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Answering questions about our planet

Earth, Environment, and Society

About the Department of Earth, Environment, and Society

The well-being of the planet’s environment is essential to the common good.

Students and faculty in the Department of Earth, Environment, and Society strive to answer scientific questions about humans and our environmental systems, including the complex connections between its atmospheric, biospheric and solid rock components.

You will analyze the interactions between humans and the environment with a focus on conservation, the geography of health and the evolution of cultural landscapes. You will work on problems of climate and environmental change, Earth resources, the behavior of ecosystems both modern and through Earth history, the role of humans in creating systemic problems, risks to humans posed by natural hazards and limited resources, and ways humans can combat global warming, degraded water quality and habitat destruction.

Our programs

We offer a variety of majors and minors that will provide you with numerous opportunities to interact with faculty and your peers inside and outside of the classroom.

Related Programs

Our programs pair well with a number of others at the University of St. Thomas.

Outside the classroom

  • Environmental Science
  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Environmental Studies
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental Science

    The environmental science program trains students to become leaders in environmental problem solving, using tools from scientific disciplines such as biology, geology and chemistry. Our students have unique opportunities to conduct original environmental research with faculty members, and can present their research at national meetings and co-author research articles.

    Recent Research
    Environmental science students participate in a wide range of independent research projects, such as quantifying microplastics on Florida beaches, studying the effects of climate change on the food webs of Minnesota lakes, and measuring nutrient recycling in urban agriculture. In our courses, environmental science students engage in real-world projects with community partners, such as identifying opportunities to reuse stormwater in Minneapolis, and analyzing technologies to remove chloride from wastewater.

     

    Geology

    Forget about classifying rocks and minerals and memorizing the geological timescale. At St. Thomas, geology is about understanding how the Earth works, inside and out, including the complex interactions between rocks, the biosphere and the atmosphere. Geologists work on a whole host of environmental and resource issues through lab experiences, fieldwork and collaborative research opportunities.

    Recent Research
    Students engage in exciting field research beginning with the First Year Experience, with options for J-term and study abroad, through to their senior capstone. From metro lakes to the Great Lakes, Nepal to Norway, the polar region to the deserts, faculty and students collaborate on research that unveils the recent and deep history of the planet, evidence for life on other planets, issues surrounding changes in climate and ecology, groundwater quality and supply and more.

     

    Geography

    Geography students gain the knowledge, theoretical insights and technical skills needed to effectively address real-world challenges. From drone-imaging of prairie restoration to predicting multi-modal transportation behavior, each year, students earn grants and present research at regional and national conferences.



    Recent Research
    Geography faculty serve as consultants on projects for a wide range of organizations, including the Great Plains Restoration Council, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

    Environmental Studies

    Environmental studies majors gain broad competencies in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. You will develop a personalized concentration to provide depth in a specific area such as public policy and planning, engineering, business management or communications.

    Experiential Learning
    Environmental studies students regularly engage in experiential learning projects through the Sustainable Communities Partnership. They have prepared an Extreme Heat Report with maps, data analysis, case studies, findings and recommended climate adaptation or mitigation strategies for the Metropolitan Council. They have analyzed options for optimal street bike lane routes for connectivity in area cities, and determine which properties are non-conforming to ordinances to include a 25-foot Wetland Buffer Strip around all wetlands and stormwater ponds. These maps will provide needed information for the City to address other policy and public education and outreach efforts to increase compliance.

     

    Sustainability

    Career Preparation
    Sustainability careers are growing rapidly, whether it is increased need for traditional jobs such as Water Resource Lab Technician, new positions such as Corporate Sustainability Coordinator, or adding a sustainability twist to jobs like accounting, journalism, psychology, and marketing.

    Students from any disciplinary major can add a sustainability minor and be prepared to enter the workforce of the future.

     

    Environmental Science

    The environmental science program trains students to become leaders in environmental problem solving, using tools from scientific disciplines such as biology, geology and chemistry. Our students have unique opportunities to conduct original environmental research with faculty members, and can present their research at national meetings and co-author research articles.

    Recent Research
    Environmental science students participate in a wide range of independent research projects, such as quantifying microplastics on Florida beaches, studying the effects of climate change on the food webs of Minnesota lakes, and measuring nutrient recycling in urban agriculture. In our courses, environmental science students engage in real-world projects with community partners, such as identifying opportunities to reuse stormwater in Minneapolis, and analyzing technologies to remove chloride from wastewater.

     

    Geology

    Forget about classifying rocks and minerals and memorizing the geological timescale. At St. Thomas, geology is about understanding how the Earth works, inside and out, including the complex interactions between rocks, the biosphere and the atmosphere. Geologists work on a whole host of environmental and resource issues through lab experiences, fieldwork and collaborative research opportunities.

