Overview and Learning Goals


Faculty and students in the Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science (EOS) at Bowdoin investigate fundamental questions about our planet’s past, present, and future. In our courses and research programs, we sample rocks, sediments, shells and waters to reconstruct Earth’s geologic history, including past climates. We study Earth’s systems at all scales—atoms to oceans—and use state of the art instrumentation and data analysis to unravel Earth’s past so that we can better understand and prepare for our future.

EOS students learn the skills and knowledge to address questions such as: where will we secure fresh water to meet the needs of a growing global population? How will landslides triggered by more extreme storms affect populations? Do decreases in snowpack and glaciation in response to modern climate change impact volcanic hazards? How does natural resource extraction impact the Earth system?

From tracking how a harmful algal bloom develops along our coastline to learning how supervolcanoes form deep within Earth, studies in EOS open a world of possibilities.

Learning Goals

EOS majors:

  1. Gain fluency within and ability to integrate among earth systems by focusing on surface earth processes, solid earth processes, and oceans
  2. Observe records and interpret processes in time and space
    1. from the surface of Earth to the core
    2. from atomic to global spatial scales
    3. from instantaneous to billion-year time scales
  3. Describe components and their relationships and behaviors within systems (e.g., pools, flows, and feedbacks)
  4. Recognize and communicate the connections between earth systems and society, including human impacts on Earth, natural hazards, and Earth’s resources
  5. Learn and apply EOS methods, including:
    1. Asking questions/defining hypotheses
    2. Making field- and laboratory-based observations
    3. Collecting and analyzing data
    4. Mapping
    5. Graphing
    6. Modeling
    7. Understanding uncertainty
    8. Reading and synthesizing literature
    9. Communicating: writing/presentation
  6. Transition from guided to self-driven and reflective learning
  7. Work collaboratively with peers with varied backgrounds and skill sets

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department

Students may elect to major in earth and oceanographic science or to coordinate a major in earth and oceanographic science with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing a coordinate major may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in earth and oceanographic science.

Department Website

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue