Capstone in Earth and Climate Sciences

MDI sea stack field tripThe University of Maine requires a Capstone experience. According to University policy: “The goal is to draw together the various threads of the undergraduate program that bear directly upon the academic major in an experience that typifies the work of professionals within the discipline.”

As it applies to the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, students completing a Capstone experience will:

  • Develop problem-solving skills while working within a natural system. Natural systems include complex, variable, and non-ideal behavior, and we expect ERS majors to work within those systems to (a) define the relevant types of observations necessary to solve a given problem, (b) execute and record those observations, and (c) synthesize those observations to solve the problem.
  • Develop spatial cognition and reasoning. Geographical concepts are at the heart of many Earth and climate science fields, and we expect graduating students to demonstrate an ability to (a) utilize geographic coordinates in gathering and recording data, and (b) employ spatial reasoning to address geoscience questions.

ERS 499 is required of B.S. and B.A. students because it augments lecture- and laboratory-based learning by providing outdoor, “real world” situations in locations where geological features are readily observed. The skills developed in the course are highly valued in many geoscience professions. Because this experience brings together academic and field experiences, the course also serves as the Capstone course for our undergraduate degrees.

We require that all students complete ERS 499. Most students satisfy this requirement by attending an approved field camp. In the event of extraordinary circumstances, we will consider alternative paths to satisfy the Capstone requirement. Therefore, ERS499 requires that students satisfactorily complete either:

  1. an approved four- to six-week field camp


  1. equivalent Earth or climate science research activities

For both options you MUST inform the Undergraduate Coordinator of your plans by the last day of classes in December in the calendar year PRIOR to your planned completion of Capstone.

Field Camp

We expect students to attend field camp. The steps you should follow to get credit for ERS499 are:

  1. At least six months before field camp (typically November), discuss with your academic advisor places you are considering applying. He or she will be able to give you guidance and identify the kinds of programs that are approved as a Capstone experience. For a list of recently attended field camps, see the Undergraduate Coordinator.
  2. Apply for field camps.
  3. Once you have been accepted and selected a camp, inform the Undergraduate Coordinator.
  4. Complete the domestic study away form so that credit from field camp can transfer to UMaine for ERS499.
  5. Make sure your final grade for the camp is sent to UMaine.

Equivalent Earth or climate science research activities

Selection of this option requires students to be proactive in identifying a path to satisfy the Capstone requirements. Recognize that not all faculty members may be able to serve as advisors in any given year; agreeing to supervise a project is at their discretion.

  1. At least two months before your planned experience, you must submit a letter of commitment from your faculty advisor and a 1-2 page proposal to the Undergraduate Coordinator:
  • describing the planned experience
  • explaining how the experience meets the expectations of ERS499 AND satisfies the expectations of the Capstone requirement.  More specifically, a proposal must demonstrate how the experience:
  1. draws together the various threads of the School’s undergraduate program
  2. typifies the work of professionals within the discipline
  3. develops problem-solving skills while working within a natural system
  4. develops spatial cognition and reasoning
  1. The Undergraduate Coordinator must approve your proposal.
  2. Register for ERS499