The global ocean is one of the defining features of our planet’s surface. It regulates weather patterns, sculpts the coasts of the continents, and contains records of the past 200 million years of earth's climate in sediment on the seafloor. In this course we will develop an understanding of the global marine system through study of its interconnected geological, chemical, physical, and biological processes. These fundamental principles include seafloor spreading, the transport of heat from the equator to the poles, and cycling of nutrients and organic matter by plankton. We will address how the ocean has evolved over the planet’s history, from changes in its circulation brought on by shifting continental configurations and climate fluctuations to its chemical responses to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The course will conclude with scientifically informed considerations of some of the challenges humanity faces in deciding how to use the ocean and its resources. Three class hours per week.
Not open to students who have taken GEOL 121. Limited to 60 students. Fall semester. Professor Jones.Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Fall 2023
Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are rising and humans are responsible for much of that increase. The Paris Agreement attempts to limit carbon emissions so that Earth does not warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial global temperature. Why was the goal of 2 degrees Celsius set by the international community? What will Earth be like when it is 2 degrees warmer? What will Earth be like if we do not limit carbon emissions and pass the 2 degree barrier? We will use case studies from various regions to investigate the possible effect and impact of anticipated warming on land use, agriculture, energy consumption/production and the urban environment. Through these case studies we will examine and discuss the scientific basis behind plus 2 degree predictions and explore the anticipated impacts of climate change.
Not open to students who have taken GEOL 109. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Kanamaru.2023-24: Not offered
Life originated in the oceans and exists today in a wide variety of marine environments and ecosystems that are fundamentally different from the more familiar terrestrial ones. Furthermore, life in the oceans was responsible for creating the conditions that allowed terrestrial life to develop and flourish. The main focus of this course is an examination of the ecology, function, and adaptations of organisms that support diverse marine environments from nearshore to offshore and from shallow to deep water. We will examine life in the open sea, on the seabed, in rocky intertidal communities, kelp forests, deep ocean hydrothermal vents, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems. From the single-celled phytoplankton to the largest animals on Earth, we will study the structure of these oceanographic food webs. This course also explores how human activities are altering the marine environment, including the large-scale impacts of the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills.
Limited to 48 students. Omitted 2017-18.2023-24: Not offered
From the earliest civilizations, humankind has been a major agent of environmental change. However, from the dawn of the industrial age, when fossil fuels were first tapped as an energy resource, the rate of this change has increased exponentially. In this course, we will discover how and why human activity influences climate change by examining the recent geologic record of our climate and by exploring processes that affect the climate in modern natural systems. We will then dissect the connection between climate dynamics and the Earth’s energy budget, and understand the extent to which humans are causing climate change. We will also discuss the impacts of climate change to present and future society by focusing on energy resources, including those that are renewable. Further, we will examine what can be done to mitigate the most adverse effects of climate change by exploring diverse issues that modern society faces with ongoing climate change. Three class meetings per week.
Limited to 48 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Kanamaru.2023-24: Not offered
As the science that considers the origin and evolution of the earth, Geology provides students with an understanding of what is known about the earth and how we know it, how the earth “works” and why we think it behaves as it does. In particular this course focuses upon the earth as an evolving and dynamic system where change is driven by energy generated within the earth. Concepts to be covered are: the structure of the earth’s interior, isostasy, deep time, the origin and nature of the magnetic field, plate tectonics, the origin and evolution of mountain belts, and ocean basins and the growth of the continents over time. In this context, GEOL 111 considers a diverse range of topics such as the Appalachian mountain belt, the Hawaiian Islands, Yellowstone Park, the consequences of seismicity, faulting, meteorite impact, and volcanism on the earth’s inhabitants, and the sources and limitations of mineral and energy resources. This is a science course designed for all students of the College. Three hours of class and two hours of lab in which the student gains direct experience in the science through field trips, demonstrations, and projects.
Limited to 60 students with 20 students per lab. Fall semester: Professors Crowley and Harms. Spring semester: Professor Harms.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
For at least 3.5 billion years, the Earth’s surface environment has supported some form of life. What geologic processes first created and now maintain this environment? To what extent has life modified this environment over geologic time? What conditions are necessary for a planet to be conducive to life? What are the natural processes that operate at the Earth’s surface? This course looks at the environment from a geologist’s perspective. The course will start with dynamic systems that can be observed in operation today, as in river and coastal settings, where erosion and deposition occur, and by the interaction of the oceans, atmosphere, and climate. Techniques for interpreting the rock record will be developed so that past environments can be examined and potential future conditions on Earth better appreciated. Differences between earliest Earth environments and those of the more recent few billion years will be studied and integrated with the history of the origin and evolution of life. Three hours of lecture and two hours of lab, including field trips, each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professors Martini and Jones.2023-24: Not offered
This course focuses on the history of life as preserved in the sedimentary rock record. Students will learn how paleontologists and geobiologists use skeletal fossils, molecular fossils, and geochemical signatures to ask and answer questions about the evolution of ancient life and Earth history. Students will study the origination, radiation, and extinction of major groups of organisms in the context of global environmental change, with an emphasis on invertebrate and microbial life. Laboratories include the systematic description, identification, and interpretation of fossils in the field, in hand specimen, and in thin section. Three hours of lectures and three hours of laboratory. One weekend field trip required.
Requisite: GEOL 111. Fall semester. Professor Jones.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2023
The crystallography and crystal chemistry of naturally occurring inorganic compounds (minerals). The identification, origin, distribution and use of minerals. Laboratory work includes the principles and methods of optical mineralogy, X-ray diffraction, back-scattered electron microscopy, and electron beam microanalysis. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lecture/discussion and directed laboratory.
