Courses of Instruction

See the official term schedules below for detailed information on the courses offered this year.

Official term schedules:

Check the course schedules/descriptions available via the Registrar's Office for the official schedules for the widest range of terms for which such information is available.

All Courses

The department offers a variety of graduate courses. Below is a complete list of all earth and environmental sciences (EESC) graduate courses that have been offered.

NOTE: Not all of these courses are offered in any given year.

EESC 204(W)/404 – Earth Materials


Most of the Earth–from surface to core– is made up of crystalline material (minerals), but with important minor components of water-rich fluids and magmas which are responsible for the destruction and creation of new minerals. Together these ‘earth materials’ – and the processes responsible for them coming into being – have shaped Earth for over 4.5 billion years. We will explore the properties of earth materials including their atomic structure, their physical and chemical stability, and the basic principles that govern the chemical composition, occurrence, structure, and classification of minerals. A portion of the course will be devoted to the study of other terrestrial bodies (e.g., Mars and the Moon) and meteorites that make up the primordial building material for planets that we see today. 

PREREQUISITES: EESC 101 or permission of instructor

EESC 212/412 – Climate Change Perspectives in Chemical Oceanography

Most introductory courses to chemical oceanography cover a variety of topics that are only related because they are under the broad umbrella of chemical oceanography. Some of these topics include the carbon dioxide and inorganic carbon chemistry, salinity, marine nutrients, dissolved gases and organic constituents. Similarly, most discussions of climate change and chemical oceanography only touch on ocean acidification. This course seeks to provide the same broad prospective to conventional chemical oceanography courses but will interweave the unifying theme of climate change into these numerous and diverse topics.


EESC 214/414 – Earth Science Data Analysis

A course on modern methods for estimating models, and their uncertainty, from observational data in the Earth sciences. The course emphasizes concepts in parameter estimation, time series analysis, and statistics, using matrix inverse methods. Examples are taken exclusively from environmental science datasets: sea-surface temperature, precipitation and river flow, ground vibration, the chemical composition of sea-floor samples, etc. Problem sets and weekly computer exercises provide theoretical foundations and adequate practice needed for proficiency in data analysis.

PREREQUISITES: First two courses in the MATH 140 or MATH 160 calculus sequence

EESC 215/415 – Seismology and Earth Structure

This course introduces the theoretical foundations of seismology: the study of (an-)elastic vibrations, the sources that generate them and the planetary interiors through which they propagate. It plays a leading role in addressing key scientific questions involving our planet's dynamic systems and other terrestrial planetary interiors, providing direct constraints on planetary structure and its composition from crust to core. We will cover fundamental concepts of elasticity, stress, strain, seismometer design, the derivation of the seismic wave equation and its application to describing the full seismic spectrum. In addition to learning theoretical fundamentals, we will explore frontier applications in computational and planetary seismology e.g., (i) earthquake detection and location on the Earth, Moon and Mars, (ii) Auto-adaptive imaging in 1D, 2D & 3D, and (iii) extracting deterministic waves from

This course introduces the theoretical foundations of seismology: the study of (an-)elastic vibrations, the sources that generate them and the planetary interiors through which they propagate. It plays a leading role in addressing key scientific questions involving our planet's dynamic systems and other terrestrial planetary interiors, providing direct constraints on planetary structure and composition from crust to core. We will cover fundamental concepts of elasticity, stress, strain, seismometer design, the derivation of the seismic wave equation and its application to describing the full seismic spectrum.

PREREQUISITES: General Calculus MATH 140 or MATH 160 and a first course in general physics or mechanics (e.g., PHYS 121/113/141 can be taken concurrently)

EESC 216(W)/416 – Environmental Geochemistry

A course in the chemical and physical processes that shape our environment. These include groundwater flow and contaminant mitigation, chemistry of lakes, streams and the ocean, ocean-atmosphere interactions (ozone depletion) global warming and the greenhouse effect.


EESC 218/418 – Atmospheric Geochemistry

The atmosphere helps to maintain habitable temperatures on our planet's surface, shields life from destructive cosmic and ultraviolet radiation and contains gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are essential for life. In this course we will work toward an understanding of several important questions. What is in the Earth's atmosphere? What are the sources and sinks of the most important gases in the atmosphere? How does the atmosphere affect the Earth's surface climate? What is the role of photochemistry in atmospheric composition? How does the atmosphere interact with the land and oceans? How has human activity affected the atmosphere? Registration for recitation is required at the time of course registration. 

