Spring 2023

Surficial Earth Dynamics: Climate, Environment, and Life

Listed in: Geology, as GEOL-112


Nicholas D. Holschuh (Sections 01, 01L and 02L)
Anna M. Martini (Sections 01, 01L and 02L)


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.

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

How to handle overenrollment: Preference first to majors, then to first- and second-year students, then to STEM majors in other departments

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: group work, lab work, field trips, quantitative work

GEOL 112 - LEC

Section 01
M 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM BEBU 107
W 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM BEBU 107
F 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM BEBU 107

GEOL 112 - LAB

Section 01L
Tu 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM BEBU 211

Section 02L
Tu 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM BEBU 211


Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025