Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Curriculum Overview
Earth and Environment

Our home the Earth is a complex, dynamic system. It changes from day to day and from year to year, from one ice age to the next and from eon to eon, in many different ways. Some changes are cyclical, others are quite unpredictable. We need to understand these processes, especially as they are increasingly affected by human action. They influence our habitat, to which we must continually adapt. They control the treasury of resources, rich but finite, on which we rely.

Study of the Earth draws on all traditional disciplines. Geoscientists interpret field observations and lab data using principles of chemistry, physics and concepts unique to geology. They link processes that operate within and at the surface of the Earth. Environmental scientists focus on the impact of human action, on ways in which Earth systems respond when they are disrupted. These scientists evaluate and solve a wide range of technological problems. Environmental managers and policy-makers address the same issues in their cultural, economic and political contexts. As we learn how the Earth works, we must develop the means and the political will to manage it appropriately.

At Franklin & Marshall, three majors are available to students who wish to explore these concerns: Geosciences, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies. Each major has its own core of introductory courses, but there is sufficient overlap among them, so that students can embark on this field without immediately choosing one major or another. Later, students take more specialized courses in geosciences, mid-level courses in several sciences, or courses in environmental policy and its cultural, historical context. Each major program includes advanced courses, opportunities to engage in research with members of the faculty and an integrative capstone course. Many opportunities and significant financial support are available for students to study in the field, in their courses, on extracurricular field trips, through a variety of research programs and while studying abroad.

The scope of opportunities open to graduates of this program is very broad. Many own or are employed by businesses engaged in environmental consulting, management of water resources, environmental law and the energy industry (oil, gas and coal). Others are teaching in high schools, colleges and universities, or working in various branches of the federal government. But, this is a liberal arts program. It has served as a good launching pad for systems analysts and financiers, for veterinarians, writers and realtors and for at least one composer of classical music.

A major in Geosciences consists of 12 courses: GEO 110 or 114, followed by GEO 221, 226, 231, 321, 324, 353, and 480. GEO 353 can be taken during the summer after the sophomore or junior year. Students select one additional course above the 100-level from the Geosciences offerings. Students are also required to take the following cognate courses: CHM 111, MAT 109, and PHY 111. Students planning to pursue graduate studies or professional employment in geosciences should take as many courses as possible from the following: MAT 110, 111 and 229; PHY 112; CHM 112. The writing requirement in the Geosciences major is met by the completion of GEO 480.

A minor in Geosciences consists of six courses, including one course selected from GEO 110, 114 or 118, followed by GEO 221 and four Geosciences courses at the 200, 300 or 400 level selected in consultation with the department chair. A minor should focus upon a particular area of the geosciences such as surficial processes, paleobiology, geophysics, tectonics, petrology/geochemistry. No more than three courses from the student’s major can also count towards the Geosciences minor.

A major in Environmental Science consists of 16 courses: nine core science courses (three from Biology, three from Chemistry and three from Geosciences), two science electives (from Biology, Chemistry or Geosciences, which may include an independent study course), two quantitative and/or field skills courses, two environment and society courses and one upper-level integrative seminar. The writing requirement in the Environmental Science major is met by completion of ENV 454.

The specific requirements for the Environmental Science major are: BIO 110, 220, 323; GEO 114, 226, 344; CHM 111, 112 and a third chemistry course selected from CHM 211, 221 or 222; ENV 117; and ENV 454. The two electives to complete the major may include: BIO 309, 340, 342; GEO 221; ENV 235; CHM 211, 212, 222; a 490 course associated with either Biology, Geosciences, Environment or Chemistry; or other approved courses. Two courses from the following group of quantitative or field skills courses are required: GEO 250, BIO 210, GEO 353 or another approved statistics or field course. In addition, one course is required from the environment and society group including ENV 216, AMS 280 and 401, ENG/ENV 260, BOS/ENV 335, ECO/ENV 240 or another approved course. 

There is no minor in Environmental Science.

Faculty affiliated with the Environmental Science curriculum include: Professors Hess and Morford (Chemistry); Professors Sipe, Fischer and Olson (Biology).

A major in Environmental Studies consists of 15 courses, 11 courses in the core program, a research methods class and three electives. The required core courses are: ENV 117, 216 and 454, BIO 110, ENV 114; one course from the following group: ENV 226, 344; BIO 323, 340, 342; ECO 100 and either ECO 103 or GOV 100; and three courses selected from AMS 280, ANT 234, BOS 335, ECO 240, ENV 312 and 314 and ENG 260. The research/quantitative methods course may be selected from BIO 210, BOS 250, ECO 210, ENV 250, MAT 116 or MAT 216 and PSY 230. Three electives may be selected from AMS 300, BIO 345, ENV 250, 313, 315, 320, GOV 305 and ENV 490 (independent study). Core courses in addition to those taken to meet core requirements may be taken as electives, but the major must include at least three courses at or above the 300 level. The writing requirement in the Environmental Studies major is met by completion of ENV 454.

A minor in Environmental Studies consists of six courses, including ENV/STS 117; two courses in environmental policy/human environment (selected from ENV 216, ECO/ENV 240, AMS/ENV 280 or 401, STS/ENV 312, ENV 314 and topics courses approved by the Environmental Studies Committee); two laboratory courses (BIO 110 or GEO /ENV 114 and one of the following: BIO 323, 325, 340; GEO/ENV 226, 250; and approved topics courses); and either ENV 454 or ENV 490. Some of these courses have prerequisites (see relevant departmental listings). No more than three courses from the student’s major can also count towards the Environmental Studies minor.

Faculty affiliated with the Environmental Studies curriculum include: Professor Mueller (English); Professor Kurland (Business, Organizations, and Society); Professors Merritts and Strick (Earth and Environment); Professor Sipe, Chair (Biology).

To be considered for honors in any of the department’s three majors, students must meet the College’s general requirements for honors. These include a significant body of excellent coursework in the department’s curriculum; no minimum grade point average is specified.

Earth and Environment majors have studied abroad in several programs in recent years, including: School for Field Studies: Costa Rica, Australia, Kenya; University of Copenhagen, Denmark; School for International Training, Tanzania; Semester in Environmental Science, Woods Hole, Mass.; Sea Education Association, Sea Semester, Wood Hole; Butler University Programs in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.