Tentative Future Geology Course Offerings

Descriptions of Geology Courses:

GEOL 100: An Introduction to Geology: From Fire to Ice:

A broad introduction to the geological processes acting within the earth and on its surface that produce volcanoes, earthquakes, mountain belts, mineral deposits, and ocean basins. The course considers the dramatic effects of plate tectonics, the enormous periods of time over which geologic processes take place, and the familiar features of the landscape formed by landslides, rivers, groundwater, and glaciers. Practical aspects are learned through discovery-oriented laboratory exercises, which include several field excursions. Lecture/laboratory. Preference to first- and second-year students, geology majors, and environmental science minors. {Phys}

GEOL 110: An Introduction to Geology: Environmental Geology

From a human perspective on the earth’s surface, the planet appears almost infinite. From an Apollo spacecraft, however, earth is simply a larger spaceship with more resources, but nonetheless finite. The course examines the interplay between land-use activity and geologic processes such as flooding, shoreline erosion, and soil erosion. Students explore groundwater resources, geological constraints on waste disposal, and impacts of resource utilization, such as acid rain and the greenhouse effect. Lecture/laboratory/ field excursions. Preference to first- and second-year students, geology majors, and environmental science minors. {Phys}

GEOL 115: An Introduction to Geology: Earth’s Climate- Past, Present, and Future

Earth’s climate has changed dramatically over its history, moving between completely ice-free intervals to periods of global glaciations. How and why did these major climatic changes occur? What can history teach about the future of the climate? This course identifies the major components of the climate system and explores factors and processes that influence the system over a variety of timescales. Using major lessons learned from Earth’s history, this course considers the climatological impact of human activity in this century and examines current ideas about the climatic future. {Hist}

GEOL 120: An Introduction to Geology: Geological Disasters- Agents of Chaos

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and asteroid impacts are all part of the geologic evolution of the earth. For many different reasons, humans are exposed to the often severe consequences of living in areas vulnerable to the violence of nature. This course examines these processes from both scientific and personal perspectives to understand why and where they occur and how human activity has interfered with natural processes, perhaps making the planet more prone to disaster. Lecture/laboratory. Preference to first- and second-year students, geology majors, and environmental science minors. {Phys}

GEOL 130: An Introduction to Geology: Dinosaurs, Darwin, and Deep Time

Human occupation of this planet has been confined to the amazingly brief, last sliver of geologic time. This course is an introduction to the immensity of deep time before our existence. The class explores how the history of gradual processes, exceptional events, and biotic evolution has shaped our world and, ultimately, us. Course topics include the fundamentals of earth materials, plate tectonics, and paleobiology. {Hist}

GEOL 140: A Geologic Exploration of New Zealand’s Dynamic Landscape

During this two-week course, students will explore New Zealand’s incredible geology and a landscape that is being shaped in real-time. On the North Island, students will see active volcanoes and geothermal features that rival Yellowstone. On the South Island, students will explore the Southern Alps, a terrain of highly deformed rocks, caves, glaciers, and braided rivers. {Phys}

GEOL 150: Geologic Evolution of the Hawaiian Islands

This course provides students with an understanding of how volcanic, geomorphic, and coastal processes have shaped, and continue to shape, the Hawaiian Islands. The course focuses on volcanism, landform development, and coastal processes. The Hawaiian Islands provide a unique opportunity to study active volcanic processes building the islands in conjunction with geomorphic processes that alter the volcanic landscape. The Hawaiian landscape ranges in age from 25 million years to minutes old. Students see volcanic processes creating the islands and how the soils, landscapes, and coasts have evolved through time. {Phys}

GEOL 160: Geology from A (Arches) to Z (Zion): The Geology of National Parks in the Western United States

Students develop an understanding of basic geological processes and how they shape the Earth by visiting different national parks in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Utah. Topics covered in an introductory geology course are learned in an experiential field experience instead of typical lecture-lab. For example, in the canyon lands (Grand, Bryce, and Zion) students examine the fossil record preserved in the rocks; in California, they study geological hazards (earthquakes, landslides, and volcanism) by field studies of the San Andreas Fault; mass-wasting in Pt. Reyes National Seashore; and volcanism at Lassen volcano. {Phys/Hist}

GEOL 170: Geological and Paleobiological Evolution of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

