Spring 2022

Planet Earth: Introduction to Geology

Listed in: Geology, as GEOL-111

Formerly listed as: GEOL-11


Peter D. Crowley (Section 01)


How well do you know the planet on which we live? In this course we will explore Earth from its core to its surface, from the mountains to the deep ocean basins, from the past and present to the future. The earth is an evolving and dynamic system, changing on time scales that range from seconds, to millennia, to eons: volcanos erupt, earthquakes vibrate the globe, continents separate and collide, and mountains rise only to be worn away and rise again. What physical processes drive this dynamism? How does the restless nature of Earth impact our residency? Studying active geologic processes will provide us with a means to decode the history of Earth as written in rocks; analyzing the rock record allows us to test hypotheses about the formation and continual modification of the planet.  With a geologic understanding of your home planet, students will emerge from the course with an expanded notion of what it is to be human. This is a science course designed for all Amherst students.

Three hours of class and two hours of lab in which the student gains direct experience in the science through demonstrations, examination of earth materials, and projects. Lab materials will be provided for remote students.

Limited to 60 students with 20 students per lab. Fall semester: Professor Harms and Assistant Professor Barnard. Spring semester: Professor Crowley.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: lectures (both synchronous and asynchronous); lab work in a collaborative, group setting; field trips that involve observation of rock outcrops in the out-of-doors, with some hiking; in-class quizzes and/or exams; modest quantitative analysis; and a collaborative, integrated final project that includes independent analysis of a novel problem. Each of these modes of learning relies heavily on visual analysis. Attendance is a critical element of success. The course does not assume any prior knowledge of earth science. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022