PREREQUISITES: EESC 101 or 103 or 105, CHEM 131 or equivalent, MATH 141-142 or equivalent, CHEM 132 or equivalent recommended but not required

EESC 220W/420 – Geobiology

This course investigates Geobiology, the study of the interactions between the biosphere (living organisms and their products) and the geosphere (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere). In the first part of the semester, the class will explore how the geopshere's chemical and physical processes influenced life and evolution and how life influenced the Earth system during roughly the last 4 billion years. This will be done mainly through the reading and discussion of seminal papers. The second part of the semester will focus on students' investigation of specific geobiology topics, like microbial weathering of minerals, biomineralization, the role of different microbial metabolisms in elemental cycling, the ocean redox history and its relationship to the origin of life itself. In addition to learning geobiology fundamentals, students will learn how to undertake a scientific literature search, read and understand scientific material, brainstorm and develop new ideas and write a final research paper.

EESC 230/430 – Principles of Geochronometry

Time is at the heart of the Earth and Planetary Sciences. Without quantitative knowledge of absolute or relative time, no discipline with a historical perspective could function. The goal of this course is to provide students with an overview of the fundamental geochemical tools that are used for establishing quantitative timescales of Earth and Planetary processes. By integrating concepts of radiogenic isotope geochemistry, diffusion kinetics and analytical geochemistry, this course will explore the principles and applications of geochronology, thermochronology and geospeedometry. Students are expected to have a general knowledge of mineralogy, petrology and basic thermodynamics prior to taking this course. Instructor permission required for undergraduates.

Instructor permission required for undergraduates.

EES 233/433 – Marine Ecosystems and Carbon Cycle Modeling

Over the last few decades, numerical biogeochemical models have provided new insights into the marine carbon cycle, its contribution to past climate change, and its potential responses to future climate warming. In this practical class, students will build simple biogeochemical models-ranging from "box" models of marine microbial ecosystems to three-dimensional nutrient cycling models-and design experiments to address climate change hypotheses. They will also be taught to analyze output from state-of-the-art climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Students will not only learn invaluable programming skills, but also gain a deeper intuition of the ocean carbon cycling and its role in the global climate system.

PREREQUISITES: MATH 165 or equivalent, EESC 212

No prior computing experience is required: an extensive grounding will be provided in the MATLAB programming language that will be used throughout the course.

EES 234/434 – Fundamentals of Atmospheric Modeling

Global atmospheric models are critical research and policy tools used to understand and predict the weather, climate change, and air pollution. This course provides an applied introduction to the physics, chemistry, and numerical methods underlying simulations of the spatial and temporal evolution of mass, energy, and momentum in planetary atmospheres. Topics include: finite-differencing the equations of atmospheric dynamics, radiative transfer models, numerical methods for solving systems of chemical ordinary differential equations, parameterization of small-scale processes, surface exchanges, inverse modeling, and model evaluation techniques. Assignments focus on the implementation and application of simple models by students. Students will also gain experience using state-of-the-science models of atmospheric chemistry and/or climate in a final project of their choosing.

PREQUISITES: EESC 105 or EESC 218 or equivalent, MATH 165 or equivalent, CHEM 131-132 or equivalent, PHYS 121 or equivalent, or permission of instructor, PHYS 255 or equivalent recommended but not required

EES 235/435 – Physical Oceanography

The physical circulation of the ocean controls the uptake and redistribution of heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so is a critical regulator of global climate. This course will provide a comprehensive and quantitative treatment of the physics that underlie ocean circulation. The dynamical equations that govern circulation will be introduced early in the course, then applied and simplified to understand the force balances that explain the major circulation regimes of the ocean: surface wind-driven circulation, gyres and western boundary currents, and the deep thermohaline circulation. The course will then explore how these circulation regimes also shape the biology of the ocean, and interact with atmospheric circulation and the global climate system. The course will involve solving and manipulating differential equations, and a background understanding of these methods is required. However, no previous oceanography experience will be assumed.


EESC 236/436 – Physics of Climate

A broad and quantitative overview of the basic features of Earth’s climate system and the underlying physical processes. Topics include the global energy balance, atmospheric thermodynamics, radiative transfer, cloud microphysics, atmospheric dynamics, general circulation, weather systems, surface processes, ocean circulation, and climate variability and forecasting. Students will understand what drives present-day temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns, as well as major modes of natural climate variability including the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon and Ice Age cycles, and extreme weather. We will learn how the rise of human civilization has influenced the climate system, and how this legacy and our future actions can influence climate in the coming century.

