Associate Professor David H. Goodwin, Chair
Professor Tod A. Frolking; Associate Professor David C. Greene; Assistant Professor Erik W. Klemetti; Assistant Professor Kate E. Tierney; Academic Administrative Assistant Jude Hall
In the Department of Geosciences we investigate the Earth in the broadest sense: how it formed, how it evolved and continues to evolve, how Earth systems interact to produce the environment in which we live, and how present and future changes may affect the habitability of Earth. The central goal of the department is to educate students about the nature and history of the Earth, the processes that shape the Earth, and the impacts those processes have on human populations.
An understanding of the Earth is an important component of global citizenship. Many critical environmental issues face humanity, including global climate change, water shortages, loss of arable land, natural hazards such as earthquakes and flooding, and the availability of petroleum and other energy resources. Citizens and professionals with training in the geosciences will contribute to addressing these and other problems, while increasing opportunities for humans to live sustainably on the Earth.
The department provides non-majors with a basic knowledge of the Earth and Earth processes that will serve their needs as future citizens and community leaders. Geoscience majors and minors develop a strong background in the geosciences in preparation for employment opportunities in fields such as environmental science, geotechnical engineering, exploration for natural resources, geologic research, environmental law, and earth science teaching. Many geoscience graduates continue their training in graduate school; others enter the work force directly.
There are two possible paths to the bachelor's degree in Geoscience: a Bachelor of Science in anticipation of advanced study in the Geosciences, or a Bachelor of Arts for those who seek a less specialized course of study. Earning a B.A. degree does not preclude a professional career in the Geosciences, although admission to some graduate programs may require completion of additional science and mathematics courses.
A student may graduate with a B.S. by taking one 100-level introductory geoscience course (e.g., GEOS 110, 111, 112, 114); the two foundation courses GEOS 210 and 211; six elective GEOS courses, at least three of which must be at the 300-level; GEOS 380, the Senior Geoscience Seminar; and a geoscience field course (GEOS 400). Required additional science courses are CHEM 131 plus three courses from CHEM 132, BIOL 201-202, MATH 123-124, and PHYS 121-122 or 126-127. Students wishing to pursue graduate study in the geosciences are strongly encouraged to take additional math and science courses beyond this minimum requirement.
Students seeking a B.A. degree must take one 100-level introductory geoscience course (see above); the two foundation courses (see above); six elective GEOS courses, at least three of which must be at the 300-level; and GEOS 380, the Senior Geoscience Seminar. One cognate science course may be substituted for a 200-level elective GEOS course.
Both B.S. and B.A. students are required to pass a comprehensive exam, administered early in the second semester of the senior year.
Note that most upper level geoscience courses are offered in alternate years. Therefore careful schedule planning is important, especially if one pursues a semester of off-campus study.
To minor in the Geosciences, a student must take one 100-level introductory geoscience course (see above), GEOS 210, and four additional courses in the Geosciences at the 200 or 300 level.
Students with an interest in this program should consult with the Geoscience and Physics chairpersons no later than their sophomore year.
Students interested in this program should consult the Environmental Studies Minor requirements described elsewhere in this catalog.
Geography is a non-major field at Denison. A student wishing to pursue geography and related environmental/planning fields may follow the B.A. in Geosciences with a geography emphasis and a minor in a field such as Economics, Environmental Studies, History or Sociology/Anthropology; or develop an individually designed major in consultation with the Geoscience faculty. The curriculum is rich enough to allow geoscience majors to enter graduate schools of geography or regional and urban planning.
Abundant student research opportunities are available, including working with faculty in the field or laboratory, involvement with the Oak Ridge Science Semester described at www.orss.denison.edu, and a variety of summer internships. Student employment opportunities within the department include working as teaching and laboratory assistants, and assisting in developing and maintaining departmental collections.
The C.L. Herrick Geological Society is an active, student-run organization, which coordinates guest lectures and social events throughout the academic year.
Safety glasses will be required for some field work and laboratory work.
