Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Florida State Geosciences In An Existential Quandary

Geology and livelihoods - 5

I've been having an email to and fro with my Ph.D adviser. There is bad news coming out of Florida State Univ, Geology department. The extreme scenario is that the department may be dissolved. There is a chance that budget cuts may be that bad. Faculty has proposed a workaround that may save the program or at least some part of it and that would be by merging with Oceanography. The joint undergraduate degree will go by the name "Environmental Science" and would have less stringent requirements of math and physics.

Such an interdisciplinary degree course might mean a number of core geology courses might not be taught at all. I just wonder if crystallography, mineral optics, advanced igneous / metamorphic will get axed ... along with a few faculty! Apparently geoscience enrollment at Florida State has been in the decline for the last decade or so and the University going through a list of departments targeted geology .. and presumably oceanography.

I don't have news on what the syllabus of this new proposed course would be like. Florida State offered quite a well rounded geology undergraduate degree with a really good summer field camp in New Mexico for majors. By the name of it - Environmental Science- it looks like the orientation will be more towards applied courses... you know getting graduates trained for the modern marketplace. Maybe courses will be tailored to address problems close to home. Those would be coastal processes, surface and groundwater hydrology, soil sciences..?

All this doesn't really go too well with less math and physics. Students with a math background would have an advantage in the the modern marketplace whether they come out with a geology degree or an environmental science one. But the department and the University is in survival mode right now and getting more students enrolled is the priority even if that means lowering the standard of a science degree. I can't help thinking whether in a weird way this new arrangement might help at least some students think about the graduate geoscience stream. I've run into students taking their first undergraduate geology course, liking it, but then balking at the prospect of graduating in geology because of the calculus requirement. So they stop taking geology courses after that. Maybe this way with no math requirement a lot more students might complete an environmental sciences undergraduate degree and then decide that they like the subject enough to get over their fear of math which would be part of the graduate degree requirement.

That's just me trying to put a positive spin on a damp situation. I hope some survival strategy works and faculty don't lose their jobs ... chances are that some might. And right now I'm just upset that come fall my old department will be living only in my memory.

See: Geology and livelihoods


  1. Thanks so much for posting on these ongoing travesties. I've hardly been able to get any info from my 'inside' sources. I'll try to keep updated on your posts. FWIW I've just added 3 links on

  2. thanks Jim. the latest I heard was that the faculty will try to save the undergraduate geology program. Not sure where that is headed. the graduate program may be merged with Meteorology and Oceanography. i will post more as and when I hear some more news.