Environmental Sciences Major: Geosystems Option (B.S.)

Environmental Sciences Major: Geosystems Option (B.S.)

Professor Varner and Students working in field

What is the geosystems option in environmental sciences?

This intercollege program, hosted between the colleges of Engineering & Physical Sciences and Life Sciences & Agriculture, is designed for students seeking broad, interdisciplinary training in the foundational sciences with an emphasis on the interactions of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape our natural environment. The geosystems option, coordinated by the Department of Earth Sciences, provides students with foundational coursework in math and the sciences, enhanced by broad training across the environmental sciences and specialized training in Earth system processes, thereby positioning students with the ability to focus on climate, atmospheric and/or biogeochemical processes from an environmental sciences perspective.

Why study geosystems at UNH?

The location of UNH, on the Great Bay Estuary and close to the White Mountains, provides an ideal backdrop for hands-on learning opportunities for all environmental science students. Students have multiple opportunities to immerse themselves in research experiences in the field and in state-of-the-art laboratories, and funds are available by competitive application to support these opportunities. Employment for environmental scientists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing need for environmental protection and responsible land and water resource management is projected to spur demand for environmental scientists.

Potential careers

  • Environmental consultant
  • Environmental toxicologist
  • Geospatial scientist
  • Hydrographer
  • Hydrologist
  • Physical scientist
  • Resource manager
  • Science journalist
  • Secondary school teacher


Department of Earth Sciences
56 College Road
214 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

P: (603) 862-1718
E: earth.sciences@unh.edu

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Curriculum & Requirements

The College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) and the College of Life Science and Agriculture (COLSA) jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences. Environmental sciences, an interdisciplinary field, focuses on the interaction of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape our natural environment. Students graduating with a degree in environmental sciences will have an understanding of these interacting processes, the ability to communicate effectively with both scientific and lay audiences, competency in field methods appropriate for entry-level environmental science positions, competency in the use and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a basic understanding of environmental policy, and the ability to contribute to multidisciplinary teams. The University of New Hampshire is a recognized leader in environmental sciences research, and the environmental sciences program capitalizes on faculty expertise in this area. The full-time faculty members comprising this program have major teaching and research emphases in the areas of biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, ecosystem science, geospatial science, global change, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science, and water resource management. 

Employment opportunities include environmental consulting firms, educational facilities (e.g., science centers), environmental monitoring laboratories (e.g., water treatment plants; the Environmental Protection Agency), government agencies (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service), university and government research laboratories, and nongovernment environmental organizations. The environmental sciences program also constitutes an excellent preparation for graduate programs in several areas relating to the environment. Students should consult with their adviser early if their goals include further study.

The Program has four options, and specific course requirements for the major vary by option. The geosystems and hydrology options are both managed by the Department of Earth Sciences in CEPS, and the ecosystems and soils and watersheds options are both managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in the COLSA. The geosystems option provides students with a solid grounding in quantitative reasoning, with an emphasis on geochemical and geospatial systems.

In addition to the Discovery Program and University writing requirements, all students will take Introduction to Environmental Science NR 403 Introduction to Environmental Science and Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources (NR 400 Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources), plus one other elective introductory environmental science course. Foundation courses include introductions to biology, physics, chemistry, geology, calculus, and statistics.


NR 400Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources1
NR 403Introduction to Environmental Science4
Plus one other elective introductory environmental science course4
Total Credits9


BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
or BIOL 412 Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology
Select one of the following:4-8
CHEM 403
CHEM 404
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
or CHEM 405
Chemical Principles for Engineers
PHYS 407
PHYS 408
General Physics I
and General Physics II
MATH 425
MATH 426
Calculus I
and Calculus II
MATH 644
Statistics for Engineers and Scientists
or BIOL 528
Applied Biostatistics I
Select one of the following:4
ESCI 401
Dynamic Earth
ESCI 402
Earth History
ESCI 409
Geology and the Environment
Total Credits32-36


ESCI 534Techniques in Environmental Sciences3
ESCI 654Fate and Transport in the Environment4
ESCI 777GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences4
or NR 658 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
NR 602Natural Resources and Environmental Policy4
Capstone Experience 1
Total Credits15


ESCI 512Principles of Mineralogy4
ESCI 561Landscape Evolution4
ESCI 642Biogeosciences in the Earth System3
Approved Geochemistry Elective4
ESCI 741
ESCI 745
Isotope Geochemistry
ESCI 747
Aqueous Geochemistry
ESCI 796
Topics (Biogeochemistry)
or NR 744
A course in quantitative or spatial analysis4
Select two or three approved electives8-12
Total Credits27-31

Some students enroll in the EcoQuest program (a study abroad opportunity in New Zealand), which satisfies the policy requirement, and capstone requirement if taken senior year.

Students must complete additional courses for the geosystems option to total 88 credits in the major.

For a list of approved elective courses and for further information about the geosystems option, students may contact earth.sciences@unh.edu.

Capstone Experience

A capstone experience is required of all undergraduate Earth sciences majors during their senior year. All capstone experiences at UNH must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. The capstone synthesizes and applies disciplinary knowledge and skills.
  2. The capstone fosters reflection on undergraduate learning and experience.
  3. The capstone demonstrates emerging professional competencies.
  4. The capstone applies, analyzes, and/or interprets research or data or artistic expression.
  5. The capstone explores areas of interest based on the integration of prior learning.

Suggested ways of meeting the capstone requirement in the Department of Earth Sciences include approved INCO 790 experiences, ESCI 795/796 field courses, senior thesis (ESCI 799/799H), URA/SURF/IROP projects, internships, environmental/geologic field camps, REU programs, or Earth Sciences education and outreach activities designed according to the above criteria. Capstone experiences must be equivalent to a minimum of 2 academic credits. Students should work closely with their faculty advisors to define the most appropriate capstone experience for their Earth Sciences degree program, although the capstone mentor can be someone other than their primary faculty advisor. All capstone experiences must be approved and certified by the faculty advisor and the capstone mentor. Presentation of projects or experiences developed for the capstone is encouraged at the annual UNH Undergraduate Research Conference or other appropriate venue.


Department flyer can be found here.


Departmental Petition for Program Variance - Petition for major requirement

Petition for Variance in Academic Policy - Petition for University and/or Discovery requirement

Transfer Credit Prior Approval Request - transfer credits from another institution

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