Physical Geography (GEOS-110). The study of earth surface processes and diverse environments around the world. Topics covered include weather phenomena, the distribution of the world’s climates, global patterns of vegetation and soils, and the study of landforms. Laboratory exercises include local field trips, the analysis of weather and climate data, the interpretation of topographic maps and aerial photographs, a primer on common minerals and rocks, as well as occasional Google Earth excursions. This course is designed as an introductory course in the geosciences for both science and non-science majors. Fulfills the quantitative (Q) requirement. (Normally offered Fall and Spring semesters). 4
Planet Earth (GEOS-111). An introduction to the study of the Earth: how it formed, how it evolved, how Earth systems interact to produce the environment in which we live, how geologists interpret rocks and how humans use earth resources. Laboratory exercises include learning to identify and interpret minerals and rocks, using topographic maps to understand landscapes and landscape processes, and examining volcanic and earthquake hazard and mitigation. This course is designed as an introductory course in the geosciences for both science and non-science majors. Fulfills the quantitative (Q) requirement. (Normally offered Fall and Spring semesters) 4
Special Topics in the Geosciences (GEOS-112). Current topics include: Rare Earth - Building a Habitable Planet. What does it take to build a planet that harbors intelligent life? Are habitable planets common in the Universe, or is Earth the only one? In this course we will examine the development of planet Earth in light of the hypothesis that conditions necessary for a habitable planet are extremely rare in the universe. While emphasizing geology, this examination will involve us in aspects of biology and paleontology, astronomy and astrogeology, philosophy and even theology. Laboratory exercises will allow hands-on investigation of rocks, fossils, geologic maps, and other data important to our understanding of the development of planet Earth. This course is designed as an introductory course in the geosciences for both science and non-science majors. Fulfills the "R" Oral Communication requirement. 4
Special Topics in the Geosciences (GEOS-114). Current Topics include: Climate Change - Cool Science on a Hot Topic. Global warming constitutes one of the most controversial issues you, and society at large, will face in the future. At the center of this debate lies the question, "Are we responsible for the recent increase in global temperature, or is this trend part of the natural variability in the climate system?" To evaluate these possibilities, we will examine the geologic record of climate change and the processes responsible for these variations. While the majority of our discussions will focus on geology, we will also touch on elements of oceanography, meteorology, biology, paleontology, as well as policy and politics. By the end of this course you will be able to make informed decisions about the climate change issues we are certain to face in the future. This course is designed as an introductory course in the geosciences for both science and non-science majors and to fulfill the "Q" Quantitative requirement. 4
Environmental Geology (GEOS-200). A broad survey of the geologic aspects of environmental issues, emphasizing human interactions with the geologic environment. Topics include geologic hazards, such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding; global water supply and water quality issues, especially groundwater contamination and remediation; and global environmental change, with emphasis on climate change and global warming. Prerequisites: A 100-level course taught by Geoscience faculty. (Normally offered Fall Semester) 4
Historical Geology (GEOS-210). A survey of the geologic history of planet Earth. Major topics include global climate history, paleogeography, history of life, and tectonic development and evolution of the North America continent. Lab exercises focus on description and interpretation of sedimentary rocks and environments, and the history of biological evolution. Prerequisite: A 100-level course taught by Geoscience faculty. (Normally offered Spring Semester) 4
Rocks and Minerals (GEOS-211). An introduction to the minerals and rocks that make up the Earth, and how those materials influence the processes that operate within and on the surface of the planet. The framework of the course is the geological, chemical and physical basis for understanding the composition and physical properties of minerals, magmas and rocks, and the processes by which these materials form. An emphasis is placed on examining the interplay between earth materials, society and the environment. Prerequisite: A 100-level course taught by Geoscience faculty. (Normally offered Fall Semester) 4
Geographic Information Systems I (GEOS-222). This course is an introductin to the concepts and uses of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with particular application to environmental issues. The course consists of laboratory exercises on GIS data structures and sources of data, on the use of specific GIS tools, and on practical applications of GIS to real-world tasks. The student will gain skills in spatial data analysis, map generation, and data presentation using ArcGIS software. (Also offered as ENVS 222). After successful completion of this course, students who wish to develop advanced GIS skills may enroll in ENVS/GEOS 223. 2
Geographic Information Systems II (GEOS-223). This course is intended to give the student experience with advanced GIS applications. The focus will be on novel analyses of spatially explicit data pertaining to real-world environment issues (Also offered as ENVS 223). Prerequisite: GEOS 222. 2
Earth Resources (GEOS-240). This course examines the Earth resources that humans exploit, including (but not limited to) fossil fuels, uranium, metals, water and soil, from both a geologic and societal perspective. We will study: (1) the geologic processes that form these deposits and control their distribution; (2) the methods used to extract the resources and; (3) environmental impact of extraction and resource use. We will also scrutinize the effect on society of the resource, including conflict, labor, sustainability and class issues. The course will combine lab activities, scientific discussion and readings from academic literature, popular media, and activist propaganda. The end result will be the ability to bring together the science of Earth resources with the broader human context of resource exploitation. Prerequisite: A 100 level course taught by Geoscience faculty or consent of instructor. 4
World Regional Geography (GEOS-250). Modern geography explores the complex linkages between the natural world and the human or “built” environment. In this course, we study these relationships from a regional viewpoint. Excluding Anglo America, we tour the world’s regions examining the diversity of landscapes, the distributions of natural resources, and the patterns of agricultural land use and industrial development. From London to Lhasa we chart the growing interdependence of the world economy and the stark contrasts in resource availability and allocation between the developed and less-developed nations. This course provides a fundamental understanding of people’s material relationships with each other and the Earth. 4
