Courses

EACS 103 Earth Surface Environments and Environmental Change/Lab

The Earth’s surface environments are in a constant state of change resulting from the interaction of its atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. Changes on the surface occur on various time scales from brief, severe storms to glaciations lasting thousands of years and changes in continents and ocean basin environments occurring over millions of years due to tectonic processes. Studies of surficial processes and materials illustrate the dynamic nature of the Earth and provide a key to understanding past and future environmental change. The lectures are complemented with field and laboratory study. Field experiences include day trips to local geologic settings and to the Maine coast.

EACS 104 Plate Tectonics and Hazards/Lab

Volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are examples of tectonic hazards that directly affect human populations. Yet the processes responsible for such natural hazards are an integral part of the global tectonic cycle that over millions of years results in the formation of ocean basins, mountain ranges, and the global-scale motion of continents. Study of active and ancient tectonic activity is key to forecasting future volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as well as global environment change.

EACS 107 Katahdin to Acadia: Field Geology in Maine/Lab

The rocky coast and glaciated bedrock mountains of Maine have a rich 500-million-year geologic history. This hands-on, outdoor-oriented course on Maine’s geologic history includes field trips to local geologic settings. Reading and making maps, recording field observations, writing papers, giving talks, and making posters about the variety of geologic environments are the major features of the course. The required trips involve strenuous hiking and sea kayaking. Appropriate outdoor clothing and footwear is needed.

EACS 109 Earth’s Climate System/Lab

The Earth System is composed of the dynamic interactions between its various components: the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. Humans are perturbing these components at unprecedented rates, resulting in climate and environmental change on regional and global scales. In this course, students examine the Earth’s climate system on multiple timescales and investigate current topics in global change, including the impact of greenhouse gases on global climate, sea level, El Niño, global dimming, and ocean acidification. Experiential learning may include field trips to sites that illustrate environmental change on local and regional scales and analysis of large data sets.

EACS 113 Marine Science

An integrated, interdisciplinary marine science overview encompassing physical, biological, and social aspects of the marine environment. Oceanography topics encompass origins and geological history of the oceans, structure of basins and sediments, ocean chemistry, as well as currents, waves, and tides. Biological subjects include diversity, physiology, and behavior of marine organisms, ecology of major marine communities, and global change biology. Social considerations include human impacts on marine environments (including fisheries) and conservation.

EACS 114 Water in Maine

In this course students broadly examine fresh water resources in Maine. They begin by exploring the geologic history that led to the formation of Maine’s abundant hydrologic resources and then identify historic and current exploitation of water in the state. From bottled and tap water, to the ski and paper industries, and blueberry farming, they consider how resource exploitation impacts long-term sustainability in a water-rich state. They also discuss how state and federal water policy guides the use of water resources and debate how Maine should move forward with its resource management.

EACS 119 The Anthropocene

This research-based course examines the current geological epoch, the Anthropocene, where humans are the agents of environmental change. How does climate change at present differ from those in the past? How do we know humans really are the drivers of climate change? How can we expect climate change to manifest in the near future? Why is biodiversity important? The course addresses these questions from scientific and mathematical perspectives. The course also critically examines IPCC projections and proposals like the Green New Deal. Students construct their own narrative of the course topics through independent or collaborative research.

EACS 210 Sedimentary Processes and Environments/Lab

The study of modern sedimentary processes and environments provides geologists with a basis for comparison with ancient deposits preserved in the rock record. The analysis of modern sedimentary environments and reconstruction of ancient environments permit stratigraphic reconstructions at regional and global scales. Laboratory work includes field studies of processes and interpretation of modern and ancient depositional systems. Prerequisite(s): one introductory earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 217 Mapping and GIS/Lab

Geographical information systems (GIS) are computer-based systems for geographical data presentation and analysis. They allow rapid development of high-quality maps, and enable sophisticated examination of spatial patterns and interrelationships. In this course students learn the principles of GIS through extensive computer use of ArcGIS (ESRI). Geological and environmental projects introduce students to cartography, common sources of geographic data, methods for collecting novel spatial data, and data quality. Finally, students learn to extend the capabilities of GIS software to tackle more advanced spatial analysis tasks by completing an independent project. Lectures supplement the laboratory component of the course. Prerequisite: one 100-level course in earth and climate sciences or one 200-level course in environmental studies.

