The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.


Accordion List

The scope of programs in Earth and Environmental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is broad, spanning departments and schools across the university and ranging from the undergraduate to the doctoral level.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University traces its beginnings back to the activities and writings of such early Philadelphians as Benjamin Franklin, John Bartram, Caspar Wistar, and Charles Willson Peale. It took definitive shape in 1835 when the University established a Department of Geology and Henry Darwin Rogers was appointed Professor of Geology and Mineralogy. Thereafter, through the end of the 19th century, eminent scientists, among whom were Joseph Leidy and Edward Drinker Cope, made Penn a national center for the study of geology, natural history, and vertebrate palaeontology. The details of this tradition can be found in "A history of geology at the University of Pennsylvania: Benjamin Franklin and the rest," by Carol Faul, in Geologists and Ideas: a History of North American Geology, Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America, 1985.

The department took on its present name in 1998 and offers a wide range of courses and degree programs at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. The undergraduate curriculum offers majors in earth science (EASC) and environmental studies (ENVS), as well as minors in environmental science, environmental studies, geology, and sustainability and environmental management. The graduate group guides research leading to doctoral degrees in range of fields that encompass our research interests in biogeochemistry, environmental geology, paleobiology, surficial processes, tectonics, ocean and climate dynamics, and thermochronology. Additionally, master's degrees are available in environmental studies and applied geosciences. These last 2 programs are administered by the College of Liberal and Professional Studies and designed for both full and part-time students interested in professional careers. The Department also is a partner in the research activities of the Kleinman Center for Energy, The Water Center and the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media. These centers are instrumental in developing policy and sustainability practices, both nationally and locally.  

The Earth and Environment Science collection supports the teaching, research, and learning needs of the department and the aforementioned centers. Accordingly, the collection strengths are biogeochemistry, soil science, geomorphology, paleobiology, and ocean and atmospheric science. The Libraries also has a historically strong collection in paleobotany. Additionally, there is a large and growing collection of climate change and sustainability-related material. Due to the interdisciplinary aspects of these topics, there is strong collaboration between the subject librarians. The Earth and Environmental Studies collection focuses on the science and policy aspects. Other subject bibliographers purchase in the areas such as environmental humanities, the impact of climate change on society, and health implications. 

The collection is primarily electronic and consists of e-journals, e-books, and databases. There are standing orders for electronic copies of the Geological Society of America and the Geological Society material. Additionally, the entire digital archive for the Geological Society of America Special Papers has been acquired. The Geological Society Special Publications digital archive is acquired when funding permits. Other geological society publications are made available through GeoScienceWorld. Journal content is centered around large publishers like Elsevier and Springer, with additional material from society publishers. Ebook frontfiles from major science publishers, together with individual title purchases from the approval plan and direct selection, make up the main source of monographs acquisitions.  

Where possible, the collection aligns with the strategic mission and values of the Libraries. For example, we have sought transformative open access journal agreements that are both sustainable and equitable. We give preference to "subscribe to open" agreements, but we review other models to see if they benefit the university and the scholarly communication ecosystem as a whole. We also collect new and emerging formats, such as research workflow tools, datasets, and apps, when their licensing models permit access for all Penn authorized users, protect user privacy, support fair use, and align with our current authentication and authorization services.

1. Chronological

For geology materials the whole spectrum of geologic time with a special emphasis on the last 600 million years (Phanerozoic). 

2. Formats

Books, journals, and databases. Maps are not actively curated.

3. Geographical

For geology materials the following applies: In North America there is a special interest in the Middle Atlantic, Rocky Mountain, and California regions. Other areas of special interest are Antarctica, Puerto Rico, and the Guanacaste rainforest of Costa Rica.

4. Language

Primarily English.

5. Publication Dates

Current publications only with rare exceptions. Because of the wealth of geology resources in the Middle Atlantic, region no effort is made to build up Penn's collection retrospectively. 

Serials are purchased through EBSCO Subscription Services, journal aggregators, individual publishers, and through consortia agreements. The monograph collection is acquired mainly in electronic format using various e-book vendors, publishers, and an approval plan through GOBI. Publisher platforms are preferred over aggregator platforms. Frontfiles and subject packages also make up a large part of the electronic monograph collection. We use approval plans, search alerts, and vendor communications to identify new material for the collection.

The following criteria are used when making collection decisions: 

Serials and Periodicals
Inclusion in a major indexing source such as Medline
Interlibrary loan activity
ISI impact factor
Potential audience
User requests
Perpetual access

Content level
Ease of use
Interlibrary loan activity
User requests
Digital Rights Management
Perpetual access

Other Digital Resources (workflow tools, datasets, apps, databases)
Ease of use
Quality and depth of material
Storage requirements
Digital Rights Management
Library subject expertise and support for the resource

Subject LC range Level
Geography, General G0-999 2
Atlases. Globes G1000-3171 0
Maps G3172-9980 0
Mathematical Geography GA0-99 0
Cartography GA101-1999 0
Physical Geography GB0-399 3
Geomorphology GB400-650 4
Hydrology GB651-2999 3
Natural Disasters GB5000-5030 3
Oceanography GC1-1999 3
Environmental Sciences GE0-9999 4
Geophysics, Geomagnetism QC801-849 4
Meteorology QC851-999 1
Geology, General QE0-61 4
Regional Geology QE65-350 3
Mineralogy QE351-399 3
Petrology QE420-499 3
Dynamic & Structural Geology QE500-639 4
Stratigraphy QE640-700 4
Paleontology QE701-760.7 3
Paleozoology, Paleobotany, Palynology QE760.8-999 4

Subjects excluded: 
The collection does not acquire historical or rare books. Requests for those materials will be directed to the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, or the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Maps are no longer acquired. 

A number of other campus libraries collect material in support of Earth and Environmental Science. Genetics, plant science and ecology are collected by the Holman Biotech Commons. The Math/Physics/Astronomy Library collects planetary geology, and the Chemistry Library collects in crystallography. Aspects of vertebrate palaeontology are collected by the Biotech Commons and Penn Museum Library, as well as by Van Pelt Library. The Penn Museum Library collects in the area of palaeontological human ecology and in the palaeobiology of selected regions of the world. The Van Pelt Library collects material on environmental engineering and the environmental humanities. The Fisher Fine Arts Library collects in urban planning, environmental architecture, and sustainable development. The Lippincott Library collects on climate change and sustainability where it intersects with business and entrepreneurship. 

Neighboring institutions with large geology holdings include Bryn Mawr College, Temple University, Drexel University (strong in atmospheric sciences) and Lehigh College (strong in palaeomagnetism). In addition, the Academy of Natural Sciences has a very large collection of materials on natural history, and older publications can be found at the American Philosophical Society Library.