About Geosciences

Our Program and Courses

You can minor in geosciences at F&M. You can also choose geosciences as your chosen track as an earth and environmental science major. You will develop a holistic understanding of Earth by studying the planet’s history, the composition and distribution of Earth materials, internal Earth processes, the world’s oceans, landform development, paleontology, tectonics, and more. You’ll also find impactful opportunities to step out of the classroom and into the field and lab; the majority of our faculty practice hands-on, project-based teaching styles.

As a minor in geosciences, you’ll focus upon a particular area of the geosciences such as:

  • Surficial processes, such as weathering, erosion, rivers and streams, and glaciers
  • Paleobiology, the study of fossilized remains of biological life
  • Geophysics, the study of Earth using gravity, magnetic, electrical, and seismic methods
  • Tectonics, the study of the deformation of the rocks that make up the Earth’s crust
  • Petrology, the study of rocks and the conditions under which they form
  • Geochemistry, the study and analysis of samples of soil, rock, minerals, and additional Earth natural materials
By the time you graduate, you will: 

  • Have acquired knowledge in the major subdisciplines of the geosciences
  • Have developed an understanding of Earth systems and their interactions at various scales of space and time encompassing plate tectonics and global change
  • Be able to collect, analyze, and interpret various indicators of global, regional and local environmental change; water, soil and air quality; natural resource use and depletion; natural hazards; and land use change
  • Understand, synthesize and apply geologic principles to real-world questions and problems
  • Understand how Earth system processes operate today and how we interpret changes in Earth processes through time to inform future decisions
Ready to explore our geosciences classes? Check out our course catalog to discover what you can expect.

Our Faculty & Staff

Tim Bechtel

Director of F&M Science Outreach & Senior Teaching Professor of Geosciences

Africana Studies

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Melissa W Betrone

Academic Department Coordinator for Earth & Environment and Business Organizations and Society; Program Coordinator of STS

Business, Organizations and Society; Science, Technology and Society

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Eve Bratman

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

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Liam L Connolly

Post-bac Research Assistant

Earth and Environment

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Hannah R Connuck

Outreach & Communication Coordinator

Earth and Environment

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Elizabeth M De Santo

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Program Chair of Environmental Studies

Public Policy

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Alice E Fodor

Outreach & Communication Coordinator

Earth and Environment

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Eric Hirsch

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Latin American Studies

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Zeshan Ismat

Professor of Geosciences, Program Chair of International Studies

International Studies

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James S Jolles

Interim Assistant Director of the Writing Center, Adjunct Assistant Professor Earth & Environment

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Dorothy J Merritts

Harry W. & Mary B. Huffnagle Professor of Geosciences, Weis College House Don

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Karen R Mertzman

Laboratory Technician

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Eric A Schwarz

Research Associate of Earth & Environment

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James Strick

Professor, Program Chair of Science, Technology and Society

Earth and Environment; Public Health

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Robert C Walter

The Dr. Earl D. Stage & Mary E. Stage Professor of Geosciences, Department Chair of Earth & Environment

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Christopher J Williams

Professor of Environmental Science

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Emily L Wilson

Research Lab Manager & Technician

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Jeremy Zimmerman

Research Assistant

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Andrew P de Wet

Professor of Geosciences, Program Chair of Environmental Science

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Learning Outside the Classroom

In the Field

F&M’s location provides the perfect landscape for studying geoscience. Pennsylvania’s dynamic landscape and waterways, flourishing agricultural scene; the nearby Susquehanna River, Appalachian Mountains, and Piedmont province; and F&M’s Spalding Nature Conservancy and the Big Spring Run long term restoration monitoring project provide dynamic and exciting locations to learn outside of the classroom.

Research Opportunities

As you become fully immersed in your geoscience studies, you may find yourself forming hypotheses or questions. The good news? You don’t have to wait until graduate school to investigate those ideas. It’s common for students to embark on an independent study, or to work alongside their professors and become an integral part of their ongoing research even as early as their sophomore year. Geoscience professors are expert researchers working on a wide array of environmental topics, including: 

  • Wetland and floodplain restoration 
  • Mountain building events and the role of plate tectonics in landscape patterns
  • Ground water sources and flow dynamics
  • Remote sensing and data science applied to earth systems and natural resources
  • Environmental applications of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems
  • Methods for detecting landmines and other explosive remnants of war
  • Evidence of permafrost that existed in the mid-Atlantic region during glacial times
  • Trace metal cycling in marine and terrestrial environments 
  • Environmental change and extinction in modern and ancient marine environments 
  • Understanding and predicting responses of aquatic communities and organisms to environmental change 
  • Soil biogeochemistry, carbon cycling, and global change 
  • Plant physiology, ecophysiology, and ecology
  • Organism-environment interactions of plants, birds, and mammals

Explore research at F&M

Center for the Sustainable Environment

Many of our students get involved with F&M’s Center for the Sustainable Environment (CSE), our hub for global environmental stewardship and sustainability on campus. The CSE is home to a seminar room, a field-work laboratory space, a meeting space for sustainable clubs on campus, and more. Many students work in the CSE or participate in its extracurricular activities, food composting workshops, wild food tastings, and guest speaker presentations.

Explore the CSE


Off-Campus Study

Off-campus study, in the U.S. and internationally, is encouraged. We have sponsored extracurricular field trips to exotic locations such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Our students have also spent semesters or summers abroad studying at field stations and laboratories in Woods Hole, Ma., the Australian rainforest, and the savanna of Kenya. 

