Earth and Environmental Sciences

Three students wearing waders stand knee-deep in the creek as the student in the front uses a net to scoop something out of the water.


Earth and Environmental Sciences encompasses an interdisciplinary suite of studies, all engaged to better understand the Earth and the environmental problems facing us. By integrating principles of physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, as well as quantitative and critical thinking skills, our graduates address geological and environmental issues related to the solid earth, the biosphere, hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. We are a department focused on providing students with opportunities to conduct applied and basic research in an effort to understand physical processes on and within the Earth and human influences that affect the environment.

The department offers two undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees at the master’s level. The BS in environmental science prepares students for careers in areas such as pollution remediation, resource conservation, or environmental management, as well as providing a firm foundation for graduate studies. Graduates with the BS in geology have gone on to careers in soil and water resources, mining, environmental protection, and as park naturalists. Graduate students use their advanced degrees to further their careers in the geological and environmental sciences, working for both public and private agencies. In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the department, the faculty represent diverse academic areas, complemented by industrial experience. All have a strong commitment to excellence in teaching and engage in professional development.


Our department offers many opportunities for students outside the classroom. Our student group, the Association of Geological and Environmental Students (AGES), is open to everyone. AGES hosts several off-campus field trips each semester. Many majors are also members of national organizations such as the American Geophysical Union, Groundwater Resources of America, American Meteorological Society, and the Geological Society of America. Lecture courses are accompanied by laboratories, discussions, and field trips. Internships and work experience are also available.

Students have many opportunities to engage in research with faculty. We are very proud of the excellent research facilities we have developed over the years with support from national funding sources such as the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA. Department equipment and facilities are extensive and include equipment for field and laboratory work in environmental science, geology, and hydrology/hydrogeology including cutting edge geochemical analysis, field environmental sensors, and tools for studying wind and atmospheric turbulence. In recent years, our undergraduate students have been involved in a number of research studies from the effects of local wildfires to modeling volcanic eruptions and international projects in Europe, South America, and Africa.


Employment opportunities are excellent and growing as society accepts the challenges we face with climate change and loss of water resources. Our graduates work for agencies such as the California Department of Water Resources, the United States Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Graduates are also employed by private companies specializing in mineral and petroleum exploration, engineering or environmental consulting, and pollution remediation. Graduates with a bachelor's degree find entry-level positions that involve gathering and interpreting scientific data, while management and field-oriented research positions generally require a master's degree.