Thirteen courses:

All majors will take the following courses:
ERSC 141, 142, 302, 305, 309, 331
CHEM 131 or 141 (General Chemistry)

To complete the major a student may choose from four options:

Earth Sciences Teaching:
ERSC 221 (Oceanography)
PHYS 102 (Meteorology)
PHYS 109 (Astronomy)

EDUC 461 and 462 (professional teaching semester)

Environmental Geoscience:
ERSC 218 (GIS)
MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) or MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)

Two from the following:
ERSC 201 (Surface Processes)
ERSC 202 (Energy Resources)
ERSC 204 (Global Climate Change)
ERSC 208 (Environmental Hazards)
ERSC 220 (Environmental Geology)
ERSC 221(Oceanography)
ERSC 301 (Field Geology)
ERSC 311 Special Topics (when topic is relevant)
ERSC 320 (Hydrogeology)

One from the following:
BIOL 129 (Changing Ocean Ecosystems)
BIOL 314 (Ecology)
CHEM 490 (Environmental Chemistry)
ENST 335 (Analysis and Management of the Aquatic Environment)
ENST 340 (Forest Ecology and Applications)
PHYS 310 (Energy and the Environment)

Capstone - one from the following:
ERSC 491 (Field Camp)
ERSC 550 (Independent Research)
ERSC 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)
ERSC 712 (Internship)

MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)
MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) 
PHYS 131 or PHYS 141

Two from the following:
ERSC 201 (Surface Processes) or ERSC 301 (Field Geology)
ERSC 221 (Oceanography)
ERSC 306 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology)
ERSC 307 (Paleontology)
ERSC 311 Special Topics (when topic is relevant)

Capstone - one from the following:
ERSC 491 (Field Camp)
ERSC 550 (Independent Research)
ERSC 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)

Students must propose a coherent group of at least four upper-level electives within the semester they declare an Earth Sciences major.

MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) or MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)

Capstone - one from the following:
ERSC 491 (Field Camp)
ERSC 550 (Independent Research)
ERSC 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)
ERSC 712 (Internship)

Earth Sciences Capstone:
Majors who complete the capstone with research must complete either ERSC 550 (Independent Research) or ERSC 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research).  Students will earn 0.5 credit in the spring semester of the junior year as they conduct background research, formulate a testable hypothesis and draft a project proposal. Should a student be abroad for the first 0.5 credit, the student will meet regularly via Skype (or other appropriate real-time media) with the faculty member on campus who is advising the capstone project.  The second 0.5 credit will be completed in the fall semester of the senior year with data collection, analysis and writing.  If students wish to continue into the spring semester of the senior year, they will be permitted to register for an additional 0.5 or 1.0 credit of research.


Six courses including 141 and 142.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The ERSC major was designed with the requisite flexibility to enable our students to study abroad for either a semester or a full academic year. As a result, we developed the curriculum so that the student who did spend a year abroad could complete all the requirements for the major, as long as she or he followed a few guidelines.

The guidelines are written for the entering student who knows he or she wants to major in ERSC. Rather than specify the courses that you "must" have in a given semester, the following are general guidelines regarding courses that we suggest you take during each year. You should think of these guidelines as giving you a fast track into the major—this provides maximum flexibility in your junior and senior year for study abroad and/or your capstone experience described below.

First Year
ERSC 141, Earth's Hazards 
ERSC 142, Earth's Changing Climate
CHEM 131/132 or 141
MATH 121 or 170
PHYS 131/132

Sophomore Year
Two required cored courses (ERSC 302,305, 309, 331)
Two electives (ERSC 201, 202, 204, 208, 218, 220, 221, 306, 307)
Complete CHEM, MATH, and PHYS

Junior Year
ERSC general electives
Two electives (ERSC 201, 202, 204, 208, 218, 220, 221, 306, 307)
Complete ERSC course requirements (ERSC 301, 305, 309, 331) and enroll in ½ credit of Capstone in Spring semester.
**Study Abroad - may require integrating required core courses**

Senior Year
Normally a 1/2 credit of Capstone in the Fall semester.
ERSC electives as needed

For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact an ERSC faculty member. Students not following these guidelines may still be able to study for a year abroad and still complete the major, but will face a more demanding senior year. Many students who do study abroad for a year are able to complete both the ERSC major and a second major in Archaeology or Environmental Science due to the overlap in these programs of study.

