Academic Catalog 2023-2024

Earth Science

College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences
Department of Earth Science and Geography

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. 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 mass extinctions occur, and what caused them?
  • What is plate tectonics, and how do tectonic plates interact? How do mountains form? 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, and how might the climate change in the future? What are 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 supply versus demand for 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 Earth Science and Geography Department has a map library containing several thousand map sheets. The department also has two dedicated computer laboratories, the Earth Sciences Spatial Analysis Laboratory (ESSAL) which acts as a center for remote sensing and GIS-based research projects, and a teaching laboratory that provides computer-based teaching with an emphasis on geotechniques. These labs provide sophisticated image processing and spatial analysis software as well as libraries of satellite imagery and spatial databases. There is also a climate research laboratory with specialized equipment for analyzing tree rings and cave deposits. Additional equipment includes Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and advanced instruments for field data collection.

The faculty have expertise in plate tectonics, historical geology, and field geology; hydrology, atmospheric science, air quality, climate change, and landscape change; geographic information systems, remote sensing, and sensor networks, plus urban planning, environmental planning, and environmental science. 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, four years of 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.

Graduation With Honors

An undergraduate student may be a candidate for graduation with Honors in Earth Science provided they meet 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.