From the earliest civilizations man has been a major agent of environmental change. However, from the dawn of the industrial age, when fossil fuels were first tapped for energy, the rate of this change has increased exponentially. In this course, we will dissect environmental issues by first examining the recent geologic record of climate change and how processes that affect climate change operate in modern natural systems. We will then assess how societies have modified such systems and what factors control the trajectory and rate of change. Several environmental case studies will be used to provide insight into the scientific issues associated with specific environmental problems. Case studies will focus on nonrenewable and renewable energy resources and their relationship to climate change.
Limited to 60 students. Fall semester. Professor Martini.2019-20: 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, Geology 11 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 20 students per section. Fall semester: Professors Crowley, Martini, and Ouimet. Spring semester: Professor Crowley.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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: Geology 11 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professors Martini and Ouimet.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
The evolution of vertebrates as shown by study of fossils and the relationship of environment to evolution. Lectures and projects utilize vertebrate fossils in the Amherst College Museum of Natural History. Three hours of class and one discussion/laboratory session per week. Offered in alternate years.
Requisite: One course in biology or geology or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2009-10.2019-20: Not offered
Geomorphology is the quantitative analysis of earth-surface processes and interpretation of landforms and landscapes throughout the world. This course focuses on the landforms and landform evolution associated with fluvial and glacial landscapes and hillslope processes such as mass movements that affect the dynamics of drainage basins. The course also examines the long-term evolution of landscapes through complex feedback between tectonics, climate, and erosion. The goal of this course will be to learn to read landscapes to make these large-scale connections. The lab will introduce surveying and GPS field instruments, satellite images and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Three hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab, including field trips each week.
Requisite: Geology 11. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Ouimet.
2019-20: Not offered
What do fossils tell us about life on Earth over the last four billion years and the potential for life on other planets? In this course, students will gain an appreciation of the richness of ancient life on Earth and will learn to recognize, identify, and interpret fossils in the field and in the laboratory. Using fossils as tools, students will learn to use fossils to solve problems, test hypotheses, and investigate Earth history. Laboratories will focus on learning the commonly fossilized groups that are involved in key aspects of Earth history, including invertebrate, micro-, trace, plant, and vertebrate fossils. Three hours of lectures and three hours of laboratory.
Requisite: Geology 11 or Biology 18 or 19. Omitted 2009-10.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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: Geology 11 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Martini.2019-20: Not offered
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: Geology 11. Fall semester. Professor Crowley.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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. Four hours of lecture and two hours of directed laboratory.
Recommended requisite: Geology 11, Chemistry 11 or Chemistry 15 or their equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Cheney.2019-20: 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. Four hours of class and three hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: Geology 30. Spring semester. Professor Cheney.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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. The laboratory section of the course will include six in-lab field trips, as well as two weekend field trips. Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory each week.
Requisite: Geology 11. Omitted 2009-10.2019-20: Not offered
Over earth history landscapes have been created by geological and environmental processes. By analyzing modern landscapes we can deduce the process that acted in the past to produce these landscapes as well as the processes that act upon them today. In this course, we will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing to create and analyze spatial databases that describe the Earth’s surface. This course will be a project-based introduction to GIS, remote sensing, and image interpretation for geologic applications and environmental analysis. A mixture of lecture and project/lab work will explore the data (air photos, Digital Elevation Models, satellite imagery, land-use maps, geologic maps, etc.) and the methods (GIS, image analysis, etc.) involved in making observations and developing interpretations regarding geologic processes, landforms and environmental change. Case studies and project data will be drawn from the local landscape, as well as landscapes of interest to the students and professor. Three hours of lecture and two hours of laboratory each week.
Limited to 21 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Ouimet.2019-20: 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: Geology 11 and two additional upper-level Geology courses. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Harms.2019-20: 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: Geology 11 or 12. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Crowley.2019-20: 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: Geology 30 or Chemistry 12 or Physics 16 or 32. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Cheney.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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. Once a week this advanced seminar will meet jointly with biogeochemistry experts across the five colleges. Three hours of class per week.
Requisite: Chemistry 11 or Geology 28 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Martini.2019-20: Not offered
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. Fall semester. The Staff.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Independent reading or research. A written report will be required. A full course.
Approval of the Department Chair is required. Fall semester. The Staff.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020