Explore Earth Science

Geoscience is about Earth, oceans, planets, climate, mountains, rivers, glaciers, soils, weather, and so much more. Because geoscience is interdisciplinary, many students with interests in environmental science, chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering appreciate applying their interests to the questions that geoscience studies.

Below is information about classes for Fall Term 2022, as well as information about events and the major. Let us know if you have questions!

GEOL 101 Dynamic Earth: Introductory Geology

The study of Earth systems, our physical environment, and the processes shaping our planet. Topics include: plate tectonics; the materials and structure of the Earth's crust; natural hazards including earthquakes and volcanoes; the origin of landforms; and the concept of deep time. Additional topics, with emphasis varying by instructor, include: climate change; weathering and erosion; water quality and movement; energy resources; geospatial and quantitative data analysis; and the relationship between humans and the environment. Laboratory course. Involves moderate hiking and other physical activities outside in all types of weather. Not open to students with credit for GEOL 100 or 102. (4 credits, satisfies SL FDR)

GEOL 102 Sustainable Earth: Introductory Environmental Geology

The study of Earth systems, our physical environment, and the processes shaping our planet with special emphasis on environmental science and sustainability. There is special emphasis on field study of the region near Lexington. Depending on the instructor, various topics include: plate tectonics; the materials and structure of the Earth's crust; climate change; the nature of the Earth's interior; the origin of landforms; weathering and erosion; water quality and movement; natural hazards including earthquakes and volcanoes; energy resources; the concept of deep time; geospatial and quantitative data analysis; and the relationship between humans and the environment. Laboratory course. Involves moderate hiking and other physical activities outside in all types of weather. Not open to students with credit for GEOL 100 or 101. (4 credits, satisfies SL FDR)

GEOL 141 Global Climate Change

The study of Earth's complex climate system and the impact of human activities on future climates. Through readings, discussions, data analyses and modeling exercises, the past and future changes in temperature, ocean circulation, rainfall, storminess, biogeochemistry, glacial ice extent and sea level are explored. (3 credits, satisfies SC FDR)

GEOL 197 Special Topics: Asteriods, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes: The A to Z of Natural Disasters

Why do we have earthquakes? Can we predict volcanic eruptions? What is a 100-year flood? Learn about the geologic processes behind these natural (and not-so-natural!) disasters. We’ll learn how tectonic plates cause earthquakes and volcanoes in the Ring of Fire around the Pacific Ocean and how one of these volcanoes caused “The Year Without a Summer” in 1816. Explore archaeological records to learn about how past civilizations responded to environmental changes. Learn about the bolide impact that killed the dinosaurs and the crater closer to home beneath Chesapeake Bay. Explore how local communities are becoming more resilient by preparing for natural hazards and speak with scientists who study how coastal restoration can help protect communities from hurricanes. Learn about the economic impacts of disasters and investigate how different hazards may affect your hometown. This course satisfies the FDR SC requirement.

GEOL 197 Special Topics: Regenerative Agriculture: Farming for the health of our soil

Interested in the environment? Want to learn about food and farming? Changing agriculture will help us out of the global carbon crisis, undo the damage to soil health and improve the food supply. Learn how soils form and function, why two centuries of agriculture has eroded and depleted so many of them, and why you should care about who grows your food. Then explore how regenerative agriculture can restore soil health, fix water quality problems, increase drought and pest resilience, and increase farm profits. Explore the scientific research that shows how soils can store carbon and how much might be sequestered by using new practices. Talk with farmers and soil professionals from your home area. Explore local soils and agriculture practices. Field trips to local farms will be scheduled. Students, voices and sources from geology, biology, history, anthropology, economics, and more are necessary and welcomed in this query. This course satisfies the FDR SC requirement.

About the Earth and Environmental Geoscience Major

Studying Earth and Environmental Geoscience offers a highly relevant, integrative, scientific avenue for managing our interactions with the environment, providing adequate resources, ensuring the safety of the built environment in the face of natural hazards, and solving the complex history of earth and its continuing evolution. We make extensive use of the extraordinary geology of the Appalachians and other locales around the globe. You can earn a BS or a BA in Earth and Environmental Geoscience. Some students interested in minoring will do the BA.

Engineering Integrated with Geology

The Integrated Engineering degree offered through the Physics and Engineering Department gives students the opportunity to apply their science to the disciplines of geology, chemistry, biology, or computer science. Students are required to take four geology courses, an Introductory course and three courses that are 200 level or above, all of which is easy to fit into one's schedule. Talk to a geology professor and an engineering professor about your interests.

Earth and Environmental Geoscience Careers

A geoscience education can take you many varied places. Read about what several of our recent graduates have gone of to do, from working in the solar energy and environmental consulting fields to studying earthquakes and consulting for oil and gas projects.