Geology Major

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Department Faculty

The Geology Program

Geology is the scientific study of the Earth, including its composition, dynamics, surface processes and history. Our Geology major provides broad training in a diverse range of courses appropriate for students interested in pursuing a professional career or graduate studies in the earth sciences and related fields. The program also provides part of the necessary background for teaching the earth sciences. Because geology is an interdisciplinary science, students are encouraged to add courses from other fields. For example, students interested in paleontology are advised to take appropriate biology classes, whereas courses in chemistry and physics are important in disciplines such as seismology, geochemistry, hydrology, and studies of energy and mineral resources.

The Environmental Geology major is designed for students with a specific interest in Earth’s surficial processes, especially as they relate to human interaction with the landscape and environment. Environmental geology, therefore, examines topics such as hydrogeology, soil and water chemistry, and geomorphology that lie at the interfaces of the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and climate system.

Students majoring in geology or environmental geology are encouraged to do independent study and research during their senior year. Financial support for student research is available. Qualified students may also choose to do an internship with a professional agency during either their junior or senior year. Students with a 3.00 overall grade-point average and a 3.25 average in geology courses may pursue Honors in Geology or Environmental Geology by completing an independent research project and writing and defending a thesis.

The Department has modern and well-equipped laboratories in the Jepson Science Center equipped with advanced analytical instruments to support and reinforce classroom instruction and to provide opportunities for research. Major equipment items include petrographic microscopes (one with a fluid-inclusion stage), an x-ray diffractometer, a magnetic susceptibility instrument, and lab facilities for paleontology, sedimentology and geochemistry. The Jepson Science Center has a variable pressure scanning electron microscope with chemical capabilities that is shared by the science disciplines. For geological fieldwork, the department has GPS equipment, access to several boats, a core drill, surveying equipment, sediment corers, and for classroom study, an extensive collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils. The department also maintains a computer lab/classroom equipped with the latest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.

Majors are encouraged to fulfill the general education experiential learning requirement by completing URES 197, GEOL 491, GEOL 493, or GEOL 499. Alternatively, majors may meet this requirement by participating in an approved supervised on-campus or off-campus summer research experience developed in consultation with department (such as the UMW Summer Science Research Program or a similar program at another college or university).  To complete the experiential learning requirement through a summer research experience, contact the department chair for more details.

Requirements for Geology Major

Forty (40) credits, to include Geology 111, 112, 240, 301, 302, 311, and 412; and an additional twelve (12) credits in other geology courses including Geology 201, 205, 210 and 211 (must be taken concurrently and count as one elective) or other geology courses at the 300-level and above. Chemistry 331 or 332 may be substituted for up to four (4) of these credits. Environmental Science 307 and 493 may also be included for geology elective credit.

Requirements for Environmental Geology Major

Forty-one to forty-four (41 – 44) credits, to include Chemistry 111 and 112, Geology 111, 112, 240, 301, 311, and 315, and either Geology 205 or Geography 250 or Geographic Information Science 200. In addition, choose two elective courses from the following: Geology 210 and 211 (210 and 211 must be taken concurrently and will count as one elective), 313, 325, 340, 360, 412, 493; Environmental Science 307, 326, 330, 493.

Geology Course Offerings

Geology course offerings will be found under the 4 letter code of GEOL in the course listings.

111 – Introductory Geology (4)

Introduction to the Earth: topics include mineral and rock composition of the crust and mantle, plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes. Laboratory. Entry-level course.

112 – Evolution of the Earth (4)

Prerequisite: Geology 111 or Environmental Science 110. History of the Earth with emphasis on surficial processes, evolution of life, the hydrologic cycle and climate change. Laboratory.

201 – Paleontology (4)

Prerequisite: Geology 111 or Biology 121. This course introduces the fundamental procedures and applications of paleontology that include taxonomy, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, paleoecology and environmental science. The course format is project oriented with student opportunities to collect, describe and analyze fossil specimens retrieved from rock samples and sediment cores. The lab will provide a survey of the major fossil groups and introduce modern analytical procedures. Laboratory.

205 – Computer Applications in Environmental Science and Geology (3)

This course emphasizes the acquisition of spatial data and their display and analysis within ArcGIS geographic information system software. The class also includes an introduction to the use of global positioning system instruments for data collection. Cross-listed as EESC 205.

210 – Oceanography (3)

Prerequisite: GEOL 111. An introduction to the oceans. Physical and chemical processes affecting seawater; the geology of the seafloor; biological productivity in the oceans; and environmental challenges involving the oceans. Cross-listed as EESC 210.

211 – Oceanography Laboratory (1)

Corequisite: GEOL/EESC 210. Laboratory investigation of the chemical and physical properties of seawater; the tides; bathymetric measurements; coastal navigation; and marine biological processes. One or more field trips may be scheduled. Cross-listed as EESC 211.

