Department of Earth & Environment

The Department of Earth & Environment is the home of diverse research specializations and offers majors and minors related to the study of the earth and the environment, coupled human-natural systems, and climate change. Interdisciplinary research and education is central to the Department’s mission, and topics range from understanding how societies and political economies interact with their environment and develop policy in a rapidly changing world, to characterizing the geology, geochemistry, and climate evolution of the Earth at time scales of decades to millions of years.

Over the next several decades, the integration of the natural and social sciences will play an important role in determining how society tackles the increasingly complex challenges that confront us. From global environmental change to energy consumption, from deforestation to global biogeochemistry, and from earthquake prediction to coastal erosion, the integration of human systems with studies of the natural environment will provide one of the key focus areas of our research. The department maintains core research strengths in both the natural and social sciences, and includes expertise in remote sensing, surface processes, crustal dynamics, geochemistry, marine science, terrestrial ecology, energy, environmental analyses and policy, human geography, and geographical information systems. Scholarly pursuits are rooted at the center of each of these core disciplines and, increasingly, at the interface between new and emerging cross-disciplinary fields in the study of the earth, environment, and society; including, for example, studies of long-term environmental sustainability.

The department is strongly aligned with activities in our allied research centers and schools, including the Center for Remote Sensing, the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, and the Pardee School of Global Studies.

Degrees

The Department of Earth & Environment offers two undergraduate degrees:

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Students in Earth & Environmental Sciences may pursue focused coursework in one of three areas, including ecosystem processes and analysis, earth & climate evolution, and satellite remote sensing/earth observations.

Environmental Analysis & Policy

Students pursuing a major in Environmental Analysis & Policy pursue coursework in economic policy analysis, environmental modeling, international environmental policy, and global change.

Field experience and/or directed study are an essential part of our curriculum. Undergraduates are encouraged to participate as field and laboratory assistants as well as to pursue independent research with faculty advisors, thereby gaining better insight into concepts and methodologies introduced in coursework.

The Department also offers minors in Earth & Environmental Sciences and Environmental Analysis & Policy, and jointly advises minors in Sustainable Energy and majors and minors in Marine Science. In addition, the department offers an interdisciplinary degree major with the Department of Astronomy in Geophysics & Planetary Sciences.

Related Programs and Study Abroad

Opportunities exist for travel throughout the United States, and across the globe, through research opportunities with faculty in the department, as well as study abroad programs. Boston University’s Study Abroad and Internship Programs offer several educational opportunities for students pursuing study in the areas of earth and environment.

Boston University Marine Program

For students wishing to develop a marine focus, particularly in connection with a biological emphasis, courses are available through the Boston University Marine Program (BUMP). In this case, the emphasis is on field & laboratory teaching and research, and includes aspects of ancient marine geology, biogeochemistry of sediments, and biota. Access is also provided to present-day natural field laboratories in the local area and in Belize. This semester program is especially well suited for Environmental Science majors, who can fulfill four major electives.

Auckland University Studies Program

Juniors and seniors in the Department of Earth & Environment with an interest in geological science, environmental science, and environmental analysis & policy are especially encouraged to consider study abroad at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. With a combination of academic work across a wide range of disciplines, field trips, and personal travel opportunities, students enjoy a rich introduction to New Zealand life and culture. Opportunities exist for intensive study of volcanoes, mountain glaciers, alpine faults, thermal springs, coastal regions, GIS, environmental modeling, field studies in environment and community, and more.

Tropical Ecology Program in Ecuador

The Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program offers students in the Department of Earth & Environment the opportunity to spend a semester studying the vast and diverse ecosystems of Ecuador through intensive hands-on experiences. The program consists of four ecology courses based on field research in the montane, tropical rainforest, and coastal regions, as well as an intensive Spanish language course. All science courses are taught in English. This semester program is especially well suited for Environmental Science majors, who can fulfill four major electives.

Washington, DC Internship Program

The Washington, DC Internship Program offers a semester of study and work in the political and media center of the United States. The program combines a full-time internship with coursework focusing on the legislative process and foreign policy. This semester program is especially well suited for Environmental Analysis & Policy majors, who can fulfill four major electives.

Venice Environmental Studies Program (Summer)

The Venice Environmental Studies Program offers students an opportunity to examine both the scientific underpinnings of climate change and sea level rise, and their effects on the economy and society. The two-course curriculum emphasizes the natural history of the Venice lagoon, as well as its more recent modifications, to illustrate the issues connected with human-driven changes in coastal bays and estuaries, sea level rise, and natural environmental dynamics. Courses are taught in English.

Earth House

Earth House is a sustainable living-learning community for undergraduates at 7 Buswell Street, on South Campus. The historic row house and its supporting energy, water, food, and waste systems are the principal objects of inquiry for student-residents. Students take part in at least one change or upgrade in sustainability of Earth House during their residential year, while analyzing Earth House and developing a proposal for the single most environmentally- and cost-effective upgrade in the physical plant or resident consumer behavior for implementation in the following year. Earth House is advised by faculty in Earth & Environment, the College of Engineering, and the Questrom School of Business; and staff of Sustainability@BU.

For a full list of Study Abroad and Internship Programs related to the study of earth & environment, visit the Study Abroad and Internship Programs website, or speak to the undergraduate program coordinator in Earth & Environment.

Organizations

Boston University Geological Society

The Boston University Geological Society (BUGS) is an organization of students who sponsor activities that complement classroom study. In addition to regular meetings and frequent fundraising events, BUGS organizes field trips, sports teams, external lectures, and career information seminars.

Gamma Theta Upsilon

Gamma Theta Upsilon is the National Honor Society in Geography.

Sigma Xi

See Honor Societies.

Environmental Student Organization

The Environmental Student Organization sponsors seminars, service, and social events during the year and is open to majors, minors, and other interested students.