Earth Science


Bachelor of Arts | College of Arts and Science

What is Earth Science?

Earth science is an all-encompassing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. Earth science includes the study of the solid earth (the lithosphere), the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, including the oceans, and the biosphere. Thus, the discipline includes subjects as diverse as the origin of rocks and minerals, the migration of pollutants in groundwater, and the evolution of life as recorded in fossils. Typically, earth scientists use tools from geology, physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics to build a quantitative understanding of how Earth systems work.

Earth scientists work in a variety of areas. With concerns about conservation of natural resources, environmental pollution, and global climate change in today's society, many earth scientists are involved in finding solutions to problems of waste disposal, urban development, providing clean energy, promoting sustainability, and coping with hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, and erosion. Others study the human influence upon the earth and provide the basic information needed to solve problems and establish rational policies for resource management, environmental protection, and public health safety and welfare.

What are the features of Miami’s program?

Integration of teaching and research

The faculty in the Department of Geology is an extremely active group of earth scientists and educators. Our faculty teach courses at all levels of the curriculum, which means that students interact with active scholars in virtually all geology courses. All faculty members and graduate students are working on research projects, many of which regularly involve undergraduate students. These independent study research opportunities are often the most rewarding aspects of an undergraduate's career because they provide hands-on experience applying principles and concepts learned in coursework to outstanding questions in the earth and geological sciences.

The National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, the Miami University Summer Scholars Program, the Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, and the Department of Geology all provide funding that allows undergraduates to undertake independent research during the summer and school year. Many students publish their work in leading journals and participate in conference presentations.

Field-based learning opportunities

The Department of Geology sponsors several three- to five-week domestic and international field courses run annually during the summer. Shorter field courses (7 to 10 days) are often taught over the winter and spring break periods, affording undergraduate and graduate students ample opportunity to participate. Many of the upper-level earth science and geology courses contain field components that take advantage of key aspects of the local and regional geology via multi-hour to multi-day field projects. The Earth Science major could also lead to the summer field geology course offered annually at the department's field station in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, next to one of the nation's most unspoiled and rugged wilderness areas.

Top-notch facilities

The Department of Geology houses modern research and teaching laboratories and field equipment for the investigation of a variety of earth materials and processes. These facilities support material preparation and state-of-the-art instrumental analysis focusing in the areas of isotope and elemental geochemistry, mineral surface geochemistry, crystallography, geomicrobiology, hydrogeology, environmental geochemistry, and geophysics. This instrumentation is further supported by a modern departmental computer laboratory and numerous specialized high-end computer facilities.

What are the special admission requirements, if any?

 There are no additional admission requirements for this program.

What courses would I take?

The Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree in Earth Science is designed for students who seek a broad understanding of the earth and how it operates but who do not necessarily wish to pursue a career as a professional geologist. Students with diverse interests in modern or recent earth systems and their interactions, yet not necessarily interested in working in the deeper geologic record may wish to pursue this degree. This degree is just as rigorous as our A.B. in Geology, yet offers considerably more flexibility. The required core curriculum includes only an introductory geoscience lecture and laboratory course. Students can therefore largely design their own curriculum among our diverse array of earth science courses according to their interests and/or career paths. Possible areas of interest include climate change, biogeochemical cycling, geomicrobiology, hydrogeology, environmental contamination and remediation, as well as many other fields of study that link the earth sciences and society.

What can I do with this major?

Earth scientists are typically employed in environmental consulting and planning firms, energy and mineral resource companies, or government agencies, such as the National Park Service, environmental protection agencies, and health departments. They are also employed in schools and universities, a wide array of both small and large corporations, legal practices, non-profit organizations, and even the news media. Because earth scientists are continually urged to recognize and address the world around them, they acquire and hone skills that are highly valued in many disciplines.

About 50 percent of our graduates obtain immediate employment in earth science disciplines. A bachelor's degree can provide the background to obtain support or assistant positions as a geologist in government agencies or consulting companies as well as the laboratory or field programs of mining and petroleum corporations and state or national geological surveys.

In recent years, about 30 percent of our graduates have furthered their education in graduate programs. A master's degree, which is the terminal degree of most practicing earth and geoscientists, provides a wide opportunity for professional achievement and advancement. A Ph.D. in Geology, Earth Science, or Environmental Science can lead to an academic career of teaching and research. Many Earth Science majors have gone into law, business, or education. Environmental law and earth science education have become increasingly active areas in recent years, and the A.B. in Earth Science is an ideal path to these opportunities.

Who can I contact for more information?

Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science
118 Shideler Hall
Oxford, OH 45056

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