EACS 220 Dynamical Climate

An introduction to the dynamical behavior of climate on geologic and human timescales. Simple conceptual models are developed, with the goal of understanding the role of feedback, stability, and abrupt changes. Topics include the basic physics of climate, El Niño/La Niña, climate models, the greenhouse effect and global warming, and glacial cycles. Python is used as the main computational tool; no prior experience is required. Prerequisite(s): MATH 106; and any 100-level earth and climate sciences course OR PHYS 109.

EACS 223 Earth Materials/Lab

Many geochemical processes that occur within the lithosphere, such as crystallization of magmas, metamorphism, and weathering, are understood through the study of minerals and rocks. This course covers the occurrence and composition of the common rock-forming minerals; the mineral reactions and assemblages typical of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary environments; and applications to a range of tectonic processes. The laboratory involves the identification of minerals and the determination of mineral composition in hand specimens and by optical microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, and X-ray diffraction. Prerequisite(s): one introductory earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 226 Hydrogeology

Hydrogeology is the study of the movement and interaction of underground fluids within rocks and sediments. This course uses hydrogeology as a disciplinary framework for learning about groundwater processes, contamination, supply, use, and management. Students engage in practical applications of hydrogeology via discussions, guest lectures, research projects, problem sets, and hands-on experience. Students learn field and laboratory methods for determining and analyzing groundwater flow, contamination, and aquifer properties by working at local sites of interest in central Maine. Prerequisite(s): ENVR 203 or one 100-level earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 230 Earth Structure and Dynamics/Lab

The processes of mountain building and plate tectonics are understood by observing the structure and architecture of rocks. This course explores the nature and types of structures present in rocks that make up the Earth’s crust. Fundamental concepts and principles of deformation are examined in a variety of field settings. The laboratory introduces the techniques used in descriptive and kinematic structural analysis. Several one-day excursions and one weekend field trip may take place throughout Maine and the mountains of the northern Appalachians. Prerequisite(s): any 100-level earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 240 Environmental Geochemistry/Lab

Environmental geochemistry draws from concepts in earth, climate, and environmental sciences, biology, and chemistry to study the behavior of natural and anthropogenic materials as they cycle through the various components of the Earth System. In this introduction to the field, students explore rock-water interactions, chemical equilibria, and biogeochemical cycling and develop field, laboratory, and modeling skills to work on local current environmental problems. Students may investigate climate change; mitigation and adaptation; surface and groundwater contamination by salt, arsenic, nutrients, and/or heavy metals; acid mine drainage; and the history of atmospheric lead deposition. The laboratory includes fieldwork, chemical analysis of environmental samples using inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy, and stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry and modeling using STELLA. Prerequisite(s): any 100-level earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 302 Paleoseismology and Active Tectonics

Paleoseismology is the study of past earthquakes. According to Charles Lyell, “[the] present is the key to [the] past,” but the past is also the key to the present and future. Therefore, the estimation of past earthquake timelines is important to better access the potential of the future earthquakes. In this course, students develop an understanding of the earthquake geology and tectonic geomorphology and learn to identify earthquake generating active faults around the world using of aerial photographs, satellite data, and ArcGIS. Students learn to estimate the magnitude of past and future earthquakes using trench logs, borehole cores and geochronology as a case study from different seismically active regions such as New Zealand, Japan, Himalaya, and California and synthesize future potential trenching sites using conceptual knowledge learned from this course. Prerequisite(s), which may be taken concurrently: EACS 104 and 230.

EACS 304 Planetary Geology

An introduction to the physical states, interior structures, chemistry, petrology, geology, and geologic processes of solar systems bodies: planets, moons, asteroids, comets, sun. The course covers nucleosynthesis and the formation and evolution of the Solar System. Prerequisite(s) or corequisite(s): EACS 223. Recommended background: introductory courses in chemistry and/or physics or EACS 383.

