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Climate Science

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Climate impacts global environmental and ecological systems, human health, water availability, agricultural systems and food security, human migrations, and economic systems. Future climate change is projected to further worsen food insecurity, water scarcity, human migrations, and global conflict.

This major is designed to give the students a solid foundation on how the climate system works and competency in areas of data analysis, planning and mitigation, and science communication. Students will take core courses in climate science and complementary areas, and select at least one focus area for additional specialization. Focus areas include: advanced climate science; data visualization; design and planning for sustainability; food, agriculture and biodiversity; policy and human behavior; and science communication.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Graduates of the Climate Science degree will have the skills and knowledge to:

  1. Understand scientific principles and their application to scientific inquiry and to societal concerns relating to climate science.
  2. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the climate system, how it works on multiple timescales, and the utility of tools, such as models, and their strengths and limitations in the context of climate science.
  3. Demonstrate a broad understanding of climate issues and policies.
  4. Think critically about the range of climate information, data, and literature coming from a variety of sources and distill application-relevant knowledge.
  5. Demonstrate proficiency in data analysis and problem-solving of relevant climate systems, issues, and challenges.
  6. Understand societal concerns related to climate change to develop and/or promote practical and applied research within the climate change research community.
  7. Work with diverse teams whose members have a range of professional and disciplinary skills relevant to climate issues.
  8. Work to identify climate-related needs and develop strategies to address these needs.
  9. Use systems thinking approaches to better understand/solve climate change issues.
  10. Effectively communicate in oral, written, and visual formats.

Climate Science Core Curriculum

C R P 293Environmental Planning3
or SOC 220 Globalization and Sustainability
ECON 380Energy, Environmental and Resource Economics3
GEOL 100How the Earth Works3
or GEOL 101 Environmental Geology: Earth in Crisis
GEOL 100LHow the Earth Works: Laboratory1
GEOL 324Energy and the Environment3
GEOL 415Paleoclimatology3
JL MC 347Science Communication3
MTEOR 140Climate and Society3
MTEOR 206Introduction to Weather and Climate3
MTEOR 360Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions3
MTEOR 404Global Change3
Capstone Choice2
Total Credits33

Required Supporting Courses

CHEM 163
College Chemistry
and Laboratory in College Chemistry *
or CHEM 167
General Chemistry for Engineering Students
and Laboratory in General Chemistry for Engineering
or CHEM 201
Advanced General Chemistry
and Laboratory in Advanced General Chemistry
ECON 101Principles of Microeconomics3
MATH 160Survey of Calculus (MATH 165 required for Advanced Climate Science Pathway)4
or MATH 165 Calculus I
PHYS 131
General Physics I
and General Physics I Laboratory
or PHYS 231
Introduction to Classical Physics I
and Introduction to Classical Physics I Laboratory
STAT 305Engineering Statistics3
or STAT 101 Principles of Statistics
or STAT 104 Introduction to Statistics
Total Credits20-21

Students with previously earned credit for CHEM 177 and CHEM 177L may use it to meet this requirement. 

Pathway Requirement 

Students must complete one specialized pathway. All pathways require at least 15 credits; students choosing the Advanced Climate Science Pathway will complete 20 credits. All pathways require 9 credits at the 300-level or higher. Students are encouraged to carefully review course prerequisites when planning course selections in their chosen pathways.

  • Advanced Climate Science
  • Data Visualization
  • Design and Planning for Sustainability
  • Food, Agriculture and Biodiversity
  • Policy and Human Behavior
  • Science Communication

Advanced Climate Science

Advanced Climate Science requires MATH 166; PHYS 132 or PHYS 232; plus 12 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
MATH 166Calculus II4
PHYS 132General Physics II4
or PHYS 232 Introduction to Classical Physics II
12 credits from the following:
AGRON 405Soil-Plant-Animal-Atmosphere Physics3
AGRON 406World Climates3
GEOL 402Watershed Hydrology3
GEOL 411Hydrogeology4
GEOL 452Intro GIS for Geoscientists (or other advanced GIS course such as GEOL 488)3
GEOL 468Applied Geostatistics for Geoscientists3
GEOL 474Glacial and Quaternary Geology3
GEOL 479Surficial Processes3
GEOL 483Environmental Biogeochemistry3
GEOL 489Survey of Remote Sensing Technologies3
MTEOR 227Computational Meteorology I (or other computer programming course such as GEOL 559)3
MTEOR 301General Meteorology4
MTEOR 341Atmospheric Physics I3
MTEOR 408XNumerical Weather and Climate Prediction3
MTEOR 452Climate Modeling3

Data Visualization

Data Visualization requires 15 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
ARCH 439Computational Design Theory3
ARTIS 212Studio Fundamentals: Digital Media3
ARTIS 308Computer Modeling, Rendering and Virtual Photography3
ARTIS 408Principles of 3D Animation3
ARTIS 470XData, Code, and Form3
ARTIS 473Video Art3
ARTIS 475Interactive Art3
C R P 251Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems3
C R P 351Intermediate Geographic Information Systems3
C R P 449Geodesign: Planning for Sustainable Futures3
C R P 456GIS Programming and Automation3
GEOL 452Intro GIS for Geoscientists3
GEOL 488Raster GIS for Geoscientists3
L A 211Digital Design Methods for Landscape Architecture3
L A 454Fundamentals of Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis3
L A 459Digital Design Methods for Landscape Architecture3
STAT 332Visual Communication of Quantitative Information3

