Courses of Study 2021-2022 
    
    Sep 21, 2021  
Courses of Study 2021-2022

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences


Offered by the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
2124 Snee Hall
(607) 255-5466
www.eas.cornell.edu

Course Offerings  

The Earth Sciences have never been more critical to society than they are today. Global warming, dwindling energy resources, inadequate water supplies, political strife over strategic minerals, and mega-disasters threatened by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami, and hurricanes: these are but a few of the headlines that appear with increasing frequency. The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell is a global leader in research directed toward understanding the fundamental processes that have shaped our planet, and is committed to providing Cornell students with the earth literacy needed to serve as informed citizens and wise stewards of the Earth. EAS faculty members and graduate students carry out frontier research on both basic and applied aspects of subjects as diverse as satellite monitoring of volcanic activity, the deep structure of the Andes Mountains and Tibetan Plateau, natural and man-made earthquakes, the nature of the earth’s ionosphere, ocean acoustics, controls on global climate, and improved weather prediction.

The Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) major is the undergraduate program offered by the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences to Cornell students in the College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Students in this program can pursue education and research that prepares them to compete for careers or graduate study at leading institutions in this country and abroad. Students may choose to focus on one of a number of disciplinary specialties, such as geophysics or biogeochemistry, or develop the broad expertise needed to understand the interactions between the diverse elements of earth and life in the past, present, and future. By analyzing the complex relations among  the ocean, solid earth, atmosphere, and biosphere, students can help meet society’s growing demand for energy, minerals, and clean water as well as contribute to mitigating the negative impacts related to global warming, rising sea level, natural hazards, and decreasing biodiversity.

The EAS program is intrinsically interdisciplinary, involving many branches of science and engineering. Examples of the latter include civil and environmental engineering, biological and environmental engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and electrical and computer engineering. The EAS program is unique in that it incorporates the fundamentals of Earth Science with the emergence of a new and more complete approach that encompasses all components of the earth system—air, life, rock, and water—to gain a new and more comprehensive understanding of the world as we know it.

To achieve a complete understanding of these important issues, students must have a desire to take a very hands-on approach. An abundance of opportunities exists for geological, oceanographic, and meteorological research in the field and for nationwide and international travel as well as paid research experience. Students have worked with faculty members in the Andes, the Aleutians, the Rocky Mountains, the Atacama Desert, the Caribbean, Tibet, and Hawaii, and have spent a semester at sea in the Woods Hole Ocean Studies Program. Students are also able to probe the ionosphere of Earth and the surface of Mars by utilizing techniques in remote sensing.

The EAS major provides a strong preparation for graduate school in any one of the earth sciences, such as atmospheric sciences, geological sciences, geophysics, geochemistry, oceanography, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and environmental geoscience. Students seeking employment with the B.A. or B.S. degree will have many options in a wide variety of careers related to energy, the environment, and critical resources in both the private sector and government. Students with the strong science background provided by the EAS major are also highly valued by graduate programs in environmental law, public affairs, economics, and public policy.

Faculty


D. L. Hysell, chair; G. A. Abers, W. D.  Allmon, T. R. Ault, L. D. Brown, S. J. Colucci, A. T. DeGaetano, L. A. Derry, P. M. Fulton, E. Gazel, C. H. Greene, P.G. Hess, K. Olson Hoal, P. Hitchcock, T. E. Jordan, K. M. Keranen, R. B. Lohman, N. M. Mahowald, B. C. Monger, M. E. Pritchard, S. C. Pryor, S. J. Riha, W. M. White, M. W. Wysocki

Requirements for the Major


 In addition to the major requirements indicated below, students must meet the appropriate college graduation requirements.

1. Basic Math and Sciences


This part of the EAS curriculum builds a strong and diverse knowledge of fundamental science and mathematics, providing the student with the basic tools needed in upper-level science classes.

a. At Least Two Semesters of Mathematics


e. One Advisor-Approved Course in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, or Natural Science


In addition to the math, physics, chemistry, and biology requirements listed above, students are required to take an advisor-approved course in statistics, computer science, mathematics, or natural science (including, but not limited to, a course in astronomy, a second course in biology, or an additional course in physics or chemistry). Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences must select a second course in biology.

2. Required Introductory Course


3. Concentrations in the EAS Major


Climate Science Concentration


The curriculum in Climate Science concentration emphasizes the scientific study of the behavior of climate and applications to the important practical problems of understanding how humans are modifying the climate system, the changing hazards caused by climate change, and the impacts of proposed mitigation efforts on the climate system. Students develop a fundamental understanding of the climate system, focused on the atmosphere and ocean, and develop skills to allow the analysis of changes in climate and their impacts on hazards such as extreme precipitation, drought, air quality, and the interactions with renewable energies. The curriculum includes a strong foundation in basic mathematics and science courses; core courses in atmospheric thermodynamics, atmospheric dynamics, and climate dynamics among a variety of Climate Science electives, including electives that teach students about how science and policy interact, as well as understanding the controversies and conclusions from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate Science Concentration Core Courses

Students must complete the following 3 core courses:

Climate Science Concentration Courses

Students must complete 5 concentration courses at the 3000-level or above. Students should speak with their advisor about which concentration courses are most appropriate for their program of study.

Climate Science Concentration Field Course

Exposure to the basic observations of earth science in the field is necessary to fully understand the chosen area of concentration in the major. A minimum of 3 credits of appropriate coursework is required, although more experience with fieldwork is encouraged. The following field course is recommended:

Environmental Science Concentration


The curriculum in the Environmental Science concentration focuses on the scientific study of the environment. Students in the Environmental Science concentration of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences develop knowledge and understanding necessary to characterize environmental conditions, make informed predictions about the future, and prevent or address environmental problems. Environmental problems can involve physical, chemical, and biologic processes within the air, water, rock, and soil, and thus often require multidisciplinary solutions. The curriculum for the Environmental Science concentration in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences prepares students to tackle these challenges through a strong foundation in basic math and science courses; core courses in Earth materials, environmental geophysics, and biogeochemistry; as well as elective concentration courses involving the fields of groundwater and surface water hydrology, biogeochemistry, the geology sediments and soils, and geophysical methods of characterization; and includes field course options that focus on building practical experience. Beyond coursework, students also often take advantage of opportunities for work experience through internships, undergraduate research projects, and environmental-themed project teams.

Environmental Science Concentration Core Courses

Students must complete the following 3 core courses:

Environmental Science Concentration Courses

Students must complete 5 concentration courses at the 3000-level or above. Students should speak with their advisor about which concentration courses are most appropriate for their program of study.

Environmental Science Concentration Field Courses

Exposure to the basic observations of earth science in the field is necessary to fully understand the chosen area of concentration in the major. A minimum of 3 credits of appropriate coursework is required, although more experience with fieldwork is encouraged. The following field course is recommended:

  • EAS 4370 - Field Geophysics  

Geological Sciences Concentration


Geological Science studies processes involved in Earth’s origin and evolution, its relationship with the solar system, and its structure and composition. Geological Science is also interconnected to society’s needs, including the responsible use of natural resources, preserving the environment, and studying and mitigating natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.). With exponential population growth, we face the challenge of securing resources (water, minerals, food) sustainably. The concentration on Geological Science concentration focuses the Earth’s fundamental processes with numerical, analytical, field, and communications skills needed to conduct scientific research and work on solving some of the most critical challenges of the 21st century. The concentration requirements and flexibility to design your curriculum with many specialized concentration courses to choose from, and field and lab opportunities provide excellent preparation for graduate school and careers in the geoscience industry, sustainable use of resources, land use planning, material science, remote sensing, law, etc.  The gorgeous landscape of New York’s Finger Lakes and the proximity to the Adirondack mountains provide natural laboratories to study geologic processes in the field as well as field opportunities abroad. The program features small classes with personalized mentorship offered by our world-class faculty.

Geological Sciences Concentration Core Courses

Students must complete the following 3 core courses:

Geological Science Concentration Courses

Students must complete 5 concentration courses at the 3000-level or above. Students should speak with their advisor about which concentration courses are most appropriate for their program of study.

Geological Science Concentration Field Courses

Exposure to the basic observations of Earth science in the field is necessary to fully understand the chosen area of concentration in the major. A minimum of 3 credits of appropriate coursework is required, although more experience with fieldwork is encouraged. The following field course is recommended:

  • EAS 4370 - Field Geophysics  
  • Field courses offered by another college or university with pre-approval by the faculty advisor 
  • Experience gained participating in field research with Cornell faculty (or REU at another institution) with pre-approval by the faculty advisor 

Ocean Sciences Concentration


The field of ocean science encompasses four subdisciplines covering marine geology, marine chemistry, physical oceanography, and biological oceanography.  There is a strong interdisciplinary overlap among all four of these sub-disciplines.  An EAS concentration in ocean sciences touches on all four subdisciplines but is often tailored to emphasize one of the sub-disciplines over the other three. Marine geology often involves the study of seafloor processes associated with plate tectonic motion (e.g., spreading centers and seafloor subduction). It may also address the issue of coastal erosion and the impact of sea-level rise on coastline stability. Marine chemistry involves the study of global-scale cycles of the major elements on earth such as carbon or nitrogen. Or it might involve the use of chemical tracers to delineate deep ocean water mass movements. More recently, this discipline has been in a race to understand human-caused ocean acidification and ocean de-oxygenation resulting from global warming. Physical oceanography is the study of fluid dynamics at geophysical scales. This involves the study of coastal wave dynamics, coastal upwelling, open-ocean eddies, air-sea exchanges of heat, freshwater and momentum or global-scale heat transport via meridional overturning circulation (aka, conveyor belt circulation). Biological oceanography is the study of marine food webs and their role in the global biogeochemical cycling of major elements.  More recently, biological oceanographers have been in a race to understand the impacts of global warming and ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. 

Ocean Sciences Concentration Core Courses

Students must complete the following 3 core courses:

Ocean Sciences Concentration Courses

Students must complete 5 concentration courses at the 3000-level or above. Students should speak with their advisor about which concentration courses are most appropriate for their program of study.

Ocean Sciences Field Courses

Exposure to the basic observations of earth science in the field is necessary to fully understand the chosen area of concentration in the major. A minimum of 3 credits of appropriate coursework is required, although more experience with fieldwork is encouraged. Students can choose from the following course options.

  • Shoals Marine Lab Courses
  • SEA Abroad Course 
  • Woods Hole Course
  • Experience gained participating in field research with Cornell faculty (or REU at another institution) with pre-approval by the faculty advisor 

4. Academic Standards


The criteria for good standing in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences major are as follows:

  • Semester GPA ≥ 2.0
  • Cumulative GPA ≥ 2.0
  • At least C- in all major required courses
  • A minimum of 12 credit hours per semester

Please note: students must take all major required courses for a letter grade.

Honors Program


An honors program is offered by the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences for qualified students. Students interested in applying should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies during the second semester of their junior year or very early in the first semester of their senior year.

Additional Information


Minor: Students may minor in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences as well.

For more information about the major or minor, please contact Carl Cornell, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, cec232@cornell.edu, or visit www.eas.cornell.edu.