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Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Major & Minor

Tackle some of the greatest challenges facing our rapidly changing planet

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 earth and atmospheric sciences major is available to students in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences and Engineering. After graduating you can seek a career dealing with energy, mineral and water resources, natural hazards, weather and climate forecasting, ocean resources and a host of environmental issues. Students also go on to careers in environmental management and policy, law or medicine, science journalism and K-12 science education.

Major in Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Majoring in the Earth & Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) will give you a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental components of and interactions between Earth’s systems. The Earth & Atmospheric Sciences program is unique in that it incorporates fundamentals of earth science with the emergence of a new and more complete approach, encompassing all components of the earth system—air, life, rock and water—to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world as we know it. Students may choose to focus on one of a number of disciplinary specialties such as geophysics or tectonics, or develop the broad expertise needed to understand the interactions between the diverse elements of earth and life in the past, present, and future.

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. 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. 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.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement. Admissions requirements include:

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics (including calculus)

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry and physics with emphasis on physics)

  • Also recommended: an additional unit of science

Students must receive a C- or better in all major required courses and take all major required courses for a letter grade.

Introduction

  • EAS 2250: The Earth System

Students in the College of Engineering may count EAS 2250: The Earth System as an ENGRD course in fulfilling their college core curriculum requirements. Students who choose to do so must take an additional major-approved elective (see "Additional Required Courses" section below).

Core Courses

At least three courses selected from the following core course options:

  • EAS 3010: Evolution of the Earth System
  • EAS 3030: Introduction to Biogeochemistry
  • EAS 3040: Interior of the Earth
  • EAS 3050: Climate Dynamics

Concentration Courses

Concentration courses build depth and provide the student with specific expertise in some facet of earth system science. Four concentrations are defined for the major: Atmospheric Sciences, Environmental Geosciences, Geological Sciences and Ocean Sciences. Students also have the option of designing their own concentration tailored to their interests in consultation with their advisor and upon approval of the EAS Curriculum Committee. Four concentration-appropriate courses at the 3000-level or above are required. It is expected that concentration courses be at least 3 (structured) credits; however, alternate courses can count towards the concentration course requirement with agreement of the student's academic advisor and approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Field Experience

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 field work is encouraged. Possibilities include the following:

  • EAS 2500: Meteorological Observations and Instruments
  • EAS 4370: Field Geophysics
  • Courses in SEA Semester
  • Field courses offered at Shoals Marine Laboratory*
  • Field courses offered by another college or university*
  • Experience gained participating in field research with Cornell faculty (or REU at another institution)*

*Field course options marked by an asterisk (*) require pre-approval by the faculty advisor and the EAS Curriculum Committee. These courses/internships/REUs should require observations to be taken in the field and interpreted by the student. Field courses should generally require 40+ hours of active observation and data collection in the field. Students using a non-credit research option for the field course requirement are required to complete an additional EAS concentration course.

Additional Required Courses

(For Students in the College of Engineering Only)

Students in the College of Engineering must also take a major-approved elective at the 3000-level or above.

  • Students who elect to count EAS 2250 as an ENGRD must take an additional major-approved elective.
  • Students who elect to use CS 1110 (or equivalent) to fulfill their advisor-approved course in math, statistics, computer science or natural science requirement must take an additional major-approved elective.

Students in the College of Engineering must also take three outside major electives and two advisor-approved electives. These courses must be approved by the student's advisor.

EAS 1220 – Earthquake!
This course explores the science of natural hazards and their impact on society.

EAS 2680 – Climate and Global Warming
Students examine contemporary issues in climatology (such as global warming and El Niño) and learn about the natural greenhouse effect, past climates and observed and projected climate changes and impacts.

EAS 3010 – The Evolution of the Earth System
Life activities that change the physical and chemical environment are, in turn, altered by that environment. Over a long period of time, these interactions constitute a coevolution of earth and life. This course uses examples of modern systems, tens-of-thousands-year-old systems and hundreds-of-millions-year-old systems to illustrate methods of reconstructing deep history and the context of natural change inherent to life and Earth.

•     Obtain working knowledge of scientific method.

  • Discover the way that data are collected
  • Construct and evaluate scientific hypotheses from Earth sciences data
  • Design, conduct and analyze experiments to test hypotheses

•     Collect, analyze and interpret field and laboratory data.

•     Identify, formulate and solve scientific problems using appropriate mathematical tools.

•     Compile and interpret spatial and temporal earth science data.

•     Explain and assess important concepts in the chosen concentration.

•     Utilize computer systems and programming to find, analyze and present data and evaluate hypotheses.

•     Communicate the earth sciences effectively in written and oral mediums.

•     Demonstrate the ability to work in teams.

•     Have a broad education, including liberal studies.

Minor in Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

A minor in earth and atmospheric sciences is available to all undergraduates except those majoring in earth and atmospheric sciences.

Minor Requirements

At least 18 credits, chosen as follows:

1. Required introductory course:

  • EAS 2250: The Earth System

2. At least two selections from the following core course options:

  • EAS 3010: Evolution of the Earth System
  • EAS 3030: Introduction to Biogeochemistry
  • EAS 3040: Interior of the Earth
  • EAS 3050: Climate Dynamics

3. Additional EAS courses at the 3000-level or higher. These courses may include, but are not limited to, additional courses from the above list, undergraduate research courses and outdoor field courses.

Academic Standards

At least C- in each course taken towards the minor and an average GPA of greater than 2.0 in all courses taken towards the minor.

Learn more about requirements for the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences minor

Transfer Requirements

Build the foundation for the future management of our planet by studying the Earth's system, with a focus on understanding and managing the resources of the lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere.

Academic Record Required:

  • Strong academic record at the college level. Competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.
  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.
  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application):

Required:

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking
  • Calculus I & II
  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology with labs or Chemistry I & II with labs

(Or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application):

Required:

  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology with labs
  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking
  • Calculus I & II
  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I & II with lab
  • Physics I & II (calculus based)

Strongly Encouraged (But Not Required):

Courses that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

FACILITY SPOTLIGHT

Take a journey through 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history

Man looking at map.

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.

A building on the Cornell campus

Business/Government/Education

  • Environmental consultant
  • Pollution control specialist
  • Naval aviator
  • Intellectual property paralegal
  • Mathematics instructor

Natural Resources and Environment

  • Sustainability programming assistant
  • Watershed steward
  • Environmental scientist

Research

  • Atmospheric sciences research assistant
  • Geological sciences researcher
  • Environmental research assistant
  • Geomatics technician
  • Geothermal research project assistant