Earth Science

College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences 

Department of Earth Science and Geography


Bachelor of Science





Ashish Sinha, Department Chair

Michael Ferris, Rodrick A. Hay, John Keyantash, Brendan McNulty, Ralph H. Saunders


John Hearn

Instructional Support Tech Office: NSM F-129, (310) 243-3368
Department Office: NSM B-202, (310) 243-3377


Program Description

The Earth Science major is one of two programs housed in the Department of Earth Science and Geography. The Earth Science degree is a cross-disciplinary program that trains students for careers involving earth system science, which broadly includes the physical science behind the interactions of the lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. The Earth Science program also examines the contribution of those systems to natural landscapes and geological hazards, during the modern era and through geological time. Importantly, it also considers the relationship of human populations to these geosystems.

If you are curious about the answers to the following questions, Earth Science might be the right major for you:

  • How and when did the Earth form? How has Earth evolved? What is the history of life on Earth? When did the mass extinctions occur, and what caused them?
  • What is plate tectonics, and how do tectonic plates interact? How do mountains form? How, where and why do volcanoes form? What causes earthquakes? Can we predict them? Why or why not? How do tsunamis form?
  • What are the different drainage patterns for river systems? How do flowing water and ice sculpt the landscape? How does the generation of hydroelectricity change the characteristics of flowing rivers?
  • What is groundwater, why is it important to humans, and what are the implications of groundwater contamination?
  • What has Earth’s climate been like in the past? How might climate change in the future? What is the “greenhouse effect” and ocean acidification? What is the carbon cycle, and why is it important?
  • What are the differences between non-renewable, renewable and perpetual natural resources? What is the nature of supply vs. demand in regard to water, petroleum, coal, minerals, and other natural resources? What are the pros and cons of various energy sources including nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and carbon-based fuels?


The faculty has expertise in plate tectonics and field geology; hydrology, atmospheric science, and climate change; landscape change, remote sensing, and geographic information systems; and economic, political and historical geography. The broad expertise of the faculty provides an unusual opportunity for motivated undergraduate students to work closely with their professors and gain “hands-on” experience within domestic and international research projects.

Academic Advisement

Majors should consult with their advisor prior to registration each semester. Records of student progress toward the degree are accessible online through MyCSUDH. Students should check their progress regularly.


For high school students, the best preparation for the Earth Science major is a well‑rounded program of high school courses in humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and written and oral communication. Community college transfer students should have completed an introductory course in geology or physical geography. Other introductory courses in the physical or biological sciences, including field courses, are encouraged.

Career Possibilities

The Earth Science major prepares students for a wide range of employment opportunities within government, industry and non-profit organizations. Specific fields include environmental protection and consulting; natural resource management; air and water quality monitoring; geologic hazards and geotechnical investigations; water and power‑generation utilities; and meteorology, hydrology, and oceanography. The Earth Science degree also provides excellent training for graduate programs.

Students may prepare for a career teaching at the secondary level (middle and high school) by completing an approved "Subject Matter Preparation Program" for Geoscience. Completion of such a program is the first step in meeting the state requirements for a teaching credential. As the program requirements for the Subject Matter Preparation Program routinely change, interested students should consult the departmentally-designated advisor for current information.

Graduation With Honors

An undergraduate student may be a candidate for graduation with Honors in Earth Science provided he or she meets the following criteria:

  1. A minimum of 36 units in residence at CSU Dominguez Hills;
  2. A minimum grade point average of at least 3.5 in all courses used to satisfy the upper division requirements in the major;
  3. Recommendation by the faculty of the Earth Science and Geography Department.

Elective Requirements

Completion of elective courses (beyond the requirements listed below) to reach a total minimum  of 120 units.

Bachelor of Science in Earth Science

Total Course Requirements for the Bachelor's Degree

See the "Requirements for the Bachelor's Degree" in the University Catalog for complete details on general degree requirements. A minimum of 40 units, including those required for the major, must be upper division.

General Education Requirements (55-62 units)

See the "General Education" requirements in the University Catalog or the Class Schedule for the most current information on General Education requirements and course offerings.

