Why Earth Sciences?
We're futurists. Earth Science emerged from the historic core discipline of geology, which focused on the rocks, fossils, and mineral resources of the solid earth, and of the past. Within the last half-century, extraordinary technological advances have shifted the spatial scale to the whole of the planet, and the time scale to include the present Anthropocene Epoch and future we must prepare for.
We're employed. Earth Science is the highest paid STEM natural science discipline, with an abundance of jobs and career pathways. Our alumni enjoy highly paid environmental careers, faculty positions in academia, specializations within K-12 education and communications, and --intrinsically-- an enhanced appreciation of our place in the universe.
We're sustainable. No field is better equipped to prepare students for careers focused on the big picture of environmental change and whole-earth sustainability, whether in earth science, engineering, law, land use management, public health, public service, environmental justice, and international relations.
We're fascinated. Our majors do exciting things on course field trips, in lab settings, during heated discussions, or on field research projects throughout the world. We have study abroad trips to Taiwan, the Bahamas, Rome, and an alumni-funded western U.S. field trip course for all students.
We're supportive. Every geo-student gets the personal attention they need from our staff, faculty, and fellow students. Our gateway course to the major (ERTH 2500) helps bond a new cohort of friends together. The "Cavern" in Beach Hall is our student basement hangout. Our library (with a view of historic center campus) is reserved for quiet study.
If you are interested in learning more about the Geoscience major by connecting with a current student, Click Here to connect with our mentor for The Major Experience.
Get the Details!
Areas of Interest
The many pieces of the Earth Sciences
We are UConn's only STEM major focusing on Earth as one big thing. We provide the planetary context for the science beneath Environmental Science and the sense of place beneath Environmental Studies.
Areas of interest in earth sciences
- Climate change - past, present, and future.
- Water in the earth system, aquifers, streams, and soils
- Archaeological geology - landscapes and resources of the past.
- Coevolution of Earth and life through time.
- Engineering geology, mainly civil and environmental.
- Glaciers, glacial landscapes, and environmental applications.
- Communications, writing, journalism.
- Coastal change and sea level rise.
- Mineral and energy resources.
- Planetary geology of the solar system.
- K-12 earth science education.
- Geochronology; the dating of earth history and rates of change.
- Groundwater contamination,protection and caverns.
- Chemistry and physics of earthly processes.
- Soils and agriculture.
- Natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.
Student field trip opportunities
UConn's main campus in Storrs is ideally located for a wide variety of course field excursions and student research sites. The nearly ubiquitous grid-work of 18th- and 19th-century fieldstone walls and derelict hydropower mills on perennial streams reveal an abandoned agricultural civilization with great opportunities for investigating land use history. Hard crystalline rock abounds, principally gneiss, schist, and granite.
Within a 1-hour drive are: beautiful exposures of an ancient Triassic-Jurassic rift basin complete with underwater lava flows and dinosaur trace fossils; the bouldery moraines and kettle lakes left by the Laurentide Ice Sheet; saltwater beaches and tidal marshes; and New England's largest water resource, the Connecticut River, namesake to the state.
Within a half-day drive are the granite plutons of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the sandy archipelago of Cape Cod and the Islands, the slate and marble quarries of Vermont, and the rugged coast of Maine.
Adding breadth to related majors
A major or minor in Geoscience will add breadth and strength to your other major. For each major below, we suggest a natural link to earth science:
- Anthropology - landscape archaeology
- Biological Sciences - climate change and landscape origin.
- Business - risk analysis and resource development.
- Chemistry - earth materials and aqueous processes
- Civil Engineering - foundations, erosion, and drainage
- Computer Science - coding, modeling, remote sensing
- Ecology & Evolutionary Biology - paleontology and geomorphology
- Economics - Land valuation and hazards
- Environmental Engineering - hydrogeology and soils
- Environmental Science - global scope and integration
- Environmental Studies - earthly themes in culture, geo-literature
- Geographic Information Systems - terrain expertise
- Marine sciences - coastal materials and processes
- Mathematics - geophysics of the earth interior, seismology, gravity, modeling.
- Natural Resources - mining and energy
- Pre-med - medical geology (geochemistry)
- Physics - planetary geophysics
- Statistics - Big Data sets in Earth observation
Courses for Everyone
Looking for a fascinating General Education lecture course?
Are you curious about how the earth works? What it's history has been? How to become a more effective planetary citizen?
We offer a broad menu of introductory courses designed for non-science students that will enrich your understanding of our home planet while satisfying UConn’s general education requirements for Environmental Literacy (E), Writing (W), and science (CA3).
