(For 2014–2015 academic year)
April, Leventer, Pinet, Selleck, Soja
Harpp, Peck (Chair
Geology is the study of the physical and chemical nature of Earth, the evolution and impact of life on our planet, and the global processes active both now and in the past. An understanding of geology — developed through the scientific study of minerals, rocks, and fossils — explains how past and present-day ecosystems, including the oceanic realm, have been reshaped by plate tectonics, volcanism, mountain building, climate change, evolution, and other events through time.
Introductory courses are designed to contribute significantly to a liberal arts education and an understanding of Earth and the environment. Advanced courses provide the highest possible level of general and pre-professional training for majors.
Majors in geology or environmental geology provide students with the opportunity to pursue careers in the geological and environmental sciences, business, and education, as well as government and public service. Upon graduation, many geology majors go to graduate study in geology, hydrology, oceanography, environmental sciences, and environmental policy and law. Other graduates go directly into a wide spectrum of employment situations, including business, environmental consulting, teaching, administration in schools and museums, and mineral resources and petroleum-related jobs.
Major Program in Geology
A major program consists of nine full-credit geology courses and two full-credit courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, or physics. GEOG 245, Geographic Information Systems
, can be taken in place of one of the required biology, chemistry, mathematics, or physics courses. Central to the major is a core of five geology courses that provides students with a basic foundation of knowledge in the geosciences. It is strongly recommended that these core courses (GEOL 201, 202, 215, 302
, and 305
) be taken by all majors because they are required for honors in the department, and they are generally expected for graduate study in geology, civil service examinations, and employment in government and industry. Similar considerations apply to a field experience, such as that provided by GEOL 320
Majors wishing to go to graduate school in geology should note that graduate schools expect applicants to have supplemented their undergraduate geology majors with a year each
of introductory calculus, chemistry, and physics or biology. The geology department strongly encourages majors to take these courses; they are required for honors in geology. Students interested in paleontology are encouraged to take BIOL 304
in addition to, or in place of, one of the above.
In counting the nine required full-credit courses for the major, the following rules should be taken into account: (1) only two full-credit 100-level courses may be counted toward the major; (2) each student must take at least two 400-level geology courses one of which must be GEOL 441
does not count toward this requirement); (3) students who elect to take a summer field course at another institution may apply no more than one such credit toward their nine major courses; (4) certain upper-level science courses offered by other departments (e.g., CHEM 263
and BIOL 304
) may be counted toward the major program, with prior permission of the department chair.
Students majoring in geology and environmental geology are required to complete a senior research project that comprises original work. Students enrolled in GEOL 441, Senior Research Seminar
, during the spring of their senior year will complete this requirement through the submission of a written paper and a formal, public presentation of their work. The primary objective of GEOL 441
is to provide a capstone research experience for geology majors guided by faculty oversight and peer-group discussions. In exceptional cases (e.g., a student who plans to graduate early or because of conflicts cannot enroll in GEOL 441
in the spring of their senior year) a student may enroll in GEOG 441Z
during the fall of their senior year, with the approval of the department.
Students can initiate a senior research project of interest by speaking directly to a faculty member about ideas for a research project or by consulting with a faculty member about a project that might arise from a summer internship, a summer employment experience, or be based on research initiated in a geology course. A number of upper-level geology courses, including GEOL 491, Independent Study
, feature a research component that could be used as a starting point for future original work. In all cases, a student must consult with a geology faculty member in planning and designing the senior project. Normally, this faculty member will be the student’s research adviser during the senior year. All majors will be expected to submit a research proposal during the fall term of their senior year. Papers and presentations will be evaluated by the geology department faculty in the spring.
A GPA of 2.00 in the major is necessary for graduation. The nine full-credit geology courses of highest grade are used to compute this average. A passing grade must be received in GEOL 441
and in all courses counted toward the major.
