Bulletin News

New Major Combines Geology, Environmental Science


SUNY Cortland’s Geology Department has a new major, environmental geoscience, that’s ideal for students who are interested in studying earth science and environmental issues.

“Our majors can work with issues such as water pollution, stream bank erosion and flooding,” said David Barclay, chair of the Geology Department. “They can get involved with pretty much anything to do with the land surface, soil and water.”

The environmental geoscience major replaces an environmental science concentration that was embedded within the geology program. Students in that concentration will be able to graduate with their current program or change to the new major next academic year if they prefer, Barclay said.

The new major will be offered formally to new students who enroll in Fall 2018.

“Environmental geoscience is an interdisciplinary field,” Barclay said. “Students in our major will take a core of courses in geology and environmental science so that they are well-grounded in these areas. Additional courses, including ecology and geographic information systems, provide breadth in other sciences and useful technical skills. Electives enable students to further explore areas that interest them.”

Environmental geoscience majors also are required to complete a related internship. As with the former concentration, this applied learning opportunity could be with a non-profit agency geared to protecting the environment, a nature preserve, a government agency, a local soil and water conservation district, a landfill operation or an environmental consulting company.

“Many environmental problems require an understanding of earth systems and physical geology in order to be solved,” Barclay said. “Graduates from this program will be well prepared to make a difference with these societal concerns.”

Graduates from the former concentration have gone on to careers with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, local soil and water agencies and private companies, he said. The new major will continue to prepare students for these career pathways.

Graduate school is another option for those who earn a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geoscience.

“Our students compete well going into graduate programs elsewhere,” Barclay said. “The strong emphasis on science helps our Cortland graduates stand out from students from other environmental programs.”

SUNY Cortland’s new major also is rather unique in the state.

“There are other environmental science and environmental studies programs in New York but they tend to have more emphasis on biology or policy,” Barclay said. “Ours is different because we emphasize the geology that is critical for understanding environmental problems in water and at the land surface.”