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Students taking water samples at Singleton Matthews Farm.

Environmental Studies - Earth System Science

It can be overwhelming (and utterly fascinating) to think about the complex systems and forces that shape Earth’s environment and how multiple pieces fit together in a giant jigsaw puzzle of cause and effect. A degree in Earth System Science from McDaniel College will help you hone in on the elements that fascinate you the most.

Degree Types
Major , Specialization
Complementary Programs
Distinctive Requirements
Research Facilities

Why McDaniel for a degree in Earth System Science?

In the Earth System Science track of the Environmental Studies major, you’ll use knowledge and methods from multiple fields to explore connections between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere. As a student in the Environmental Studies Department, you’ll explore contemporary environmental issues and learn skills you can apply to future careers in science, education, and consultancy.

Through innovative courses based on experiential learning, you’ll gain skills used in Earth science careers like plume mapping, water budgeting, wetland delineation, infiltration testing, and much more. By the time you graduate, you’ll know how to think long-term, work effectively in the field and with environmental data, and develop a holistic view of Earth systems within the field of environmental studies.

Future Career Paths

Environmental Studies students will be well prepared for graduate study and to pursue careers as:

  • Environmental Scientist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Teacher
  • Naturalist
  • Urban or Regional Planner

The average salary for careers with an earth science degree, like environmental scientists and geoscientists, is around $80,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Students examine a soil sample outdoors.

Distinctive Courses

ENV 2152 - Earth History

Do you ever wonder how the Earth formed and evolved into the planet that we inhabit? What events and processes have sculpted Earth’s surfaces? In this class, we will explore the formation of the Earth and the events that shaped it by reading the rock record and observing fossil evidence. We will learn to use geological maps to piece together what happened in the past by applying stratigraphic concepts and understanding of geologic timescales.

ENV 2203 - Science of Soil, Water and Air

This course will focus on chemical cycles in the Earth’s natural environment. Topics introduced will include aqueous environmental chemistry, including water pollution and treatment, and atmospheric environmental chemistry, including air pollution, smog, and greenhouse gases, Additional topics covered will be soil chemistry, energy sources, and hazardous wastes. Laboratory exercises will address current environmental questions and students will learn specific instrumental and laboratory techniques in the chemical analysis of natural materials including rocks, soil, and water.

ENV 3114 - Wetland Ecology

Wetlands have been greatly maligned as wasted land and mosquito breeding grounds for centuries; however, these delicate environments have been shown to provide essential ecosystem services, including filtering of nutrients and sediments, bird and fish habitat, and attenuation of floods. Because of this, many environmental agencies and non-profit groups are working to restore wetlands. In Wetland Ecology, we will explore the characteristics and function of wetlands, what sorts of organisms live in wetlands, and how humans can improve their interactions with wetlands in both in the classroom and through field and laboratory experiences. We will develop an appreciation of these critical ecosystems.

ENV 3110 - Climatology

Will future climate changes advance gradually, or abruptly and catastrophically, as they have in the past? Understanding processes that have affected climate in the past will help us predict future global warming. This course explores the mechanisms and indicators of global change, and treats topics such as the “snowball earth,” ocean fertilization, oceanic methane release and the ocean conveyor belt.

ENV 2117 - Environmental Geology

How do geological processes on the surface of the Earth affect human societies? How do humans change Earth’s surface? These two questions will be addressed as this course explores the geological processes that interact with the global environment and human societies. Major environmental geological problems will be addressed such as water and soil resources, mineral resources, and geological hazards. Special attention will be given to local environmental geology problems in Maryland. Examples of laboratory activities include reading and interpreting topographic maps, slope stability, groundwater and surface water resources, and earthquakes.

The McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Students gathered at Singleton Matthews Farm.

Faculty Spotlight Jason Scullion Assistant Professor and Department Chair

Professor Scullion is a conservation scientist focused on the conservation of wilderness landscapes, particularly intact forests. His current research is focused on improving forest governance in protected areas and frontier landscapes and developing tools to improve landscape management.