Environmental Science Launches New Minor

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Environmentally-minded students can now add a new Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EASC) minor to their degrees.

Launched by the Department of Environmental Sciences (ENVS) this spring, the minor is a rigorous 6-course sequence that aims to provide students with a strong foundation in “the physical science of Earth systems, the fundamental processes of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere and the flux of materials and energy through these systems,” according to the EASC website.

This program differs from the pre-existing minor in Environmental Sciences in its intention to narrow the focus of study on clearly “[defining] and [strengthening] the role of geosciences within ENVS,” according to the website.

To facilitate this, the program combines traditional lectures along with field-based instruction, according to ENVS Director of Undergraduate Studies Anne Hall. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct research with members of faculty, she said.

The Director of the EASC minor program, Shaunna Donaher, expanded on the research opportunities available to students.

“Having established faculty in ENVS conducting Earth science research and two relatively new faculty hires conducting atmospheric science research gives students a chance to participate in real-world research related to classes they are taking for the EASC minor. This is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience in working with current issues in Earth and atmospheric science,” she said.

According to Donaher, the idea for developing the EASC minor was born from student demand.

“We had students who were interested in the subject and took all these courses but it never showed up on their transcript. This minor will change that,” she said.

Of the six courses that are required, two are introductory (Introduction to Environmental Sciences with Lab and Earth Systems Science), one must be at the 200 level and three can be electives from options provided on the EASC website.

According to Donaher, the choice of electives has enough breadth so as to enable a student who is particularly interested in a topic to further focus on it.

“We are able to offer a wide range of elective options for the minor, so students can choose to focus on a topic that is of interest to them, such as climate change,” she said.

When asked what they think the best part of the program is, Donaher and Hall unanimously said that it was the range of faculty expertise.
“Emory has faculty who are atmospheric scientists and earth scientists, and it is a great opportunity for students to learn from professors in both fields at the same time,” Donaher said.

The program also seeks to address the relative dearth of courses on earth and atmospheric sciences offered at Emory’s Atlanta campus as opposed to the Oxford campus, Hall said.

“Oxford has a strong sampling of introductory and mid-level courses in geology and meteorology, so students that join ENVS from Oxford are already well on their way to completing the minor,” Donaher said. “We have also offered some of these courses here at Emory in the past, but the new minor allows for a more obvious connection between the disciplines that was not emphasized previously.”

Donaher and Hall were happy to announce that the minor has already begun generating interest among students pursuing a diverse range of majors.
College freshman Anna Mayrand, a Chemistry and Environmental Science major, thinks the minor could further interest in sustainability.

“I know a few Chemistry majors that are double majoring or minoring in Environmental Science in the hopes of contributing to sustainability, and the courses in this minor would set a better foundation for those of us who want to go into alternative energy, green chemical engineering, and even environmental engineering,” she wrote in an email to the Wheel.

College sophomore Raquel Soat, a Political Science major, was one of the first students to sign up for the minor.

“I am very excited that the EASC minor was created because it offers students the option to focus more closely on a specific subject area within Environmental Studies. Atmospheric studies has always fascinated me,” she wrote in an email to the Wheel, “And now I have the option to explore the topic, while still completing a minor. I would love to see it expanded to a major one day!”

Donaher and Hall said that they would like to see EASC eventually become a major as well.

However, Hall stated that the possibility of expanding EASC into a major will depend on the success of the minor over the course of the next few years.

The Department of ENVS is hosting a luncheon and information session at noon on Feb. 20 in room W501 in the Math and Science Center. Interested students are advised to RSVP to Donaher at [email protected]

— By Enakshi Das, Contributing Writer