Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers courses in climate study, earth science, oceanography, geology, chemical geology, atmospheric science, plate techtonics, and dinosaurs and paleontology.

For questions about specific courses, contact the department:

Departmental Office: 556-7 Schermerhorn
212-854-4525
Office Hours: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Web: http://eesc.columbia.edu

Please note: Some courses are held at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, NY.

EESC BC1002 Environmental Science II. 4.5 points.

Lab Required

Prerequisites: Enrollment limited. Laboratory fee $30. Students must enroll in the corresponding lab course, EESC BC1012y, to receive credit.

Interdisciplinary, integrated study of groundwater, radionuclides, toxics, and human health in the context of a semester-long, detailed exploration of a brownfield, a contaminated aquifer, and its impact on a local community using the award-winning Brownfield Action simulation. Includes a reading of Jonathan Harr's A Civil Action and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Spring 2017: EESC BC1002
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 1002 001/02491 T Th 8:40am - 9:55am
202 Altschul Hall
Peter Bower 4.5 84/84

EESC BC3017 Environmental Data Analysis. 3 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

Prerequisites: One year of college science or EESC V2100 or permission of the instructor.

Acquisition, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of environmental data, assessment of spatial and temporal variability. Focus on water quality issues and storm surges. Uses existing and student-generated data sets. Basic principles of statistics and GIS, uses standard software packages including EXCEL and ArcGIS. Includes a half-day field trip on a Saturday or Sunday. General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

Fall 2017: EESC BC3017
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 3017 001/03873 T Th 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Qlab Sulzberger Hall
Frank Nitsche 3 21

EESC BC3021 Forests and Environmental Change. 4 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: Enrollment limited to 12 students. One year of college science or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

Seminar on forests in global change framework: forest distribution and link to climate, forest ecology, paleoecology, role of forests in global ecosystem, biological invasions, habitat fragmentation, biodiversity, conservation and management strategies. Format: class discussion of readings, student presentations on scientific papers, field trips, data collection and analysis.

EESC BC3025 Hydrology. 3 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

Prerequisites: EESC V2100, physics, or permission of instructor. Includes a weekend field trip. Alternate years.

Hands-on study and discussion of the basic physical principles of the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, and subsurface flow), as well as environmentally relevant applications based on case studies. Special focus on the New York City area, the arid Southwest, and the developing world. Coverage of contemporary global water resources issues, including pollution control, sustainable development, and climate change. General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

EESC BC3032 Agricultural and Urban Land Use: Human-Environment Interactions. 4 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Cultures in Comparison (CUL).
Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: One year of college science or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

Human transformation of the terrestrial environment since Paleolithic times. Biophysical processes involved in human-environment interactions. Guidelines for sustainable agricultural and urban development using present and past examples of environmental use and abuse. General Education Requirement: Cultures in Comparison (CUL).

EESC BC3050 Big Data with Python: Python for Environmental Analysis and Visualisation. 3 points.

Big Data is changing how we interact with and understand the environment. Yet analyzing Big Data requires new tools and methods. Students will learn to use Python programming to analyze and visualize large environmental and earth's systems data sets in ways that Excel is not equipped to do. This will include both time series and spatial analyses with programming occurring interactively during class and assignments designed to strengthen methods and results. Students will learn to write code in Python, plot, map, sub-select, clean, organize, and perform statistical analyses on large global scale data sets, using the data in analysis, and take any data set no matter how large or complicated.

Fall 2017: EESC BC3050
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 3050 001/03855 M W 9:30am - 10:45am
222 Milbank Hall
Brian Mailloux 3 25

EESC BC3200 Ecotoxicology. 3 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: CHEM BC1601, BIOL BC2002, or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

The study of anthropogenic contaminants within our natural environment and their subsequent effects on biological organisms. Effects to be examined: the molecular scale (biochemical pathways of metabolism and detoxification), the organismal scale (target organs, behavioral effects), and the ecosystem scale (species viability). Lectures and hands-on activities are used to teach the material.

EESC BC3300 Workshop in Sustainable Development. 4 points.

Students address real-world issues in sustainable development by working in groups for an external client agency.  Instruction in communication, collaboration, and management; meetings with and presentations to clients and academic community.  Projects vary from year to year.  Readings in the course are project-specific and are identified by the student research teams.

