Earth and Environmental Sciences
Earth is the only home we have. Helping students understand how our planet functions, the limits of earth’s resources, and the capacity of humans to alter global processes for the common good are the goals of the Furman program in earth and environmental sciences.
The strength of the Furman program in earth and environmental sciences is its emphasis on undergraduate teaching in both classroom and research settings, which provides excellent preparation for graduate school and professional careers. The department also has a strong tradition of laboratory and field experiences. Small classes result in plenty of individual attention, and faculty members are known for their interest in and camaraderie with students. In addition, because Furman is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and only four hours from the Atlantic Coast, it provides students the opportunity to study many geologically diverse regions.
New and exciting opportunities for study during the year are now available off campus at Biosphere 2 and through the Sea Education Association. Biosphere 2, which is run by Columbia University and based in the desert of Arizona, affords students the opportunity to spend a term investigating the dynamic interactions among Earth systems. The Sea Education Association, based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, gives students the chance to do oceanographic research on sailing vessels while receiving course credit. Students participating in these programs may apply for normal Furman financial aid.
Nearly all of the department’s upper-level students conduct independent research projects under individual faculty supervision. These projects, ranging from tectonics to watershed analysis, allow students to explore in-depth a topic that interests them. Many Furman EES students have presented the results of their research at regional and national meetings of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union.
However, research is not limited to upper-level students. Freshmen and sophomores are encouraged to participate in research with faculty as a way of exploring how EES faculty investigate Earth’s problems.
During the summer, earth and environmental sciences students frequently participate in internship programs at research institutions, government agencies and environmental consulting firms. Others may remain at Furman, where they receive stipends to work as research associates with faculty in ongoing research projects.
The Liberal Arts Connection
Earth and environmental sciences students study earth’s history, the internal and surficial processes that mold the planet, and the impact of human activity on earth. This field of study is thus both an historical and a quantitative science.
Earth and environmental scientists are employed in such fields as environmental science, natural resource management, civil engineering, petroleum exploration, mineral resource exploration and oceanography. The rise in human-induced environmental problems, however, also requires a solid background in the humanities. One of the greatest opportunities for students to blend a solid science background (math, chemistry, physics and biology in addition to geology) with a background in the social and political sciences is in the field of environmental science. As a liberal arts university, Furman provides this background.
The study of earth and environmental sciences can also lead to a career outside the sciences. The growing human population has led to unprecedented depletion of geologic resources, increasing waste production, and development of communities on marginal land, making them subject to natural disasters. This has resulted in increased environmental tensions on the local, state, national and international level and forced great changes in approaches to resource management, environmental policy and international relations.
A solid background in earth and environmental sciences, combined with a liberal arts education in sociology, political science and economics, prepares students for careers in such areas as urban and regional planning, resource management, international relations, or with numerous private and government agencies. It is also be a good start toward a career in environmental law or environmental mediation/conflict resolution.
Engaged Learning in the Earth & Environmental Sciences
Engaged learning is a holistic approach to education and best describes the educational philosophy of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. While all courses are necessarily based on the traditional lecture and laboratory format, our department is convinced that our discipline is best taught by “doing” science. Every course has at least one field trip where students get hands-on experience. Often during the summers or spring breaks, longer trips are planned to other regions of the United States or to places such as The Bahamas or Newfoundland.