Thesis-driven Master’s Programs

The department of Earth and Environment also offers two thesis-driven Master’s programs in Earth Science and Geography. Students may only apply for these programs upon consultation with  faculty and only after receiving an invitation to participate in a faculty member’s research. To inquire about possible research positions, please contact the faculty whose research most matches your interests.

Master of Arts in Geography

The department offers two programs leading to the Master of Arts degree—one requiring coursework, a research paper, and a written examination; the other, coursework and a thesis.


At least eight semester courses (32 credits) constitute the minimum requirement. Requirements are as follows:

  • GRS GE 516: Multivariate Analysis for Geographers, or its equivalent
  • Two courses on analytical methods
  • At least one topical research seminar in the department
  • One graduate-level course in a cognate field outside the department

A maximum of three semester courses in directed study is allowed for the Master of Arts degree. For more information on graduate course offerings go to the Graduate Course Descriptions pages.

Master of Arts by Examination

Each student pursuing the Master of Arts degree by examination must prepare a research paper of publishable length and quality. It will be evaluated by the student’s advisory committee.

At the beginning of the final semester of degree coursework, candidates must make a written request to the department to take the master’s examination. Such examinations are administered in October and March. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of their major field of interest and of the material covered in the core courses.


Students in the master’s by examination program must, in addition, offer an oral presentation of independent research or seminar research to the departmental community before finishing the degree. This presentation, which is expected to demonstrate a professional approach in content, structure, and delivery, will be evaluated as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Master of Arts with Thesis

A viable thesis topic must be selected no later than the third semester. Up to 4 credits (or one full course within the eight-course total required) may be earned by thesis preparation under the designation of directed study, at the discretion of the student’s advisor. A three-member faculty advisory committee, chaired by the major advisor, is selected to help guide the thesis research.

Each candidate must prepare a written research proposal and defend it orally before the full advisory committee.

Oral Examination

When the thesis is completed, the advisory committee examines the candidate orally on matters broadly relevant to the thesis. Successful defense of the thesis in the oral examination constitutes the last major step toward the degree.

Thesis Specification

Regulations concerning preparation of the thesis are determined by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and by the student’s advisor. Guidelines for preparing illustrations are available from the department.


Master of Arts in Earth Science

The MA in Earth Sciences program is designed for the student with an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences who desires a more fundamental knowledge of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and surface processes. Students apply a range of earth sciences field and laboratory methods toward solving quantitative problems in core disciplinary areas. This program prepares students for further graduate work in the field, or for careers in resource exploration and management, technical consulting, engineering, and environmental sciences, as well as a multitude of different jobs in the private sector and governmental agencies.

Course Requirements

Eight graduate-level courses (32 credits) are required, of which at least four must be earth sciences courses, including at least two non-research earth sciences courses (other than GRS ES 699). Three of the eight required courses can be research courses associated with thesis research.


A written thesis, approved by at least three members of the department (usually the student’s advisor and two mutually agreed upon second readers), must be submitted to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. All MA candidates must give an oral presentation and defend their research results in a public forum


Below is a selection of courses offered in the department that are related to Earth Science topics. There courses are offered on a rotating basis and may not be offered in the coming semester. For a list of courses being offered in the coming semester/year, please visit the student link or speak to our program coordinator, Alissa Beideck.

CAS ES 503 Structural Petrology

CAS ES 505 Plate Tectonics and Kinematics

CAS ES 511 Groundwater Hydrogeology

CAS ES 514 Dynamic Landsurface Hydrology

CAS ES 522 Metamorphic Petrology

CAS ES 533 Quantitative Geomorphology

CAS ES 534 Ice-Age Systems

CAS ES 541 Coastal Processes

CAS ES 543 Estuaries and Nearshore Systems

CAS ES 545 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea

CAS ES 546 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea: Applications and Research

CAS ES 561 Mechanics of Earthquakes

CAS ES 571 Geochemical Modeling

CAS ES 573 Analytical Methods in Geochemistry

CAS ES 576 Aquatic Geochemistry

CAS ES 581 Solid Earth Geophysics

CAS ES 587, 588 Seminar in Earth Sciences

GRS ES 611 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology

GRS ES 623 Marine Biogeochemistry

GRS ES 640 Marine Geology

GRS ES 643 Terrestrial Biogeochemistry

GRS ES 652 Experimental Analysis of Marine Symbiosis: Organism-Sediment Relationships

GRS ES 660 Geodynamics I

GRS ES 671 Introduction to Geochemistry

GRS ES 681 Geological Record of Global Change

GRS ES 683 Geodynamics II Fluids and Fluid Transport

GRS ES 699 Teaching College Earth Sciences I

GRS ES 701 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences I: Mechanics of Earth Materials

GRS ES 702 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences II: Analysis and Modeling of Geological Processes

GRS ES 711 Fluvial Geomorphology

GRS ES 712 Laboratory and Field Hydrogeology

GRS ES 714 Advanced Groundwater Hydrogeology

GRS ES 732 Geology of Continental Margins

GRS ES 733 Advanced Desert Geomorphology

GRS ES 742 Coastal Dynamics

GRS ES 751 Advanced Paleoceanography

GRS ES 762 Nonmarine Terrigenous Clastic Deposits and Processes

GRS ES 771 Isotope Earth Science

GRS ES 781 Methods of Seismology

GRS ES 783 Climate-Tectonic Linkages

Advanced Topics, Directed Study, and Advanced Research courses are also available in varying Earth Science topics.