PREREQUISITES: PHYS 121 or equivalent

EESC 247(W)/447 – Chemical Evolution of the Earth

We will discuss the main geochemical characteristics of the major reservoirs that comprise the solid Earth, the processes by which they formed and evolved, and the analytical tools used for their study. We will cover topics of high-temperature geochemistry, extinct radionuclides, and radiogenic and stable isotope geochemistry. Emphasis will be placed on the formation of Earth's continental crust.

PREREQUISITES: General knowledge of mineralogy and petrology, EESC 206-Petrology required for undergraduates

EESC 253/453 – Geodynamics

This course offers a fundamental understanding of geodynamics processes on and in Earth and terrestrial bodies. We will learn essential physical backgrounds and observational constraints to understand the past and current status of Earth and planets. The materials we will cover in class include (not limited to) plate tectonics, stress, strain, elasticity, heat transfer, gravity, fluid dynamics, mantle convection, and rheology. We will perform numerical exercises and basic coding skills are highly recommended.

EESC 254/454 – Planetary Interiors

This course will offer an overview of planetary interiors based on physical and numerical analyses. Planetary interiors provide crucial insights into the formation of planets and their evolution. The course will review materials including (but not limited to) basic physics of star and planet formation, planetary materials under high pressures, gravity fields, planetary impacts, magnetic fields, mantle convection, and exoplanet observations. Numerical analyses and data visualization are important aspects of the lectures and homework assignments. Basic coding skills are required.

Prerequisites: MATH 165, PHYS 113, PHYS 227 or equivalent, basic knowledge of PHYS 237 (quantum mechanics) is expected

EESC 255(W)/455 – Planetary Science: Geologic Evolution and Planetary Habitability

This course will focus on geologic and geophysical studies of planets (interiors and surfaces), and the conditions that led to the origin of life. We will start with initial conditions, defined here as the formation of Earth and the Moon-forming event, and trace development of the planet from cooling of the magma ocean onwards. We next consider how our planetary neighbors (Venus and Mars) evolved, as well as key satellites in the solar system that may harbor life, or provide insight into early conditions on Earth.

PREREQUISITES: EESC 101 or 201 strongly recommended

EESC 256/456 – Paleomagnetism and Global Plate Tectonics

The basic paleomagnetic methods used to determine absolute plate motions are reviewed. Applications include the potential cause and effect relationship between changes in absolute plate motions, mantle plume volcanism, orogeny, and climate change.


EESC 261/461 – Stable Isotope Geochemistry

Most courses in stable isotopes highlight the analytical techniques and classic examples of applications of stable isotopes. However, the stable isotope investigations in this course will stress the fundamentals of stable isotope models, along with their underlying assumptions, guided by several classic applications. Not only will we learn the equations used in these pioneering applications, but we will set-up and derive these equations. The goal of this course is to equip students with the knowledge needed to both dissect as well as manipulate traditional stable isotope models so that they can analyze their data in the most appropriate and intelligent fashion.

PREREQUISITES: CHEM 131-132 and MATH 161-162

EESC 263/463 – Intro to Thermodynamics and Kinetics

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of the equilibrium and kinetic processes that govern the elemental and isotopic composition of rocks and minerals. The course will be divided into two broadly equal components. In the first part, the fundamentals of thermodynamics, phase diagrams, and selected examples in earth systems will be explored. The second half of the course is devoted to understanding the non-equilibrium case for earth materials; diffusion in minerals and melts is emphasized. Students are expected to have a general knowledge of mineralogy, petrology, and very basic thermodynamics prior to taking this course.

EESC 265(W)/465 – Paleoclimate

The Earth's climate is changing in a potentially fundamental way because of human activity. In this course we will look into Earth's climate history in order to gain a better understanding of how the climate system works and what we can expect from Earth's climate in the future. During its history, the Earth has gone through periods that were much warmer as well as periods that were much colder than today. By examining the geological record of the environmental conditions, we can gain insights into how key parameters such as greenhouse gas concentrations, insolation and positions of the continents influence the climate system. The students will also learn how different paleoclimate indicators work and practice working with paleoclimate data.

