Professor giving a lecture in the greenhouse on plants

Facilities & Resources

Our facilities and resources are top-notch.


The Earth and Environmental Sciences department is housed inside the impressive Charles H. Townes Science Center. The center is L.E.E.D. gold-certified and includes a number of sustainable features, including chilled beams that use cold water for cooling, low-flow hoods throughout the building, and treated wastewater for flushing toilets. Our department has its own state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, and our students enjoy access to additional labs in the Biology and Chemistry departments.

Charles H. Townes Science Center

The facilities of the Townes Science Center are state-of-the-art and innovative. You’ll find research laboratories designed especially for watershed science, biogeochemistry, geographic information systems, geology, and hydrogeology. Computer labs and multimedia classrooms fill the 200,000-square-foot complex.

Rock and Botanical Garden

The Rock and Botanical Garden that surrounds the Charles H. Townes Science Center is designed to reflect the geology of the Southern Appalachian region. This teaching tool provides aesthetic beauty and research opportunities for those who major in our department. The garden showcases large rock specimens collected from southeast mines. Visit our rock garden.

Hendricks River Basins Research Initiative Laboratory

This laboratory is the “brain” of River Basins Research Initiative. It contains two computers and has four large tables suitable for research planning with large maps and a small research library. The lab also is the archive for more than a decade of data and paper copies of research article reprints.

Hill Biogeochemistry Laboratory

This laboratory is the heart of the analytical facilities in our department for the characterization of gaseous, liquid and solid materials. Water samples are analyzed for dissolved constituents using the following instrumentation:

  • Dionex ICS-1100  ion chromatograph with Chromeleon 7.3 software for the measurement of dissolved anions and cations in aqueous samples, with a 50 position autosampler.
  • O.I. Analytical Flow System IV autoanalyzer for the measurement of total dissolved nitrogen, including organic and inorganic nitrogen species, with a 180 position autosampler.
  • Teledyne Tekmar TOC Fusion total carbon analyzer for the measurement of dissolved inorganic and organic carbon species, with a 100 position autosampler.
  • Hewlett Packard 5890A gas chromatograph with TCD and FID detectors for the analysis of dissolved and free phase gases.
  • Turner Designs A10 fluorometer for the measurement of dissolved ammonium.
  • Hach 2000 spectrometer for a variety of other colorimetric determinations.
  • Multiple benchtop meters/electrodes for pH/temperature and potentiometric titrations.

Solid samples are analyzed using:

  • LECO TrueMac CN determinator, with a 50 position autosampler, for the %C and %N analysis of solid samples from major to trace level concentration.

The lab also contains:

  • Two Elga PureLab Chorus carbon-free water polishing systems.
  • A Flow Safe Vortex II fume hood.
  • Multiple analytical balances.
  • Various pipettors, volumetric flasks, filtration systems and other glassware needed for mixing stock solutions and diluting samples for chemical analysis.
Holder Watershed Research Laboratory

The Holder Watershed Research Laboratory is the headquarters for stream hydrology and biogeochemistry fieldwork. Water samples are filtered using three custom-made positive pressure filtration apparatuses (142 mm dia).  A Barnstead Nanopure Diamond water polishing system provides organic-free deionized water. This lab also houses multiple drying ovens.

Field equipment includes:

  • Multiple YSI field pH, dissolved O2, EC, salinity and temperature meters.
  • LaMotte 2020 Turbidimeter.
  • Model 2800 Guelph permeameter.
  • Teledyne 6712 ISCO sampler.
  • YSI 6920 Series 6 Sonde.
  • Aquaterr T-350 Soil moisture and temperature probe.
  • Various well water depth finders and soil boring/coring equipment.
  • Multiple Global Water WL16 submersible water level loggers.
  • Multiple U22 Onset water temperature loggers.
  • Tipping bucket rain gauge
  • Various surveying equipment.
  • Stream flow meter for stream gauging.
  • Class A evaporation pan.
  • Various physical groundwater flow models for class demonstration.
  • AquiferWin32 software for aquifer and slug test analysis and Groundwater Vistas for groundwater flow modeling.
Blackwell GIS Laboratory

Used for general GIS applications, 3D modeling, and statistical analysis, the Blackwell GIS Laboratory has 24 Dell workstations with a dedicated network data server. Software/hardware includes ArcGIS (site license), QGIS, Stella Modeling System, WMS, Pix4D (drone image processing), Jmp, Google Earth Pro, Microsoft Office 365, an Canon Oce 500 42″ poster printer, and a Sharp color laser printer. Department majors have card access to this lab 24/7.

