Illustration by Sofia Reeves

New minor focuses on Earth Systems Science

Lewis & Clark College of Arts & Sciences will be adding an Earth system science (ESS) minor for the upcoming Fall 2022 semester.

This interdisciplinary minor will focus on the different spheres of Earth, which include the lithosphere (rock), the hydrosphere (water), the atmosphere (air), the biosphere (life) and the cryosphere (ice). This approach will allow students to develop an understanding of various subjects such as climate science, oceanography and geology within one minor. The coursework focuses on teaching students how to apply practical knowledge to pressing current issues regarding the Earth’s climate, while focusing on both organic and inorganic impacts.  

Associate Professor of Geological Science Elizabeth Safran and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Jessica Kleiss spearheaded the campaign to add the minor.

“I’m excited that having the new minor will make these offerings more visible to people,” Safran said.

This new minor may attract more students who overlook classes related to climate science, oceanography and geology. Unlike environmental studies (ENVS), which is currently offered as both a major and minor option at LC, ESS will focus solely on the applied science aspects of the planet’s environment. Thus, the courses focus less on the social science side of environmental issues, and more on the practical and technical aspects.

“We might be able to weave together the concepts across courses in even more rich ways than we do now,” Kleiss said. “Students will take hydrology, and then oceanography, and then climate science, and then our spatial problems course. So I think we may be able to have even more interconnections in our courses about interconnections and enjoy that.”

The minor requires a total of 23 credits, or five to six classes, including 12 credits unique to the minor. These credits must be acquired by taking two ESS courses and two foundational natural science classes from two different departments. Remaining credits must be fulfilled by ESS electives or pre-approved classes in other departments, a full list of which is on the ESS minor’s webpage. Preexisting geology classes will be renamed to fall into the ESS minor.

The new minor addition also coincides with changes to the ENVS program, which are set to go into effect at the start of the Fall 2022 semester. These changes were made to avoid course bottlenecks anticipated in the future as numbers of ENVS students expect to increase, especially with the addition of the ESS minor.

Some students have already shown interest in declaring the minor. This is, in part, because the courses it will require have already existed at LC. This is the case for Karl Peterson ’23.

“When I initially was talking to Dr. Kleiss, she thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to adopt this minor since I would have to adopt the new college catalog,” Peterson said. “I actually found out that I’ve already completed the requirements without even being declared yet.”  

Similarly, many students who may not have considered a science-related minor may find the electives they have already taken aid in or fully complete the requirements for the ESS minor, regardless of how much coursework a student may have left.  

“I really think that that will be something that a lot of environmental studies students benefit from, and even from other minors and people in other majors,” Peterson said. 

Additional reporting by Amelia Doyle.

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