This information is part of the Colgate University catalog, 2022-23.

Professors Harpp, Leventer, Peck (Chair)
Associate Professors Adams, Wong
Assistant Professors Harnik, Levy
Senior Lecturers Keller, Koleszar

The Earth and environmental geosciences explore Earth's natural systems, including its rocky surface and interior, the oceans and rivers of the hydrosphere, the icy cryosphere, the climate and the atmosphere, and the co-evolution of the biosphere and the planet. The geosciences are a multi-disciplinary effort aimed at understanding the physical and chemical nature of the Earth, the evolution and impact of life on our planet, and how global processes operate now, in the past, and in the future. The Earth and environmental geosciences combine the scientific study of Earth materials, such as minerals, rocks, and fossils, and planet-scale processes uncovered through Earth-observing data derived from satellites, geophysical instruments, and models. The geosciences explain how past and present-day ecosystems and environments have been and continue to be shaped by plate tectonics, volcanism, mountain building, climate change, evolution, and human activity through time.

Introductory courses are designed to contribute significantly to a liberal arts education and an understanding of Earth and the environment. Advanced courses are more specialized and provide the highest possible level of general and pre-professional training for majors.

Students in the department pursue a Geology or Environmental Geology concentration that prepares students to pursue careers in the geological and environmental sciences, business, and education, as well as government and public service. Upon graduation, many majors attend graduate school 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.

Students interested in pursuing graduate school in the geosciences should note that some graduate schools expect applicants to have supplemented their undergraduate geology courses with introductory calculus, chemistry, and physics or biology. The Earth and Environmental Geosciences department encourages all majors to take these courses; they are required for honors in geology.

Teacher Certification

The Department of Educational Studies offers a teacher education program for Geology or Environmental Geology majors who are interested in careers in elementary or secondary school teaching. Please refer to Educational Studies .


The Award for Excellence in Geoscience — awarded annually by the department to the student who best demonstrates a combination of excellence in the classroom and creativity and perseverance in research.

The Robert M. Linsley Prize for Excellence in Geology — awarded mid-way through the junior year to a rising senior who has demonstrated the promise and potential for leadership and excellence in earth science scholarship and research. The prize is to be given by consensus of the geology department faculty to a student who plans to pursue earth sciences as a career, with preference given to a student with an interest in paleontology, historical geology, and stratigraphy/sedimentation. In selecting the awardee, emphasis is to be placed on a balance of leadership, research, and communication/teaching interests, in Bob's spirit.

The Norma Vergo Prize in Geology — established as an award to a geology major who, as determined by the faculty of the geology department, significantly contributes to the spirit of excellence among fellow students in the department.

The Kevin Williams '10 Endowed Memorial Fellowship Award — established in 2012 in memory of Kevin Williams '10 to provide stipend support for one or more geology and/or geography majors to study abroad.

Advanced Placement

The department does not award Advanced Placement credit. Placement appropriate to academic development of a student may be granted to incoming first year students who have achieved a score on an international exam (e.g., A–Levels, International Baccalaureate) that indicates a level of competence equivalent to the completion of a specific course in the department. Requests should be directed to the department chair.

Transfer Credit

The department allows two courses to be transferred for credit toward the major and one course towards the minor, with prior approval of the courses by the department.


All geology and environmental geology majors are encouraged to consider the advantages and challenges of undertaking honors in geology. A GPA of 3.20 or higher in the five core courses (GEOL 190 , GEOL 201 , GEOL 215 , GEOL 225 , and GEOL 235 ), 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  can be taken in place of one of these six courses.

Honors candidates must also complete a year-long senior thesis, which represents the culmination of a 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 written thesis must be completed and orally presented by the end of the spring semester. Following the defense, and with the recommendation of the thesis committee, the Earth and Environmental Geosciences faculty will vote to award honors. Awarding the distinction of honors 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 by their academic adviser. 

Related Majors

  • Environmental Geology Major
  • Natural Sciences, Topical Concentration: Marine Science - Freshwater Science Major  

Topical Concentration: Marine — Freshwater Science is offered with the cooperation of the biology department through the Division of Natural Sciences. 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.

Field Courses

The department offers two summer field courses. GEOL 120 The Geology of America's Parks (Extended Study)  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 geoscience 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.

Study Groups

See Off-Campus Study  for information on off-campus programs in Australia, the United Kingdom (Wales or Manchester) and more.


Majors and Minors