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 are 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 provides modern geological, geochemical, remote sensing, GIS, visualization, and computing laboratory facilities for use in undergraduate and graduate research. These facilities play a critical role as part of research projects supported by the National Science Foundation, Ocean Drilling Program/Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, US Geological Survey, Sea Grant, Petroleum Research Fund, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Park Service. The facilities are also used by other researchers in the New England region.

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.

Majors & Minors

The Department of Earth & Environment offers several undergraduate degrees:

Earth & Environmental Sciences

The major in Earth & Environmental Sciences engages students in the study of the Earth and its habitable environments with a focus on the key natural and physical processes that shape our planet, from the geologic past to the present, and into the future. Students gain a broad foundational understanding of concepts and research techniques in the physical, life, and interdisciplinary natural sciences that inform society about the physical world and environment in which we live.

Environmental Analysis & Policy

Students in the Environmental Analysis & Policy (EAP) major are trained broadly in the social sciences with a clearly defined specialization in the environmental field. Students receive an extensive introduction to the principle energy, resource, and environmental issues that confront society, and the analytical tools that are used to understand them.

The department also offers minors in Earth & Environmental SciencesEnvironmental Analysis & Policy, and Environmental Remote Sensing & GIS and jointly advises minors in Sustainable Energy and majors and minors in Marine Science.

Field experience and/or directed studies are vital to the studies of Earth and environment. 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.

Affiliated and Related Programs

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 students majoring in Earth & Environmental Sciences, who can fulfill four major electives.

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.

Regulated Community Compliance Project

The Regulated Community Compliance Project (RCCP) focuses on the relationship between government and the regulated community. Each semester, students registered in EE 538 perform research tasks that assist environmental and public health officials in achieving their missions, sometimes continuing projects begun in previous semesters. The students work in teams, each taking a leadership role in one project and supportive roles in others. Recent projects have drawn from tasks for the Boston Public Health Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

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 Study Abroad offers several educational opportunities for students pursuing study in the areas of Earth and environment. For a full list of Study Abroad and Internship Programs related to the study of Earth and 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.

Climate, Advocacy, Research, and Education

Climate, Advocacy, Research, and Education (CARE) is a student organization at Boston University that promotes an interdisciplinary approach to communicating science and solving environmental problems. We welcome students from all schools across BU and actively cultivate an environment of diversity and inclusivity.

Environmental Student Organization

The Environmental Student Organization (ESO) is a student-run group striving to increase awareness and discussion of environmental issues through a variety of events and projects on and off campus. ESO sponsors seminars, service, and social events during the year and is open to majors, minors, and other interested students.