Independent study and independent research

Most of our majors do an Independent Study or Research project during their junior or senior year. Students may ask any faculty member in the department to supervise a project. Ideally, you should try to contact the faculty member during the previous semester to make arrangements for advisement. Seniors are required to complete one of three capstone experiences: independent research completion of a pre-approved field camp, or a semester of student teaching (education track only).


An Independent Research project may be considered for departmental honors if it demonstrates superior quality of work. Such theses are read by all members of the departmental faculty as well as an evaluator from outside the department, selected by the project advisor for their knowledge of that specific field. Oral defense of the thesis is required, and final revisions to the written thesis are made based on the comments of the readers. Students who successfully complete the defense will be named in the Commencement Program as having achieved honors.

Students who think that their project is potentially worthy of honors should indicate that with a short written proposal to their research adviser by the end of the fall semester of their senior year. This provides an occasion for the faculty advisor to give feedback to the student on the worthiness of the project and to plan the second semester in order to assure the quality of the project. This conversation helps the faculty to consider potential outside reviewers and schedule oral defenses, and also solidifies in the student's mind the need for progress and ultimate goal of the project.

A first draft of the paper should be turned in to your advisor no later than April to allow revisions so that a final draft will be ready for delivery to the research advisor, the other faculty, and the outside reader by mid-April. The oral defense usually will be scheduled on or about the last day of classes. Defenses are open to other majors, interested friends, faculty, and other guests. After the defense, the faculty and outside reader will vote in private, based on careful consideration of the quality of the paper and defense, and of the academic maturity of the student during the project year.  Detailed guidelines can be found on the Earth Sciences Department web site.


Several have been done in the department. Although specific arrangements would need to be made, it is possible to arrange internships with state and federal geologic agencies in Harrisburg. Students have also done internships with local consulting companies. See any member of the department faculty for possible arrangements.and defense, and of the academic maturity of the student during the project year.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Recommended off-campus study programs include the Dickinson Science Program at the University of East Anglia, England. Other suggested programs are the Marine Science Program in the Bahamas every other January and a one-semester program at the University of Otago, New Zealand. The on-campus coordinators should be contacted for information.

Co-curricular activities/programs

The Geology Club is a student-run group that organizes field trips and arranges for speakers during the year. Any Dickinson student may join the group, and it is common for some non-majors to belong.

Early each fall, the department sponsors a weekend field trip for majors and those taking intro earth science courses. Recent trips have explored the Folded Appalachians and the Chesapeake Bay area. In most years, a group of students and one or more faculty members get together for a field trip to some area of geologic interest either during Spring Break or early in summer break. Recent trips have included Hawaii, Yellowstone and Tetons area of Wyoming, the United Kingdom, southern California, Iceland, and Sicily. The field trip costs are partly subsidized by the department’s Cassa Field Trip Endowment.



121 Are We Alone? Understanding Habitable Worlds
The earth is the only planet we know of that is both habitable and inhabited. Are we alone in the universe, or do other planets support life as well? In this course, we will travel in time from the Big Bang to the present day to understand that factors that underlie the habitability of the Earth since its creation 4.6 billion years ago. Emphasis will be placed on the synthesis of the chemical elements in stars, the composition and creation of terrestrial planets, the differentiation of the solid earth and the origin and evolution of the atmosphere. We will also approach the origin of life as a planetary process and examine co-evolution of both life and the planet. Students will be challenged to consider scales of distance spanning 41 orders of magnitude and to think on time scales ranging from days to billions of years. As we uncover the factors responsible for Earth's habitability, we will also consider the rise of our species, Homo sapiens, in planetary context and contemplate the sustainability and longevity of human civilizations. Finally, with the knowledge and skills accumulated over the course of the semester, students will address the search for life on other planets and confront the age-old question: are we alone?
This course fulfills either the DIV III Laboratory Science distribution requirment or the QR graduation requirement.

141 Earth's Hazards
This course examines natural processes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mass wasting events, and floods that have the potential to produce disastrous consequences for humans. All of these processes result from interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere and hydrosphere directly or indirectly, which is the realm of earth sciences. Increasing global populations and increasingly interdependent national economies mean that few disasters are now only 'local'. This course will use examples such as case studies of recent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to examine how natural processes can be hazardous, and whether or not humans can anticipate and mitigate these kinds of hazards to prevent future disasters. Laboratory work will include analog experiments, field trips, and video analysis of historic disasters.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. This course fulfills either the Lab Sciences (Division III) distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