221 – Environmental Geology (3)

Prerequisite: GEOL 111. Interaction of geologic phenomena and processes with society and the biosphere.

240 – Field Methods in Environmental Science and Geology (4)

Prerequisites: GEOL 111 or EESC 110 or GEOG 110. The Earth & Environmental Sciences rely heavily on mapping and collection of physical, chemical, and biological field data. Student enrolled in the course will complete weekly laboratory and hands-on exercises to learn the essential field skills necessary to advance their careers in the earth sciences as technicians, academics, and/or educators. This introductory field course will provide a solid foundation to prepare students for advanced earth science study and/or a general introduction to the field methods within the discipline. Cross-listed as EESC 240.

301 – Mineralogy (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 111 or EESC 110; prerequisite or corequisite CHEM 111.  Study of Earth’s major rock forming minerals, and those of economic value, in hand sample, microscopic thin section and through field studies. Course is conducted as a mix of lecture and laboratory activities. Laboratory.

302 – Petrology (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 301; prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 112. Study of metamorphic and igneous processes and important rock types in hand sample, microscopic thin-section and through field studies. Course is conducted as a mix of lecture and laboratory activities. Laboratory.

311 – Sedimentation and Stratigraphy (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 111; prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 111; recommended: GEOL 301. This course provides an overview of the concepts associated with sedimentary rock formation, including theoretical sedimentology, process oriented facies analysis and applied stratigraphy in the context of cyclic sea level and climate change through time. Class work includes several field trips to collect samples for physical and chemical analysis. Laboratory.

313- Fluvial Geomorphology (4)

Prerequisites: GEOL 112 or GEOG 111. Use of both classical (qualitative) and modern (quantitative) geomorphological methods to study and understand fluvial processes acting on the surface of the earth, and how landforms and landscapes created by these processes control the global environment. The class will combine field-based observations with in-class instruction. Laboratory.

315 – Hydrogeology (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 112. An introduction to surface water and groundwater flow; the hydrologic cycle; aquifer testing; flow to wells; contaminant transport; and field and laboratory instruments. Cross-listed as EESC 315. Laboratory.

325 – Environmental Geochemistry (4)

Prerequisites: GEOL 112 and CHEM 112. Study of chemical processes operating at or near the surface of the Earth, in bedrock, soils, streams, the oceans and the atmosphere. Particular attention is given to environmental applications. Cross-listed as EESC 325. Laboratory.

335 – Plate Tectonics (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 112. This laboratory course offers a comprehensive study of lithospheric plate movements using information derived from seismology, paleomagnetics, petrology and tectonics. Selected topics also include a historical review of the development of the theory of plate tectonics, geologic and geophysical events at plate boundaries and an evaluation of evidence regarding plate-driving forces. Laboratory.

340 – Energy Resources and Technology (3)

Prerequisite: One from BIOL 132, 126, CHEM 112, GEOL 112, EESC 110 or PHYS 106. Intended primarily for science majors, this course investigates the basic science and technology relating to alternative energy sources and fossil fuels. Students who complete this class will have a greater technical understanding of energy sources and the methods used to tap them. Cross-listed as EESC 340.

355 – Icehouse – Greenhouse Earth (3)

Prerequisites: GEOL 111 or EESC 110. This course examines the history of the Earth’s climate system in the context of the two primary modes: Icehouse and Greenhouse. Through critical evaluation of primary literature, written assignments and oral presentations, students will gain an appreciation of the magnitude of temporal and spatial climate reorganizations through time and develop an in-depth understanding of both long and short term cyclic changes that have contributed to the development of our modern climate system. Cross-listed with EESC 355.

360 – Environmental Exploration (2-4)

Specialized courses with a significant field component not offered on a regular basis. Study of selected environments along with relevant geological issues with a focus on active exploration and research. Overnight trips and extra fees required. Permission of instructor required to register. Cross listed as EESC 360.

412 – Structural Geology (4)

Prerequisite: GEOL 301. Analysis and interpretation of structural features of the Earth’s crust such as folds and faults. Laboratory.

421 – Advanced Topics in Geology (2–4)

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Specialized topics not offered on a regular basis.

491 – Individual Study (1–4)

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Investigation of a topic which may include laboratory, field work and literature research. Course of study determined by supervising instructor and student.

493 – Honors Research (4)

Prerequisites: EESC 491 or GEOL 491 and permission of instructor. Independent research project which may include field and/or laboratory work. Course of study determined by supervising research advisor and student. Successful completion of a written thesis and oral defense is required, and will result in the student earning departmental Honors at graduation.

499 – Internship (Credits variable)

Prerequisite: Junior or Senior Geology major in good academic standing. Supervised off campus experience developed in consultation with the department. A maximum of three (3) credits may count toward the Geology major requirements