Design and Planning for Sustainability

Design and Planning for Sustainability requires 15 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
ARCH 451Whole Building Energy Performance Modeling3
ARCH 558Sustainability and Green Architecture3
C R P 251Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems3
C R P 291World Cities and Globalization3
C R P 293Environmental Planning3
C R P 301Urban Analytical Methods4
C R P 351Intermediate Geographic Information Systems3
C R P 383Theory of the Planning Process3
C R P 445Transportation Policy and Planning3
C R P 449Geodesign: Planning for Sustainable Futures3
C R P 455Smart and Sustainable Cities3
C R P 457Geogames for Civic Engagement3
C R P 460Social Justice and Planning3
C R P 484Sustainable Communities3
C R P 492Planning Law, Administration and Implementation3
GEOL 452Intro GIS for Geoscientists3
GEOL 488Raster GIS for Geoscientists3
L A 270Foundations in Natural Resource Policy and History3

Food, Agriculture and Biodiversity

Food, Agriculture and Biodiversity requires 15 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
A ECL 231Principles of Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation3
A ECL 471Introductory Conservation Biology3
AGRON 180Global Agriculture in a Changing World3
AGRON 181Introduction to Crop Science3
AGRON 182Introduction to Soil Science3
AGRON 316Crop Structure-Function Relationships3
AGRON 317Principles of Weed Science3
AGRON 334Forage Crop Management3
AGRON 342World Food Issues: Past and Present3
AGRON 405Soil-Plant-Animal-Atmosphere Physics3
AGRON 406World Climates3
BIOL 204Biodiversity2
BIOL 211Principles of Biology I3
BIOL 312Ecology4
BIOL 355Plants and People3
BIOL 366Plant Systematics4
BIOL 370GIS for Ecology and Environmental Science3
or NREM 446 Integrating GPS and GIS for Natural Resource Management
ENT 370Insect Biology3
or A ECL 366 Natural History of Iowa Vertebrates
or BIOL 354 Animal Behavior
ENT 374Insects and Our Health3
ENT 471Insect Ecology3
GLOBE 304Socio-Economic Global Resource Systems3
GLOBE 360Global Health3
HORT 342Landscape Plant Installation, Establishment, and Management3
HORT 475Urban Forestry3
NREM 301Natural Resource Ecology and Soils4
NREM 311Field Ecology in Montana4
NREM 390Fire Ecology and Management3
NREM 452Ecosystem Management3

Policy and Human Behavior

Policy and Human Behavior requires POL S 283 plus 12 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
POL S 283Introduction to Environmental Politics and Policies3
12 credits from the following:
HIST 362Global Environmental History3
HIST 363U. S. Environmental History3
PHIL 230Moral Theory and Practice3
PHIL 330Ethical Theory3
PHIL 334Environmental Ethics3
POL S 335Science, Technology, and Public Policy3
POL S 344Public Policy3
POL S 443Energy Policy3
POL S 480Ethics and Public Policy3
PSYCH 318Judgment and Decision Making3
SOC 220Globalization and Sustainability3
SOC 382Environmental Sociology3
SOC 331Social Class and Inequality3
SOC 348Global Poverty, Resources and Sustainable Development3

Science Communication

Science Communication requires 15 credits from the choices listed. The pathway requires 9 credits at the 300-level or higher.
BPM I 323Scientific Illustration Principles and Techniques3
BPM I 326Illustration and Illustration Software3
BPM I 327Illustration as Communication3
COMST 327Persuasion and Social Influence3
ENGL 332Visual Communication of Quantitative Information3
ENGL 355Literature and the Environment3
ENGL 477Seminar in Technical Communication3
JL MC 260Media Controversies in Science and Technology3
JL MC 401Mass Communication Theory3
JL MC 474Communication Technology and Social Change3
JL MC 476World Communication Systems3
PHIL 206Introduction to Logic and Scientific Reasoning3
P R 220Principles of Public Relations3
P R 305Publicity Methods3
P R 323XStrategic Communication in Agriculture and the Environment3

 As majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Climate Science students must meet College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and University-wide requirements for graduation in addition to those stated above for the major.

LAS majors require a minimum of 120 credits, including a minimum of 45 credits at the 300/400 level. You must also complete the LAS world language requirement.

Communication Proficiency requirement: According to the university-wide Communication Proficiency Grade Requirement, students must demonstrate their communication proficiency by earning a grade of C or better in ENGL 250.

Students in all ISU majors must complete a three-credit course in U.S. diversity and a three-credit course in international perspectives. Check ( for a list of approved courses. Discuss with your advisor how the two courses that you select can be applied to your graduation plan.

Climate Science 4-Year Plan

This plan is an example only; students should discuss their graduation plan with their advisor.

GEOL 1121GEOL 1131
MTEOR 1403SOC 2203
GEOL 1003CHEM 1634
GEOL 100L1CHEM 163L1
STAT 1014MTEOR 2063
ENGL 1503Arts and Humanities choice3
 15 15
ECON 1013GEOL 3243
MATH 1604ECON 3803
ENGL 2503Arts and Humanities choice3
LIB 1601Climate Science Pathway choice3
PHYS 1314U.S. Diversity choice3
PHYS 131L1 
 16 15
MTEOR 4043MTEOR 3603
GEOL 4153JL MC 3473
Climate Science Pathway choice (300+)3Climate Science Pathway choice (300+)3
Arts and Humanities choice3Social Science choice3
Elective (300+ level)3Elective (300+ level)3
 15 15
Climate Science Pathway choice (300+)3Climate Science Pathway choice3
Elective (300+ level)3Climate Science Capstone Course2
Arts and Humanities choice3Elective (300+ level)3
Elective (300+ level)3Elective (300+ level)3
World Language 101 choice/Elective3-4World Language 102 choice/Elective3-4
 15-16 14-15
Total Credits: 120-122