    Recent Research
    Students engage in exciting field research beginning with the First Year Experience, with options for J-term and study abroad, through to their senior capstone. From metro lakes to the Great Lakes, Nepal to Norway, the polar region to the deserts, faculty and students collaborate on research that unveils the recent and deep history of the planet, evidence for life on other planets, issues surrounding changes in climate and ecology, groundwater quality and supply and more.

     

    Geography

    Geography students gain the knowledge, theoretical insights and technical skills needed to effectively address real-world challenges. From drone-imaging of prairie restoration to predicting multi-modal transportation behavior, each year, students earn grants and present research at regional and national conferences.



    Recent Research
    Geography faculty serve as consultants on projects for a wide range of organizations, including the Great Plains Restoration Council, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

    Environmental Studies

    Environmental studies majors gain broad competencies in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. You will develop a personalized concentration to provide depth in a specific area such as public policy and planning, engineering, business management or communications.

    Experiential Learning
    Environmental studies students regularly engage in experiential learning projects through the Sustainable Communities Partnership. They have prepared an Extreme Heat Report with maps, data analysis, case studies, findings and recommended climate adaptation or mitigation strategies for the Metropolitan Council. They have analyzed options for optimal street bike lane routes for connectivity in area cities, and determine which properties are non-conforming to ordinances to include a 25-foot Wetland Buffer Strip around all wetlands and stormwater ponds. These maps will provide needed information for the City to address other policy and public education and outreach efforts to increase compliance.

     

    Sustainability

    Career Preparation
    Sustainability careers are growing rapidly, whether it is increased need for traditional jobs such as Water Resource Lab Technician, new positions such as Corporate Sustainability Coordinator, or adding a sustainability twist to jobs like accounting, journalism, psychology, and marketing.

    Students from any disciplinary major can add a sustainability minor and be prepared to enter the workforce of the future.

     

    Faculty

    Our faculty are active scholars and eager to mentor you inside and outside of the classroom. Here is what a few have been up to lately.

    Photo of Dr. Gaston “Chip” Small looking at a computer in the middle of field of an experimental garden.

    Dr. Gaston “Chip” Small

    Environmental Science

    Dr. Small is interested in the application of ecosystem ecology to sustainability science, human alteration of biogeochemical cycles, the fate of anthropogenic nutrients in aquatic ecosystems and communicating science to the public.

    Dr. Gaston “Chip” Small
    Dr. Jeni McDermott examines lab equipment with rock sediment in it.

    Dr. Jeni McDermott

    Geology

    Dr. McDermott’s work focuses on examining the tectonic geomorphology of regions like Norway and the Himalaya. She uses modern rock dating techniques to determine rates of uplift across faults to determine their role in shaping mountain topography, as well as cosmogenic techniques to determine river erosion rates of deep bedrock canyons.

    Dr. Jeni McDermott
    Dr. Paul Lorah and alumna Emma Rinn examine a drone in the middle of a field.

    Dr. Paul Lorah

    Geography

    Dr. Lorah’s research interests primarily focus on the economic value of the wilderness and national parks, and using geographic information systems to model environmental quality and effectiveness of federal land management policies.

    Dr. Paul Lorah

    Study Abroad

    You have access to a diverse array of study abroad opportunities throughout your undergraduate career at St. Thomas. Here are a few examples of where you can go with our programs.

    Grand Canyon under a cloudy sky.

    J-Term in the Desert Southwest

    Nearly every January, geology students complete an intensive course in the southwest United States focusing on building skills in mapping, sampling and more.
    A student examines a landscape in Iceland with a mountain in the background.

    Environmental Science Abroad

    Environmental science faculty regularly conduct research with students in places such as New Zealand, Iceland, Croatia and Costa Rica.
    Office of Study Abroad
    Stock photo of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia at sunset.

    Geography and Environmental Studies in Australia

    Geography and environmental studies students can study at James Cook University, which is close in proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.
    Office of Study Abroad
    Students in the Sustainability LLC work together on a project by the Mississippi River.

    01 Engage with your peers

    Sustainability Living Learning Community

    Engage with your peers

    The Sustainability Living Learning Community will engage you in experiential activities to understand the complexity of key environmental themes and explore sustainable solutions. It’s a great way to start a sustainability minor!

    Residence Life

    Contact Information

    Questions? Please feel free to reach out to learn more about our programs.

    Tel: 651-962-5046 

    Email: elamel@stthomas.edu  

    Faxr: 651-962-5051 

    Mailing Address

    JRC LL56
    University of St. Thomas
    2115 Summit Avenue
    Saint Paul, MN 55105

    Campus Location

    Our office is located in the lower level of John Roach Center for the Liberal Arts at the corner of Summit and Cleveland Avenues