This course will examine the coupled natural history of earth and life over geological time scales. We will focus on the origin of oceanic crusts and hotspot island archipelagos, the development of continental mountain ranges, and the relationship of geological processes to biogeography and biological evolution. {Phys}

GEOL 180:  Iceland:  Geology & Natural History of a Young Island

Iceland is a geologically new and unique island. The dynamic glacial environments, sub-polar climate, and thunderous river systems of the country sit atop an active volcanic system on a divergent plate boundary. This intensive field course explores the geological processes that shape the island’s landscape and the climate and life of a sub-polar biome. The course also addresses aspects of Iceland’s human ecology from its early settlement to modern issues of energy, agriculture, and sustainability. {Phys}

GEOL 190:  Climate Change and Human Civilizations

All organisms are sensitive to their environment. Humans are no exception. Patterns of temperature and rainfall are critical to the availability of water, kind of crops that can be cultivated, type of livestock that can be kept, and requirements for shelter in a region. Using scientific and historical sources we will examine the relationship between climate and humans throughout human history. In addition to a brief introduction to the Earth’s climate system and several case studies of the impacts of changing climate on past human societies, this course will explore modern human-induced climate change and consider what lessons might be learned from the experiences of our ancestors. Pre-requisite a 100-level laboratory science course, preferably in geology.

GEOL 195: The Earth In Eruption: Physical Volcanology

More than 500 million people live near the more than 1500 known active volcanoes and are constantly facing serious threats from eruptive activity. This course is a comprehensive overview of the processes that control when and how volcanoes erupt. We will focus on where volcanoes occur, what makes them erupt and the nature of volcanic eruptions and their products and how they differ, and finally on how volcanoes affect humans and the environment. Preference to first- and second-year students and geology majors. Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course. STSC

Introductory Level Courses are identified as Physical Geology {Phys} and Earth History {Hist}, and apply to the geology degree requirements.

GEOL 200: Earth and Planetary Materials

Introduction to the crystallographic, structural, and chemical characteristics of rock-forming minerals and consideration of the processes and variables that control mineral formation. Igneous, metamorphic, hydrothermal, and sedimentary environments in which common minerals form. X-ray powder diffraction techniques used to identify earth materials and to determine unit-cell dimensions. Laboratory includes discovery-oriented exercises in X-ray diffraction, mineral identification, and crystallography, as well as high-temperature experiments in phase equilibria. Lecture/laboratory.
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course and elementary chemistry, or permission of instructor

GEOL 205: Oceanography

This course explores the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the oceans and human impacts on these systems. Topics include the origin of the oceans, marine geology, ocean circulation, ocean exploration, coastal and open ocean processes, and marine ecosystems. Through a series of case studies we will examine the impacts of humans on marine environments at both the global and regional scales. Priority given to geology majors, environmental science and studies majors, and first- and second-year students
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course or permission of instructor

GEOL 210: Hydrogeology

The study of groundwater occurrence, flow, quality, and utilization. The characteristics of the geologic environment which determine the hydrogeologic system are discussed. Principles of groundwater flow, surface water and groundwater interaction, aquifer response to pumping, and regional groundwater flow are examined. The course also focuses on groundwater contamination and remediation (“clean-up”). Field projects use a well-field at Metzgar Fields and local remediation sites. Lecture/laboratory.
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course

GEOL 215: Sedimentology & Stratigraphy

Sediments and sedimentary rocks record information about Earth’s surface environments and their change through geologic time.  This course is a detailed study of the development and structure of sedimentary deposits and the stratigraphic record.  Focus topics include modern and ancient depositional systems, field stratigraphy, and basin analysis. [W]
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course or permission of instructor


GEOL 229: Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing in the Geosciences

A broad introduction to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the geosciences. The relationships between geography, geology, and society will be pursued. Students will be exposed to both pertinent computer and analytical skills common to GIS, including both field and computer based projects that explore spatial data (regions, rocks), and their associated attributes (feature data).
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course or permission of the instructor

GEOL 300: Earth Surface Processes

Comprehensive analysis of geological processes that produce, maintain, and change the earth’s surface. Topics include tectonics and landforms, rock weathering, soil development, hillslope processes, and river and glacial erosion and deposition. Explore where earth surface processes and landforms are viewed as interacting components of a complex system. The operation of geomorphic systems is examined from a process-response perspective. Laboratory includes map and aerial photo analysis as well as field work and a project. Lecture/laboratory. [W]
Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course. Geology 200 and 317 are recommended

