First Year Program - Geology Skip Navigation

Geology (GEOL)

Chair: M. Wong

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 preprofessional 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 on 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 energy-related jobs.

The Department of Geology offers courses that deal with the processes occurring in and on the planet Earth. Topics include oceanography, ground water, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and the origin and evolution and extinction of life, including dinosaurs. Students with an interest in these topics and in the environmental sciences should consider taking an introductory course in geology (see below for fall 2018 offerings).

For further details, please refer to the University Catalogue and consult the department chair or other geology faculty members.


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FSEM 177L, Geology Outdoors Fieldtrips
Required co-requisite to FSEM 177, Geology Outdoors. See FSEM 177 description for details.

GEOL 101, Environmental Geology
Many geologic processes and events have a significant impact on human societies. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and floods all threaten lives and property and societies rely on water, mineral, climate, and energy resources to thrive. Similarly, society has many impacts on the Earth system through water and air pollution and climate change. This course examines the complex interplay between human activities and the environment through a multi-disciplinary approach, with the goal of applying science to better manage natural hazard risk, understand and mitigate future climate change, and use water, mineral and energy resources more sustainably.

GEOL 101L, Environmental Geology Lab
Required corequisite to GEOL 101. Labs are field-based as much as possible and are designed, not only to build a deeper understanding of the course material, but also to provide hands-on experience with some of the scientific techniques geologists use to study the environment.

GEOL 105, Megageology
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.

GEOL 115, Evolution: Dinosaurs to Darwin
The origin and evolution of dinosaurs and extinct mammals, including human ancestors, are examined as a vehicle for understanding how geologic and environmental forces—plate tectonics, asteroid strikes, and climate change—have shaped life processes through time. Interactive exercises promote exploration of Darwin’s (r)evolutionary ideas and facilitate debates about dinosaur physiology, social behavior, and future cloning. Evaluating evidence for dinosaur and mega-mammal extinctions provides the basis for understanding the current extinction crisis and for exploring species conservation strategies during a time of rapid environmental change.

GEOL 135, Oceanography & Environment
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, and biological productivity, are all discussed. The role of human impacts and environmental change, including ocean warming and acidification, and marine pollution are stressed throughout the course.