emphases, one of which is Environmental Geoscience. The other two emphases are Geology and Earth Science Education. Regardless of their chosen emphasis, all majors take the same core courses. Programs differ in the requirements and choices above the level of this core. Our Environmental Geoscience emphasis was designed to provide a broad background in integrative, interdisciplinary science. It maintains rigor and depth in the geosciences while at the same time building a solid foundation in one other scientific field in which the student is interested.

Connecting to the Future of Science

Our Environmental Geoscience emphasis has been effective in connecting to the future of science in several ways. Most importantly it has allowed students with a broad interest in science to purse those interests without being pigeon-holed into a narrow geological focus. We strongly believe that the future of science is highly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, and feel that our program is fostering in our majors, exactly that type of thinking and problem-solving approach.

Goals and Assessment

Our department goals statement lists eight areas of "skills and knowledge" that we expect each student to be able to demonstrate upon completion of the program. Without going into detail, these eight categories of Expected Outcomes are: (1) Earth Materials, (2) Earth Features, (3) Earth Processes, (4) Interpretation of the Geologic Record, (5) Collection, Evaluation and Manipulation of Data, (6) Communication, (7) Scientific Analysis, and (8) Societal Significance of Geoscience. Detailed explanations of these expected outcomes are provided in the additional materials for our program, listed at the bottom of this page.

We have a comprehensive assessment plan that collects, analyzes and reflects on a variety of data collected at regular intervals. This plan is also provided as one of the additional materials for our program, at the bottom of this page.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

The following courses serve as an introduction to the program: Introductory Geology and Introductory Geology Lab.

Core courses

  • Paleoenvironments and Paleoecology
  • Solid Earth Composition
  • Global Cycles
  • Dynamics and Structure of the Earth
Field Techniques in Environmental Geosciences (a four week summer course) is also required for students who choose the Environmental Geoscience emphasis, although it is not one of the "common core" courses for all majors in the department.


Students are required to take 9-12 credit hours of upper division geoscience courses (usually 3-4 courses). Choices include, but are not limited to:
  • Introduction to Groundwater
  • Stratigraphy
  • Geochemistry of the Earth's Surface
  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Engineering Geology
  • Geomorphology
  • Geomicrobiology
  • Environmental Change
  • Hydrogeology
  • Geophysical Well Logging
  • Hydrology
  • Groundwater Geophysics
  • Geophysics
Students are also required to take 9-12 credit hours (usually 3-4 courses) of upper division course work from one of the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Economics, Geography, Physics, and/or Political Science. Other choices are possible but these are the most common selections. This work usually gets the student close to a minor in the department of choice.

Other required courses

  • General Chemistry I and associated lab
  • General Chemistry II and associated lab
  • Calculus I
  • Elementary Statistics

Additional Materials

Expected Outcomes for the Program (Microsoft Word 29kB Mar23 07)
Assessment Plan (Acrobat (PDF) 713kB Mar23 07)