About Earth & Environmental Science

Our Program & Courses

Earth and environmental science (EES) is offered as a major and a minor at F&M. By blending perspectives and foundational knowledge from geology, biology, and chemistry, this program will prepare you to evaluate and address key geological and environmental challenges and opportunities by helping you develop critical, science-based skills to solve problems, manage and protect natural resources,  and make informed decisions. 

A major in earth and environmental science follows one of three tracks: earth systems (geoscience), ecosystems, or environmental chemistry. No matter which track you choose, you will develop a broad, deep knowledge of earth’s systems, structures, processes, and materials; natural resources; hydrogeology, groundwater resources, and water science; the concept of deep time; and climate change.


The earth systems track examines Earth, inside and out. You’ll study the planet’s history, the dynamic processes that shape Earth, plate tectonics, mountain building, the world’s oceans, landscape geochemistry, natural resources, climate change, stream and wetland restoration, and more. Once you’ve built a strong understanding of Earth processes and features, you’ll explore the real-life applications of how humans use and affect the planet — including through environmental politics, production of waste, water and energy, public health, nuclear power, and more.


The ecosystems track focuses on biological communities and how organisms interact with each other and their surrounding environments. You’ll study evolution, ecology, and biodiversity and have an opportunity to delve into advanced ecology, physical and marine biology, comparative physiology, behavioral ecology, urban ecology, and more. You’ll also examine how ecosystems are affected by environmental policy, climate change, urbanization, wildlife conservation, and protected areas.

Environmental Chemistry

Study the chemical and biochemical phenomena of nature. By following the environmental chemistry track, you’ll have the opportunity to develop an intricate understanding of organic, inorganic, and environmental chemistry; landscape geochemistry; chemical analysis; groundwater and water resources; water, air, and soil quality; and more.

Our Faculty & Staff

Tim Bechtel

Director of F&M Science Outreach & Senior Teaching Professor of Geosciences

Africana Studies

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Melissa W Betrone

Academic Department Coordinator for Earth & Environment and Business Organizations and Society; Program Coordinator of STS

Business, Organizations and Society; Science, Technology and Society

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Eve Bratman

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

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Liam L Connolly

Post-bac Research Assistant

Earth and Environment

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Hannah R Connuck

Outreach & Communication Coordinator

Earth and Environment

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Elizabeth M De Santo

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Program Chair of Environmental Studies

Public Policy

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Alice E Fodor

Outreach & Communication Coordinator

Earth and Environment

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Eric Hirsch

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Latin American Studies

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Zeshan Ismat

Professor of Geosciences, Program Chair of International Studies

International Studies

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James S Jolles

Interim Assistant Director of the Writing Center, Adjunct Assistant Professor Earth & Environment

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Dorothy J Merritts

Harry W. & Mary B. Huffnagle Professor of Geosciences, Weis College House Don

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Karen R Mertzman

Laboratory Technician

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Eric A Schwarz

Research Associate of Earth & Environment

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James Strick

Professor, Program Chair of Science, Technology and Society

Public Health

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Robert C Walter

The Dr. Earl D. Stage & Mary E. Stage Professor of Geosciences, Department Chair of Earth & Environment

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Christopher J Williams

Professor of Environmental Science

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Emily L Wilson

Research Lab Manager & Technician

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Jeremy Zimmerman

Research Assistant

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Andrew P de Wet

Professor of Geosciences, Program Chair of Environmental Science

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Learning Outside the Classroom

Your learning won’t solely take place in the classroom. It’s only fitting to study earth and environmental science by venturing out onto our dynamic planet itself. You’ll engage in exciting, hands-on outdoor learning; acquire field and laboratory data; analyze and interpret your findings; and embark on independent and collaborative research.

In the Field

F&M’s location provides the perfect landscape for studying earth and environmental science. Pennsylvania’s dynamic landscape and waterways, flourishing agricultural scene; the nearby Susquehanna River, Appalachian Mountains, and Piedmont province; and F&M’s Spalding Nature Conservancy and the Big Spring Run long term restoration monitoring project provide dynamic and exciting locations to learn outside of the classroom.