PREREQUISITES: EESC 101 or 103 or 105, MATH 161-162 or equivalent, CHEM 131 or equivalent

EESC 266(W)/466 – Ice Core Records of Climate and Environmental Change

This course will provide an introduction to the exciting field of ice core research. Most of the course will be conducted in a seminar style. We will cover the basics of ice core science in the first 4 weeks, and then continue with more in-depth sessions on some of the most important and interesting questions / discoveries in the ice core field. Most of the course will center around discussions of research and review papers, led by students. You will also work in groups of 2 to write a review paper on a specific topic in the ice core field. In addition, depending on timing, there may be an opportunity for students to work on ice core sampling / processing in the lab.

PREREQUISITES: EESC 101 or 103 or 105, MATH 161-162 or equivalent, CHEM 131 or equivalent, PHYS 113 or equivalent

EESC 274/474 – Paleoceanography and Climate Change

This course will explore the ocean-climate system from a geological perspective, with particular emphasis on the past 65 million years of Earth’s history. At the beginning, we will learn about the ocean-climate connection today. Then, we will explore how physical, chemical, and biological aspects of ocean and climate leave characteristic imprints in marine sediments and what are the tools available to scientists to extract and read such clues. Finally, we will assess the role of oceanic processes in the global climate by exploring past climate regimes, including past greenhouse periods, rapid climatic perturbations, and transitions to cooler climates. This class has no specific prerequisites, but some coursework in earth sciences, oceanography, and/or geochemistry might be helpful.

EESC 283(W)/483 – Sedimentary Basin Analysis

We will discuss basin classification schemes, isostasy, flexural and thermal subsidence, effects of mantle dynamics, basin stratigraphy, and techniques used to study sedimentary basin evolution. By determining how sedimentary basins develop and fill, we will better understand the tectonic and eustatic controls on subsidence and surficial processes.

PREREQUISITES: The prerequisite for undergraduates is EESC 203-Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. There is no prerequisite for graduate students.

EESC 285(W)/485 – Structure and Tectonics of Mountain Belts

Orogeny and its relationship to plate tectonics. Structural style and tectonic history of mountain belts with special reference to the Appalachians and Cordilleras. Homework assignments involve drawings and interpreting cross-sections through mountain belts. Field trip to the Appalachians to look at typical structures of mountain belts.

Prerequisites: EESC 208 or equivalent

EESC288(W)/488 – Thrust Faults and Mountain Belts

Geometry of thrust faults and thrust belts. Mechanics of thrust motion and thrust emplacement. Homework assignments and readings on current literature. Requires one major term paper that will require revision after initial review. Field trip to the Appalachians to look at typical structures of fold-thrust belts.

PREREQUISITES: EESC 208 or equivalent

EESC 307/407 – Advanced Seminar in Climate and Environmental Change

This seminar will focus mainly on the IPCC 2013 Working Group I report (Physical Science Basis). The IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is the main international organization for assessing the current state of scientific knowledge for global climate change. The IPCC reports are a result of contributions from thousands of scientists from all over the world, and are a comprehensive summary of the current state of climate change research. The course will be conducted in a reading-and-discussion format. Students will be expected to lead some of the discussions as well as actively participate in all of the discussions.

PREREQUISITES: At least one of EESC 105, EESC 212, EESC 218, EESC 236 or EESC 265, or instructor permission

EESC 368(W)/EESC 468 – Principles of Experimental Geochemistry

Many of the geochemical and physical processes in the solid earth occur in regions inaccessible to drilling. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to techniques that enable scientists to study the interior of our planet and other planets in the solar system through laboratory experimentation.  Over the course of the semester, students will be guided though the design and execution of state-of-the-art high temperature high pressure experiments.  Writing assignments and data analysis will also be a key component of the course. Students will synthesize the results of the experiments, and place them in a broader context to understand how the interiors of planets work.

EESC 480: Material properties of Deformed Rocks

Elastic, linear and nonlinear viscous and perfectly plastic behavior of rocks. Effect of micro-fracturing and cataclastic flow, dislocation and diffusional creep, and recrystallization and grain boundary sliding on rocks. Study of microstructures to determine macroscoptic flow laws.

EESC 481 – Microtectonics

Study of microstructures, fabric and textures in rocks to define deformation patterns, deformation mechanics and flow laws.

EESC 484: Stress and Strain in Rocks

Stress states in two and three dimensions. Stress Mohr circles. Equilibrium equations. Analysis of finite strains and deformation histories in mountain chains. Strain Mohr circles. Compatibility equations.