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Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Environmental earth and soil scientists work to improve the fragile relationship between humans and the natural environment. They sustainably manage our utilization of land, water and other natural resources, and try to reduce the effects of climate change.

San Luis Obispo, California

The core of the curriculum is composed of geology, soil science, geography and basic science courses and is strengthened by a diverse array of related topical and technical specialties, including climate change studies, environmental mitigation strategies, environmental policy and management, forest and environmental practices, geospatial technology, hydrology, soil geotechnical studies, sustainable agriculture and urban forestry.

Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences Curriculum

Applications in GIS

Learn how to use Geographic Information System (GIS) computer software to explore environmental, natural resource, social and economic issues using spatial data.

Soil Ecology

Study biochemical activities, ecology and environmental implications of soil organisms and critically evaluate the effects of soil organisms on the formation, characteristics and productivity of soils.

Structural Geology

Investigate mountain building processes and learn to recognize, interpret and depict geologic structures and rock deformation through the study of plate tectonics.


With a concentration in geology, you will learn a broad variety of geologic subdisciplines, including mineralogy, petrology, seismology, stratigraphy, geochemistry, geomorphology and structural geology. The curriculum emphasizes methods of data collection, interpretation and professional communication of results and leaves you capable of critically evaluating geologic reports within the context of our evolving societal needs. This concentration qualifies students to take the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Geologist-in-Training Examination and satisfies the academic preparation requirement for pursing the Professional Geologist licensing program in the state of California.

More About Geology


You will learn the fundamentals of a broad variety of hydrologic sub disciplines including vadose zone hydrology, groundwater hydrology, soil erosion control, water quality and watershed management. The curriculum emphasizes methods of data collection, interpretation and professional communication of results. This concentration qualifies you to work in a water-related position for federal and state agencies, private companies and environmental consulting firms.

More About Hydrology

About the Program

The environmental earth and soil sciences program provides a strong foundation and the practical experiences needed to improve the way we manage the earth’s land, water, and atmospheric resources.

You will receive detailed and thorough training in the natural and cultural processes that govern the relationship between humans and their habitats and the expertise to improve this relationship. Environmental earth and soil sciences majors can choose between a geology or hydrology concentration, or a more general path. Regardless of concentration, you will have access to diverse faculty and laboratories across campus as well as the real-world environmental and cultural setting of California's Central Coast. The program will also prepare you to meet the educational requirements for professional certification in a number of areas (e.g. erosion and sediment control, hydrology, soil conservation, soil science).

Learn by Doing

You will take your classroom knowledge outdoors and gain hands-on experience with equipment and techniques in common use by environmental scientists, geologists, natural resources managers, soil scientists, foresters and agricultural scientists. By analyzing rock, soil, water, plant and tree samples, you will learn how to develop erosion and sediment control plans, farm water quality plans and more. With access to over 3,000 acres of riparian areas, forest, rangeland, agricultural land, as well as greenhouse research space, you will have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with expert faculty, studying the methods of resource conservation applied through sustainable management techniques.

Students collecting soil samples

Analyze Soil in the Field

Describe, classify and interpret soils in the field in a competitive setting.

Our Graduates

Our graduates specialize in environmental assessment and management of natural resources and are prepared for a broad range of professional careers in environmental science, forestry and natural resources management.

Careers range from forester, park administrator, resource planner, watershed manager, hydrologist, fire and fuels manager, GIS specialist and many other areas. Environmental earth and soil sciences graduates possess the understanding, flexibility and tools to appreciate and adapt to a changing world and its employment opportunities.