Undergraduate Courses (1000-3000 level)

Dinosaurs: a spectacular example of a common, highly successful form of life, dominant for 135 million years. Where did they come from? Why were they so successful? Why did they die out? A basic introduction to interface between geology and biology.

Lab is a hands-on introduction to geochronology, paleontology, and historical geology with field trips.

EESC UN1401 for lectures only

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: basic high school science and math.


Global Warming will dominate civic discourse and inform economic, social, and governmental policies throughout the 21st century, in all walks of life. This course will cover the basics of climate science, anthropogenic global warming, proposed solutions and policy challenges facing society in response to our changing planet. This course will increase your confidence and ability to engage in public discourse on the subject of climate change, climate change solutions, and public policy concerning our collective future.

Prerequisites: none

A spring-break excursion focused on the geology of Death Valley and adjacent areas of the eastern California desert. Discussion sessions ahead of the trip provide necessary background. Details at: http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/v1010/ 

What is the nature of our planet and how did it form? This class explores Earths internal structure, its dynamical character expressed in plate tectonics and earthquakes, and its climate system. It also explores what Earths future may hold. Lecture and lab. Students who wish to take only the lectures should register for UN1411.

Explore the geology of the sea floor, understand what drives ocean currents and how ocean ecosystems operate. Case studies and discussions centered on ocean-related issues facing society.

An introduction to risks and hazards in the environment. Different types of hazards are analyzed and compared: natural disasters, such as tornados, earthquakes, and meteorite impacts; acute and chronic health effects caused by exposure to radiation and toxic substances such as radon, asbestos, and arsenic; long-term societal effects due to environmental change, such as sea level rise and global warming. Emphasizes the basic physical principles controlling the hazardous phenomena and develops simple quantitative methods for making scientifically reasoned assessments of the threats (to health and wealth) posed by various events, processes, and exposures. Discusses methods of risk mitigation and sociological, psychological, and economic aspects of risk control and management.

Prerequisites: high school science and math.

Survey of the origin and extent of mineral resources, fossil fuels, and industrial materials, that are non-renewable, finite resources, and the environmental consequences of their extraction and use, using the textbook Earth Resources and the Environment, by James Craig, David Vaughan and Brian Skinner. This course will provide an overview, but will include focus on topics of current societal relevance, including estimated reserves and extraction costs for fossil fuels, geological storage of CO2, sources and disposal methods for nuclear energy fuels, sources and future for luxury goods such as gold and diamonds, and special, rare materials used in consumer electronics (e.g. ;Coltan; mostly from Congo) and in newly emerging technologies such as superconducting magnets and rechargeable batteries (e.g. heavy rare earth elements, mostly from China). Guest lectures from economists, commodity traders and resource geologists will provide real world input. Discussion Session Required.

Prerequisites: none; high school chemistry recommended.

Spring break field trip to the Eastern Sierra, CA, restricted to first-years and sophomores from Columbia College/General Studies, Barnard College, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Excursion focuses on the geology and environment of Mono Lake and adjacent areas. Discussion sessions ahead of the trip provide necessary background. Early application advised; deadline: November 8. Details at: http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/v1900/ Discussion Section Required. Instructor's permission required.

Origin and development of the atmosphere and oceans, formation of winds, storms and ocean currents, reasons for changes through geologic time. Recent influence of human activity: the ozone hole, global warming, water pollution. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling. Students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences should plan to take EESC W2100 before their senior year to avoid conflicts with Senior Seminar.

Prerequisites: high school algebra. Recommended preparation: high school chemistry and physics; and one semester of college science.

Exploration of how the solid Earth works, today and in the past, focusing on Earth in the Solar system, continents and oceans, the Earth's history, mountain systems on land and sea, minerals and rocks, weathering and erosion, glaciers and ice sheets, the hydrological cycle and rivers, geochronology, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, energy resources. Laboratory exploration of topics through examination of rock samples, experimentation, computer data analysis, field exercises, and modeling. Columbia and Barnard majors should plan to take W2200 before their senior year to avoid conflicts with the Senior Seminar.