Geography of North America (GEOS-252). A regional geographic study of North America, focusing on climate, landforms, and natural resources as they relate to patterns of human settlement, land use, transportation and economic activity. 4
Weather and Climate (GEOS-260). An introduction to the atmosphere and its complex dynamics on local to global scales. Topics include earth-sun relationships and global energy budgets, remote sensing of the atmosphere, large-scale atmospheric circulation, mid-latitude weather from thunderstorms and tornados to large winter storm systems, the observation, measurement and prediction of local weather, global climate patterns, and the controls and impacts of global climate change both today and in the recent geologic past. 4
Oceanography (GEOS-270). This course will provide students with an introduction to the world's oceans. Topics will include: the sea floor and its sediments; the physical properties and chemistry of seawater; ocean circulation; waves and tides; life in the seas; and environmental issues and concerns facing the oceans today. By the end of this course students will have explored many of the basic concepts in modern oceanography, and should be able to integrate new concepts and data into their developing knowledge of the Earth. 4
Global Tectonics (GEOS-280). A study of geologic and tectonic processes at the global scale. Major topics include plate tectonic theory and development, topography and geology of the sea floor, plate geometries and processes at plate margins, volcanic arcs, collisional orogenies and mountain building, and the influence of tectonic processes on earth history. Prerequisite: 210 or 211 or consent of instructor. (Normally offered Spring Semester in alternate years) 4
Geomorphology (GEOS-300). The systematic study of earth processes and landform development in tropical, temperate, arid and polar environments. We examine the range of surface processes including weathering, slope erosion, river and wind activity, and present and past glaciers to help understand landform evolution through recent geologic time. Particular emphasis will be given to the glacial and temperate environments of the north-central United States during the late Quaternary. Prerequisites: GEOS 200 or consent of instructor. (Normally offered Fall Semester in alternate years). 4
Hydrogeology (GEOS-305). A systematic study of surface water pathways from rain to rivers, groundwater flow, groundwater resources and groundwater chemistry. Our emphasis will be geologic, examining the range of rocks and sediments and the dynamics of water movement through them. We study well hydraulics to characterize local aquifers and then expand to regional groundwater systems. We then examine the groundwater chemistry of different aquifer systems and a range of groundwater contamination issues. Prerequisite: GEOS 200 or 300 or consent of instructor. (Normally offered Spring Semester in alternate years) 4
Biodiversity Through Time (GEOS-308). An introduction to the study of fossil invertebrates with emphasis on preservation, taphonomy, diversity trajectories through geologic time, evolutionary mechanisms, extinction, paleobiology and paleoecology. Special emphasis will be placed on using fossils to interpret ancient depositional environments. Labs will introduce the student to the major invertebrate phyla commonly preserved in the geologic rock record. Prerequisite: GEOS 210 or BIOL 202. (Normally offered Fall Semester in alternate years) 4
Structural Geology (GEOS-311). Study of the deformation of the Earth's crust. How and why rocks deform; geometry and interpretation of folds, faults, and rock fabrics; regional tectonics and mountain building. Labs emphasize interpretations of geologic structures in hand specimens, outcrops and geologic maps; and includes opportunities for geologic field mapping and a weekend field trip to the Appalachian fold and thrust belt. Prerequisite: 210 or 211 or consent of instructor. 4
Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (GEOS-312). An examination of the processes that produce igneous and metamorphic rocks. The course emphasizes the reasoning and approaches used to understand rock-forming processes, including field geology, petrography, geochemistry and petrologic modeling. The key topics include the formation of magmas in different tectonic settings, the physical processes of volcanism and using metamorphic reactions to assess the tectonic history of rocks. Prerequisite: GEOS 211 or consent. (Normally offered Spring Semester in alternate years) 4
Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (GEOS-314). This course is an introduction to sedimentary processes and sedimentary rocks. The course will cover three major areas: (1) physical sedimentology (how sedimentary rocks are formed); (2) depositional systems (where sedimentary rocks are formed and how they differ from place to place); and (3) stratigraphy (how sedimentary rocks are used to solve geological problems). Labs will expose students to sedimentary rocks under the microscope, in hand sample, and in the field. Prerequisite: 210. (Normally offered Fall Semester in alternate years. 4
Geochemistry (GEOS-320). An introduction to geochemical principles focusing on surface processes and low temperature geochemistry. Major topics include nucleosynthesis, differentiation of the crust, low-temperature aqueous geochemistry, light stable isotope fractionation, long and short-term carbon cycles, and chemical evolution of the oceans and atmosphere. Prerequisite: Chemistry 131 or permission of the instructor. Normally offered in alternate years. 4
Geoscience Senior Seminar (GEOS-380). This course is designed to help majors apply what they have learned throughout their undergraduate careers to a real-world issue or topic in the geosciences. The seminar will meet weekly with all members of the Geoscience faculty. The seminar topic will be selected by the entire geosciences faculty. Both students and faculty will be responsible for presenting summaries of weekly readings, although the majority will be presented by students. The course will be organized and administered by the department chair. Geoscience majors with senior standing or permission of instructor. (Normally offered Spring Semester) 1
Field Course (GEOS-400). A B.S. major in Geosciences must register for an approved summer field course offered by any one of a number of universities. Upon the successful completion of the course, the student receives credit transferable to their record at Denison. 4-8
Selected Topics in Geoscience (GEOS-401). An advanced seminar or problem-oriented course which involves a semester-long investigation of such topics as field techniques in geosciences, advanced structural geology, geochemistry, or geomorphology. 2-4
Selected Topic in Geography (GEOS-402). An advanced seminar or problem-oriented course which involves a semester-long investigation of a global perspective in such issues as ocean resources and territorial rights, population growth, and food needs. Prerequisite: A 200-level course or permission of instructor. 2-4