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Major and Minor


Explore and Discover. Whether you’re interested in geology or sustainability, volcanology or climate change, watersheds or caves, we’re your academic home. This is an integrated earth and environmental science major. A major or minor in EES is the preparation you need for a life and career in scientific research, environmental management, resource exploration, conservation, or many other fascinating and important fields. Minors or double majors in other STEM fields are encouraged.

The Major in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Requirements for the Major (for students declaring fall 2023 or after)

EES Major Requirements_Fall2023

Requirements for the Major (for students who declared through spring 2023)

The Earth and Environmental Sciences major provides a solid grounding in the Earth and environmental sciences while allowing flexibility in the particular focus. The major is organized into five sequential parts:

All EES students take one of three introductory lab courses that serve as entry points to the program: The Dynamic Earth and Lab; Oceanography and Lab; or Earth and Atmosphere and Lab.

All EES students take the same three core courses with labs:

  • Earth Systems Through Time, 
  • Earth Materials, and
  • Earth System Dynamics (Math 1100, 1201, or 1301 is a required prerequisite or corequisite)

These courses provide majors with a common scientific background that will be foundational to their further studies. Students must complete at least one of the core courses before enrolling in their first focus course (see Part 3, below).

At this stage, students typically declare their EES major and consult with their adviser to plan their area of focus. EES offers three predefined focus areas, or students may develop a custom plan with help from their adviser. The written plan must be approved by the EES Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Predefined focus options include:

  • Solid Earth focus
  • Earth surface focus
  • Environmental focus

Students must complete at least one core course before taking any focus courses. The EES major requires at least three focus courses with labs.

For more detailed descriptions of possible areas of focus and appropriate courses, see the section "Optional Focus Areas," below.


Students must take at least three electives and labs, at least two of which are at the 4000-level. Electives can be used to:

  • Add depth to the student's area of focus
  • Add another area of focus to the student's degree
  • Explore the overall breadth of the Earth and evironmental sciences

In addition to one 3000-level elective not counted toward the focus requirements, qualifying electives are 4000-level courses and include:

  • Geomorphology
  • Transport Processes in Earth and Environmental System
  • Geochemistry
  • Physics of the Climate System
  • Paleoclimates
  • Sustainability: An Environmental Science Perspective
  • Agent- and Individual-Based Computational Modeling
  • Paleoecological Methods
  • Volcanic Processes
  • Special Topics

All EES majors must take a one-credit-hour capstone seminar during the senior year. 

Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of Earth and environmental sciences, the department strongly recommends that students take supporting courses in other natural science departments. These courses add depth to the student’s studies and, in many cases, are required for graduate school or employment in the field.

  • Chemistry (1601/1601L and 1602/1602L and beyond)
  • Physics (1601/1601L and 1602/1602L and beyond)
  • Biological Sciences (1510/1510L and 1511/1511L and beyond)
  • Statistics, Advanced Calculus and/or Linear Algebra
  • Computer Science, Data Science, and/or Scientific Computing

Optional Areas of Focus

EES majors typically choose an area of focus within the degree. The department offers several options for predefined areas of focus, or students may develop a custom plan in consultation with their adviser. All parts of the Earth are interconnected, and students should maintain some breadth in their plan to create a comprehensive understanding of the cycling of energy and materials through the Earth’s spheres.

Predefined focus options include:

  • Solid Earth. This option most closely resembles a traditional geology degree, focusing on the processes and history of the earth as recorded in its rocks, how those rocks form, and how they change with changing conditions. Appropriate focus and elective courses for this option include: 3260, 3340, 3330, 3220, 4420, 4550, 4600, 4830. 
  • Earth surface. This option considers interactions between Earth’s land surface, oceans, and atmosphere–how rivers, mountains, coasts, or the climate operate and evolve with time. Earth’s surface systems also define the planet’s critical zone, which supports life and its ecosystems. Appropriate focus and elective courses for this option include: 3330, 3220, 3280, 4420, 4600, 4550, 4650, 4680.
  • Environmental focus. This option focuses on the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and coupled human-environment systems, both present and past. Life on earth impacts and is impacted by Earth’s environments, and is therefore central to this focus. Appropriate focus and elective courses for this option include: 3220, 3280, 3310, 4650, 4680, 4820, 489, 4750, 4760. 

The Minor in Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Earth and Environmental Sciences minor provides students with a broad background in Earth processes, systems, and history, and an introduction to environmental issues. While the minor does not prepare students for Ph.D. study in the Earth sciences, it does provide a foundation that is highly relevant to numerous industries, such as sustainability, engineering, and land use. The minor can also add depth and specialization to degrees in fields such as anthropology, sociology, chemistry, physics, and more.

  • At least five courses taken in the EES department
  • The department encourages minors to choose courses that are closely aligned with their academic and professional interests, but EES 1510/1510L and 1030/1030L are highly recommended
  • No more than two 1000-level courses may count toward the minor
  • Two of the five courses must include a lab; one of these must be at the 2000 level or higher
  • EES 3841-3842 or 3851-3852 do not count toward the minor

Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences provides research experience and mentoring in preparation for a career or graduate studies in the field. Working closely with a faculty adviser, students in the Honors program complete a senior-year research project of interest to both the student and faculty member.

Interested students should apply in the fall semester of their junior year. Successful applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.3 both cumulatively and in courses that count toward the EES major.

 In order to graduate with Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences, students must:

  • Maintain a 3.3 grade point average both in the EES major and cumulatively
  • Complete the required courses for the EES major
  • Complete Senior Honors Seminar (4996, 4997) and Senior Honors Research (4998, 4999)
  • Satisfactorily present the written results of their research to two EES faculty members
  • Satisfactorily complete an oral defense of the thesis to EES faculty and fellow students

Declaring an EES Major or Minor

To declare a major in Earth and Environmental Sciences:

  • Complete the Office of the Registrar’s online Undergraduate Major/Minor Declaration/Change form. If you have any questions use the Student User Guide for guidance. Make sure to list the major as “Earth and Environmental Sciences,” not “EES.”
  • Email the Director of Undergraduate Studies Neil Kelley. He will help connect you with an academic adviser. 
  • Come to the EES office for a bunch of goodies!

Note: Incoming transfer students who listed Earth and Environmental Sciences as their intended major must still complete the above process to declare the major officially.