You can also enjoy hands-on experience in F&M’s greenhouse, which sits atop the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building on campus. In the greenhouse, you can learn how to plant, water, fertilize, trim, transplant, and assist in pest control of a variety of plants. Many of these plants are used in F&M courses, but some are also used to enliven College events, such as Commencement. 

Research Opportunities

As you become fully immersed in your earth and environmental science studies, you may find yourself forming hypotheses or questions. The good news? You don’t have to wait until graduate school to investigate those ideas. It’s common for students to embark on an independent study, or to work alongside their professors and become an integral part of their ongoing research even as early as their sophomore year. Earth and environmental science professors are expert researchers working on a wide array of environmental topics, including: 

  • Wetland and floodplain restoration 
  • Mountain building events and the role of plate tectonics in landscape patterns
  • Ground water sources and flow dynamics
  • Remote sensing and data science applied to earth systems and natural resources
  • Environmental applications of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems
  • Methods for detecting landmines and other explosive remnants of war
  • Evidence of permafrost that existed in the mid-Atlantic region during glacial times
  • Trace metal cycling in marine and terrestrial environments 
  • Environmental change and extinction in modern and ancient marine environments 
  • Understanding and predicting responses of aquatic communities and organisms to environmental change 
  • Soil biogeochemistry, carbon cycling, and global change 
  • Plant physiology, ecophysiology, and ecology
  • Organism-environment interactions of plants, birds, and mammals

Explore research at F&M

Center for the Sustainable Environment

Many of our students get involved with F&M’s Center for the Sustainable Environment (CSE), our hub for global environmental stewardship and sustainability on campus. The CSE is home to a seminar room, a field-work laboratory space, a meeting space for sustainable clubs on campus, and more. Many students work in the CSE or participate in its extracurricular activities, food composting workshops, wild food tastings, and guest speaker presentations.

Explore the CSE

Off-Campus Study

Off-campus study, in the U.S. and internationally, is encouraged. We have sponsored extracurricular field trips to exotic locations such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Our students have also spent semesters or summers abroad studying at field stations and laboratories in Woods Hole, Ma., the Australian rainforest, and the savanna of Kenya. 

Explore off-campus study at F&M

Entrepreneurship at F&M

In the spirit of living up to Benjamin Franklin’s legacy of creating solutions in the service of the public good, Entrepreneurship at F&M is a program that offers exciting opportunities for all students to explore and develop entrepreneurial skills. EES students have used their education to develop entrepreneurial opportunities in groundwater exploration; environmental consulting, carbon capture and sequestration; and natural resource management.

In addition to courses in entrepreneurship, there are several supporting programs, including: 

  • The F&M Incubator, which offers opportunities for students to bring their creative solutions to life. You’ll work in a team and you may receive mentoring, specialized support, and/or project funding. You’ll also attend a series of workshops on customer identification, design thinking, marketing and legal considerations, and other topics.  
  • A summer entrepreneurship experience during which you’ll earn course credit and gain real-world experience for your resume while discovering and mastering the entrepreneurial skills needed to bring innovation to any organization. You’ll be matched as a paid intern with sponsoring startups, entrepreneurs, and other organizations that are looking to innovate or disrupt the status quo across a variety of industries.
  • Workshops that introduce, discuss, or focus on entrepreneurship methods and insight
  • Events featuring F&M alumni and members of the wider community who have changed the status quo in all sectors of the economy and society

Explore entrepreneurship at F&M

Dual Degree Programs

Earn Master of Forestry (M.F.) or Master of Environmental Management (M.E.M.)

In partnership with Duke University, F&M enables you to earn a bachelor’s degree from F&M and a master’s degree from Duke in five or six years. 

M.E.M. and M.F. Professional Master’s Degrees

The Duke Professional Master’s program is a two-year, course-based, non-thesis professional degree program similar to law or business school in its applied focus. In fact, the degree will actually be an M.E.M. (Master of Environmental Management) or M.F. (Master of Forestry), depending on the path chosen. This is not the same as applying to graduate school in the college of arts and sciences where you might earn a broader, less applied M.S. (Master of Science) degree in a discipline like Zoology or Biochemistry.

