Education & Resources Guide: Natural Science

Natural science is a branch of study that encompasses a wide array of disciplines. It refers to the natural aspects of life and the universe as they pertain to the physical world. Natural science includes branches such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics. Each division may be broken down into further areas of study. Natural sciences are often classified as both life and physical.


Astronomy is the branch of natural science that deals with the universe, space, and celestial objects. Typically, anything that occurs outside of earth’s atmosphere falls under the category of astronomy. It is one of the oldest known sciences as many ancient peoples, such as the Mayans and Egyptians, regularly studied the heavens. Technological developments have advanced the study of astronomy with high-powered telescopes, satellites, and space exploration. Astronomy may be classified by two divisions: optical and non-optical.


Optical astronomy is the division in which objects such as telescopes are used to gather information. It is also referred to as visible light astronomy and is one of the oldest forms of science recorded. Optical astronomy uses telescopes to take photographs of celestial objects. Visible astronomy or optical astronomy also occurs when someone simply looks at the sky with the natural eye. It is in contrast to non-optical astronomy.


Non-optical astronomy differs from optical, as it does not use telescopes to collect data. With non-optical astronomy, other methods are used to study the universe and celestial bodies. Instead of collecting some sort of photograph or picture in order to gather data, energy and particles are measured with other instruments.


Biology is the study of living life forms on planet earth. As there are numerous living organisms, biology is classified into numerous disciplines including zoology, botany, genetics, ecology, marine, and biochemistry. Each branch studies the growth, life processes, origins, and reproduction of the organism. Invaluable to all branches of biology is the study of genetics and heredity. Cellular and molecular biology are also important aspects that play a vital role in all life forms. Evolution is also an important aspect in the study of biology.


Zoology is the study of animal life and refers to their biological functions and their evolutionary history. Zoology has its roots in ancient cultures and some of the earliest known works trace back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.


Botany is the branch of biology that deals with the study of plants. It may refer to fungi, viruses, and algae. Botanists study a plants growth, evolutionary origins, and reproduction. Molecular and cellular structures are extremely important to the study. Human nutrition also composes a large portion of the science of botany.


Genetics is the study of heredity and characteristics that are passed down to offspring from previous generations. Genetics studies DNA and examines the genetic code within amino acids. The Genetic Code is one of the most important aspects of reproduction and plays an important role in natural selection and evolution. Genetics also studies mutations that occur in living organisms.


Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment. It focuses on ecosystems and monitors any changes that may pose a threat to the well-being of organisms. It incorporates the study of habitats and biodiversity and looks at an organism's reproduction and population.


Marine biology is the branch that studies living organisms that are found in bodies of water. This may include organisms in the ocean, in salt water, lakes, and brackish water. Marine biology focuses on the organism’s relationship to its environment, reproduction methods, and habitats. It includes marine animals, fungi, plants and algae, and microscopic organisms.


Biochemistry is also referred to as biological chemistry and refers to studying living organism’s chemical processes. It often focuses on the way living organisms process chemicals such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids as the main building blocks of life. 


Chemistry is the study of chemical reactions as they occur in various forms of matter. It may involve organic or inorganic material, nuclear, physical, or analytical. Though chemistry involves physical science, it is not the same as physics. Some of the most important forms of matter studied in chemistry include chemical states such as solids, liquids, and gases. It also focuses on atoms and molecules. Regardless of the substance, chemistry examines chemical reactions that occur in matter.


Organic chemistry is the branch that deals with carbon based compounds and hydrocarbons and their chemical properties. Carbon based compounds include hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, silicon, sulfur, phosphorus, and halogens.


Inorganic chemistry refers to compounds not including the carbon-based compounds that are the subject of organic chemistry. Inorganic compounds that contain carbon include carbon dioxide, carbonates, cyanides, cyanates, carbides, thyocyanates, and carbon monoxide. 


Analytical chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with the chemical compounds found in natural and artificial matter. Two methods, classical and instrumental, determine a compounds chemical makeup.


Physical chemistry is the field of chemistry that studies the relationship between chemical systems and physical laws. Physical chemistry is not the same thing as chemical physics.  


