Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences

About the Department

Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences advances fundamental knowledge in the earth and planetary sciences and addresses large-scale questions and problems through innovative research and teaching.

Earth, environmental, and planetary phenomena affect our daily lives as well as the future of our planet. Fundamental knowledge in the Earth and planetary sciences has a direct bearing on matters of urgent interest to scientists, policymakers, and the public. Understanding the historic fluctuations and human impact on the Earth’s climate allows societies better prepare for disasters, adapt to changing environments, and support effective climate action. Exploring how Earth compares to other planets and what occurs below its surface allows scientists to innovate new technologies and prepare for future space exploration. Investigating the way dangerous substances can move through groundwater helps keep our communities safe and healthy. 

Through collaborative and interdisciplinary research and learning opportunities, our students and faculty seek to better understand the complex nature of our world, and positively impact environmental challenges faced across the globe. 

National Standing

Our Department is widely recognized for excellence in teaching and research. DEEPS is Brown's top Graduate Program. In 2022, USA Today ranked DEEPS at #12 among peer institutions, including Caltech, MIT, WHOI, Stanford, and Washington University. 

Members of the faculty have been recognized for outstanding accomplishments with elections to fellowship in major scientific societies, such as the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Geological Society of America, and the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS). Faculty awards include RI Professor of the Year, Outstanding Educator by the Association of Women Geologists, Guggenheim and Sloan Fellows and the Bowen and Macelwane Awards from the AGU. Our faculty also helps shape the future direction of the science through service as members and chairs of many national and international advisory committees and through leadership positions in scientific societies and scientific expeditions.


From Martha Mitchell’s "Encyclopedia Brunoniana"

Geology was recognized as a separate study at Brown University when George Ide Chace was appointed professor of chemistry, physiology, and geology in 1836.  

The popularity of geology as a study was shown when the class of 1871, by some circumstance deprived of the usual course in junior year, contrived to have Professor Chace deliver a series of lectures for them. The students derived great benefit from this true “elective” course, to which they gave great attention, although they were obliged neither to recite nor be examined. The next year Chace was assigned to give a course in physical geography and geology to the junior class. Alpheus Spring Packard became professor of zoology and geology in 1878 and was succeeded at his death in 1905 by Charles Wilson Brown, who set up a separate Department of Geology in the basement of Sayles Hall. A student organization called “Pick and Hammer Club” existed in the 1930s to conduct field trips and bring prominent speakers in the field of geology to the campus. 

In the middle 1960s the department acquired a new name. “Geology” no longer described the work of geophysicist Harkrider, or structural geologist Chapple, or geochemist Giletti. “Earth sciences,” as an alternative was rejected, because it would not cover Mutch’s investigation of geologic material from space. So the name of the department was changed to “Department of Geological Sciences.”