Major Program in Environmental Geology
Students interested in environmental science, environmental law and policy, water and natural resources, energy, and global change should consider this interdisciplinary major, which includes a core of coursework plus electives in geology and environmental studies. Courses from biology, geography, economics, philosophy, and other departments may form part of the major program. For a complete description of this program, see “Environmental Studies.” For further information, contact the geology department chair.
A minor program consists of any five full-credit courses, with at least four full-credit courses above the 100 level. It is strongly recommended that these courses be selected after consultation with a member of the department faculty.
All geology and environmental geology majors are encouraged to consider the advantages and challenges of an honors program in geology. A GPA of 3.00 or higher in the five core courses (GEOL 201, 202, 215, 302
, and 305
), plus the two required 400-level courses are required for a student to become eligible for honors. In addition, at least six full-credit courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, or physics must be taken to become eligible for honors. GEOG 245, Geographic Information Systems
can be taken in place of one of these six courses. An honors thesis represents the culmination of a year-long research project that typically begins during the summer before the senior year and continues during the fall and spring terms of the senior year. The thesis will be read by a faculty committee comprising the honors adviser and two other departmental faculty members chosen by the student in consultation with the honors adviser. Alternate arrangements may be made in consultation with the geology department chair. The written thesis must be completed and orally defended by the end of the spring semester. Following the defense, and with the recommendation of the thesis committee, the geology faculty will vote to award honors or not. Awarding the distinction of honors or not is based primarily on the quality of the written thesis but will also include an overall assessment of the student’s academic record. Students who may be eligible for honors will be notified in the spring of the junior year.
The Department of Educational Studies offers a teacher education program for majors in geology who are interested in pursuing a career in elementary or secondary school teaching. Please refer to “Educational Studies.”
See Honors and Awards: Geology; in "Chapter VI."
Advanced Placement and Transfer Credit
Credits should be discussed with the department chair.
Topical Major in Marine Science — Freshwater Science
This major is offered with the cooperation of the biology department through the Division of Natural Sciences. See program requirements listed under “Marine Science — Freshwater Science.” This major is intended for students who are interested in aquatic sciences and who wish to major in both biology and geology while preparing for certain teaching, museum, and technical positions, and for selected graduate studies programs.
The department offers two summer field courses. GEOL 120, The Geology of America’s Parks
, is designed for introductory level students and includes a two- to three-week field component. GEOL 320, Techniques of Field Geology
, is designed for junior and senior majors; occasionally sophomores with strong geology preparation participate also. The course lasts for five weeks and examines classic geologic areas in such locations as Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and the northeastern United States. The course is shown as a summer course on the student’s transcript. Contact the department chair for further information.
See "Off-Campus Study Programs"
; in Chapter VI for information on study-abroad programs in Australia, the United Kingdom (Wales or Manchester), and other approved programs.
GEOL courses count toward the Natural Sciences and Mathematics area of inquiry requirement, unless otherwise noted.
All credit-bearing laboratories carry 0.25 course credits unless noted otherwise. Please see the “Academic Credit” section in Chapter VI for additional information and restrictions.
101/101L Environmental Geology
A. Leventer, W. Peck, B. Selleck, M. Wong
How do geologic processes and events directly influence human societies? How have humans changed the Earth? Fundamental geologic concepts such as plate tectonics, geologic time, and surficial processes are used as a basis for understanding a variety of natural geologic hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, and coastal erosion. Real-world examples of the interplay between human activities and the environment include soil and groundwater contamination, mineral and energy resource development, and threats to the Earth’s biodiversity. Also, the course takes a closer look at the geologic record of global change and the debate over global warming. This course is an interdisciplinary approach to environmental geosciences. Three lectures and one laboratory session per week. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 101L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 101
K. Harpp, W. Peck, M. Wong
A course tracing the history of the Earth from the origin of the solar system to the present. Also considered are the origin and evolution of the Earth’s crust and interior; plate tectonics, continental drift, and mountain building; absolute age dating; the origin of the hydrosphere and atmosphere; earthquakes and volcanism. The results of recent planetary exploration are incorporated into an examination of the origin of the solar system.
