2017-2018 University Catalogue 
    Jul 14, 2024  
2017-2018 University Catalogue [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Professors April, Harpp, Leventer, Peck, Selleck, Soja
Associate Professor Wong (Chair)
Assistant Professor Adams
Senior Lecturer Keller

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 ocean, have been reshaped by plate tectonics, volcanism, mountain building, climate change, evolution, and human impact 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 focused and 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 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 considering attending 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 encourages all 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 300–level electives.

Teacher Certification

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 .


The Award for Excellence in Geology — 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 an honors program in geology. A GPA of 3.20 or higher in the four core courses (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.

In addition, honors candidates must 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 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. Awarding the distinction of honors 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. 

Related Majors

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

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



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