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 112 or 121. Limited to 60 students. Fifteen seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Jones.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: 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, this course 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 Harms and Guevara. Spring semester: Professors Harms and Guevara, and Visiting Professor Bernard.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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 in which the student gains direct experience in the science through field trips, demonstrations, and hands-on projects. Not open to students who have taken GEOL 121.
Limited to 40 students with 20 students per lab. Spring semester. Professor Jones.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
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 or consent of instructor. Fall semester. Professor Jones.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 Harms and Visiting Professor Bernard.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: GEOL 111 or CHEM 151 or 155 or PHYS 116, or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Martini.2019-20: Not offered
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 112 or 121. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: 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 the laboratory and field. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: GEOL 271. Spring semester. Professors Cheney and Guevara.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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 112 or 121 or CHEM 151 or PHYS 116 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: 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: GEOL 111. Spring semester. Professor Crowley.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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 GEOL courses. Spring semester. Professor Harms.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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. Fall semester. 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. 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 2019-20. Professor Martini.2019-20: 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.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
Independent research on a geologic problem within any area of staff competence. A thesis of high quality will be required.
Open to seniors who meet the requirements of the Departmental Honors program. Fall semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019