New Identity for Geological Sciences


By ahudon
Sep 01, 2011 Bookmark and Share

At their July meeting, the University of Michigan Regents approved our new name: the Department of Geological Sciences is now the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. In addition to the Department name, our U-M course catalog subject is changing from GEOSCI to EARTH effective January 2012 for the Winter class schedule.

The Department has seen pronounced shifts, coinciding with national and international trends in Earth science, toward a heightened emphasis on the societal impact of the field. Faculty expertise is now grouped within five broad subdivisions: environmental Earth science, global climate change, tectonics and geophysics, geochemistry of solid Earth, and paleontology. Increasingly, faculty research has become highly integrative between the planet's interior, surface topography, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.

However, Earth science does not adequately capture the range of research and teaching activities in the Department. As faculty research becomes more interdisciplinary, areas of expertise are increasingly being directed at questions clearly within the realm of environmental science (e.g., tracking toxic metals through the environment, remediation of acid mining waste, nuclear waste containment, global warming, protection of drinking water resources, studies of soil fertility). This growing embrace of environmental science has greatly diversified and increased the external funding agencies from which faculty have received grants and graduate student fellowships. The Department's engagement with environmental sciences also extends to their undergraduate teaching and they offer a wide range of courses. Many of these courses are cross­listed with the Program in the Environment, a jointly held program between LSA and the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The change to Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will help develop new connections and strengthen existing collaborative ties to other units at the University of Michigan by more effectively communicating the range and versatility of the faculty's research and teaching. The name change will also help graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, research scientists, and faculty colleagues to perceive potential opportunities for interdisciplinary research, collaboration on proposals, and access to laboratories and areas of expertise. Most importantly, it will add to the visibility of the University as one of the premier institutions engaged in the study of environmental issues from a wide variety of perspectives.

For our students, the name change more effectively communicates to undergraduates the rich experiential learning opportunities in the Department, preparing them for highly adaptable and versatile careers in industry, government, and academia. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty with backgrounds outside of geology are increasingly being recruited to this Department. Both our undergraduate and graduate degree programs have been renamed to match the new Department name.