In Earth and Environmental Sciences, we are committed to involving you in a first-rate, in-depth, focused research program that serves as a capstone undergraduate experience for bachelor of science students. Our students undertake laboratory and/or field-intensive research projects utilizing our up-to-date chemical analytical, computational, and field equipment facilities in the department.

The research allows you to study, in detail, certain aspects of the Earth System and global ecosystems. These student-led research programs are tailored to an individual student’s particular curiosity and interests. Research is closely supervised and mentored by an experienced faculty member in that particular subject. Research work is initiated in the summer before the student’s senior year, and research lasts through the student’s senior year.

Our research programs have a proven track record of producing significant new results, which are presented as talks or posters at professional meetings by the student researcher. We work cooperatively with the Biology Department and the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability to develop undergraduate research opportunities. Students interested in field studies and geologic mapping in the Piedmont of Upstate South Carolina are logistically supported in their fieldwork by the South Carolina Geological Survey. Whatever your interest may be, you will find the resources and the support for your research work through our department.

River Basins Research Initiative

The River Basins Research Initiative looks at how the transformation of the local and regional landscape alters soils, rivers, and streams in regard to their biogeochemical processes, hydrology, and ecology across Upstate South Carolina. Within this framework, there is plenty of room for you to design your own research track. The program began in 1996 with two students studying a watershed. Today, it’s a thriving summer research program funded by many grant sources and institutions. We have served more than 200 students, with about half of our participants coming from other universities. The program aims to develop every student as a scientist through collaborative research projects with faculty.

The research involves faculty and students from the Biology Department, as well as the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. We take special pride in the way students and faculty members work together as colleagues in this project. Learn more about the River Basins Research Initiative.

Southern Appalachian Mountains Piedmont Mapping

New geologic mapping in the Piedmont of the Southern Appalachian Mountains has been undertaken by numerous Furman undergraduates since 1995. Detailed mapping of complex polyphase fold and fault patterns in the metamorphic rocks of Upstate South Carolina has been undertaken at quadrangle (1:24,000) scale. The object of the research is to systematically collect relevant geologic, structural, and petrologic information that will lead to a better understanding of the area’s complex Taconic (Ordovician), Neoacadian (Devonian-early Carboniferous), Alleghanian (Carboniferous-Permian), Mesozoic, and Neogene geologic history. It is due to long-term plate tectonic activity that has affected this region.

The South Carolina Geological Survey provides complete logistical support for the fieldwork on these mapping projects. In addition, it provides some technical cartographic assistance in the map-making and publishing process. These geologic maps (five completed quadrangles done by Furman students, each about 65 square miles) currently are available on the organization’s website. They are used by the public (for example, by city planners to make decisions requiring basic geologic information, or for recreational purposes, or by other professionals).

Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing

One of the important issues we study is how expanded urban growth is impacting local streams and rivers in Upstate South Carolina. GIS and Remote Sensing research projects study short- and long-term changes in the water quality, chemistry, and ecology of streams and riverbanks in the region. This research involves the ways nature deals with the loss of space. You can study hydrologic cycles by means of GIS-based modeling and remote sensing. Recent projects also have been involved with analyzing the extent, occurrence, and distribution of widespread landslides and their causal mechanisms in the rugged Middle Saluda River Valley along the foot of the Blue Ridge Front. GIS is a tool with wide application to all disciplines and majors at Furman. Visit the GIS blog.

David E. Shi Center for Sustainability

Founded in 2008, the Shi Center for Sustainability provides our students with a wide range of creative sustainability projects. The center supports student sustainability fellowships, which many of our majors are awarded. The fellowships engage students in research and internships with local government agencies and community organizations, as well as Furman. Examples include working with the City of Greenville, local nonprofit organizations, and the university’s greenhouse gas inventory. The center also supports farming, and other activities to raise awareness about sustainable living. Learn more about the Shi Center.