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Departments & Programs


The GES Major

The purpose of the undergraduate program in Geological and Environmental Sciences is to provide students with (1) a broad background in the fundamentals of the Earth sciences and (2) the quantitative, analytical, and communications skills necessary to conduct research and think critically about questions involving the Earth. The major provides excellent preparation for graduate school and careers in geological and environmental consulting, land use and planning, law, teaching, and other professions in which an understanding of the Earth and a background in science are important. The major in Geological and Environmental Sciences consists of five interrelated components:

Earth Sciences fundamentals

Students must complete a set of core courses that introduce the properties of Earth materials, the processes that change the Earth, and the timescales over which those processes act. These courses provide a broad foundational knowledge that can lead to specialization in many different disciplines of the geological and environmental sciences.

Quantitative and analytical skills

Students must complete adequate coursework in mathematics, chemistry, and physics or biology. In addition, they learn analytical techniques specific to the Earth sciences through the laboratory component of courses.

Advanced coursework and research

Students gain breadth and depth in upper-level electives and are encouraged to apply these skills and knowledge to problems in the Earth sciences through directed research.

Field research skills

Most GES courses include field trips and/or field-based projects. In addition, students must complete at least six weeks of field research through departmental offerings or through a faculty-directed field research project that involves learning and application of field techniques, field mapping, and the preparation of a written report. The conventional and most straightforward way for undergraduates to meet the field requirement is to take the two GES courses (GES 105 Introduction to Field Methods and GES 190 Research in the Field) that are offered every year.

Communications skills

To fulfill the Writing-in-the-Major requirement, students take a writing-intensive senior seminar (GES 150), in which they give both oral and written presentations that require students to analyze and synthesize current research in the Earth sciences.

Students interested in majoring or minoring in GES should review the curriculum below and contact Richard Nevle (

Download the 2013-14 GES Major & Minor Curriculum pdf

Download the 2012-13 GES Major & Minor Curriculum pdf