EACS 305 Current Topics in Climate and Environmental Change

Certain geological, biological, and atmospheric sample-types provide records of environmental and climate change across a range of timescales and are known as climate proxies. These proxies help us understand the way our world functions, and they provide context for the changes underway and predicted for the future. In this course, students develop an understanding of current topics in Earth’s climate system, the carbon cycle, and key paleoclimate proxies through geologic time by reading the primary literature and engaging in hands-on activities in the Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory. Students study human impacts on the planet, and, in turn, the effects of climate and environmental change on people. Prerequisite(s): EACS 210 or 240.

EACS 307 Soils and Landscape Evolution

In this course, students learn how to integrate concepts and analytical tools from geology, pedology, geomorphology, and geochemistry to evaluate the co-evolution of soils and landscapes across time scales. Topics include soil formation, soil geomorphology, stable and unstable isotopes as soil erosion tracers, and discussions about anthropogenic soil erosion and environmental injustice. Students develop a hands-on project using 239+240Pu and delta-13C to evaluate soil erosion/deposition processes. Students develop a sense of environmental justice, and analytical, field and communication skills that are useful in many careers. Two one-day weekend field trips to local settings may be scheduled during the semester. Prerequisite(s): EACS 210 or 240 or ENVR 310.

EACS 308 Marine Geology and Geochemistry

Approximately seventy percent of the earth’s surface is under water, and only a fraction of it has been studied. This course explores the geology and geochemistry of the ocean floor and the various methods used to study the marine provinces. Students examine the major seafloor features and their connection to plate tectonics, learn geochemistry to understand the origin of such features in ancient and current settings, and investigate the origin and distribution of deep sea sediments to understand major events in the earth’s history. Prerequisite(s): EACS 223.

EACS 310 Quaternary Paleoclimatology/Lab

The Quaternary Period, representing the last 1.6 million years of geologic history, is characterized by extreme climatic fluctuations with effects ranging from globally synchronous glacier expansions to periods warmer than present. Records of the climatic fluctuations are contained in sediments on land and in the oceans and lakes and also in the stratigraphy of ice caps. This course examines various climate proxy records and the dating methods used to constrain them. Fieldwork focuses on the recovery of sediment cores from local lakes, while in-class labs emphasize physical, chemical, and paleontological analyses of the sediment cores. Prerequisite(s): any 200-level earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 341 Stable Isotope Geochemistry

The stable isotope composition of modern and ancient waters and biological materials has revolutionized our understanding of biogeochemical cycling at the Earth’s surface and of environmental change. This course focuses on the theory and applications of stable isotope fractionation in water and biological materials for modern and past environmental research. The course may include fieldwork within the Androscoggin River watershed and the Maine coast and use of a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer. Students are engaged in projects that may include tracking changes in carbon cycling in lakes, salt marshes, and trees through time, and documenting changes in energy flow in modern and ancient marine food webs. The interdisciplinary nature of the subject material lends itself well to upper-level students from a variety of science majors. Prerequisite(s): CHEM 107A and any 200-level earth and climate sciences course. Recommended background: EACS 240.

EACS 360 Independent Study

Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester.

EACS 383 The Lithosphere/Lab

The formation and occurrence of rocks in the lithosphere are directly relatable to plate tectonic processes. Tectonic environments such as rift valleys or subduction zones are characterized by specific assemblages of igneous and metamorphic rocks. This course examines rock and mineral assemblages typical of global tectonic environments, the processes by which they are generated, and the methods by which they are studied. Prerequisite(s): any 200-level earth and climate sciences course. Recommended background: EACS 223.

EACS 391 Seminar in Appalachian Geology

A study of the Appalachian Mountain Belt and the tectonic evolution of the Appalachian Mountains. Plate tectonic models that are particularly helpful are discussed in detail. Students are expected to conduct independent work and give oral and written reports. Fieldwork may include several day trips and an overnight traverse through the northern Appalachians of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Prerequisite(s): any 200-level earth and climate sciences course.

