About Earth Sciences | Department of Earth Sciences | Faculty of Science | UNB

Global Site Navigation (use tab and down arrow)

Faculty of Science
UNB Fredericton

Back to Earth Sciences

About Earth Sciences

What are the Earth Sciences?

The earth is a dynamic system that involves interactions within and between the solid earth (geosphere), the hydrosphere (oceans, lakes, rivers, groundwater), the atmosphere, and the biosphere: collectively our global environment.

The Earth Sciences, or Geosciences, are those natural sciences that study both the Earth itself, and its interactions with these other 'spheres'. An earth scientist can choose to specialize in a wide variety of disciplines.

Earth Sciences at UNB

The Department of Earth Sciences offers Bachelor of Science options in the Earth Sciences, and in Environmental Geosciences as well as joint programs in earth sciences and physics. Earth Sciences offers field schools and field training opportunities throughout its 4-year degree programs.

Our comprehensive undergraduate and graduate degrees offer traditional strengths in all the major branches of earth sciences:

  • Economic geology
  • Environmental geochemistry
  • Exploration geophysics
  • Field geology
  • Igneous and metamorphic processes
  • Isotope geochemistry
  • Paleoenvironmental reconstructions
  • Paleontology
  • Planetary sciences
  • Sedimentary geology and petroleum geoscience
  • Structure and tectonics

A Bachelor of Arts in Earth Sciences, and a Minor in Earth Sciences, are also offered for students in other programs that are interested in a coherent set of earth science courses. Introductory (1000-level) lecture courses require no previous (high school) exposure to the earth sciences.

For undergraduates

Joint programs

The UNB advantage

  • Focus on field techniques and field learning
  • BSc degree tailored to assure professional registration across Canada
  • High Faculty to student ratio and personalized education experience
  • New Quartermain Earth Science Centre resources
  • Numerous student awards through endowed scholarship funds
  • Dedication to undergraduate research through fourth year honours projects
  • Access to state-of-the-art instrumentation to support earth science research
  • Strong connections with natural resource industries and government surveys
  • Active and well-organized undergraduate student associate (Bailey Society)
  • Summer field and lab assistant jobs starting at the end of second year
  • Typically 100% job placement upon graduation

W.E. Hale Fund and the McAllister/Silver Standard Fund

In addition to the required field schools, the department supports non-credit field trips in alternate years through the W.E. Hale Fund and the McAllister/Silver Standard Fund. These funds partly defray the cost for students of trips generally scheduled during spring break or after the end of the winter term.

Career opportunities


Geoscientists are disciplined to research the earth's interior make-up and surficial features, its formative and destructive processes, as well as its age, history, and development through time.

They study the origin and evolution of oceans and continents, of mountain ranges, valleys, glaciers, and lakes; the causes and effects of natural hazards, such as those created by land and rock slides, earthquakes, floods and droughts, and volcanic eruptions; the origin, migration and quality of groundwater; the monitoring and mitigation of river and coastal erosion or flooding, sea- and lake-level rise and fall, and climate change.

They also study the origin of Earth's natural resources and are extensively involved in the discovery and environmentally responsible development of the metallic minerals, salts, water, clay, sand, gravel, cement, coal, oil, and natural gas we use for construction of the built environment, for agriculture and drinking water, for communications, and for energy.

Urban and land-use planning, and efforts to clean up our environment, require a sound knowledge of earth-science processes.

Earth scientists are interdisciplinary

  • Geophysicists measure and study the gravity, magnetic and electrical fields of the earth and record and analyze seismic waves generated by earthquakes and man-made sources.
  • Geochemists deal with the chemical make-up of everything from surface and ground waters to magmas and rocks in the earth's crust, and with using geochemical techniques in the discovery of new ore reserves and in addressing environmental concerns.
  • Biogeologists are concerned with the paleontology, biogeography and behavioural evolution of fossils, paleoecological aspects of ancient life forms, history and evolution of life and establishing a relative time frame for past geological and climatic events.
  • Biogeochemists investigate the cycling through the global environment of chemical elements, from essential 'nutrients' such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, to toxic metals.

Earth scientists find employment with:

  • resource and energy industries
  • engineering and environmental organizations
  • government departments
  • university teaching and research
  • independent consultants to the aforementioned

Professional registration

In order to manage and sign-off on geoscience projects, they should seek professional registration following completion of their BSc.

Geoscience is a regulated profession in most of Canada. Individual provinces and territories have legislative acts that restrict the practice of geoscience to individuals who are registered members of professional associations. In New Brunswick, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick (APEGNB) is the licensing body. In order to meet the requirements of professional registration, specific academic training and four years of appropriate full-time experience as a geologist, or geophysicist-in-training, following graduation, are needed.

Geoscientists Canada has developed a set of guidelines for the academic training that are used by most provinces. The professional stream programs offered by the Department (Earth Sciences Option, honours and major programs; Environmental Geochemistry option, honours and major programs) meet these current guidelines. However, because the academic requirements are set by the individual provincial bodies, outside of the control of the Department of Earth Sciences, and the provincial bodies are free to change their requirements at any time, there is no guarantee that a student will meet the academic requirements for registration. Students are urged to consult the relevant provincial body to ensure that they meet the necessary subject and grade requirements.

For graduates (MSc & PhD)

  • Research-active faculty
  • Highest UNB internal research ranking
  • Active and well-organized graduate student society (GAGS)
  • Financial support through teaching & research assistantships
  • Strong links with provincial (NB-DNR) and federal (GSC) geological surveys
  • Electronic access to key research publications through UNB Libraries
  • Access to a comprehensive in-house analytical instrumentation