Earth Sciences

What is Earth sciences?

Earth sciences is the study of the Earth and its neighbours in space. This discipline deals with the origin, composition and history of our planet as well as the physical, chemical and biological processes that have changed and shaped it over the past 4.5 billion years. Today, we routinely view images of the planet from space. Studies of the Earth's continents, oceans and atmosphere reveal a complex and yet fragile, world. This view has propelled us into an extraordinary age of geoscientific research. Earth scientists commonly explore the formation of mountains, drift of the continents, sources of mineral and fossil fuel deposits and environmental hazards of an expanding human population.

New discoveries and theories in our understanding of planetary structure and function affect not only how we live but also how we relate to one another. The goal of the introductory Earth sciences program at Memorial is to share the excitement of these discoveries by providing an overview of planet Earth, its structure, its history and the role of Earth sciences in resource and environmental studies. It provides a solid foundation of knowledge and skills for Earth sciences majors and allows other students to explore Earth science topics of interest and relevance.


Why study Earth sciences?

Earth science majors, minors and students in certain joint honours programs (Earth sciences/biology, Earth sciences/chemistry, Earth sciences/geography, Earth sciences/physics and geophysics/physical oceanography) are required to take Earth Sciences 1000 and Earth Sciences 1002 in preparation for their more detailed and specialized second-year courses.

Employment opportunities for Earth sciences graduates include but are not limited to mineral or petroleum resource exploration and development, environmental assessment, protection and remediation, teaching, education and research, science journalism and publishing, as well as careers in government agencies (natural resources, geological surveys and parks and recreation). Natural resources, such as the offshore oil and gas industry and mining industry, play a crucial role in the economic and social development of the province and are major areas of employment for graduating students of this program.

Non-majors are welcome to explore a variety of course offerings, including: Earth Sciences 1000 (Earth Systems), Earth Sciences 1002 (Concepts and Methods in Earth Sciences), Earth Sciences 2150 (The Solar System), Earth Sciences 2916 (Natural Hazards on a Dynamic Earth), Earth Sciences 2917 (Gems: the Science and Politics), Earth Sciences 2918 (Earth’s Story) and Earth Sciences 2919 (Introduction to Marine Geology).

Courses available in first year

Earth Sciences 1000
Earth Systems is a survey of the structure, function and interrelations of Earth's lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. Topics include an exploration of the physical and chemical properties of planetary materials, forces driving and sustaining earth systems and biological modifiers (including humankind) on the Earth today.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Laboratories: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None
Note: NL high school students who have completed the course Earth Systems 3209 may be eligible to receive credit (three credit hours) for Earth Sciences 1000. This is subject to meeting a minimum grade on the public examination in Earth Systems 3209 and submission of a Challenge for Credit application with the Office of the Registrar upon completion of the course.

Earth Sciences 1002
Concepts and Methods in Earth Sciences provides an introduction to a broad range of concepts concerning the development of the geological record and the Earth; practical methods for collection of field based data; topics in map interpretation and geometric analysis, stratigraphy, paleontology, structure and petrology. The course is presented with an emphasis on the development of practical skills needed to pursue a career in Earth sciences.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Laboratories: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: Earth Sciences 1000
Note: A minimum grade of 55 percent in both Earth Sciences 1000 and 1002 is required for Earth sciences majors, minors and all joint programs.

Earth Sciences 2150
The Solar System describes the basic astronomy of the solar system, tracing the search to understand motion of the sun, moon and planets in the sky; modern observations of planets, moons, comets, asteroids and meteorites and what they tell us about the origin and evolution of the solar system.
Lectures: Two and a half hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Earth Sciences 2916
Natural Hazards on a Dynamic Earth describes the surface of the Earth being in a constant state of change, thereby posing risks and challenges for society. A basic understanding of geological processes in the past and present provides some context for appreciating the risks related to earthquakes, volcanic activity and mass movements, challenges related to water resources, land-use planning and waste disposal, and some background to interpret sources and consequences of climate change. The course will provide a broad perspective on contemporary issues facing society. This course is designed for students taking Earth sciences as an elective subject. This course complements traditional disciplines such as history, economics, and political science and should be of particular interest to prospective teachers.
Lectures: This is a distance course.
Prerequisite: None

