Geology

Program Director: Larry Davis

Faculty: Larry Davis

We live in a time of expanding population and increasing demands on finite resources. Consequently, there is an ever-increasing need to understand and appreciate the complex interrelationships among the Earth’s physical and biological systems. We believe that every liberally educated student should have at least an elementary understanding of geological systems and processes, and how these affect human activity. To this end, the Geology Department offers entry-level courses in Physical Geology and Historical Geology. These courses provide an introduction to the scientific principles and techniques used to understand the Earth and to inform students about the composition and materials of the Earth, major processes which shape the Earth’s surface, and the evolution of the Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.

For those students interested in additional geological studies, particularly in the area of paleontology, additional courses are offered. A natural science major with an emphasis in geology, and selected courses in biology, mathematics, and chemistry, will provide students with the necessary background to successfully enter into a graduate program in paleontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy. Students are encouraged to apply for geology internships and to become involved in geology-based undergraduate research opportunities.

The Geology Department maintains a collection of minerals, rocks, and fossils for student study and research. Research equipment includes petrographic and binocular microscopes, stream table, and groundwater simulation models. Laboratory space is available for student research. A large geology reference library is located in the geology classroom/lab.

Assessment

Natural science majors with an emphasis in geology are required to complete an on-line survey during their sophomore year and a follow-up survey during their senior year. They are also required to take the major field test in geology during the spring semester of their senior year. Students are required to design and conduct a geologically based research project and to present their research at a public forum and/or submit their research for publication.

Major

Natural science major with emphasis in geology (see Natural Science)

Minor (None)

Courses (GEOL)

203 Geology of the Colorado Plateau. (3)
A summer field course emphasizing a study of the distinctive geologic features of the Colorado Plateau, featuring the national parks and monuments of the “Grand Staircase”: Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Petrified Forest National Parks will also be visited. Prerequisites: 301 and good physical conditioning. Summer.

211 Physical Geology. (4)
Geology is the study of the composition of the Earth and its dynamic systems. One system, using solar and gravitational energy, involves the processes of weathering, erosion and deposition of sediments by the atmosphere, wind, rivers, ground water and glaciers. The other system, using internal energy of the Earth, is tectonic. This involves movement of material in the Earth’s interior resulting in plate movement which creates and destroys the crust and results in volcanism, earthquakes and mountain-building. Laboratory is required. Fall.

212 Evolution of the Earth. (4)
A study of the interpretation of the geological evolution of the Earth, with emphasis on the North American continent, in light of plate motion and sea-floor spreading. The rock record and fossil record are closely examined. Both provide clues to the evolutionary changes in the Earth’s crust and in life. Laboratory is required. Prerequisite: 211. Spring.

214 Paleobiology of Dinosauria. (4)
A study of paleobiology and evolution of Dinosauria. Dinosaurs will be studied within the context of geological, biological, and anatomical considerations, and will include an examination of controversial issues; ideas about established facts and reasonable inferences; and separation of truth from fiction and misinformation. Prerequisites: BIOL 115. Laboratory is required. Fall.

340 Invertebrate Paleontology. (4)
Study of the evolution, paleoecology, and paleogeography of the first four billion years of life on Earth. The focus will be on invertebrate paleontology, with reference to vertebrate and plant fossils. Field trip and laboratory required. Prerequisites: 212 or BIOL 222. Fall.

350 Petrology. (4)
Study of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in outcrop, hand sample and thin section. This study includes the description and classification of rocks, and a study of the histories and origins of rocks. Prerequisites: 210. Laboratory and field trips required. Fall, alternate years.

360 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. (3)
Sedimentary rocks illuminate many of the details of Earth’s 4.6-billion year history, such as sea level changes, global climatic change, and fluctuations in the bio-geo-chemical cycles. Sedimentology is the study of the origin, classification and diagenesis of sediments, sedimentary rocks, and sedimentary structures. Stratigraphy emphasizes the analysis of sedimentary strata and the interpretation of ancient sedimentary depositional environments. Prerequisites: 350 required, and GEOL/BIOL 340 recommended. Summer, alternate years.

380 Special Topics in Geology. (1-4)
Readings and discussions in either broad or specific areas of geology not covered in departmental courses OR extensive field research experience under the direction of a staff member. May be repeated for credit when topics vary. Prerequisites: 211, 212; or 214.