110/110L Geology Outdoors
W. Peck, M. Wong
Geology is the study of how the Earth works and what processes have shaped it through time. The area around Colgate reveals that central New York has undergone dramatic changes, as huge mountain ranges, vast seas, and continental glaciers all once existed near Hamilton, NY. This field-based course uses Colgate’s backyard as a natural laboratory to investigate how the region has evolved over geologic time. The course emphasizes how careful observations and logical reasoning can be applied to understand how the world around us works. The course is centered on weekly field-based investigative projects to local areas to study a variety of geologic processes. Fieldtrips are followed by classroom discussions, additional data collection, and analysis. Students synthesize and interpret their observations in semi-weekly writing assignments and presentations. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 110L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 110
115 Evolution: Dinosaurs to Darwin
The origin, evolution, and ecology of dinosaurs are examined from a geologic perspective that recognizes continuity and change in the intriguing assortment of animals that once inhabited planet Earth. Controversies concerning dinosaur social behavior, physiology, extinction, and future cloning are considered in light of recent evidence. Development of evolutionary thought from pre-Darwinian ideas to the present and interactive exercises are emphasized. Discussions about the habits and habitats of pre-modern mammals, including humans, enhance appreciation for the common fate of dinosaurs and many mammal species that suffered extinction on our planet. Open to all students. Two meetings per week.
120 The Geology of America’s Parks
This 0.5-credit course is designed to introduce first-year and sophomore students to geological processes, materials, and basic field techniques using sites at National Parks in the United States and Canada. Major goals of the course include developing facility with basic field methods used in geology and other natural sciences, promoting understanding of how regional geological history and active modern processes shape landscapes, and exploring the impacts of human interactions with the natural world. Prerequisite: at least one course in geology or other introductory field-oriented science course.
A. Leventer, P. Pinet
A study of the major contemporary concepts of biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography. The nature and origin of ocean basins by global plate tectonics, sedimentation, sea water composition, water masses, oceanic circulation, waves, tides, life in the sea, biological productivity, and human impact are all discussed. The importance of the ocean as a dynamic ecosystem is stressed throughout the course.
190/190L Evolution of Planet Earth
This course explores our planet’s 4.5-billion-year history and how geologists unearth the past through examination of minerals, rocks, and fossils. Earth’s evolution is a natural experiment that cannot be reproduced, and this course makes use of primary observational and interpretative tools that geologists use to understand the past. Age-dating techniques, plate tectonics and origin of continental crust, mountain building events, and evolution of Earth’s landscape, atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere are examined in the context of the geological evolution of North America. Laboratory sessions focus on analysis of rocks, minerals, and fossils, and geology in the field, with an emphasis on field data collected during trips to local geological localities. The required credit-bearing laboratory GEOL 190L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 190
. GEOL 190
is recommended for students interested in majoring in geology or environmental geology. A previous earth science or geology course is recommended.
Minerals are the stuff of which planets are composed, the material from which civilizations are built, and the coveted jewels and precious metals of humankind. The study of these naturally occurring crystalline substances is the science of mineralogy. This course deals with the principles and concepts fundamental to understanding the physical, chemical, and crystallographic properties of minerals. The laboratory introduces techniques, including microscopy and x-ray analysis, that aid in defining these characteristic properties. Familiarization with minerals of common occurrence, and hence of greatest importance in understanding Earth’s processes, is emphasized in the laboratories. Lectures and one laboratory per week. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 201L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 201
. Prerequisite: one term of geology or permission of instructor.
