Earth Science Major Requirements

The Major in Earth Science requires the completion of 45.5 credits distributed among four categories of requirements presented in sections I-IV below. Plans of study for the subdisciplines of geological science, geochemistry, atmosphere and ocean science, geophysics, climate, and paleontology follow the requirements sections. See the Columbia College Bulletin for course descriptions.

I. Foundational Courses in the department:

  • UN2200 Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth (4.5 credits)
  • One additional foundation course:
    • UN2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate (4.5 credits)
    • UN2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: Life (4.5 credits)

Students who wish to take both UN2100 and UN2300 can include one of these under breadth and related fields below.

II. Supporting Math and Science Courses:

  • Calculus I or Calculus II (3 credits)
  • Three semesters of Chemistry and Physics:
    • UN1403-UN1404 Chemistry and UN1201 Physics (10 credits)
    • UN1201-UN1202 Physics and UN1403 Chemistry (9.5 credits)

III. Capstone Experience or Geology Field Course:

  • Capstone Experience—Research and Thesis:
    • BC3800/BC3801 Research Seminar (3 credits)
    • UN3901 Senior Seminar (3 credits)
  • Or, 6-8 week long Summer Geology Field Course (6 credits)

IV. Depth, Breadth and Related Fields

Additional courses in earth science and related fields are required, for a minimum of 18 credits. A minimum of four courses should be chosen to provide depth in the field of earth science, building on the preparation described under requirements I and II.

Depth courses are courses with an earth science focus that build on the foundational and supportive courses listed under requirements I and II above. Courses in the department specifically designed for this purpose and offered each year are:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics

Students should include at least one of these in their course of study. Several graduate-level courses offered in the department are appropriate for undergraduates, and several advanced courses offered at Barnard College are also appropriate. See specific recommendations under plan of study below.

Breadth and related field courses are science courses relevant for an earth science major that do not require an earth science background. Several such courses are offered in the department at the 2000, 3000 and 4000 level and at Barnard College:

  • UN2100 Earth's Environmental System: Climate
  • UN2300 Earth's Environmental System: Life
  • UN3010 Field Geology
  • BC3017 Environmental Data Analysis
  • GU4050 Remote Sensing
  • GU4600 Earth Resources and Sustainable Development
  • GU4917 Earth/Human Interaction
  • E2002 Alternative Energy Resources

Also included among breadth and related fields courses are science, mathematics, statistics and engineering courses offered by other departments that count toward fulfilling degree requirements in those departments.

Plans of Study

Students discuss and develop individual plans of study with their academic advisor. This ensures that the depth courses provide a coherent focus in some area of earth science. Normally, students wishing to focus in the following subdisciplines should include three or more of the listed courses in their plan of study:

For students wishing to focus in geological science*:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • GU4090 Introduction to Geochronology and Thermochronology
  • GU4113 Introduction to Mineralogy
  • GU4223 Sedimentary Geology
  • GU4230 Crustal Deformation
  • GU4480 Paleobiology and Earth System History
  • GU4701 Introduction to Igneous Petrology
  • GU4887 Isotope Geology I
  • GU4947 Plate Tectonics

*The Geology Field Course option is strongly recommended

For students wishing to focus in geochemistry:

  • UN3015 The Earth's Carbon Cycle
  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • BC3016 Environmental Measurements
  • BC3200 Ecotoxicology
  • GU4090 Introduction to Geochronology and Thermochronology
  • GU4113 Introduction to Mineralogy
  • GU4701 Introduction to Igneous Petrology
  • GU4885 The Chemistry of Continental Waters
  • GU4887 Isotope Geology I
  • GU4926 Principles of Chemical Oceanography
  • Also recommended: Chemistry UN1404

For students wishing to focus in atmosphere and ocean science:

  • GU4008 Introduction to Atmospheric Science
  • GU4924 Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • GU4925 Principles of Physical Oceanography
  • GU4926 Principles of Chemical Oceanography
  • GU4920 Paleoceanography
  • GU4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography
  • Also recommended: A course in fluid dynamics, differential equations

For students wishing to focus in solid earth geophysics:

  • UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • GU4230 Crustal Deformation
  • GU4300 The Earth's Deep Interior
  • GU4947 Plate Tectonics
  • GU4949 Introduction to Seismology
  • Also recommended: Calculus III, Physics UN1202

For students wishing to focus in climate:

  • UN3015 The Earth's Carbon Cycle
  • BC3025 Hydrology
  • GU4008 Introduction to Atmospheric Science
  • GU4330 Introduction to Terrestrial Paleoclimate
  • GU4835 Wetlands and Climate Change
  • GU4920 Paleoceanography
  • GU4924 Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • GU4925 Principles of Physical Oceanography
  • GU4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography

For students wishing to focus in paleontology:

  • UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • GU4223 Sedimentary Geology
  • GU4480 Paleobiology and Earth System History
  • GU4550 Plant Ecophysiology
  • GU4920 Paleoceanography
  • GU4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography
  • Also recommended: UN2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: Life

Substitutions

  • Higher-level courses may be used to satisfy the requirements of section II for students with Advanced Placement preparation. These courses may be selected from depth, breadth and related fields courses under requirement IV.
  • 1000-level department courses may NOT be used toward meeting degree course requirements.
  • The following courses are NOT suitable for undergraduates and may not be used toward meeting degree course requirements:
    • GU4001 Advanced General Geology
    • GU4400 Dynamics of Climate Variability and Climate Change
    • GU4401 Quantitative Models of Climate-Sensitive Natural and Human Systems
    • GU4404 Regional Climate and Climate Impacts
    • GU4930 Earth's Oceans and Atmosphere