142 Earth's Changing Climate
An overview of our understanding of climate processes and their interaction with the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere based on studies of ancient climates, which inform our understanding of climate change now and into the future. Topics include drivers of climate change at different time scales, evidence for climate change, and major climate events such as ice ages. Emphasis will be placed on the last 1 million years of earth history as a prelude to discussing potential anthropogenic impacts on the climate. Case studies of major climate "players" such as the US and China will be contrasted with those most vulnerable, Africa and SE Asia to determine mitigation and adaptation strategies. The lab component will use historic climate data, field experiences, and climate modeling to interpret climate change processes.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. This course fulfills either the Lab Sciences (Division III) distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

201 Surface Processes
Description, origin, development, and classification of landforms. Relationships of soils, surficial materials, and landforms to rocks, structures, climate, processes, and time. Topics will include interpretation of maps and aerial photographs of landscapes produced in tectonic, volcanic, fluvial, glacial, periglacial, coastal, karst, and eolian environments. Exercises will include: photo-geologic interpretation, surficial mapping, and classification of soils. Lectures, discussions, laboratories, and field trip(s).
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: 141 or 142. This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement. Offered every other year.

202 Energy Resources
The study of the origin, geologic occurrence, and distribution of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and uranium. Discussions include the evaluation and exploitation, economics, law, and the environmental impact of these resources and their alternatives, including geothermal, wind, solar, tidal, and ocean thermal power.
Prerequisites: Any DIV III lab science (not MATH). This course is cross-listed as ENST 202. Offered every other year.

204 Global Climate Change
An overview of our present understanding of atmospheric processes and their interaction with the land, oceans and biosphere leading to an in-depth study of ancient climates and climate change in earth history. Topics include the tools used to decipher ancient climate change on various time scales, major climate events such as the ice ages, and the causes of climate change. Past and present knowledge will be used to explore the potential for future climate change and its socioeconomic and political implications. The laboratory component will use climate data and field experiences to interpret climate change over the past 3 billion years in the context of earth materials and plate tectonics.
Prerequisite: Any DIV III lab science (not MATH). This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement. Occasionally, this course will be offered with an additional three-hour lab. In those instances the course fulfills either the DIV III lab science distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

208 Environmental Hazards
An introduction to the fundamental principles and processes of geology using a variety of natural examples that are commonly referred to as "disastrous" when they affect areas inhabited by people, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, mass movements (avalanches, debris flows), meteoroid impacts, and other weather-related phenomena (e.g. hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, long-term climate change). The course will give an overview of the physical controls on the processes as well as methods used to predict the events, assess possible hazards, and mitigate negative consequences. Lecture discussions will be augmented with labs and field trips (e.g., Johnstown, PA; Centralia, PA).
Prerequisite: Any DIV III lab science (not MATH). This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement.

218 Geographic Information Systems
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a powerful technology for managing, analyzing, and visualizing spatial data and geographically-referenced information. It is used in a wide variety of fields including archaeology, agriculture, business, defense and intelligence, education, government, health care, natural resource management, public safety, transportation, and utility management. This course provides a fundamental foundation of theoretical and applied skills in GIS technology that will enable students to investigate and make reasoned decisions regarding spatial issues. Utilizing GIS software applications from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), students work on a progression of tasks and assignments focused on GIS data collection, manipulation, analysis, output and presentation. The course will culminate in a final, independent project in which the students design and prepare a GIS analysis application of their own choosing.
Three hours of classroom and three hours of laboratory per week. This course is cross-listed as ENST 218 and ARCH 218. This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement.

220 Environmental Geology
A survey of humankind's interaction with the physical environment focusing on geologic processes. The importance of geologic materials such as soils, sediments and bedrock, and natural resources will be discussed in the context of world population. Natural hazards (floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, coastal erosion, and landslides) will be studied to understand how we can minimize their threat. Land use and abuse including natural resource exploitation and pollution will be discussed in the context of geologic information for proper land-use planning. Labs will emphasize field study of environmental problems in the Cumberland Valley.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory per week. Prerequisite: 141 or 142 OR ENST 131or 132 or 130. This course is cross-listed as ENST 220. This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement.

221 Oceanography
An interdisciplinary introduction to the marine environment, including the chemistry of seawater, the physics of currents, water masses and waves, the geology of ocean basins, marine sediments and coastal features, and the biology of marine ecosystems. Topics include the theory of plate tectonics as an explanation for ocean basins, mid-ocean ridges, trenches, and island arcs. The interaction of man as exploiter and polluter in the marine environment is also considered.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory per week. Prerequisite: One introductory science course (not MATH). This course is cross-listed as ENST 221. This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement. Offered every other year.