Slate magazine recommends any introductory earth science for a gen-ed.
UConn Today recommends ERTH 1000E (The Human Epoch) to help reduce eco-anxiety.
The electives below are taught in a variety of modalities (lecture, distance-learning, hybrid, and online), and are scheduled at a variety of times. All are 3-credit "lecture" courses except for the 4-credit ERTH 1050.
- ERTH 1000E - The Human Epoch: Living in the Anthropocene
- ERTH 1010 - Dinosaurs, Extinctions & Environmental Catastrophes
- ERTH 1050 - Earth’s Dynamic Environment (lecture & lab)
- ERTH 1051 - Earth’s Dynamic Environment (lecture only)
- ERTH 1055 (Honors) - Earth Science and the American Landscape
- ERTH 1070 - Natural Disasters and Environmental Change
Need a science lab course? Want a solid foundational geo-course?
Our flagship introductory lecture+lab earth science course is ERTH 1050 - Earth's Dynamic Planet (4-credits), which satisfies UConn's general education requirement for a CA3 lab-science course. This is the foundation earth science course for our major and is on many course menus for related disciplines.
The GenEd lab-science requirement can also be met by adding our 1-credit lab-only course (ERTH 1052) to one of the following introductory lecture courses: ERTH 1010, 1051, 1055, or 1070.
Need a 2000-level introductory course without prerequisites?
We've designed three 2000-level courses to be introductory, but to smaller groups of students.
- ERTH 2310E - National Parks Unearthed: Geology and Landscapes Through Time. This course introduces you to earth science through the lens of the national parks, giving you a new appreciation for them.
- ERTH 2800 - Our Evolving Atmosphere. An introduction to meteorology and climatology and how they've changed through time.
- ERTH 2050W - Communicating Earth & Environmental Science. This is our newest course being piloted for Spring 2021.
Need a 3000-4000 level course with limited prerequisites?
Many courses taken by geoscience majors are also popular "related" and elective courses for other majors, especially Environmental Science.
- ERTH 3010 - Earth History and Global Change. A soup to nuts survey of earth history with a special focus on evolution as seen through the fossil record.
- ERTH 3020 - Earth Surface Processes. A survey of surface geological processes leading to the landforms, aquifers, soils, and unconsolidated materials. Glacial, fluvial, slope, coastal, weathering, soils, groundwater.
- ERTH 3230 - Beaches and Coasts. Focus on the geological systems defining the coastal environment, with an emphasis on beaches.
- ERTH 3710 - Engineering and Environmental Geology. The application of geological reasoning to engineering and environmental problems.
- ERTH 4110 - Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. Characteristics of sediments, processes of sediment transport, and facies models.
- ERTH 4150 - Applied Data Analysis in Earth Science. Spatial analysis methods and statistical inference in Earth science.
- ERTH 4120 - Paleobiology. A survey of ancient life with a focus on fossil preservation and interpretation.
- ERTH 4130 - Geomicrobiology. Microbial diversity, evolution, and utility, with an emphasis on earthly metabolism.
- ERTH 4210 - Glacial Processes and Materials. Glacial climatology, glaciology, glacial geology, and engineering-environmental aspects of glacial deposits and rockheads.
- ERTH 4230 - GIS and Remote Sensing for Earth Science Applications. Learn the skills in a geological context.
- ERTH 4240 - Watersheds and Environmental Change. The geological perspective on watersheds as integrators of environmental change, the reconstruction of that change from sedimentary records.
- ERTH 4430 - Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry. Develop a research tool with this course.
- ERTH 4720 - Envioronmental Geochemistry. An introduction to geochemistry of terrestrial and aqueous environmental system.
- ERTH 4810 - Modeling the Changing Atmosphere and Ocean. Understand the models used to forecast our future climate.
- ERTH 4850 - Paleoclimatology. Learn how we know current climate change is not normal.
Majoring & Advising
How to declare?
We assume if you're reading this that you're a student in one of our introductory courses, and are only now discovering that earth science is well-respected STEM discipline with great career prospects. What next?
We suggest that you:
- Talk to another student in your class who has declared a major or minor. These are usually identified at the start of every introductory course.
- Speak with your instructor, who will happily open up the dialogue, answer your questions, and guide you in the right direction.
- Poke around this website with special attention to the exciting projects our faculty work on and share with students their courses.
- Contact our Departmental Advisor (Christin Donnelly) or the Department Head (Tracy Frank) , both of whom are always eager to talk with students, and can guide you from there.
- Enroll in ERTH 2500-Earth System Science, the gateway course to the geoscience major and minor, designed in part to bond together a rising cohort of students.
Finding an Advisor.
The Department of Earth Sciences is committed to the welfare of every student as an individual. To ensure success, and make sure no student falls through the cracks, we have a strong advising program based on student preference. Undergraduate student advising takes place on three simultaneous fronts:
All majors declare their intent through the Departmental Advisor, currently Christin Donnelly (email@example.com). She will remain as your administrative advisor for all majors through graduation, with special attention to the final plan of study. This way, you will always have access when you need it.
Students are encouraged to have a faculty advisor based on their interests and faculty availability. The purpose is to help guide you through the major, with particular attention to career pathways, course selection, research mentoring, general advocacy, and letters of reference. At student request, the administrative advisor can assume this role.
The department's Honors advisor, currently Robert Thorson, is the default faculty advisor for all incoming honors students. He also serves as a liaison with the university-side Honors Program, overseeing compliance at the department level. At student request, perhaps based on research or career interests, the role of faculty advisor will be transferred to a different faculty member.
Completing program requirements
We offer a three degree programs in Earth Science:
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
The B.S. in Geoscience is the standard STEM science training for those seeking careers as earth scientists. It focuses on the materials, processes, and histories of Earth as a planetary system, with a special emphasis on environmental change at geologic time scales. Within this degree, the student chooses one track to follow out of three: Earth, Environmental, and Atmosphere.
The B.S. requires 30 credits of Earth Science courses at the 2000 level and above and at least 12 credits of related courses at the 2000 level in addition to the college B.S. requirements.
Required specific courses include the gateway course ERTH 2500, a writing course in the major, and completion of requirements for one of three tracks. For details, consult the UConn Catalog
Bachelors of Arts (B.A.)
The B.A. in Geoscience provides an ideal major for two broad pools of potential students:
- Those wanting to major in geosciences, but who are not interested in meeting the college requirements for math, physics, and chemistry as part of the B.S.
- Those interested primarily in the other fields, but who want a double major to ground themselves in earth science beyond the level of a minor.
This degree focuses on the materials, processes, and histories of Earth as a planetary system, with a special emphasis on environmental change at geologic time scales.
The B.A. requires 24 credits of Earth Science courses at the 2000 level and above and at least 12 credits of related courses at the 2000 level and above. This is in addition to the college B.A. requirements.
Required specific courses include the gateway course ERTH 2500, two courses from the core ( 3010, 3020, 3030, 3040), and a writing course in the major. For details, consult the UConn Catalog
A minor in geoscience requires 15 credits of 2000-level and above Earth Science courses. Typically, this will include ERTH 2500 and others as recommended by the Department Advisor.
For details, consult the UConn Catalog
Research, Internships, and Clubs
Research and internship opportunities
The department believes that exposure to earth science research and experience through internships is a critical component of an undergraduate education, particularly for the B.S. degree.
The department make this process easy in stages.
- In the required gateway course to the major (ERTH 2500) students are introduced to all of the faculty in their research labs. The student finds interests, preferences, and potential role models.
- Students are also exposed to different faculty through course enrollment in 2000-4000 level courses in their sophomore and junior years. Students contact professors directly about research.
- The department has an Undergraduate Research Coordinator (Julie Fosdick) who assists the departmental advisor in matching student interest with faculty availability, usually by the beginning of the junior year.
- During the junior and senior years, motivated undergraduates become involved in research and(or) internships through a variety of departmental and university-related programs. This often translates into credit for undergraduate research, and(or) the completion of a senior thesis.
Internships are work/learning experiences that provide a hands-on way for students to confirm their choice of major and/or career in a way that is more substantial than a part-time job. They may be linked to an academic department and/or done for academic credit. An internship lasts between two-four months, and may be part-time or full-time. Some are paid while others are not.
UConn Center for Career Development offers a great deal of support and information, both in person and on their website, for students interested in getting involved with internships. However, this page provides Earth Science specific opportunities that we have found that may be of interest to you. We encourage internships, especially in the fields of Earth Science, as fieldwork is extremely important in understanding and gaining a greater perspective for the type of work you will do after graduation.
The university administrates a strong and growing Honors Program through the Provost's office, which is above the college and department levels. To ensure the best honors education within departments, each has an Honors Advisor. In earth sciences, Professor Thorson is the default advisor for all students declaring a major, and the principal contact with the Honors Program.
GeoClub provides an opportunity for students interested in earth science to make lasting friendships, support each other, meet regularly, and schedule special outdoor adventures. Though GeoClub is officially one of many clubs sponsored by Student Activities, it is also financially supported by the Department of Earth Sciences, which also provides a faculty advisor. GeoClub is open to all majors.