This course deals with the origin and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks and their plate tectonic setting. The origin of magmas is examined as well as the processes involved in their differentiation. Metamorphic facies, mineral assemblages, and thermobarometry are studied. Petrology and melting of the mantle is discussed. These topics are unified by concepts of plate tectonics. Laboratories involve the study of rock suites from classic areas around the world. Three meetings and one laboratory per week, plus a weekend field trip. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 202L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 202
. Prerequisite: GEOL 201
203/203L Environmental Geochemistry and Analysis
R. April, K. Harpp
The focus of this interdisciplinary laboratory and field-based course is the development of practical skills essential to the study of natural systems. Through a series of local projects, students learn how to address environmental questions, including experimental design, collection and analysis of samples, interpretation of data, and presentation of conclusions. Specific skills include techniques for the chemical analysis of natural materials including rock, soil, and water, statistical analysis, sample collection, and methods of data presentation. Laboratory and lecture are fully integrated and meet once or twice a week. Occasional day-long sampling and field trips. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 203L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 203
. Prerequisite: CHEM 101
or permission of instructor.
210/210L Hydrology and Surficial Geology
The geologic materials nearest the Earth’s surface are those that interact with the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. This course explores the nature of surficial geologic materials and processes by using geographic information system (GIS) tools and hydrological modeling software. Major topics are landform development, chemical weathering, soil development and quality, and surface and groundwater hydrology. Three meetings and one laboratory per week. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 210L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 210
. A previous earth science or geology course is recommended.
215/215L Paleontology of Marine Life
This course considers the fossil record of marine life from its origin to the present, emphasizing the evolution of invertebrate animals through time. During classroom discussions, labs, a field trip, and museum visit, students explore the anatomy, ecology, fascinating behaviors, life-sustaining ecosystem services, and evolutionary history of an amazing array of shelly animals and associated marine organisms that co-existed in reefs and adjacent habitats. Evolutionary events, including the Cambrian “explosion” and mass extinctions, are linked to dramatic physical (tectonic) and climatic changes that occurred in Earth’s past. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 215L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 215
. An optional spring-break field trip to the tropics may be offered in alternate years to students who have already taken or are currently enrolled in this course. Prerequisite: one course in geology or biology.
217/217L Coastal Geology
A study of coastal geomorphology, sediments, and wave-related processes active in the present and geologic past. Major topics to be considered include beach, nearshore, and estuarine processes, barrier-island and salt-marsh development, Pleistocene sea-level fluctuations, human modifications and impacts, and erosional-depositional patterns induced by the interaction of physical and biological factors of the coastal environment. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 217L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 217
. Prerequisite: GEOL 135
Our fascination with volcanoes stems primarily from their awesome powers of destruction; yet their constructive role in shaping our landscape, atmosphere, and oceans has been crucial in Earth’s history. This course explores the fundamental concepts of volcanology, from the geological, chemical, and physical processes that generate volcanoes to the implications of volcanic activity on humankind. Through case studies, this course examines the tectonic environments that generate volcanoes and what they tell us about Earth’s internal processes; eruptive styles and volcanic forms; volcanic rocks; properties and generation of magmas; features of lava and pyroclastic flows; and volcanic hazards, including their prediction and mitigation. Two lectures and one laboratory session per week. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 220L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 220
. Prerequisite: one geology course.
This 0.5-credit course focuses on the application of digital analysis systems to geologic information. Global climate change, natural resource management, and geological hazards analysis are examples of complex systems that benefit from the use and interpretation of large-scale datasets. This course covers modern approaches to field and remote data collection, access and use of public data sources, digital manipulation and analysis of large datasets, and modeling and analysis of natural geological systems. Prerequisite: Students are expected to have a basic understanding of a scientific discipline that uses spatial information. A minimum of two courses in geology, environmental studies, geography, or other appropriate preparation determined by the instructor, is required.
302/302L Stratigraphy and Sedimentation
A detailed study of modern sedimentary environments and their use in interpreting ancient sedimentary rocks. The chemical and physical processes leading to weathering, erosion, transport, deposition, and lithification of sediments are considered. Interpretation of local Paleozoic, Pleistocene, and Holocene sediments is carried out through field study projects. Economic aspects of sedimentary rocks, such as the occurrence of oil, natural gas, and coal, are discussed. Three lectures and one laboratory period per week. The required credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 302L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 302
. Prerequisite: one geology course or permission of instructor.