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement

See the "Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement" in the University Catalog.

Minor Requirements

Students completing this major are not required to complete a minor in another field.


Major Requirements (58-63 units)

A.  Lower Division Required Courses (23-28 units):

EAR 100. Physical Geology (3) or GEO 200. Physical Geography (3)

EAR 101. Physical Geology Laboratory (1)

EAR 200. Earth History and Evolution (3)

EAR 201. Earth History and Evolution Lab (1)

MAT 131. Elementary Statistics and Probability (3) and

MAT 171. Survey of Calculus for Management and Life Science I (4)


MAT 191. Calculus I (5) and

MAT 193. Calculus II (5)


CHE 110. General Chemistry I (5)

CHE 112. General Chemistry II (5)


PHY 120. Elements of Physics I (4) and

PHY 122. Elements of Physics II (4)


BIO 120. Principles of Biology I (3)

BIO 121. Principles of Biology I Laboratory (1) and

BIO 122. Principles of Biology II (3)

BIO 123. Principles of Biology II Laboratory (1)


B.  Upper Division Requirements (35 units)

1. Required Courses (26 units):

EAR 370. The World Ocean (3)

EAR 376. Field Mapping (3)

EAR 410. Environmental Geology (3)

EAR 450. Plate Tectonics and the Rock Cycle (4)

EAR 460. Global Change (3)

EAR 490. Senior Seminar in Earth Sciences (1)

GEO 370. Numerical Methods in Geography (3)

GEO 412. Rivers and Stream (3)

GEO 415. Geographic Information Systems (3)

2.  Elective Courses (9 units):

GEO 310. Geomorphology (3)

GEO 315. The Weather (3)

GEO 357. Urban Environmental Geography (3)

GEO 380. Biogeography of Southern California (3)

GEO 408. Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation (3)

GEO 416. Earth's Climates (3)

GEO 420. Natural Resources (3)

GEO 433. Environmental Analysis and Planning (3)

EAR 476. Groundwater (3)

EAR 495. Advanced Topics in Earth Sciences (3)

EAR 496. Internship in Earth Sciences (3)


Minor in Earth Sciences (19 units)

The Minor in Earth Sciences requires completion of 19 units. The lower division requirement includes courses which may be used to satisfy other university requirements such as General Education or the major.

A.  Lower Division Required Courses (7 units):

EAR 100. Physical Geology (3)

EAR 101. Physical Geology Laboratory (1)

GEO 200. Physical Geography (3)

B.  Upper Division Requirements (12 units):

Any 12 units of upper division Earth Sciences (EAR) courses are sufficient to fulfill this requirement. Alternatively, the student may complete any six units of upper division Earth Sciences courses with six units selected from the geography courses listed below:

GEO 310. Geomorphology (3)

GEO 315. The Weather (3)

GEO 412. Rivers and Streams (3)

GEO 416. Earth's Climates (3)


Course Offerings

The credit value for each course in semester units is indicated for each term by a number in parentheses following the title. For course availability, please see the list of tentative course offerings in the current Class Schedule.

Lower Division

EAR 100          Physical Geology (3).

Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in EAR 101 is recommended.

Volcanoes, earthquakes, oceanic processes and continental drift. Rock and mineral identification is enhanced by concurrent enrollment in EAR 101. Meets certain general studies requirements, is fundamental to the Geology major, and has wide-ranging applications in art, commerce, public policy, and science. Field Trip.

EAR 101          Physical Geology Laboratory (1).

Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in EAR 100 is recommended.

Nature and origin of rocks and minerals through determination of physical properties of specimens. Topographic and geologic map analysis. Geological features from stereoscopic air photos. Recommended elective for students interested in the outdoors, archaeology, mineral deposits, land use, and natural hazards.

EAR 200          Earth History and Evolution (3).

Prerequisite: EAR 100, EAR 101, and concurrent enrollment in EAR 201.

