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University Catalog

Earth System Science

Phone: (307) 766-5080, Fax: (307) 766-5099

Earth System Science (ESS) is an interdisciplinary, environmental science, undergraduate major focusing on the interactions between the various components composing the Earth system: the biosphere, geosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and anthrosphere. Students earning a BS degree in ESS are required to declare a concentration in one of the participating programs, which include Anthropology, Biology, Geography, Geology and Geophysics, Secondary Education, and Soil Science.

ESS is designed to be rigorous enough to prepare students for graduate studies in their chosen concentration. The Core courses also provide informal and formal opportunities for students to communicate with those in other concentrations. Students are asked to approach both the ESS office and program faculty in their respective concentration for advising.

ESS Major

The ESS curriculum includes four areas. First, the ESS Core consists of five courses (14 credit hours), including academic credit for a required internship. Second, it requires Foundation courses (35 credit hours) in math, physics, chemistry, geographic information systems, remote sensing, and biogeochemistry. Third, courses are required by the concentration (up to 50 hours). And fourth, many USP requirements are met by Core, Foundation, and concentration courses, but others are required. The Secondary Education degree, "Earth Sciences Education" (ESSE), requires the ESS Core and many of the Foundation and USP courses, in addition to those from Education and most of the ESS concentrations.

The required Core courses start with ESS/GEOL 2000, introducing the physical Earth system. This is followed by ESS/GEOG 3480, which brings human activities into the network. Next, the Earth system is studied in more detail, with modeling used for understanding, predictions, and experiments, in a biogeochemistry course. Academic credit for ESS 4970 is earned with the required internship, which is overseen and approved by a faculty committee, and usually occurs between the junior and senior years. And, finally, a senior-level capstone course, ESS 4950, emphasizes formal literature surveys and hands-on research addressing interdisciplinary questions about the Earth system.

The required courses are set for each concentration, and may be obtained from the ESS office.

The Foundation courses are listed below, divided by topic area and with choices for some classes.

Course Hours
LIFE 1000 4
MICR 2021 or 4
LIFE 2022 or 4
LIFE 2023 4
CHEM 1020 or CHEM 1050 4
CHEM 1030 or CHEM 1060 4
MATH 2200 4
MATH 2205 4
PHYS 1210 or 1310 4

Geographic Information Systems or Remote Sensing

(choose one of the following):

GEOG 4200 4
ANTH 4160 3
BOT/GEOG 3150 3
ATSC 4033 3
GEOL 4113 4


(choose one of the following):

BOT 4780 4
CHEM 3020 3
GEOL 3500 4
GEOL 4777 3

Earth System Science (ESS) Courses

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