305/305L Structural Geology
Mountain ranges, rifting continents and earthquakes show that the Earth’s crust is constantly deforming. Structural geology is the study of how and why deformation occurs. Students discuss deformational structures such as faults, folds, and ductile flow and why the Earth deforms in different ways. Students examine deformation at all scales, from the microscopic to mountain belts and examine the stresses that ultimately cause the Earth to deform. Labs emphasize using 3D geometric analysis and geologic maps as tools for unraveling deformational histories. Lectures and one laboratory per week, plus a required weekend field trip. GEOL 305L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 305
. Prerequisites: one 100-level and one 200-level geology class or permission of instructor.
310 Environmental Economic Geology
This course examines the global distribution of mineral resources, the economic and engineering factors that govern their availability, and the environmental effects of their production and use. Mineral resources to be considered include ferrous and non-ferrous metals, precious metals, and energy fuels. Topics to be explored, in addition to the origin, nature, and geological settings of the world’s great mineral deposits, include mineral law, mineral exploration and production, strategic mineral reserves, minerals and human health, and environmental impact of mining and use, and remediation. GEOL 202
is recommended. Prerequisite: GEOL 201
315 Topics in Paleontology
This course entails a semester-long investigation of topics of special interest in paleontology, including the origin of life, Cambrian “explosion,” Ordovician radiation, mass extinctions, Mesozoic Marine Revolution, or conservation paleobiology. Emphasis is placed on critical reading and written critiques of the primary literature, seminar presentations, and data used to prepare a final paper. Prerequisites: GEOL 215
or two biology courses or permission of instructor.
317 X-Ray and Clay Mineralogy
An integrated and detailed study of the nature of clay minerals and the methods of x-ray analysis. Through projects, lectures, and readings, students gain a thorough knowledge of x-ray diffraction and x-ray fluorescence analytical techniques, and the nature of clays and related minerals. Topics include x-ray diffraction and x-ray fluorescence theory and applications; computer modeling of x-ray patterns; the structure and chemistry of clay minerals, their origin and occurrence; clays and the origin of life; and the role of clays in weathering. Students complete an original research project making extensive use of the department’s x-ray facilities. Prerequisite: GEOL 201
320 Techniques of Field Geology
A five-week summer field program introduces the basic field techniques used in geologic mapping. Students prepare geologic maps and stratigraphic sections in assigned map areas and develop geological histories, focusing on igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic processes. The course consists of field work in such locations as Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. Prerequisites: GEOL 120
or three geology courses or completion of six semesters.
321 Analytical Methods in Geology
Working in industry, government, and academia, geologists rely on modern instruments for rapid, accurate analysis of geologic materials and processes. This course examines the theory, practice, and application of analytical instruments in the geosciences. Emphasis is on equipment housed in the Department of Geology (atomic absorption spectrometer, scanning electron microscope-energy dispersive spectrometer, x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, x-ray diffraction spectrometer, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer) but other analytical methods are discussed. Current geologic literature illustrating applications of the techniques is also discussed. During laboratories, students learn sample preparation and practical use of instruments while conducting short research projects.
330 Hydrogeology and Groundwater Pollution
Because the interdisciplinary area of Earth and environmental sciences has emerged as a critical focal point for studies of natural waters, this course is designed to examine the physical and chemical nature of water, its role in the global hydrologic cycle, and the impact of humankind on water resources. Topics covered include water resources and quality, surface- and ground-water hydrology and hydrodynamics, water-soil interactions, hydrogeochemistry, and ground-water contamination. The environmental consequences of human activity and development on water resources are considered through case studies of regional surface-water and ground-water problems. Lectures and discussion are supplemented with problem sets and exercises. Prerequisites: GEOL 210
, or permission of instructor.
