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Earth Science and Society Major

The following academic requirements are from the 2016/17 Vassar College Catalogue.

The challenges presented by climate change, resource conflicts, and natural disasters point to the importance of studying the intersection of earth processes and human societies. The interdisciplinary Earth Science and Society major draws on the two allied disciplines housed in the department of Earth Science and Geography. From Earth Science, students gain an understanding of natural processes that impact the distribution and use of resources such as water, fossil fuels, and soil, as well as natural hazards such as climate change, tsunamis and earthquakes. From Geography, students learn about the spatial distribution of physical and human phenomena and how human societies have been shaped by and also have changed the natural world.

Students follow a focused series of Earth Science and Geography courses, normally within one of two general themes (below); students may propose course substitutions in consultation with their adviser or the chairs of the department.

1) Physical geography theme:

This theme focuses on understanding patterns and processes in the natural environment that shape landscapes, with emphasis on climate, soils, water, landforms, and natural hazards.

  • ESSC 100 - Earth Resource Challenges
  • GEOG 102 - Global Geography: People, Places, and Regions
  • GEOG 220 - Cartography: Making Maps with GIS
  • GEOG 224 - GIS: Spatial Analysis
  • GEOG 230 - Geographic Research Methods
  • GEOG 258 - Sustainable Landscapes: Bridging Place and Environment in Poughkeepsie
  • GEOG 260 - Conservation of Natural Resources
  • GEOG 340 - Advanced Urban and Regional Studies
  • GEOG 356 - Environment and Land Use Planning
  • ESCI 151 - Earth, Environment, and Humanity
  • ESCI 201 - Earth Materials: Minerals and Rocks
  • ESCI 203 - Earth History
  • ESCI 211 - Sedimentology
  • ESCI 221 - Soils
  • ESCI 231 - Geomorphology: Surface Processes and Evolution of Landforms
  • ESCI 251 - Global Geophysics and Tectonics
  • ESCI 321 - Environmental Geology
  • ESCI 335 - Paleoclimatology: Earth's History of Climate Change
  • ESCI 361 - Modeling the Earth

2) Land and resource analysis theme:

This theme focuses on the uneven distribution of resources, such as agricultural soils, water, or energy; implications for human societies, and various approaches to achieve sustainable development.

  • ESSC 100 - Earth Resource Challenges
  • GEOG 102 - Global Geography: People, Places, and Regions
  • GEOG 220 - Cartography: Making Maps with GIS
  • GEOG 224 - GIS: Spatial Analysis
  • GEOG 230 - Geographic Research Methods
  • GEOG 238 - Environmental China: Nature, Culture, and Development
  • GEOG 242 - Brazil in Crisis: Continuity and Change in Portuguese America
  • GEOG 250 - Urban Geography: Space, Place, Environment
  • GEOG 252 - Cities of the Global South: Urbanization and Social Change in the Developing World
  • GEOG 258 - Sustainable Landscapes: Bridging Place and Environment in Poughkeepsie
  • GEOG 260 - Conservation of Natural Resources
  • GEOG 266 - Population, Environment, and Sustainable Development
  • GEOG 304 - Senior Seminar: Issues in Geographic Theory and Method
  • GEOG 340 - Advanced Urban and Regional Studies
  • GEOG 356 - Environment and Land Use Planning
  • GEOG 384 - Community GIS
  • ESCI 111 - Science and Justice in the Anthropocene
  • ESCI 151 - Earth, Environment, and Humanity
  • ESCI 201 - Earth Materials: Minerals and Rocks
  • ESCI 203 - Earth History
  • ESCI 211 - Sedimentology
  • ESCI 221 - Soils
  • ESCI 231 - Geomorphology: Surface Processes and Evolution of Landforms
  • ESCI 321 - Environmental Geology
  • ESCI 361 - Modeling the Earth

Requirements for Concentration

12 units to include the following: (1) Three departmental survey courses that provide a firm grasp of the earth system, its people, and history (GEOG 102 - Global Geography: People, Places, and Regions or ESSC 100 - Earth Resource Challenges; ESCI 151 - Earth, Environment, and Humanity; ESCI 203 - Earth History; (2) a methods course selected from among GEOG 220 - Cartography: Making Maps with GIS; GEOG 224 - GIS: Spatial Analysis; GEOG 230 - Geographic Research Methods; (3) a sequence of three courses in Earth Science including at least one at the 300-level; (4) a sequence of three courses in Geography including at least one at the 300-level; (5) GEOG 304, or another senior seminar, or an optional interdisciplinary senior thesis (ESSC 300-ESSC 301); (6) and another 200- or 300-level course in Geography or Earth Science. Specific courses will be chosen in consultation with the student's adviser and/or the chairs of the department.

Senior-Year Requirements

GEOG 304, or another senior seminar, or an optional interdisciplinary senior thesis (ESSC 300-ESSC 301). Majors must write a senior thesis to be considered for departmental honors.

Field Work

The department sponsors field work in geography and earth science which can count towards the major at the 200-level. Summer geology field camp, an internship, independent study, or selected coursework taken during junior year study away from Vassar may be credited as field work.