Spring 2021

Surficial Earth Dynamics: Climate, Environment, and Life

Listed in: Geology, as GEOL-112

Formerly listed as: GEOL-21


The Department (Section 01)


For at least 3.5 billion years, Earth’s surface environments have supported some form of life. What geologic processes first created and subsequently maintained a habitable environment? How does contemporary global climate change compare to climate variations over Earth’s long history? This course looks at Earth’s climate and its surface environment from a geologist’s perspective. We will develop an understanding of the atmospheric, oceanographic, geological, and biological systems that interact to modulate the climate. Because Earth’s surface environments are products of and participants in these systems, we will also build the skills necessary to observe and interpret the landscape through study of modern coastal and riverine processes in the context of our region’s glacial history. Exploration of the sedimentary rock record, in which evidence of the history of ancient climate and life is preserved, will inform our inquiry into the ongoing climate experiment humanity is running through the rapid release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The scientific tools we develop will allow us to analyze predictions of future climate change and assess possible paths forward.

This is an introductory science course designed for all students of the college. It provides a foundation for further study of Earth’s climate and surface environments. Three hours of class and two hours of lab. Not open to students who have taken GEOL-121.

GEOL-112 will be conducted remotely, using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. In lab, students will participate in virtual field trips, practice techniques of image interpretation, and learn to interpret geological and climatological data. Students will be guided through the course by close, regular interaction with the instructors as would be true in a classroom setting.

Limited to 40 students with 20 students per lab. Spring semester. Professor Jones and Assistant Professor Holschuh.

If Overenrolled: Preference first to majors, then to first- and second-year students, then to STEM majors in other departments


Lab Science Course, Online Only, Quantitative Reasoning, Science & Math for Non-majors


2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020