GEOL 307: Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

An examination of igneous and metamorphic rocks as records of the crustal evolution of the earth. The origins and existence of these rocks are examined in view of chemical phase equilibria and igneous and metamorphic processes. Laboratory work emphasizes the identification and classification of igneous and metamorphic rocks using hand samples, thin section identification, X-ray powder diffraction, analytical techniques, and field relationships.
Prerequisite: Geology 200

GEOL 310: Environmental Geomorphology

This course explores the interactions between humans and the earth’s surface and surficial processes. The course describes techniques for assessing geomorphic hazards such as surface instability (slope failures and sinkholes) flooding, and debris flows. Surface mine reclamation, drainage basin analysis, soil erosion problems, and channel change relating to land use activity, and river restoration are also examined. This course explores potential impacts of global climate change on regional hydrology and rivers.
Prerequisite: Geology 300

GEOL 311: River Form and Function

Examination of rivers and their effects on the landscape. The course explores such topics as drainage network development, sediment yield, sediment transport, river morphology, landscape elements produced by fluvial activity, and the interaction between humans and fluvial systems. The relationships between rivers and landscape evolution over the long term is central, capped by a discussion of the geomorphic evolution of the Appalachians and the concept of peneplanation.
Prerequisite: Geology 300 or permission of instructor

GEOL 315: Paleoclimatology and Paleoceanography

Understanding Earth’s climate system and predicting future climatic change requires both the study of the climate processes that operate within the Earth’s system as well as detailed studies of climate changes in the past. Direct human observations of climate have captured only a very small fraction of the potential range of Earth’s climatic variability. In contrast, the geologic record provides a rich archive of past variations in climate. In this course, we will explore the processes that control Earth’s climate, investigate and interpret the geologic record of past climatic changes, and examine methods used to reconstruct past climates. [W]
Prerequisite: Geology 115, 130, or 205 or permission of the instructor

GEOL 317: Structure and Tectonics of the Earth

An examination of global tectonics and the response of rocks to stress at all scales, with an emphasis on an understanding of the relationship of structural geology to tectonic theory. This includes a systematic study of folds, faults, joints, foliations, and lineations from which the geometric relationships and deformational history of the earth’s crust can be deduced. Lecture/laboratory/. Weekend field trips are required. [W] Prerequisite: Geology 215

GEOL 320: Paleobiology

An organismal and systems approach to the study of the marine and terrestrial fossil record. The course focuses on diversification and extinction of biotas in the context of the environmental history of Earth. Lecture, weekly laboratory, and one weekend field trip.
Prerequisite: Any college-level Geology or Biology course

GEOL 321: Geochemistry

An introduction to the chemical and thermodynamic principles and processes that control geological phenomena both at the earth’s surface and deep within the earth. Consideration of solid-earth equilibria (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, and weathering reactions), isotope geochemistry oxidation-reduction, natural aqueous solutions, and solid-aqueous equilibria. Lecture/Laboratory.
Prerequisite: Geology 200 and elementary calculus, or permission of instructor

GEOL 322: Environmental Geophysics

Introduction to the geophysical techniques used to study large- and small-scale features and processes of the Earth. Emphasis is placed on the fundamental principles of gravity, magnetism, seismology, heat transfer, and electrical methods as they apply to environmental problems. There are classroom lectures, laboratory and field exercises. Lecture/laboratory. Prerequisite: Any 100-level geology course. Geology 317 and introductory physics recommended

GEOL 351-360: Geological Problems

Original research problems in the geosciences: environmental studies, mineralogy-geochemistry, sedimentology-oceanography, geomorphology-groundwater, structural geology-tectonics, geophysics, petrology-petrogenesis, paleontology-stratigraphy, and additional subjects of specialized interest. For advanced geology and geoscience students.
Prerequisite: Requires departmental permission


GEOL 495, 496: Thesis

Individual field and laboratory problems involving the preparation of a thesis. Open to qualified students only. [W]
Thesis guidelines and documentation can be found in the following three PDF files.

Summer field Camp Opportunities