Geological and biological history of the earth. Includes development of the geologic time scale, origin of the Earth and life, the fossil record and evolution, and plate tectonics. Special emphasis on the geology of North America. Philosophical implications make this a valuable general elective for all students.

EAR 201          Earth History Laboratory (1).

Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in EAR 200.

Practical laboratory experience in fossil identification. Life history, form, function and evolution of animals and plants important in the fossil record. Interpretation of geologic maps and stratigraphic correlation of sedimentary rocks. Three hours of laboratory per week.

Upper Division

EAR 370          The World Ocean (3).

Prerequisite: EAR 100 or GEO 200 is recommended.

Physical and chemical characteristics of seawater. Distribution of temperatures and salinity. Study of currents, tides, waves and the influence of the sea on weather and on life.

EAR 376          Field Mapping (3).

Prerequisite: EAR 100 or GEO 200.

Introduction to geological and environmental field mapping. Techniques include working with topographic and remotely-sensed images, use of Brunton compass traverse methods, and interpretation of sedimentary rocks and geological structures (faults, folds). Applications to geotechnical work, resource management, environmental analysis, anthropology, government agencies, industry, and teaching outdoor activities. Eight hours of lab and one-half hour of lecture per week.

EAR 410          Environmental Geology (3).

Prerequisites: EAR 100, GEO 200 or SMT 416.

Study of human interaction with the geologic environment. Mitigating exposure to geological hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides). environmental consequences of geological resources (fossil fuels, minerals, water) extraction and consumption; surface and groundwater contamination, acid rain; climate change; waste burial.

EAR 450          Plate Tectonics and the Rock Cycle (4).

Prerequisite: EAR 100.

Study of plate tectonic processes and how they relate to the formation of rocks and the rock cycle. Includes earthquakes, volcanic activity, hot spots and plate boundary types. Two hours of lecture and six hours of lab per week.

EAR 460          Global Change (3).

Prerequisite: GEO 416.

An interdisciplinary introduction to the science of understanding global change – natural as well as anthropogenically induced. Key topics include the physical climate system and variability, the carbon cycle, land and water issues, and the impact of global change on society.

EAR 476          Groundwater (3).

Prerequisites:  EAR 100 and EAR 101.  CHE 108 or CHE 110 is recommended.

Interrelationships of geologic materials and processes with water. Topics include: hydrologic cycle, physical characteristics of aquifers, groundwater flow, wells, geology of flow systems, groundwater chemistry, and criteria for development and management of water resources.

EAR 490          Senior Seminar in Earth Sciences (1).

Prerequisite: Senior standing in Earth Sciences or consent of instructor.

Study and discussion of current research in Earth Sciences. Techniques of oral presentation, library research and preparation of audiovisual materials. One hour of seminar per week.

EAR 494          Independent Study (1-3).

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Independent Study of a particular geographic or environmental problem under the supervision of a member of the Geography staff.

EAR 495          Advanced Topics in Earth Sciences (3).

Selected topics in Earth Science with course content to be determined by instructor. Repeatable course.

EAR 496          Internship in Earth Sciences (2, 3).

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Employment as an assistant or volunteer in an earth sciences-related firm or government agency. Course may run at time convenient to student and employers, including summer. Student should contact Department faculty three months prior to enrollment. CR/NC grading. Repeatable course.

EAR 498          Directed Research (1-3).

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Directed research of a particular geographic or environmental problem under the direction of a member of the Earth Science staff.

EAR 499          Senior Thesis (2).

Prerequisite: Approval of instructor.

Geological research and writing of a thesis. Generally includes library, field and laboratory investigations. Topic of research to be approved and directed by an instructor. CR/NC grading.


Infrequently Offered Courses

The following courses are scheduled on a "demand" basis. Students should consult the department office for information about the next schedule offering.

EAR 478          Engineering Geology (3).

Prerequisite: EAR 450.

Evaluation and abatement of geologic hazards affecting construction projects and land use. Landslides, groundwater pollution, subsidence, flooding, and earthquake effects. Mechanical properties of rocks and soils. Case histories and site investigations. Application to business, law, construction engineering and environmental studies. Two hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week.