What's in a name? According to the students and faculty within the newly unveiled Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science—formerly the geology department—quite a bit.
"This name reflects changes to the curriculum and two recent faculty additions to the department: Collin Roesler (oceanographer) and Phil Camill (climate change scientist)," wrote Associate Professor Rachel Beane in an e-mail to the Orient.
"This is exciting news for majors and for other students who find their interests overlapping with earth and oceanographic science [EOS]," she added.
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology Phil Camill described the changes as reflective of the direction in which many prominent science agencies are moving.
"It's a shift that is consistent with where the other geosciences are headed around the world," said Camill. "With the relevance of earth-system science, it makes it clear to students that these sorts of courses can help shape their Bowdoin experience."
In recent years, the geology department has had a relatively small presence in the academic community at Bowdoin, with only three full-time professors and less than 20 declared majors.
Sixteen students are currently declared majors, a number that Associate Professor of EOS Ed Laine would like to see grow even more.
"[Our numbers] have been holding steady for the last few years, and we're certainly hoping that these changes will increase them," he said.
In addition to the new name, the Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science has also redesigned its academic program to offer restructured courses at every level of the department.
"We're making all our preparatory courses an introduction to the major," said Laine, in reference the departmental shift toward a more unified curriculum.
The department will also offer a course on biogeochemistry at the 200-level, taught by Camill. Both Laine and Associate Professor of EOS Peter Lea described biogeochemistry as central to the new focus of the department.
"Biogeochemistry arguably is the quintessential course that links together earth and ocean science," said Lea. "Traditionally, there's been a disciplinary division between biology and chemistry, and geology was left in the middle."
Camill described his new course as a fundamental transition for any student interested in pursuing earth and oceanographic sciences.
"It's about how the living world and physical world interact," he said. "Once students have had that, they can step into the upper-level EOS courses and have a strong background."
"A geoscience background is critical for understanding modern global issues...students will emerge with a holistic understanding with how earth systems actually interact," added Camill.
The department decided to alter the focus of its senior-level classes as well, creating two new courses that will stress the importance of research-based experience.
"Our students are going out and undertaking research where the answer is unknown and you're operating as a real scientist," said Lea. "The road test part of a science education."
The new name, redesigned curriculum and expanded faculty was a result of the department's External Review, which each department must complete every 10 years.
"The review involves a department undergoing a self-study, and then an external review from experts in the field," said Lea. "They talk to students, faculty, deans, even the [College] president...We had our self-study in November and were strongly encouraged by the external committee to look at ourselves in a new light."
"[The external review committee] said we weren't the traditional program that looked at rocks and geology," said Camill. "Our identity was really about earth and ocean processes."
"When we got [the external review] report back a few weeks later, we took that very seriously," added Lea. "We decided, yes, we should transform ourselves."
The EOS department faced some opposition from other disciplines during the approval process.
"Change is hard," said Lea. "The biology and physics departments were probably the most concerned. There are people within those departments who deal with studies of earth and ocean science and wondered how this new department would be structured to work with them."
"People were definitely concerned," echoed Leah. "But it's strengthened what we do."
The reaction of students studying within the department has been largely positive in the days since the news of the departmental changes emerged earlier this week.
"The department is headed in the right direction," wrote Matt Ramos '12, a geophysics major, in an e-mail to the Orient. "Bowdoin's location has a lot to offer in regard to earth and oceanographic studies. It is smart to take advantage of that and base a department around it."
"There is no better place to study these natural sciences than on the coast of Maine," agreed Jane Koopman '10, an environmental studies and geology major. "It's an opportunity that any interested Bowdoin student should certainly take advantage of."
"It makes me wish I was a freshman," wrote Jeff Bush '10.