History of the EES Department

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has a long and proud history at UTA. The department has grown from a small university component housed on the third floor of the University’s original science building, Preston Hall, to a comprehensive research and teaching department occupying the two-story, 39,000-square-foot Geosciences Building. The department has trained and graduated generations of students who have gone on to make important contributions to industry, science, and academia.

The first geology course was offered at UTA – then named North Texas Agricultural College – in 1930 by a member of the chemistry faculty. In 1934, regular geology course offerings were initiated by faculty member Shirley Lynch, who taught at NTAC for 12 years. In 1946, geologist John D. Boon was appointed to serve as geology chairman, and he served in that capacity until 1971. Under his leadership, the department underwent significant changes. It grew from two faculty members in the 1940s to seven in the 1970s, and began offering a four-year undergraduate program when the institution, then called Arlington State College, became a four-year school in 1959. ASC became part of the UT System in 1965 and was renamed UTA in 1967. In 1970 the department began offering a graduate course leading to an M.S. in Geology.

In 1971, Charles Dodge III was named acting department chairman. He served five years as acting and full department chair, and then returned to regular faculty status before retiring in 1977 after more than 20 years with the department. Charles I. (Ike) Smith became department chair in 1977 and served in that role for 12 years. Under his guidance, the department grew dramatically, mirroring the expansion of the petroleum industry and related industries. In 1989, Brooks Ellwood began a three-year term as acting chair. He was instrumental in helping the department launch a Ph.D. program in mathematical sciences with an option in geology.

John Wickham, whose research interests focus on structural geology and tectonics, came to UTA from the University of Oklahoma and was appointed department chair in 1992. Soon after arriving he proposed the creation of a Ph.D. program for Earth and Environmental Sciences, and served as program director after the program was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board a couple of years later. Wickham also helped lead a push to rename the department to better describe the breadth and scope of its offerings, and in 2007 the Department of Geology became the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He transitioned the departmental vision from solid Earth geology to Earth system science, which includes the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and anthroposphere. He also initiated the B.S. in Environmental Science program and the Petroleum Professional Option as part of the M.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences program. He also added many certificate options to the EES graduate program, including the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate. He served as chair until 2013, when he stepped down to focus on his research.

Pamela Jansma, a geoscientist whose research uses the Global Positioning System to examine deformation of Earth's surface with an emphasis on active tectonics in the Caribbean, became the first woman and first geology/EES faculty member to serve as dean of the UTA College of Science when she came to the University in 2009. She served as dean until 2014.

Asish Basu, whose research interests include petrological, mineralogical and geochemical approaches in understanding aspects of Earth's evolution, joined the department from the University of Rochester in New York and took over as department chair in 2013, serving until 2017. During his tenure the Geosciences Building underwent extensive renovations and the Shimadzu Center for Environmental, Forensics, and Material Science opened in the building’s first floor. The Center harnesses the power of the most up-to-date technology for the study of major and trace element analysis, contaminant detection, and material structures.

Arne Winguth, who came to UTA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2007 and whose research focuses on oceanic and atmospheric dynamics and their interactions with biogeochemical cycles over a broad range of Earth history, was named chair in August 2017 and currently serves in that capacity.