Earth’s climate has fluctuated widely in the past, between droughts, warm periods, and ice ages. In fact, climate change is a certainty. The planet is currently faced with potential abrupt climate change resulting from human-induced environmental modification. Paleoclimatology, the study of past climates and environments of the Earth, provides a long-term perspective on the nature of global climate variability that is critical for evaluating the sensitivity of the Earth system to past, present, and future changes. This course provides students with an overview of paleoclimatology by examining the use of proxy records such as marine and lake sediment sequences, ice cores, tree rings, corals, and historical data to reconstruct past climatic conditions. Dating methods are introduced, and seminal publications in paleoclimatology are reviewed in tandem with current research papers addressing outstanding questions in paleoclimatology. Throughout, students critically analyze their current understanding of past climates and environments, and identify promising directions for future research. Topics include abrupt climate change, human evolution and climate, biosphere-climate interactions, and paleoclimate modeling. Prerequisites: GEOL 215
, or permission of instructor.
The major geochemical processes and events that produced transformative change to the Earth’s surface environment, from the origin of the planet 4.5 billion years ago to the present-day, are the focus of this course. Topics of study include the origin and evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans; geochemical evidence and conditions for the emergence of life; the chemical behavior of ocean water, rivers, and lakes; the global distribution and cycles of the major elements; weathering and erosion of the continents; and the nature of the Critical Zone — the fragile skin of the planet in which complex and interactive biogeochemical and physical processes operate together to sustain life. Lectures and weekly readings in the scientific literature guide class discussions. Prerequisites: CHEM 101
and GEOL 201
, or permission of instructor.
411 Isotopes in the Earth Sciences
K. Harpp, W. Peck
The age of the Earth, genesis and growth of continents, global climate change, and the formation of the solar system are all understood primarily through isotope geochemistry. This course explores how geochemical tracers are used to understand processes in the Earth and solar system that are not possible to observe directly. Methods to be investigated include geochronology, radiogenic isotopes in magmatic systems, stable isotopes as applied to understanding fluids in low- and high-temperature environments, stable isotopes and the paleoclimate record, and the radiogenic and stable isotope cosmochemistry of meteorites and lunar samples. Current research in these fields (and readings in the primary scientific literature) is a focus of this course. Prerequisites: four geology courses, including GEOL 202
(may be concurrent) or permission of instructor.
415 Seminar on Reefs
Reefs are “organic fantasias,” some of the most visually stunning and biologically diverse ecosystems on our planet. This course focuses on their biology and geology, evolutionary history, and conservation. Complex ecologic partnerships that have contributed to the evolutionary success of reefs in the past two billion years are examined to predict their survival in a modern environmental context. Students research why reefs are sensitive environmental indicators, how ancient reefs yield clues about past climate change, and the ways in which modern reefs monitor the health of world oceans. Seminar discussions are based on multidisciplinary research; on oral and poster presentations, debates, review panels, and symposia; and on interactions with invited speakers. These are enhanced by an investigation of modern and Pleistocene (fossil) reefs during an optional field trip to the tropics over spring break (or in January). Prerequisites: GEOL 215, GEOL 302
(may be taken concurrently), or permission of instructor.
415L Tropical Field Course on Modern and Pleistocene Reefs
Intensive investigation of fossil and modern reefs is the focus of this 0.25-credit, field-based “outdoor laboratory” course. Student participants complete a project based on collection of data in the field to learn first-hand about coral reefs, one of the most important and most threatened ecosystems on Earth. During a nine-day trip to the tropics over spring break (or January), students engage in practical exercises to study reef communities past and present. Research projects involve snorkeling to make observations of modern reefs and their inhabitants, including aquatic surveys to assess biodiversity. Projects also include comparison of modern reefs with fossil (Pleistocene) reefs exposed on land. Final reports rely on these and other data to assess the changes reef species have experienced in abundance, diversity, and health through time, and to consider debates about the past, present, and future status of coral reefs. Students complete a short final paper and present research results after they return to campus. Prerequisites: GEOL 215, GEOL 302
(may be taken concurrently), or permission of instructor. This course is graded as satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U).
