Geological Sciences

The following courses are offered by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

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.

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 G6920 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.

EESC G6928 Tropical Meteorology. 3 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008,EESC W4210/APPH4210 and EESC G6927, or some prior exposure to linear equatorial wave theory.

An introduction to the physics governing the large-scale behavior of the tropical atmosphere. Topics covered include the Hadley and Walker circulations, monsoons, atmospheric equatorial waves, the Madden-Julian oscillation, tropical cyclones, and El Nino. Principles of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics will be introduced as needed.

EESC G6930 Ocean Dynamics. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.

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

Hydrodynamical equations, vorticity dynamics, ocean circulation theories.

EESC G6949 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.

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 2018: EESC GR8884
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 8884 001/13044 M W 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Room TBA
Albrecht Hofmann 3 1/15

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 9/40

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 3 118/160

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.

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 50/60
EESC 2100 001/67233 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Jerry McManus, Adam Sobel 4.5 50/60
Spring 2018: EESC UN2100
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2100 001/68225 M W 10:10am - 11:25am
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 28/50
EESC 2100 001/68225 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
558 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 28/50

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.

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
Spring 2018: EESC UN2200
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2200 001/74644 T Th 2:40pm - 3:55pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Steven Goldstein, Sidney Hemming 4.5 44/50
EESC 2200 001/74644 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Steven Goldstein, Sidney Hemming 4.5 44/50

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 2018: EESC UN2310
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2310 001/11664 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Natalie Boelman 0 10/24
EESC 2310 002/13430 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
555 Schermerhorn Hall
Natalie Boelman 0 1/24
EESC 2310 003/16408 W 4:10pm - 7:00pm
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Natalie Boelman 0 4/24
EESC 2310 004/76999 Th 4:10pm - 7:00pm
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Natalie Boelman 0 8/24
EESC 2310 005/25614 Th 4:10pm - 7:00pm
555 Schermerhorn Hall
Natalie Boelman 0 3/24

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 W1001 Dinosaurs and the History of Life: Lectures and Lab. 4 points.

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

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: basic high school science and math.

Lab is a hands-on introduction to geochronology, paleontology, and historical geology with field trips. (See W1401 for lectures only.) Dinosaurs: a spectacular example of a common, highly successful form of life, dominant for 135 million years. Where did they come from? Why were they so successful? Why did they die out? A basic introduction to interface between geology and biology.

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 W1401 Dinosaurs and the History of Life: Lectures. 3 points.

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

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: basic high school science and math.

Dinosaurs: a spectacular example of a common, highly successful form of life, dominant for 135 million years. Where did they come from? Why were they so successful? Why did they die out? A basic introduction to the interface between geology and biology.

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 W4888 Isoptope Geology II. 3 points.

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

Prerequisites: introductory chemistry and earth science coursework.

This class will be an introduction to the field of stable isotope geochemistry and its application to environmental processes and problems. The utility of stable isotopes as tacers of environmental processes will be examined with respect to the disciplines of paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, hydrology and hydrogeology. We will focus on the light elements and stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in water, carbonates and organic compounds and why they fractionate in the environment.  Radiocarbon as a tracer and dating tool will alos be presented. The theoretical background for isotope fractionation will be discussed in class. The mechanics of how mass spectrometers analyze different isotope ratios will be explored during experiments in the laboratory at Lamont-Doherty. Additional key parts of the class will be a review of paper and student-lead reviews of published papers on relevant topics and a reveiw paper.

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 W4926 Principles of Chemical Oceanography. 3 points.

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

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission for students without one year of chemistry. Course open to undergraduates with one year of chemistry. Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Factors controlling the concentration and distribution of dissolved chemical species within the sea. Application of tracer and natural radioisotope methods to large-scale mixing of the ocean, the geological record preserved in marine sediments, the role of ocean processes in the global carbon cycle, and biogeochemical processes influencing the distribution and fate of elements in the ocean.

EESC W4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years. Enrollment limited to 20 students EESC (DEES) graduate students have priority..

Prerequisites: college-level geology helpful but not required.

Introduces the physical, chemical and biological processes that govern how and where ocean sediments accumulate. Major topics addressed are: modes of biogenic, terrigenous and authigenic sedimentation, depositional environments, pore fluids and sediment geochemistry, diagenesis, as well as biostratigraphy and sediment stratigraphic principles and methods. Second half of the semester focuses on major events in Cenozoic paleoceanogrpahy and paleoclimatology including orbital control of climate, long-term carbon cycle, extreme climate regimes, causes of ice ages in Earth's history, human evolution, El Niño evolution, and long-term sea level history.

EESC W4947 Plate Tectonics. 3 points.

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

Prerequisites: course in solid earth geology or geophysics.

Prepares students for research and oral exams with cross-discliplinary analysis of the plate-tectonic cycle. Driving forces and mantle convection, plate kinematics, magmatism, structure, thermal and chemical evolutions of mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones, continental rifts and collisions, and hot spots. Includes literature readings of great debates, and emphasizes integration of geophysical, geological and geochemical observations and processes.

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