Prerequisites: high school algebra, chemistry, and physics.

Role of life in biogeochemical cycles, relationship of biodiversity and evolution to the physical Earth, vulnerability of ecosystems to environmental change; causes and effects of extinctions through geologic time (dinosaurs and mammoths) and today. Exploration of topics through laboratories, demonstrations, computer data analysis and modeling. REQUIRED LAB: EESC UN2310. Students should see the Directory of Classes for lab sessions being offered and select one.

Prerequisites: high school algebra; Recommended: high school chemistry & physics.

The course provides students with a natural science basis to appreciate co-dependencies of natural and human systems, which are central to understanding sustainable development.  After completing the course, students should be able to incorporate scientific approaches into their research or policy decisions and be able to use scientific methods of data analysis.  The semester will highlight the climate system and solutions from both physical and ecological perspectives; water resources; food production and the cycling of nutrients; and the role of biodiversity in sustainable development.  The course emphasizes key scientific concepts such as uncertainty, experimental versus observational approaches, prediction and predictability, the use of models and other essential methodological aspects.

The centerpiece of this course is a field trip that will take place during Spring Break in Barbados. During the term-time the class will meet before the trip to prepare for it and after the trip to synthesize what was learned and to create a field guide. Subjects to be covered: Plate tectonics / convergent plate margins and accretionary prisms / Barbados geology; ice ages / Milankovitch cycles / sea level; introduction to coral reefs and fossil coral reef geology; Barbados terrestrial ecology; limestone caves / hydrology; dating methods; overview of Barbados history, economy, culture. In order to observe the modern day coral reef (the modern day live analog to the fossil coral reefs) the class will go snorkeling. In order to observe the effects of cave formation and water flow in limestone terrains the class will visit a cave. The class will also participate in an exercise in geological mapping of a series of coral reef terraces.

Prerequisites: EESC 2200 The Solid Earth System or EESC 2100 The Climate System, or permission from the instructor. Students may take 2200 or 2100 the same semester as the trip

The origin, evolution, and future of our planet, based on the book How to Build a Habitable Planet by Wallace S. Broecker. This course will focus on the geochemical processes that built Earth from solar material, led to its differentiation into continents and ocean, and have maintained its surface at a comfortable temperature. Students will participate in a hands-on geochemistry project at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Prerequisites: Any 1000-level or 2000-level EESC course; MATH UN1101 Calculus I and CHEM UN1403 General Chemistry I or their equivalents.

Properties and processes affecting the evolution and behavior of the solid Earth. This course will focus on the geophysical processes that build mountains and ocean basins, drive plate tectonics, and otherwise lead to a dynamic planet. Topics include heat flow and mantle circulation, earthquakes and seismic waves, gravity, Earth’s magnetic field, and flow of glaciers and ice sheets.

Prerequisites: Math UN1101 (Calc I) & Physics UN1201, or their equivalents. Any 1000-level or 2000-level EESC course. Must have taken or be enrolled in PHYS UN1201unless approved by instructor

Computer models are essential for understanding the behavior of complex natural systems in geosciences. This course is an introduction to writing computer models to simulate Earth processes. Students will learn methods for numerical modeling of a variety of geoscience topics, such as seismic waves, groundwater flow, glacier growth, ocean currents and more. Simulations will be created by learning to program with a user-friendly language (Python). Student learning will be facilitated through a combination of lectures, in-class exercises,homework assignments and a final project on a student-selected modeling topic

Prerequisites: Required: at least a semester of calculus and physics; any 1000-level or 2000-level EESC,course. Recommended: EESC3201 (Solid Earth Dynamics).

Guided, independent, in-depth research culminating in the senior thesis in the spring. Includes discussion about scientific presentations and posters, data analysis, library research methods and scientific writing. Students review work in progress and share results through oral reports. Weekly seminar to review work in progress and share results through oral and written reports.

Prerequisites: A good grounding in basic sciences.