Ferris Booth Foundation Geochemistry Laboratory

This laboratory houses our newest piece of instrumentation, a Teledyne Leeman Labs Prodigy 7 Dual view ICP-OES, with a 240 position autosampler for high (radial view) to trace level (axial view) analysis of dissolved elemental constituents in water samples.

The laboratory also contains equipment for the extraction of dissolved nitrate from water samples via freeze drying as silver nitrate powder for oxygen and nitrogen stable isotope analysis.

The laboratory contains two four-foot low-flow hoods, a research grade analytical balance, stirring hot plates, a Barnstead Nanopure Diamond deionized water system, and a LABCONCO FreeZone 1 L bench top freeze dry system.

The lab is also used for the sequential extraction of metals from sediment samples and the preparation of fused glass disks for XRF analysis.

Finally, this multi-purpose lab is home for the preparation of solid samples for JEOL JSM-IT200 (LA) SEM analysis in the Dept of Chemistry. The lab contains an Anatech Hummer V Pulsed Planar magnetron-triode sputter coater with sputter sources for the deposition of Au, Au/Pd and C thin films for electron microscopy.

Ferris Booth Foundation X-ray Laboratory

Students use this laboratory for the identification of minerals and the chemical analysis of rocks, soils, and sediments. The lab contains a Phillips PW2400 X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and a Rigaku MiniFlex II q/2q X-ray diffractometer that uses PDXL2 software and the PDF-2 database for whole powder pattern fitting (WPPF) and Rietveld analysis of pure minerals and mixed assemblages. The unit has a 4 position autosampler for the automated analysis of powdered samples.

Spatial Analysis Laboratory

Boasting a 16-student workroom with mirror stereoscopes and pocket stereoscopes for 3D analysis of aerial photos and satellite imageries, this laboratory includes research grade computers for GIS, drone data processing, image analysis including machine learning and AI.

Sediment Analysis Laboratory

The Sediment analysis Laboratory has a Ro-tap, several sets of sieves, an ultrasonic disaggregator, a Wiley mill, a wrist mill, and a splitter for grain analysis.

Microscopy Sectioning Laboratory

The Microscopy Sectioning Laboratory contains a Buehler Petro-Thin section system, an opaque section polishing system, a Frantz magnetic separator, an Angstrom shatter box, and a disk mill.

Rock Sawing and Crushing Laboratory

This laboratory contains one slab saw, two trim saws, and a jaw crusher.

Environmental Analysis Laboratory

This geochemistry laboratory is focused on the synthesis and characterization of carbonate minerals in support of ongoing NASA research related to the exploration of Mars.  The lab contains the following:

  • A Coy Laboratory Type B (4 glove port) vinyl anaerobic chamber, with a CAM 12 oxygen and hydrogen gas analyzer and a large capacity automatic dehumidifier.
  • Polyscience water recirculators and hot water baths
  • Two Thermo Scientific Versa Star pH/Temperature Modules, with 4 pH/temperature modules (each) and combination pH electrodes.
  • Two Cole-Parmer MasterFlex™ L/S peristaltic pumps with multichannel pump heads.
  • A Metrohm 905 Titrando, 800 Dosino, and 801 Stirrer autotitrator, with 5 and 20 mL heads, for various potentiometric titrations including total alkalinity and low level chloride concentration.
  • Six Brooks SLAMf and Smart Mass Flow MF series thermal mass flow controllers and a four channel 0254 setpoint controller for the preparation of CO2-N2 gas mixtures (0 -100%).
  • Multiple stir plates, hot plates, pipettors and top loading analytical balances.

Student Resources

We offer our students a vast array of resources to assist in their educational pursuits.

Check out our resources
Students taking a photo in front of Rocky Mountains