Earth Science

Examining Earth's environmental processes


Earth Sciences focuses on study of the physical aspects of the natural environment. Students explore the geologic processes that shape the Earth; control atmospheric, oceanic, and climatic conditions; and affect the global water cycle. Earth Sciences examines environmental processes on a range of time scales, from the fractions of a second required for rapid chemical reactions to the billions of years through which the solid Earth has evolved. By learning about the history of the Earth’s development, students gain a valuable new perspective from which they can analyze the behavior of the Earth as a system. The study of the Earth as a system emphasizes the interactions between the physical world and the biosphere, including the effects the physical environment has on human society and the impacts human society has wrought upon the physical world. The courses within this curriculum provide students with the knowledge, tools, analytical skills, and experience to understand and tackle a wide array of Earth Sciences questions and problems. Many Earth Sciences courses incorporate classroom lecture, discussion, and labs with extensive field-based learning, ranging from weekly all-day field trips around the Prescott area to multi-day or multi-week trips to destinations throughout the Southwest (for example, Grand Canyon National Park).


Required Courses

(16-course minimum; 8 UD minimum) (LD = Lower Division; UD = Upper Division)

  • Earth Science Core Courses (select at least six courses distributed across the spectrum of the represented scientific disciplines)
  • Ecology course (select at least one course)
  • Science Foundation/Basic Science (select at least one course)
  • Applications – courses applying scientific knowledge to find solutions to real-world challenges (select at least one course)
  • Supporting Courses – additional Science courses (select at least one course)
  • Distribution Courses (select at least four courses, at least one from each of four categories)
  • Senior Project (UD)

Note: some courses may apply to more than one of the categories listed above. The courses listed below may not be the only courses offered to meet the Earth Sciences Emphasis requirements.

Core Courses

 (select at least six courses)

  • Earth Science, Introduction to (LD)
  • Environmental Problem Solving: Spatial Solutions (UD)
  • Field Methods in Geology (UD)
  • Geographic Information Science (LD)
  • Geologic Evolution of the Southwest (LD)
  • Geology of Arizona (LD)
  • Geomorphology, Topics in (UD)
  • Global Environmental Change (LD/UD)
  • Soil Science, Intro to (LD)
  • Weather and Climate (LD)

Other Science Foundation Courses

(select at least one course)

  • Chemistry, Foundations of (LD)
  • Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest (LD)
  • Physics, Foundations of (LD)
  • Statistics for Research (UD)

Supporting Courses

 (general examples; select at least one course)

  • Environmental Perspectives and Whitewater Rafting (LD/UD)
  • Form and Pattern in Nature (LD)
  • Geology through Bikepacking (LD)
  • Restoration Ecology (LD/UD)
  • Rock Climbing and Geology (LD)
  • Sea Kayaking and Marine Landscapes (LD)
  • Wetland Ecology and Management (UD)
  • Water in the West (LD)

Application Courses

(select at least one course)

  • Energy and the Environment (LD)
  • Environmental Problem Solving: Spatial Solutions (UD)
  • Restoration Ecology (LD/UD)
  • Water in the West (LD)
  • Wetland Ecology and Management (UD)
  • Wildlife Management: Applied Conservation Biology (UD)

Distribution Courses

Select at least one course from each of the following four categories:

Life Sciences

  • Animal Behavior (UD)
  • Animal Biology (LD)
  • Biological Principles (LD)
  • Botany (LD)
  • Herpetology (LD)
  • Human Ecology, Introduction to (LD)
  • Marine Biology I (LD)
  • Organic Evolution (UD)
  • Ornithology, Introduction to (LD)

Earth and Physical Sciences

  • All Earth Science Core Courses satisfy this requirement

Personal Values

  • Environmental Ethics (UD)
  • Ecopsychology, Introduction to (LD)
  • Environmental Education: Theory (LD)
  • Nature and Psyche (LD)
  • New Religious Paradigms (LD)
  • Philosophies of Interpretive Naturalists (UD)
  • Philosophy: Making Ethical Decisions (LD)
  • Women’s Wisdom and Nature (LD)
  • World Religions I or II (LD)

Social Systems

  • American Government: The Political Game (LD)
  • Anthropology (LD)
  • Changing World Order (LD)
  • Ecological Economics, Principles of (LD)
  • Global Development Issues and Energy Economics (LD)
  • Human Rights Seminar (LD)
  • Land Stewards (LD/UD)
  • Law and Social Change (LD)
  • Peace Systems (LD)

Sample Sequence of Courses for Earth Science Emphasis

Year 1: Introduction to Earth Science, Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest

Year 2: Environmental Ethics, Foundations of Chemistry, Rock Climbing and Geology, Geology

     of Arizona, Geologic Evolution of the Southwest, Biological Principles

Year 3: Topics in Geomorphology, Organic Evolution, Statistics for Research, Field Methods in  

     Geology, Wetland Ecology and Management, Foundations of Physics,  

Year 4: Geographic Information Science, Teaching Assistant for Geologic Evolution of the

     Southwest, Senior Project


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