M.E.M. Specializations

The M.E.M. degree is structured around environment and management concentrations. Students select one from each of the following groups of possibilities, to gain depth of knowledge in a topical area (environment) and to build the skills (management) to put this knowledge into practice:

Environment concentrations:

  • Coastal and Marine Systems
  • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health
  • Energy and Environment
  • Terrestrial and Freshwater Environments

Management concentrations:

  • Business and the Environment
  • Environmental Analytics and Modeling
  • Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Community Engagement and Environmental Justice

You may spend either three or four years at F&M, during which time you’ll complete all requirements for your chosen major, and all F&M general education requirements. You will then transfer to Duke for two years.

Please consult this document for more details about this program and instructions for participation.

Contact Professor Elizabeth De Santo at edesanto@fandm.edu with any questions related to this program.

Success Beyond F&M

Our program has a proven track record, with graduates going on to pursue advanced degrees or embarking on promising career paths. You’ll also find alumni support in the Geoscience Founders Society, an organization committed to maintaining connections between current F&M students and faculty with alumni and friends.

Graduate School

Many of our graduates go on to graduate school after F&M, typically pursuing doctoral programs in science, medicine or law. Our graduates have completed their advanced degrees at the best universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Career Paths

Career outcomes for earth and environmental science graduates are diverse. Many obtain entry-level positions in the environmental and geotechnical consulting field and as sustainability analysts or consultants. Our alumni have also held positions such as:

  • Chemist
  • Chief Exploration Scientist
  • Chief Science Officer
  • Energy Industry Analyst
  • Environmental Analyst
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Consulting/Exploration Geologist
  • Consulting/Exploration Geophysicist
  • Global Sustainability Manager
  • Hydrologist/Hydrogeologist
  • Marine Biology Researcher 
  • Marine Chemist
  • Planetary Geologist
  • Public Health Researcher
  • Professor
  • Resident Naturalist
  • Science Policy Advisor
  • Senior Geologist
  • Senior Research Scientist
  • Stream Restoration Specialist
  • Sustainability Planner 
  • Water-Quality Technician
  • Wildlife Monitoring Technician

Student Spotlight

‘Streams are the Canary in the Coal Mine’

Water has a lot to say, if you know how to listen. Using aerial photography and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, F&M sophomore Sydney Levins is researching stream-channel dynamics of Fishing Creek North Nature Preserve in Lancaster.

Read More »

Student Spotlight

Interns Advocate for Chesapeake Bay

On a hot July morning, Andrew Canjura found himself at the helm of a canoe on the Chesapeake Bay. “I was engaging with high-school students who were really into environmentalism. Part of our canoeing trip was testing stream quality and organism life,” he said.

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Earth and Environment Laboratory Facilities

F&M's Department of Earth & Environment offers laboratory facilities open to F&M faculty, staff, and students, as well as colleagues from other institutions for their teaching and research. We have ongoing relationships with F&M's Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Biology, Millersville University, colleges in the Keck Geology Consortium, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Armstrong World Industries.

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Related Fields of Study

Environmental Studies

Do you wish to better understand how humans interact with and affect the environment around us? Environmental Studies at F&M offers a distinctive approach to building the knowledge you need to tackle the environmental challenges of the 21st century.


Become an expert in a vital field that consistently ranks among the best undergraduate programs in the country. By studying geosciences at F&M, you’ll examine and understand the dynamic processes that shape our planet, the minerals and rocks that comprise it, and the features and processes of the Earth’s surfaces and interior.

Sustainability Planning Certificate

Sustainability planning is an increasing need in the marketplace. F&M’s sustainability planning certificate provides the glue that bonds biology; earth and environment; and business, organizations and society to prepare students interested in careers in sustainable practices.

Earth and Environmental Science at Work

April 9, 2024

Campus Celebrates Solar Eclipse

It’s not every day you catch a cosmic phenomenon between classes. F&M students did just that Monday, witnessing the country’s last total solar eclipse until 2044.

November 27, 2023

Paleontologist in the Making

Senior Conner Minkowitz’s passion for extinct creatures changed when he began studying under a retired Franklin & Marshall College paleontologist.

August 31, 2023

NATO Humanitarian Demining Robot Tested at F&M

A team of two cooperating robots roamed a field at Franklin & Marshall’s Baker Campus Aug. 29 to demonstrate to an international audience their capabilities at demining war-torn areas.