Fall 2017: EESC BC3300
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 3300 001/05986 T Th 10:10am - 12:00pm
303 Altschul Hall
Martin Stute 4 12
EESC 3300 002/04398 T Th 10:10am - 12:00pm
303 Altschul Hall
Martin Stute 4 2

EESC G6700 Magmatism and Volcanism. 3 points.

Prerequisites: One year each of Chemistry, Physics, Calculus and Earth Sciences

  Overview This course explores the origin of magmas and their subsequent movements; their ascent, stalling and eruption; their transport of heat and mass through the earth; their formation of crust and creation of volcanoes. The course will explore magmatism itself - its chemical and physical underpinnings – and also develop magmatic tools used to understand other earth processes. Topics will be focused around Grand Questions. Example questions include: What do magmas tell us about the thermal structure of the earth? Why do magmas store and stall where they do? What drives the largest eruptions on Earth? Does continental extension drive melting or melting drive extension? Questions will evolve to reflect the state of the field and student interest. The course is designed to serve as an accessible breadth course for Earth Science graduate students in any discipline.

EESC GR6920 Dynamics of Climate. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008, and advanced calculus, or the instructor's permission.

The current climate and its variations over Earth history are interpreted as consequences of fundamental physical processes, including radiative transfer, the atmosphere and ocean circulation, and the carbon cycle. Perturbations to climate, resulting from changing atmospheric composition or insolation, are examined using a combination of simple interpretative models and full Earth System Models.

Spring 2017: EESC GR6920
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 6920 001/23996 T Th 8:40am - 9:55am
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Ronald Miller 3 16/40

EESC GR6930 Ocean Dynamics. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, vector algebra, fluid mechanics.

Hydrodynamical equations, vorticity dynamics, ocean circulation theories.

Spring 2017: EESC GR6930
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 6930 001/28884 W 10:00am - 12:30pm
Room TBA
Ryan Abernathey 3 5/40

EESC GR6949 Advanced Seismology. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: a solid background in geophysics, and a knowledge of complex variables.

Seismic waves in layered media, matrix methods, free vibrations of the Earth, dislocation theory, source mechanics.

Spring 2017: EESC GR6949
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 6949 001/29350 W 10:00am - 12:00pm
Room TBA
Goran Ekstrom 3 4/40

EESC GR8884 Advanced Geochemistry. 3 points.

Usually given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

Advanced topics in radiogenic isotope and trace-element geochemistry. Origin and composition of the Earth, evolution of the continents and mantle, and applications to igneous and surficial processes.

Spring 2017: EESC GR8884
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 8884 001/23898 W 1:30pm - 3:30pm
Room TBA
Albrecht Hofmann 3 2/50

EESC GU4008 Introduction to Atmospheric Science. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: advanced calculus and general physics, or the instructor's permission.

Basic physical processes controlling atmospheric structure: thermodynamics; radiation physics and radiative transfer; principles of atmospheric dynamics; cloud processes; applications to Earth's atmospheric general circulation, climatic variations, and the atmospheres of the other planets. 

Fall 2017: EESC GU4008
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 4008 001/65119 Th 4:10pm - 6:40pm
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Lorenzo Polvani 3 12/35

EESC GU4050 Global Assessment and Monitoring Using Remote Sensing. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, Lab Required
Enrollment limited to 24. Priority given to graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering.

Prerequisites: Course Cap 20 students. Priority given to graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering. Advanced level undergraduates may be admitted with the instructor's permission. Calculus I and Physics I & II are required for undergraduates who wish to take this course.

General introduction to fundamentals of remote sensing; electromagnetic radiation, sensors, interpretation, quantitative image analysis and modeling. Example applications in the Earth and environmental sciences are explored through the analysis of remote sensing imagery in a state-or-the-art visualization laboratory.

Fall 2017: EESC GU4050
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 4050 001/24725 Th 5:40pm - 6:55pm
555 Schermerhorn Hall
Christopher Small 3 15/21
EESC 4050 001/24725 F 9:00am - 10:45am
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Christopher Small 3 15/21

EESC GU4925 Principles of Physical Oceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Physical properties of seawater, water masses and their distribution, sea-air interaction influence on the ocean structure, basic ocean circulation pattern, relation of diffusion and advection with respect to distribution of ocean properties, ocean tides and waves, turbulence, and introduction to ocean dynamics.

