Geoscience and Global Concerns

Stony Brook University


An exploration of how technologically-based problems facing the United States and the world relate to the Earth system, including the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The set of issues include such geoscience-based topics as fossil fuel resources, nuclear power, renewable energy sources, global warming, meteorology, and seismology.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture, lab, and seminar-style discussions

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an optional upper-level course that may be taken by geoscience majors and non-majors who have completed at least one introductory geoscience course. The course material is presented through lectures, computer-based laboratory activities, classroom discussions, classroom activities, and homework. Typically, the course enrolls about 30% pre-service Earth Science teachers, 45% other geoscience majors, and 25% non-majors.

Course Content:

This course engages students in investigations of real-world problems related to the Earth system. Emphasis is placed on issues of obtaining energy and the economic and environmental consequences of utilizing various sources of energy. The course format includes lectures and inquiry-driven activities.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to:
- Use digital mapping tools to explore Earth system problems
- Use spreadsheets to experiment with quantitative models of fossil fuel demand, consumption, and reserves
- Understand energy and other geoscience issues faced by the United States and other nations
- Understand the nature of seismic hazard
- Find and use data and other information from the web to explore energy and seismic issues
- Evaluate media coverage of energy and climate issues

Course Features:

Students are required to complete a term project that explores a geoscience issue that they have selected with instructor approval. They use maps, quantitative data, spreadsheet analysis, published research, and their own observations to address the selected problem.

Course Philosophy:

In order to develop realistic solutions to energy problems, students, researchers, and citizens in general must use an integrated, interdisciplinary, Earth system approach.


Exams, quizzes, laboratory activities, class activities, and a semester project are graded. Classroom and laboratory discussion also provides this information even when it is not graded.


Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Energy Systems and Sustainability - Godfrey Boyle (Editor), Bob Everett (Editor), Janet Ramage (Editor)
Handouts, such as journal articles