Recommended requisite: GEOL 111, CHEM 151 or 155 or their equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Cheney.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025
A study of the geometry and origin of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock structures that are the products of earth deformation. Emphasis will be placed on recognition and interpretation of structures through development of field and laboratory methodology. Three hours of lecture and five hours of laboratory each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111. Fall semester. Professor Crowley.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
As the global human population expands, the search for and preservation of our most important resource, water, will demand societal vigilance and greater scientific understanding. This course is an introduction to surface and groundwater hydrology and geochemistry in natural systems, providing fundamental concepts aimed at the understanding and management of the hydrosphere. The course is divided into two roughly equal parts: surface and groundwater hydrology, and aqueous geochemistry. In the first section, we will cover the principal concepts of physical hydrogeology including watershed analysis and groundwater modeling. In the second half, we will integrate the geochemistry of these systems addressing both natural variations and the human impact on our environment. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab or field trip each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Martini.
An overview of the dominant sedimentologic processes operating in both modern and ancient depositional environments. Students will learn how to examine and interpret features of sedimentary rocks and how to assess temporal or spatial patterns in sequences of sedimentary rocks. Students will then use these observations to expand their understanding of Earth history. Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111. Recommended requisite: GEOL 121. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Jones.2023-24: Not offered
A study of igneous and metamorphic processes and environments. Application of chemical principles and experimental data to igneous and metamorphic rocks is stressed. Identification, analysis, and mapping of rocks in laboratory and field. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: GEOL 271. Spring semester. Professor Cheney.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022
Earth's climate has varied greatly over geological time but always remained within boundaries that allowed life to exist. Past climate can be reconstructed from physical and chemical proxies preserved in geological materials: sediment, rocks and fossils. We will examine common climate proxies and the paleoclimate records that can be derived from them. In this course, we will explore the causal factors of climate evolution including plate tectonics, solar radiation, planetary orbital movements, atmospheric chemistry and physics, ocean dynamics and biological productivity. We will focus our study on the last 200 million years, starting at the time when all landmasses formed the supercontinent Pangaea. Paleoclimatology: (1) offers a critical evaluation of the fidelity of geochemical proxies and climate archives; (2) examines mechanisms internal and external to the climate system that drive climate variability on time scales from decades to millions of years; (3) provides the climate context for biological evolution, including that of humans and human civilization, and finally; (4) uses past climate change to investigate present and future climate change. Three hours of class and three hours of lab each week.
Requisite: GEOL 121 or CHEM 151 or PHYS 116 or permission of the instructor. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Kanamaru.2023-24: Not offered
Only the surface of the earth is accessible for direct study but, as a two-dimensional surface, it represents a very incomplete picture of the geologic character of the earth. The most fundamental realms of the earth--the core and mantle--cannot themselves be observed. Even the uppermost part of the crust, where the lithosphere and hydrosphere interact to determine the quality of the environment in which we live, is hidden. Indirect signals, observed at the surface, can give us a more comprehensive understanding of earth structure--from environmental problems that lie just below the surface to the dynamics of the core/mantle boundary. We can “see” these subsurface realms using seismology, gravity, magnetism and heat flow observations. This course will bring findings from geophysics to bear on developing a picture of the earth in three dimensions. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111. Spring semester. Professor Crowley.2023-24: Not offered
An analysis of the dynamic processes that drive the physical evolution of the earth’s crust and mantle. Plate tectonics, the changing configuration of the continents and oceans, and the origin and evolution of mountain belts will be studied using evidence from diverse branches of geology. Present dynamics are examined as a means to interpret the record of the past, and the rock record is examined as a key to understanding the potential range of present and future earth dynamics. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory each week.
Requisite: GEOL 111 and two additional upper-level Geology courses. Fall semester. Professor Harms.2023-24: Not offered
This course examines the principles of thermodynamics, via the methodology of J. Willard Gibbs, with an emphasis upon multicomponent heterogeneous systems. These principles are used to study equilibria germane to the genesis and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Specific applications include: the properties of ideal and real crystalline solutions, geothermometry, geobarometry, and the Gibbs method--the analytic formulation of phase equilibria. This course also introduces the student to the algebraic and geometric representations of chemical compositions of both homogeneous and heterogeneous systems. Four class hours each week.
Requisite: GEOL 271 or CHEM 161, or PHYS 116 or 123. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Cheney.2023-24: Not offered
Through biogeochemical cycles microbes influence the chemical composition of all of our habitable environments. They are found in the most extreme environments on Earth, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of our oceans as well as in the deep subsurface of Earth’s crust. In this seminar, we will examine tracers and proxies for microbial activity present in rock, sediment, soil and porewater. Environments to be studied include hydrothermal vents, deep sedimentary basins, early Earth and possible extraterrestrial habitats. We will survey the major biologically relevant elements of the periodic table (C, O, S, N, Fe, P) and examine how these elements cycle through the environment, focusing on stable isotopic tracers of biological processes. Students will gain experience with field and laboratory techniques and we will emphasize the current scientific literature in discussions. Three hours of class per week plus field and laboratory times to be scheduled with the professor.
Requisite: CHEM 151 or GEOL 301 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Martini.2023-24: Not offered
Independent reading or research. A written report will be required. A full course.
Approval of the Departmental Chair is required. Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
Independent research on a geologic problem within any area of staff competence. A dissertation of high quality will be required.
Open to seniors who meet the requirements of the Departmental Honors program. Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025