416/416L Marine Geology
A. Leventer, P. Pinet
The course is designed to provide a realistic understanding of rapidly evolving concepts in the field of geological oceanography. Sedimentary and geophysical data are discussed in the context of global plate tectonics. These data are used to examine the processes responsible for the origin and evolution of continental margins and ocean basins and to reconstruct global climate history. When offered the credit-bearing laboratory session GEOL 416L
must be taken and passed concurrently with GEOL 416
. Prerequisites: four geology courses or permission of instructor.
This course analyzes large-scale structures of the Earth’s crust and interior. There is particular emphasis on the interpretation of modern and ancient orogenic belts in terms of plate tectonics models. The course includes discussion of the details of plate boundary structures and plate interactions, evolution of the Earth’s lithosphere through geologic time, and the use of isotopes in geological investigations. Student presentations are required. Prerequisite: GEOL 305
(may be taken concurrently) or permission of instructor.
420 Solid Earth Processes
K. Harpp, W. Peck
This course focuses on how the Earth’s processes such as volcanism, plate motion, and mantle dynamics are studied by geologists. Through a seminar-style approach, the course considers the techniques used to understand the solid Earth, with emphasis on volcanic and plate tectonic systems. Methods studied include (a) volcanic systems: gas, plume, and thermal monitoring for prediction of eruptions, lava chemistry, heat flow, geochronology, field observations, and lava flow dynamics; (b) plate tectonics: earthquake observations, ground deformation, and gravity; (c) planetary geology: remote sensing, spectroscopy, and plume sampling. Each technique is examined in the context of a specific case study (e.g., Mount Pinatubo, Hawaii, Yellowstone, Los Angeles fault zones, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter) through readings and discussions of current geological literature. Experts currently working in the field are consulted as resources. Prerequisites: GEOL 202
426 Marine Environments
This course examines modern and ancient marine environmental systems via intensive study of current scientific literature. The course emphasizes the interplay between organisms, physical and chemical environmental parameters, and the sedimentary record of environmental change. Long-term changes in global ecosystem characteristics are thoroughly considered, and the impact of human activity on modern marine systems is addressed. Students complete an individual research project using original data from regional sedimentary sequences. Prerequisites: GEOL 215
(either or both may be taken concurrently), or permission of instructor.
430 Seminar on Acid Rain
Acid rain — more properly termed acid deposition — is a worldwide environmental problem that adversely affects lakes and streams, forest ecosystems, plants and animals, and human health. The course examines this environmental issue from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the present. The science of acid rain — from why and how it forms to what we know about its effects on ecosystems, earth materials, and people — is explored and discussed in detail. For decades New York State received some of the most acidic deposition in the United States; therefore a portion of course time is spent examining the effects of acid deposition in central New York and the Adirondack Mountains, and the potential for recovery of ecosystems to pre-acid rain conditions. Finally, links between science and policy are explored through examination of the Clean Air Act and events leading up to this and subsequent landmark environmental enactments by Congress. Prerequisites: GEOL 201
and at least three additional geology courses.
440 Research Seminar
This course is taken by students who are completing senior research projects or preparing for honors work. Weekly seminars address both the research problems under investigation and the writing of scientific research papers. Students make regular oral reports plus a major, professional-style presentation at the end of the course. A major research paper is also required.
441 Senior Research Seminar
Students engaged in senior or honors research are required to register for this course designed to guide them in the proper preparation of a research paper or honors thesis. Students are instructed in research techniques, including library research, statistical analysis, and other approaches commonly used in the geosciences. Other matters addressed in this seminar include the format of the research paper or honors thesis, techniques of scientific writing, and how to prepare an oral presentation. Students are expected to give regular progress reports on their research.
291, 391, 491 Independent Study
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors by permission of instructor, with department chair approval.