Earth Sciences 2917
Gems: the science and politics introduces students to precious and semi-precious stones both from the perspective of their nature and origin and from the perspectives of geography and the socio-political issues of mining, recovery, trade and cartels. The properties that confer value upon gems (colour, clarity, cut and carat), the techniques used to enhance, fake and imitate gems and the techniques used to detect fraudulent “gems” will be covered. The course will include discussion of the diamond industry in Canada and consideration of some famous gems. This course is designed for students taking Earth sciences as an elective subject. This course complements traditional disciplines such as history, economics, and political science and should be of particular interest to teachers.
Lectures: Two and a half hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Earth Sciences 2918
Earth's Story is an overview of Earth's dynamic past of episodes of supercontinent collision and breakup, massive flooding, global warming and freezing, magnetic field reversals and continents travelling over large distances. The evolution of life is tied to this history and has had equally dramatic turns of rich growth and catastrophic extinction. Discussion will be based on Canadian geology and includes an introduction to techniques used to decipher the rock record.
Lectures: This course may be offered by distance or in class
Prerequisite: None

Earth Sciences 2919
Introduction to Marine Geology (same as Ocean Sciences 2200) is a study of the formation and evolution of oceans, including plate tectonics, mid-ocean ridges (birth place of oceans), subduction zones (where oceans are consumed), sedimentary environments such as estuaries, deltas, beaches and barrier islands, continental shelves, slopes and deep abyssal plains and special topics, including anoxic events, evolution of tides, atmosphere-ocean interactions, formation of banded iron formations, snowball Earth, black and white smokers, and how Earth modulates its climate through atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere interactions.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: Earth Sciences 1000 with a minimum grade of 55 percent

  1. Students can receive credit for only one of Earth Sciences 1000 and Ocean Sciences 2200
  2. Earth Sciences 1000 and 2919/Ocean Sciences 2200 can be used towards a minor in Oceanography.

Note: Earth Sciences 2150, 2916, 2917, 2918 are not acceptable as one of the required courses for the minor, major or honours programs in Earth sciences. Earth Sciences 2919 is acceptable as a minor course in Earth Sciences, but is not acceptable for the major program in Earth Sciences.

Sample program for first year

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science with a major in Earth Sciences will normally take the following courses in their first year:

Sample program

Fall SemesterWinter Semester
Mathematics 1000 (1090)*Mathematics 1001 (1000)*
Chemistry 1050** Chemistry 1051**
Physics 1020 (1050)***Physics 1021 (1051)***
Earth Sciences 1000Earth Sciences 1002
English 1090****English 1191, 1192, 1193 or 1110****


* Students completing Mathematics 1090/1000 will be required to complete Mathematics 1001 as well.

** Students attending Grenfell Campus for the first year of the program will normally complete Chemistry 1200/1001.

*** Students pursuing a geophysics specialization within Earth sciences will be required to complete Physics 1051. Students who complete Physics 1020 with at least 70 per cent should take Physics 1051. Students registered in Physics 1051 must also be registered in, or have previously completed, Mathematics 1001. Students who receive a grade less than 70 per cent in Physics 1020 should take Physics 1021. Students registered in Physics 1050 must also be registered in Mathematics 1000 (not 1090).

****Students attending Grenfell Campus for the first year of the program will normally complete English 1000/1001.


  1. To be formally admitted to major programs in Earth sciences, students must have successfully completed three first-year credit hours in each of the following departments: English, mathematics, chemistry, physics and Earth sciences
  2. Students are encouraged to contact the Department of Earth Sciences to declare their major in the second semester of their first year.
  3. Registration for the core second-year courses in Earth sciences normally requires that all of the first-year courses be completed. It is possible to take Mathematics 1001 as a co-requisite with second year courses in the fall of the second year of the program.
  4. Students undertaking a major or minor in Earth Sciences should note that a minimum grade of 55 percent in Earth Sciences 1000 and Earth Sciences 1002 is required for all courses in second year that have these courses as prerequisites.
  5. It is essential that students plan their first year of study with care and should consult the departmental web page.


For assistance with course selection, students should contact:
Academic Advising Centre,

Contact information

For additional information please contact:
Michelle Miskell, Manager of Academic Programs


Guide to First Year

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000