Explore off-campus study at F&M

Dual Degree Programs

Earn Master of Forestry (M.F.) or Master of Environmental Management (M.E.M.)

In partnership with Duke University, F&M enables you to earn a bachelor’s degree from F&M and a master’s degree from Duke in five or six years. 

M.E.M. and M.F. Professional Master’s Degrees

The Duke Professional Master’s program is a two-year, course-based, non-thesis professional degree program similar to law or business school in its applied focus. In fact, the degree will actually be an M.E.M. (Master of Environmental Management) or M.F. (Master of Forestry), depending on the path chosen. This is not the same as applying to graduate school in the college of arts and sciences where you might earn a broader, less applied M.S. (Master of Science) degree in a discipline like Zoology or Biochemistry.

M.E.M. Specializations

The M.E.M. degree is structured around environment and management concentrations. Students select one from each of the following groups of possibilities, to gain depth of knowledge in a topical area (environment) and to build the skills (management) to put this knowledge into practice:

Environment concentrations:

  • Coastal and Marine Systems
  • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health
  • Energy and Environment
  • Terrestrial and Freshwater Environments

Management concentrations:

  • Business and the Environment
  • Environmental Analytics and Modeling
  • Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Community Engagement and Environmental Justice

You may spend either three or four years at F&M, during which time you’ll complete all requirements for your chosen major, and all F&M general education requirements. You will then transfer to Duke for two years.

Please consult this document for more details about this program and instructions for participation.

Contact Professor Elizabeth De Santo at edesanto@fandm.edu with any questions related to this program.

Success Beyond F&M

Our program has a proven track record, with graduates going on to pursue advanced degrees or embarking on promising career paths. You’ll also find alumni support in the Geoscience Founders Society, an organization committed to maintaining connections between current F&M students and faculty with alumni and friends.

Graduate School

Many of our graduates go on to graduate school after F&M, typically pursuing doctoral programs in science, medicine or law. Our graduates have completed their advanced degrees at the best universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Career Paths

Career outcomes for geoscience graduates are diverse. Many obtain entry-level positions in the environmental and geotechnical consulting field and as sustainability analysts or consultants. Our alumni have also held positions such as:

  • Chemist
  • Chief Exploration Scientist
  • Chief Science Officer
  • Energy Industry Analyst
  • Environmental Analyst
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Consulting/Exploration Geologist
  • Consulting/Exploration Geophysicist
  • Global Sustainability Manager
  • Hydrologist/Hydrogeologist
  • Marine Biology Researcher 
  • Marine Chemist
  • Planetary Geologist
  • Public Health Researcher
  • Professor
  • Resident Naturalist
  • Science Policy Advisor
  • Senior Geologist
  • Senior Research Scientist
  • Stream Restoration Specialist
  • Sustainability Planner 
  • Water-Quality Technician
  • Wildlife Monitoring Technician

“It’s been an experience of a lifetime. This is something that I could spend the rest of my life doing.”

F&M senior Conner Minkowitz is a paleontologist in the making. Alongside his adviser,  Minkowitz is researching arthropods from the Kinzers Formation, a band of limestone and fossil-bearing shale that stretches from central Lancaster County across the Susquehanna River to York. Minkowitz also presented a poster at the Geological Society of America’s Annual Meeting on newly discovered, geologically early arthropod fossils (invertebrate animals with exoskeletons they shed during growth). “It’s been an experience of a lifetime,” Minkowitz said. “This is something that I could spend the rest of my life doing.”
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F&M Launches Chesapeake Watershed Initiative

A profound discovery concerning sediments and streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, made nearly 20 years ago by two Franklin & Marshall geosciences professors, drew national media attention at the time and changed the way science views land use and water quality. In recent years, Robert Walter’s and Dorothy Merritts’ research has combined with the work of F&M Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy Patrick Fleming for targeted and cost-effective restoration practices. Their work is designed to improve water quality, reduce flooding, and enhance restoration activities in local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. This collaboration has today led to the newly established Chesapeake Watershed Initiative (CWI) at Franklin & Marshall College, supported through a three-year, $1.25-million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a Pittsburgh philanthropy.
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Earth and Environment Laboratory Facilities

F&M's Department of Earth & Environment offers laboratory facilities open to F&M faculty, staff, and students, as well as colleagues from other institutions for their teaching and research. We have ongoing relationships with F&M's Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Biology, Millersville University, colleges in the Keck Geology Consortium, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Armstrong World Industries.

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Related Fields of Study

Earth and Environmental Science

Explore critical environmental issues of today through a scientific lens. By studying earth and environmental science at F&M, you will build the necessary biological, chemical, and geological foundation you need to study the earth and understand the dynamics between humans and our environment.

Environmental Studies

Do you wish to better understand how humans interact with and affect the environment around us? Environmental Studies at F&M offers a distinctive approach to building the knowledge you need to tackle the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Sustainability Planning Certificate

Sustainability planning is an increasing need in the marketplace. F&M’s sustainability planning certificate provides the glue that bonds biology; earth and environment; and business, organizations and society to prepare students interested in careers in sustainable practices.

F&M Geosciences in Action

November 27, 2023

Paleontologist in the Making

Senior Conner Minkowitz’s passion for extinct creatures changed when he began studying under a retired Franklin & Marshall College paleontologist.

November 19, 2021

F&M Launches Chesapeake Watershed Initiative

F&M established the Chesapeake Watershed Initiative (CWI), supported through a three-year, $1.25-million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a Pittsburgh philanthropy.