EACS 457 Senior Thesis

The thesis is a program of independent research conducted by the student, on a field, laboratory, and/or computational problem, under the direction of a faculty mentor. Seniors participate in the regularly scheduled weekly seminar, which includes preparation of an annotated bibliography, a thesis proposal, and timely submission of written results and oral progress reports of thesis research. Students are responsible for scheduling weekly individual meetings with their faculty committee. A public presentation is scheduled during finals week. Students register for EACS 457 in the fall semester. Students conducting a two-semester thesis must register for both EACS 457 and 458.

EACS 458 Senior Thesis

The thesis is a program of independent research conducted by the student, on a field, laboratory, and/or computational problem, under the direction of a faculty mentor. Seniors participate in the regularly scheduled seminar, which includes timely submission of written results and oral progress reports of thesis research. Students are responsible for scheduling individual meetings with their faculty committee. A public presentation and an oral defense are scheduled the during the final week of the winter semester. Students register for EACS 458 in the winter semester. Students conducting a two-semester thesis must register for both EACS 457 and 458.

EACS S14 Communicating Climate Change

EACS S15 Glacial and Postglacial Landscapes of Southeast Alaska

This course provides field-based learning experiences in a variety of southeast Alaska ecosystems. The Tongass National Forest is home to an extraordinary landscape diversity that offers an excellent natural laboratory to observe the interactions among geology, climate change, and soil development. This course includes visiting glaciated, riverine, lacustrine, and coastal systems where students observe how climate change and past and modern glaciers shape the earth surface. The course includes a community-engaged component with the Juneau community partners, school teachers, and K-12 students.

EACS S16 Paleoseismic and Geomorphic Investigation along the Himalayan Frontal Thrust (HFT), Central Himalaya

The 2,500 kilometer-long Himalaya is a classic example of seismically active plate boundary systems, which have enabled the world’s geologists to understand the earthquake mechanisms and access obvious seismic threats to the millions of people living in the north of India. Paleoseismic investigations allow the determination of the two most important parameters used for calculation of the future earthquake magnitudes: slip rate and recurrence intervals. This course is aimed at developing students’ quantitative and mapping skills through collecting the data necessary for the Seismic Hazard Assessment of the Central Himalaya.

EACS S25 Application of Scanning Electron Microscopy in Earth Sciences

The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a powerful tool in the scientific community and in industry for image analysis and characterizing materials. In this course, students learn how the SEM functions, its components, and how to produce the best analytical results. Students learn various uses of SEM and its application in geology, including compositional zoning in minerals, textural analysis, and structure of microfossils, aas well as X-ray characterization using the energy dispersive system (EDS) to understand chemical constituents. Students learn these techniques through different laboratory activities and, at the same time, develop research for their project or thesis. Prerequisite(s): one 200-level course in earth and climate sciences.

EACS S50 Independent Study

Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study during a Short Term.

FYS 476 Coastal Hazards/Lab

Humans have always lived along the world’s coastlines, yet constantly changing coastal landscapes and climate change, combined with increases in coastal populations, present a unique and challenging set of pressures for people and ecosystems at the boundary between land and sea. In this hands-on course, students explore the science of coastal hazards (e.g., erosion, sea level rise, storm events, tsunamis, and harmful algal blooms) by studying beaches, salt marshes, barrier islands, and coastal waters in a variety of settings. The laboratory/field component may include a weekend trip to Acadia National Park, and two late-return laboratories during the week to the Bates Morse Mountain Conservation Area and Saco Bay. The basic principles learned by studying Maine coastal systems facilitate exploration of coastal hazards in other parts of the world.

FYS 477 The Story of Earth

What was Earth like 4.5 billion years ago? Sixty-five million years ago? One hundred thousand years ago? What irreversible changes have occurred in its history? What processes govern how the Earth evolves? How have we pieced together its history? This course surveys the geologic history of Earth and includes hands-on practice of the methods geologists use to learn about our planet.