Florida State announces new Department of Earth, Ocean, Atmospheric Science

Earth Day 2010 marked the official creation of Florida State University’s new Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science (EOAS), which combines the former departments of meteorology, oceanography and geological sciences into one unit in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“It was the graduate students who came up with the idea of tying the official creation date of the department to the celebration of Earth Day,” said Lynn Dudley, professor and chair of the new EOAS department. Earth Day, which was established 40 years ago to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment, is April 22.

“We felt it would be very appropriate to have the whole world come together in one department on Earth Day,” said meteorology graduate student Alec Bogdanoff.

The departmental merger, which reflects a national trend toward interdisciplinary environmental science programs, creates high-value degrees for students and increased opportunities for collaborative research among faculty members in emerging research areas.

“Combining departments is a definite trend in the geosciences,” Dudley said. “Universities that have a breadth of geosciences in one department or college include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Purdue, the University of California-Irvine, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Penn State, and Arizona State.”


Jeff Chanton, the John W. Winchester Professor of Oceanography, agreed.

“I think the new department will attract more undergraduates to the sciences,” he said. “Young people are very concerned about the environment because of issues that range from climate change to water pollution. And for graduate students, the new department will offer opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas.”

In Fall 2010, the EOAS department will officially begin offering two new bachelor’s degrees, a B.S. in environmental science and a B.A. in environmental science and policy. In addition, the department will offer a B.S. degree in meteorology, as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology, meteorology and oceanography.

Dudley said the new bachelor’s degrees are already generating a good deal of interest among students, and he noted that a college salary report issued by PayScale, Inc., shows environmental science as the 24th best-paying bachelor’s degree, with a median starting salary of $43,300 and a mid-career median salary of $78,700.

Besides preparing students for critical jobs, the merger of the three departments also creates one of the largest departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. This formidable lineup of scientists enables a greater amount of interdisciplinary research to solve increasingly complex environmental problems in Florida and worldwide.

“Water will be the oil of the coming decades,” said Dudley, “and the new department has the resources to address many of the key interdisciplinary issues, which include tropical meteorology and ocean temperature feedbacks; extreme weather events and risk assessment and mitigation; effects of climate change on storm intensity and drought; and the effects of drought on forest and agriculture soil moisture.”


Next year, the National Science Foundation alone will spend almost 11 percent of its annual budget on environmental research and education. Increasingly, funding agencies such as the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE) recognize that these complex environmental challenges are best solved when experts from several disciplines work together and use the best computational and research tools available.

Dudley said the new EOAS department at Florida State has the expertise to address the three critical needs identified in 2009 by NSF for the geosciences: understanding and forecasting the behavior of a complex and evolving Earth system; reducing human vulnerability to intense and catastrophic events such as earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, and floods; and training the next generation of geoscientists.

“There will be a chain reaction of success,” said Dean Joseph Travis of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The new undergraduate degrees will be very popular, which will promote growth in faculty numbers, which in turn will produce more opportunities for students, giving us a robust, multifaceted geoscience unit that will be a defining feature of Florida State University.”
For more information about the new bachelor’s degrees in environmental science, visit this link.