BYU introduces environmental geology major

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Professor Steve Nelson (left), former student Brian Selck and professor Kevin Rey talk over plans for the new environmental geology major at a research site near a Utah Lake wetland. (Josh LeMonte)

BYU’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences introduced an environmental geology major this semester now available for all students. 

Professors Steve Nelson, Josh LeMonte and Greg Carling were crucial in the new major’s creation. They hope to show students that the major is the perfect combination of scientific research, lab work and fieldwork for those looking to make a big impact on taking care of the planet. 

Getting a new program approved by the university and the Board of Trustees is not simple. Nelson was at the head of the process to get the major up and running. He said administrators have to make a convincing case that new programs are valuable for students and the university.

Once Nelson put together the required documentation, the major had to first be approved by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, then the university and finally the board.

“I worked with other BYU colleges to make sure we aren’t duplicating courses or conflicting with their courses,” he said.

Geology professor Josh LeMonte uses a metal corer to sample contaminated sediments in a tidal river on the East Coast. LeMonte helped create BYU’s new environmental geology major. (Josh LeMonte)

Nelson needed to interface with the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering, the College of Life Sciences, and the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences to get letters of support from each.

He also did extensive research on career trends that demonstrate a clear career path for students with an environmental geology major.

“Environmental jobs are continuing to grow at higher than average rates and will over the next decade. The university said, ‘let’s make sure that our students are getting those jobs,’” LeMonte said.

LeMonte is an environmental geochemist who specializes in soil chemistry. He has been teaching at BYU since August 2019 and said the university specifically hired him while they were developing this new major, wanting to add his expertise to the faculty.

Both Carling and Lemonte said there are lots of job opportunities for students when they graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the environmental geology major.

Administrators within the major would love to see students who are dedicated to understanding the earth’s natural resources and bettering the planet, Carling said.

“If a student enjoys being outdoors and enjoys finding ways to help our planet, this could be a great fit for them. We all rely on clean water and clean soil so it’s nice to be a part of something where we can make a real difference,” he said. 

All three professors individually said this new program is particularly rigorous in training students and will give them employable skill sets and a chance to help the earth.

Students can go to the Department of Geological Sciences’ website for more information about the major.

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