We are a dynamic and growing department within the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst is the main campus of the University of Massachusetts, which is a Research 1 University. The town of Amherst is situated in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. It is just 1 hour to the Hartford/Springfield Bradley International Airport, less than 2 hours to Boston, 3.5 hours to New York and 5 hours to Montreal.
The UMass Department of Geosciences is a national leader in the areas of Global Climate Change and Earth Dynamics. We are a department that spans the physical and social sciences. Our teaching and research are cutting edge and societally relevant. We are a department of research-active faculty, including 19 tenure-stream faculty and 7 non-tenure faculty (Senior Lecturers, Research Professors, and Extension faculty). We house the Climate System Research Center and the Massachusetts Geological Survey. Our grant funding has been steadily increasing and we are publishing in the best journals in our fields. We are the only department on campus that specializes in Geology, Earth Systems, and Human Geography. Many of our faculty serve in national and international leadership roles in professional organizations. We have recently added a Professional M.S. degree in Geohydrology/Hydrogeology, a fifth-year M.S. option in Geography, and an undergraduate B.A. concentration in Environmental Geography. We are a department of excellent, award-winning teachers, and the undergraduate student satisfaction is high. Our students find jobs in government, academia, and industry.
The interest and need for Geosciences education and training is very likely to accelerate. A number of reports issued in recent years describe a growing job market, but not enough qualified people to fill the positions. The hydrocarbon industry, hydrogeology and environmental firms, and mining companies are all growing as the demand for natural resources are increasingly acute. Pressing global issues lie at the interface of geology, Earth system science, and physical and human geography, such as, 1) global climate change and its impacts on societies and the physical environment, 2) the quantity and quality of drinking water, 3) natural hazards in coastal and tectonically active regions, and 4) the impact of human activities on our environment, its sustainability, and human health. These are surging global concerns. As one of the few ‘geology and geography’ departments in the country, the Department of Geosciences provides students of the University of Massachusetts with opportunities to explore these global concerns with a faculty who are actively engaged in research that is relevant to these issues.
Geosciences continues to expand and diversify, addressing the resource needs of a growing global economy while evaluating the past and future consequences of widespread human-induced environmental change. New internationally visible public policy issues and research opportunities continue to arise (i.e., global change, water quality and availability, natural hazards, non-renewable natural resources) while new computational techniques and instrumentation have revitalized many of the core disciplines, particularly geochemistry, isotope geology, geochronology, and spatial data analysis. The Department of Geosciences is organized around four principal research themes: (1) Earth Dynamics, (2) Global Climate Change and Surficial Processes, (3) Water and the Environment, and (4) Geography, Society and Environment.
During the past ten years, the department has been successful at expanding and strengthening two broad fields of research and teaching: geochemistry and numerical modeling. Both are seen as critical for student career preparation, for future funding opportunities, and for visibility on issues of national interest and policy. Spatial data analysis (or Geographic Information Science) is another important addition to the department since our last AQAD in 2005, although additional faculty with these skills would be a valued asset to the department and University. We have acquired much new instrumentation in support of our research and teaching in the areas of climate studies, geohydrology, sedimentary processes, mineralogy, geomechanics, biogeochemistry, GIS/remote sensing, and the dynamic digital mapping and modeling lab. These new strengths integrate teaching, student research, and faculty research across the department and thus contribute to the multidisciplinary Earth system science approach, which is the future of the geosciences.
The department offers three undergraduate majors that are similar to, but do not directly correspond with, the above research themes: Geology, Geography, and Earth Systems. Our goal is to provide rigorous training in the evolving fields of geology and geography, while providing a third (and broader) option for students who want to focus on integrating disciplines and processes within the context of Earth system science. In addition, we have recently joined the multi-departmental Environmental Science program in CNS and provide a leadership role in teaching and mentoring students in this multidisciplinary major.