Story posted May 19, 2011
In May, 2010, Bowdoin College created a new Earth and Oceanographic Science (EOS) Department, transforming the Geology Department with a new focus on earth system science. The EOS Department will retain many of the inherent strengths of the Geology Department, while developing a new approach to educating liberal arts students about global change—one that will serve as a distinctive strength and as a national model going forward.
Diverse observations from the world’s landscapes, its oceans, ecosystems, atmosphere and polar ice make it clear that the earth is undergoing geologically unprecedented rates of change. In the past 150 years, greenhouse gas concentrations have risen to levels not seen in more than 10 million years, breaking natural cycles and continuing to climb at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers, sea ice and arctic permafrost is accelerating, raising sea levels and transforming ocean and terrestrial ecosystems. Historically severe droughts and water shortages are gripping several regions of the world. Oceans are being transformed physically and biologically, as rising atmospheric CO2 causes acidification, harmful algal blooms become more pervasive and overfishing causes the collapse of many commercial species. Terrestrial ecosystems are being modified by acid rain, changing fire regimes, hydrologic changes associated with climate change and land use stresses. Losses from natural disasters continue to mount worldwide. Half of the lakes and streams in the U.S. exhibit significant water-quality impairments, 40 years after implementing the Clean Water Act. Our job is to ready students for what lies ahead, to understand future change from the perspective of both geologic and historic changes, to provide them with tools to find solutions to the problems, and to give them a positive outlook for their future.
These are the broadest goals of the new EOS Department.