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About the Department of Earth and Spatial Sciences

Why Earth & Spatial Science at the University of Idaho?

Idaho is an amazing place to earn a degree in Earth and Spatial Sciences. Besides the incredible scenery and natural resources that Idaho and the surrounding Intermountain West region offer, U of I’s ESS Department is one of the top programs for geography and geology in the western US.

We work and cooperate with numerous local, state, and Federal agencies in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Utah, as well as in several countries overseas. The U of I—Moscow campus is located at the transition between the rolling hills of the Palouse region (the Tuscany of the USA) to the west and the Northern Rocky Mountains to the east. Within 10–30 minutes from campus, the rolling hills and buttes of the Palouse offer incredible hiking, camping, biking, and wine-tasting activities. To the east are the Rocky Mountains, and within an hour of the campus you can hike, raft, kayak, backpack, camp, ski/snowboard, attend music festivals, and eat amazing food. We are 1.5 hours from beautiful Coeur d'Alene, within a 4 hour drive from over 10 National Forests/Wilderness areas, and 7 hours from the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

What is Earth & Spatial Science?

Earth Scientists strive to understand how the earth works, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the inner core. We use the information gathered about earth processes to develop solutions to society’s most challenging problems, like protection from natural hazards and climate change. We study the origin and evolution of our planet; the chemical and physical properties of minerals, rocks, and fluids; the structure of our mobile crust—its newly forming ocean floors and its ancient drifting continents; the history of life; and the human adaptation to natural hazards such as hurricanes, drought, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods. The study of the earth is interdisciplinary, combing a knowledge of geography and geology with a solid background in all sciences, and this is what sets ESS apart from other majors. If you are curious about the planet on which we live, challenged by problems which involve the Earth, and are intrigued by the potential of a subject which combines the best of the sciences – both physical and social, ESS is a major you should consider.

So what can you expect during your ESS courses?

An amazing experience studying all of Earth’s systems, our environment, the history of our planet, and how we interact with it! This isn't just about identifying rocks and minerals; studying Earth & Spatial Sciences means studying how the entire Earth works, from the fiery volcanoes to the billion-year-old seas on our doorstep to the human impacts on our environment. Many students choose to study Earth Sciences because of the time they get to spend outside on field trips. Students in the department get to experience some of the most beautiful places in the country, from attending field camp in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Montana, and Utah (Field Camp I and II) to studying the giant glacial floods across the Lewis and Clark Valley (Sedimentology and Stratigraphy) or exposures of the deep crust in the Panhandle (Structural Geology). Other students appreciate the low student to faculty ratio of our courses and the chances to work one-on-one with world-class researchers for independent research projects, laboratory assistantships, and senior thesis projects.

What can I do with a degree in Earth & Spatial Sciences?

Lots of things, and it depends on your interests! Many recent graduates pursue careers in the environmental, technical, and scientific consulting industries, and many find success in the energy, mineral, and water resource sectors. Our graduates also work for state and federal government agencies, and others pursue graduate degrees and research positions at research institutes, laboratories, or colleges and universities. An ESS degree provides the background and skills to move into a wide array of careers and graduate degrees, including Geography, Geology, Hydrology, Forensic Science, Environmental Science, Conservation, Sustainability, Atmospheric Science, Urban and Regional Planning, Education…and more!


Department of Earth and Spatial Sciences

Physical Address:
McClure 201

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3021
Moscow ID, 83843-3021

Geography: 208-885-6216
Geology: 208-885-6192