301 Field Geology
A course in some of the basic geological field techniques, with the preparation of topographic and geologic maps and reports from data obtained by the student in the field.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: 141 and 142, or permission of instructor. This course fulfills the DIV III lab science distribution requirement.

302 Structural Geology
The description and analysis of intermediate-to large-scale rock structures. Topics include the analysis and graphical representation of stress and strain in rocks, deformation mechanisms and fabric development, the geometry and mechanics of folding and faulting, and structures related to intrusive bodies. Geologic map interpretation and cross-section construction are used to analyze the structural geology of selected regions.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week; field trip(s). Prerequisite: 141 and 142, or permission of instructor.

305 Earth Materials
This gives students a basic understanding of the tools and techniques used in modern science to identify and characterize solid earth materials at the macroscopic (hand samples), microscopic (polarized light), and sub-microscopic (X-ray diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy) levels. Emphasis in the first part of the course will be on minerals, while the second part of the course will introduce students to characterization techniques of other solid earth materials (soils and rocks) and their conditions of formation. This course is required for the Earth Science major, and will be useful to students interested in agricultural science, archeology, environmental science, forensic science, planetary science, and solid state chemistry and physics.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisites: 141 and 142, or permission of instructor. Completion of both 305 and 309 fulfills the WR graduation requirement.

306 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
A study of the solid-earth with emphasis on the processes that have shaped the large-scale evolution of the earth from its origin to the present. Lecture topics include meteorites and formation of the terrestrial planets, origin of the moon, the deep earth, chemical equilibria in magmatic systems, geochemical cycling in the solid earth, and isotope dating. The important magmatic and metamorphic systems of the earth are presented in a plate tectonic context.
Prerequisite: 305.

307 Paleontology
A systematic study of the invertebrate and vertebrate fossil groups, plants, and their evolution and relationships to living forms.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: 141 or 142, or any 100-level BIOL course. This course fulfills the DIV III lab science distribution requirement.

309 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
A study of the processes and patterns of sedimentation as well as the spatial and temporal distribution of rock strata. This includes the origin, transportation, deposition, lithification, and diagenesis of sediments. Lithology, geochemistry, paleontology, geochronology, and seismology will be used to understand the history of rock strata.
Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory a week. Prerequisite: 141 and 142, or permission of instructor. Completion of both 305 and 309 fulfills the WR graduation requirement.

311 Special Topics
In-depth studies in special geological topics to be offered on the basis of need and demand. Recent topics have included Geology of PA, Origin of Life, Quaternary Geology, and Instrumental Analysis in Geology.
Prerequisite: 141 or 142.

318 Advanced Applications in GIS
The course is intended as a continuation of the introductory course on Geographic Information Systems, 218, and will concentrate on more advanced discussions and techniques related to spatial analysis and GIS project design. The main focus of the course will be on using higher-level GIS methods to investigate and analyze spatial problems of varying complexity; however, the specific project and topical applications will vary depending on student interests. Students will be required to develop and complete an individual spatial analysis project that incorporates advanced GIS techniques.
Prerequisite: ENST 218 or ERSC 218 or ARCH 218 or equivalent GIS experience. Three hours classroom and three hours laboratory per week. This course is cross-listed as ENST 318 and ARCH 318. Offered every two years.

320 Hydrogeology
An in-depth study of the interrelationships of geologic materials and processes with the occurrence, distribution, movement, and chemistry of water on and near the earth's surface. Topics include the hydrologic cycle; recharge, flow, and discharge of groundwater in aquifers; groundwater quality, contamination, development, management, and remediation. Practical experience will be gained in siting, drilling, testing, and monitoring water wells at the college's water well field laboratory.
Prerequisite: 220. This course is cross-listed as ENST 320. Offered every two years.

331 Chemistry of Earth Systems
An introduction to the origin, distribution, and behavior of elements in the geochemical cycles and processes of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Topics include the chemistry of magma, hydrothermal fluids, weathering, fresh and ocean waters, sediment digenesis, hydrocarbons, and metamorphism. Includes radiometric dating and stable isotope applications. Lab will focus on sampling, instrumental analysis, and data interpretation of earth materials.
Prerequisites: 141 and 142 and CHEM 131 or 141, or permission of instructor.

491 Senior Field Camp
An advanced course in geological field methods. In a typical field camp experience students make maps in stratified and crystalline terranes, with rocks in varying degrees of deformation. Note: EASC 491 is not regularly offered by Dickinson College. Students wishing to complete the capstone experience requirement with a field camp experience should plan to complete an approved summer field course offered by another collegiate institution.
For Senior ERSC majors.