Nuclear chemistry is the field of chemistry that deals with nuclear properties and processes and examines the effects that radiation has on various organisms and forms of matter. It is also the science that studies the chemical changes that occur in uranium and thorium.

Earth Science

Earth science is the field that studies the way life interacts on planet earth. Earth is the only planet that is known to have life forms and the science focuses on multiple disciplines. Geology, geography, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy are important fields that compose earth science. Earth science looks at the earth’s inner layers, electromagnetic field, and involves study of earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and systems.


Geology is the study of the earth in solid form, or rocks. The science reveals much information about the way the earth formed and includes the study of applied and planetary geology. Geology establishes important timelines for dating the planet.


Geography is the study of science that focuses on the natural landforms found on the earth. It may also indicate the living organisms and the areas in which they live. Geography is often classified as physical, human, integrated, and regional. 


Meteorology is the branch of earth science that deals with the atmosphere. Meteorology includes forecasting the weather, and includes aviation, agricultural, hydrometeorology, nuclear, and maritime. Meteorology also uses detailed equipment to collect, analyze, and interpret data.


Oceanography is the study of oceans as it pertains to earth science. The field is broad and vast and includes marine chemistry, geology, physics, and biology. As the ocean plays a vital role in the function of the atmosphere, a great portion of the study of oceanography deals with atmospheric conditions.


Astronomy is the study of planetary objects and celestial bodies as they pertain to outer space. Though earth is the only planet with life on it, many studies attempt to determine whether there are other life forms on other planets.


Physics is the field that studies the science of how matter moves through space and time. It deals with concepts such as force and energy and the laws of nature that govern them. Physics looks at condensed matter, particles, atomic, molecular, and optical physics as well as astrophysics. 


Astrophysics is the field of physics that studies the effect of physics on the universe. As astronomy deals with celestial bodies and the universe, astrophysics studies the physical properties of those bodies. It often includes examining data related to a planet’s density, temperature, and chemical makeup.


Atomic physics is the branch that studies the forces that affect electrons and an atom’s nucleus. In atomic physics, atoms are always isolated. 


Molecular physics is the branch that studies the chemical changes and bonds between atoms. It is quite similar to atomic physics as both deal with the chemical makeup of atoms. 


Thermodynamics is the area of physics that deals with the way heat, radiation, and energy work within an organism. Thermodynamic systems focus on areas such as pressure, volume, and temperature.


Geophysics is the study of the Earth as it relates to physics. This includes the Earth’s structure, magnetic fields, and gravitational pull. Geophysics also involves the study of volcanoes and rock formation.


Particle physics is the branch that focuses on the smallest bits of matter of radiation. These may be referred to as subatomic particles. Subatomic particles consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons and comprise the most important aspect of particle physics.

  • Night Sky Network:  NASA connects stargazers with astronomy organizations. 
  • National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO):  The official website for NOAO that focuses on ground based nighttime astronomy. 
  • E Science Library:  Portal for New England librarians from University of Massachusetts discusses the various branches of astronomy. 
  • The Biology Project:  Extensive site from the University of Arizona that explores various branches of biology. 
  • Online Biology Book:  An in-depth online book of biology made available by Estrella Mountain Community College. 
  • Zoology: The University of Pennsylvania provides many zoological resources. 
  • Virtual Textbook of Organic Chemistry:  Michigan State University Department of Chemistry shares extensive textbook on organic chemistry. 
  • Inorganic Chemistry:  Free resources from the University of California that includes the fundamentals of inorganic chemistry. 
  • Analytical Chemistry:  Online course from the University of Akron contains modules and animations.
  • National Atlas: Site provides information regarding geology of the United States. 
  • Class Zone: Online site presents earth science textbook with animations and graphics free. 
  • The Water Cycle:  USGS teaches on the water cycle for schools. 
  • Physics:  National Science Foundation explores physics in this extensive site. 
  • Oceans Alive:  The Museum of Science explores the water planet. 
  • IPPEX:  IPPEX stands for the Interactive Plasma Physics Education Experience and the site uses interactive models to teach core physics principles. 

Content for this Website has been Provided By Lisa Sanders

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