Fall 2017: EESC GU4925
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 4925 001/23995 T Th 2:40pm - 3:55pm
555 Schermerhorn Hall
Arnold Gordon, Ryan Abernathey 3 8/40

EESC UN1030 Oceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Enrollment limited to 160.

Explore the geology of the sea floor, understand what drives ocean currents and how ocean ecosystems operate. Case studies and discussions centered on ocean-related issues facing society.

Fall 2017: EESC UN1030
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 1030 001/11564 T Th 8:40am - 9:55am
501 Northwest Corner
Baerbel Hoenisch 3 121/160

EESC UN1600 Earth Resources and Sustainable Development. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: none; high school chemistry recommended.

Survey of the origin and extent of mineral resources, fossil fuels, and industrial materials, that are non renewable, finite resources, and the environmental consequences of their extraction and use, using the textbook Earth Resources and the Environment, by James Craig, David Vaughan and Brian Skinner. This course will provide an overview, but will include focus on topics of current societal relevance, including estimated reserves and extraction costs for fossil fuels, geological storage of CO2, sources and disposal methods for nuclear energy fuels, sources and future for luxury goods such as gold and diamonds, and special, rare materials used in consumer electronics (e.g., “Coltan”, mostly from Congo) and in newly emerging technologies such as superconducting magnets and rechargeable batteries (e.g., heavy rare earth elements, mostly from China). Guest lectures from economists, commodity traders and resource geologists will provide “real world” input.  Discussion Session Required.

Fall 2017: EESC UN1600
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 1600 001/23797 T Th 1:10pm - 2:25pm
501 Northwest Corner
Peter Kelemen 3 86/114

EESC UN2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Climate System. 4.5 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA)., Lab Required
Priority given to Columbia and Barnard earth science, environmental science, and environmental biology majors should enrollment limits be reinstated.

Prerequisites: high school algebra. Recommended preparation: high school chemistry and physics; and one semester of college science.

  Origin and development of the atmosphere and oceans, formation of winds, storms and ocean currents, reasons for changes through geologic time. Recent influence of human activity: the ozone hole, global warming, water pollution. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling. Students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences should plan to take EESC W2100 before their senior year to avoid conflicts with Senior Seminar.

Spring 2017: EESC UN2100
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2100 001/26340 M W 10:10am - 11:25am
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 23/100
EESC 2100 001/26340 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 23/100
Fall 2017: EESC UN2100
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2100 001/67233 T Th 10:10am - 11:25am
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Jerry McManus, Adam Sobel 4.5 51/60
EESC 2100 001/67233 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Jerry McManus, Adam Sobel 4.5 51/60

EESC UN2200 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Solid Earth System. 4.5 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., Lab Required
Priority given to Columbia and Barnard earth science, environmental science, and environmental biology majors should enrollment limits be necessary.

Prerequisites: high school algebra and chemistry. Recommended preparation: high school physics.

Exploration of how the solid Earth works, today and in the past, focusing on Earth in the Solar system, continents and oceans, the Earth's history, mountain systems on land and sea, minerals and rocks, weathering and erosion, hydrological cycle and rivers, geochronology, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, fossil fuels. Laboratory exploration of topics through examination of rock samples, experimentation, computer data analysis, field exercises, and modeling. Columbia and Barnard majors should plan to take W2200 before their senior year to avoid conflicts with the Senior Seminar.

Spring 2017: EESC UN2200
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2200 001/14737 T Th 2:40pm - 3:55pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Steven Goldstein, Sidney Hemming 4.5 43/100
EESC 2200 001/14737 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Steven Goldstein, Sidney Hemming 4.5 43/100
Fall 2017: EESC UN2200
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2200 001/11767 T Th 1:10pm - 2:25pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Maria Tolstoy, Jonathan Kingslake 4.5 34/50
EESC 2200 001/11767 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Maria Tolstoy, Jonathan Kingslake 4.5 34/50

EESC UN2310 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Life System Required Lab: Sections 001, 002, 003, 004,005. 0 points.

Lab Required

This three hour lab is required of all students who enroll in EESC W2300. There are currently five lab sections.

Spring 2017: EESC UN2310
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2310 001/24590 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Paul Olsen, Matthew Palmer, Natalie Boelman 0 13/24
EESC 2310 002/73529 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
555 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Paul Olsen, Natalie Boelman 0 12/24
EESC 2310 003/28651 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Paul Olsen, Natalie Boelman 0 13/24
EESC 2310 004/61912 Th 4:10pm - 7:00pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Paul Olsen, Natalie Boelman 0 15/24

EESC V2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate. 4.5 points.

BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA)., Lab Required

Prerequisites: High school algebra. Recommended preparation: High school chemistry/physics, and one semester college science. Enrollment limited.

Studies formation of winds, storms, and ocean currents. Recent influence of human activity: global warming, and climate change. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling.

EESC V2200 Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth. 4.5 points.

BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., Lab Required

Studies plate tectonics: Origin and development of continents, ocean basins, mountain systems on land and sea. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes, diamonds, oil. Land-use planning for resource development and conservation. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling.

EESC V2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: Life Systems. 4.5 points.

BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., Lab Required
Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: Enrollment limited.

Examines role of life in biogeochemical cycles, relationship of biodiversity and evolution to the physical earth, vulnerability of ecosystems to environmental change: causes and effects of extinctions through geologic time (dinosaurs and mammoths) and today. Exploration of topics through laboratories, demonstrations, computer data analysis, modeling, and field trips.

EESC W1003 Climate and Society: Case Studies. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Explores a series of environmental hazards (ozone depeletion, El Nino, global warming) as examples of risk management. For each module, students will learn the scientific principles underlying each hazard and then will examine how social and economic policies were developed amd implemented to mitigate the perceived risk.

EESC W1053 Planet Earth. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Enrollment limited to 50. Primarily for juniors and seniors.Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: high school science and mathematics.

How the Earth works. The unifying concept of plate tectonics is used to examine surface and internal processes in the Earth, including earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building, ridge-axis hot springs, formation of continents, renewable and non-renewable energy.

EESC W1201 Environmental Risks and Disasters. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, Discussion Section Required
Priority given to first-years and sophomores.

Prerequisites: high school science and math.

An introduction to risks and hazards in the environment. Different types of hazards are analyzed and compared: natural disasters, such as tornados, earthquakes, and meteorite impacts; acute and chronic health effects caused by exposure to radiation and toxic substances such as radon, asbestos, and arsenic; long-term societal effects due to environmental change, such as sea level rise and global warming. Emphasizes the basic physical principles controlling the hazardous phenomena and develops simple quantitative methods for making scientifically reasoned assessments of the threats (to health and wealth) posed by various events, processes, and exposures. Discusses methods of risk mitigation and sociological, psychological, and economic aspects of risk control and management.

EESC W1411 Earth: Origin, Evolution, Processes, Future: Lectures. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
The lectures of EESC W1011.

What is the nature of our planet and how did it form? This class explores Earth's internal structure, its dynamical character expressed in plate tectonics and earthquakes, and its climate system. It also explores what Earth's future may hold.

EESC W4085 Geodynamics. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, introductory physics.

An introduction to how the Earth and planets work. The focus is on physical processes that control plate tectonics and the evolution of planetary interiors and surfaces; analytical descriptions of these processes; weekly physical model demonstrations.

EESC W4917 Earth/Human Interactions. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Enrollment limited to 20. Priority given to senior natural and social science majors, then graduate students.

Based upon the most current understanding of our planet our interactions, and how we make decisions,  a new knowledge-based "green" framework is developed for our relationship to our planet and to each other as well as its general implications for human stewardship of our planet. This new knowledge-based  framework is explored using case studies, class participation, and  term papers on  specific current scientific and policy issues like global warming that impact the sustainability and resilience of our planet.

EESC W4929 Mixing and Dispersion in the Ocean. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: some background in fluids, as provided by courses like EESC W4925 or APPH E4200, or the instructor's permission.

Mixing and dispersion in the ocean is of fundamental importance in many oceanographic problems, including climate modeling, paleo and present-day circulation studies, pollutant dispersion, biogeography, etc. The main goal of this course is to provide in-depth understanding (rather than mathematical derivations) of the causes and consequences of mixing in the ocean, and of the properties of dispersion. After introducing the concepts of diffusion and turbulence, instruments and techniques for quantifying mixing and dispersion in the ocean are reviewed and compared. Next, the instabilities and processes giving rise to turbulence in the ocean are discussed. The course concludes with a series of lectures on mixing and dispersion in specific oceanographic settings, including boundary layers, shallow seas, continental shelves, sea straits, seamounts, and mid-ocean ridge flanks.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.