New Degree Addresses Global Environment

Posted: August 15, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Probst

Mason students will now have the opportunity to track global changes in the environment—the kinds of things performed by such federal agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The new degree in the College of Science is a Bachelor of Science in Global and Environmental Change.

The degree, which is jointly offered by the Departments of Earth Systems and GeoInformation Sciences (ESGS) and Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), was recently approved in March by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Program directors are currently considering students for admission in fall 2007.

The degree distinguishes itself from other degrees in the natural sciences because it examines the dynamics of Earth systems—the geosphere, atmosphere, ecosphere and sociosphere—and their interactions on local, regional and global scales.

“Most of the undergraduate degrees offered at Mason are traditional disciplinary degrees,” says David Wong, a professor and chair of the ESGS department. “By creating a multi-disciplinary degree within the ESGS and ESP departments, we are able to merge the global and environmental perspectives.”

The degree also emphasizes the use of innovative geoinformation technologies used in detecting, measuring and understanding environmental changes.

For example, such research will examine how global climate change can affect environmental systems like the Chesapeake Bay and the Arctic; how the rise in sea level can affect coastal wetland ecosystems; and how change in sea surface temperature can affect hurricane intensity and frequency, as well as the impacts on ecological systems such as coral reefs.

Wong, along with Menas Kafatos, university professor and director of the Center for Earth Observing and Space Research; Sheryl Beach, associate professor in the ESGS department; and Chris Jones and Robert Jonas, both of the ESP department, all played prominent roles in developing the curriculum.

“A unique aspect of the new degree is that students will be learning about various tools used in understanding the physical aspects of global and environmental change, such as Earth observing and GIS, and how to apply them,” says Wong.

According to Wong, students who graduate with a degree in Global and Environmental Change could have numerous career options. In addition to seeking employment with the EPA and NASA, students could look into such government agencies as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Noteworthy courses offered as part of the degree include EOS 304, Population Dimensions of Global Change, which combines knowledge from social sciences and environmental science to develop a global understanding of world population, issues and other related problems. Another important course, EOS 121, The Dynamic Atmosphere and Hydrosphere, examines global-scale change and spatial interactions in those realms of Earth’s natural systems.

For more information, visit the ESGS web site, the ESP web site, or contact Wong at 703-993-9260.

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