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 such as GEOL 105, GEOL 115 or GEOL 135.

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


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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.

GEOL 190, Evolution of Planet Earth
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 students make 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.

GEOL 190L, Evolution Planet Earth Lab
Required corequisite to GEOL 190. Laboratory sessions focus on providing a familiarization with common rocks, minerals, and fossils, and geologic field techniques, with an emphasis on how these materials and techniques are used to understand Earth and its history.