20109-2011 Undergraduate Catalog


Students may complete a major or minor in Geology. Within the major, students may complete concentrations in Environmental Studies, geoarchaeology or geochemistry.


Donald Barber, Associate Professor
Lynne Jessica Elkins, Lecturer
Katherine Nicholson Marenco, Lecturer
Pedro Jose Marenco, Assistant Professor
Arlo Brandon Weil, Associate Professor and Chair

The department seeks to make students more aware of the physical world around them and of its development through time. The subject includes a study of the materials from which the Earth is made; of the physical processes which have formed the Earth; of the history of the Earth and its organisms; and of the various techniques necessary to investigate Earth processes and the geologic record.

Each introductory course is designed to cover a broad group of topics from a different perspective. Students may elect any of the 100-level courses. Fieldwork is an essential part of geologic training and is part of all introductory courses, most other classes and most independent research projects.

Major Requirements

Thirteen courses are required for the major: GEOL 101 and 102 or 103; 202, 203, 204, and 205; MATH 101 and 102, or alternates approved by the adviser; a two-semester sequence of CHEM (103-104) or PHYS (101-102 or 121-122); GEOL 399; and either two advanced geology courses or one advanced geology course and an additional upper-level course in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, or computer science.

Additional courses in the allied sciences are strongly recommended and are required by most graduate schools. A student who wishes to follow a career in geology should plan to attend a summer field course, usually following the completion of the 200-level courses.

All geology majors undertake a research project (GEOL 399) and write a thesis in the spring semester of her senior year.


Honors are awarded to students who have outstanding academic records in geology and allied fields, and whose research is judged by the faculty of the department to be of the highest quality.

Minor Requirements

A minor in geology consists of two of the 100-level geology courses, and any four of the 200- or 300-level courses offered by the department.

Concentration in Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies concentration allows students to explore interactions of the geosphere, biosphere and human societies. The concentration represents interdisciplinary cooperation among departments in the natural and social sciences and humanities, and is open to students from any major, pending approval of the home department.

The Environmental Studies concentration in Geology consists of GEOL 101 and 103, 202 and two other 200-level geology courses, 302, 397, one other 300-level geology course and 399; CITY/SOCL 175, BIOL 220; two semesters of chemistry; and two semesters of math, statistics or computational methods. Two additional environmental courses outside of the natural sciences also are required: one addressing issues of planning and policy, and one that addresses issues of humans in the environment. The Environmental Studies Web site: (http://www.brynmawr.edu/es/core.htm) lists approved courses in these categories. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. Students also should carefully consider their options with regard to study abroad in the junior year. Early consultation with the current director of Environmental Studies is advised in the planning of courses.

Concentration in Geoarchaeology

The geoarchaeology concentration allows students majoring in anthropology, archaeology or geology to explore the connections among these fields with respect to how our human ancestors interacted with past environments, and how traces of human behavior are preserved in the physical environment. In geology, the geoarchaeology concentration consists of 13 courses: GEOL 101 or 102 or 103; 202, 203, 204, 205, 270, and 399; two semesters of chemistry; two semesters of math, statistics or computational methods; either ARCH 101 or ANTH 101; and one 200- or 300-level elective from among current offerings in Anthropology or Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For course planning advice, consult with Don Barber (Geology), Rick Davis (Anthropology) or Peter Magee (Archaeology).

Concentration in Geochemistry

The geochemistry concentration encourages students majoring either in geology or in chemistry to design a course of study that emphasizes earth chemistry. In geology this concentration includes at least: GEOL 101, 103, 202, 205; 302 or 305; CHEM 101 or 103, 104 and 221 or 222. Additional chemistry courses might include 211 (Organic Chemistry). Other courses that complement this concentration are: calculus, linear algebra, computer programming and computer modeling. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For course planning advice, contact Pedro Marenco or Lynne Elkins (Geology) or Sharon Burgmayer (Chemistry).

GEOL B101 How the Earth Works
An introduction to the study of planet Earth—the materials of which it is made, the forces that shape its surface and interior, the relationship of geological processes to people, and the application of geological knowledge to the search for useful materials. Laboratory and fieldwork focus on learning the tools for geological investigations and applying them to the local area and selected areas around the world. Three lectures and one afternoon of laboratory or fieldwork a week. One required one-day field trip on a weekend.
(Weil, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B102 Earth History
The history of the Earth from its beginning and the evolution of the living forms that have populated it. Three lectures, one afternoon of laboratory a week. A required two-day (Fri.-Sat.) field trip is taken in April.
(Marenco, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B103 Earth Systems and the Environment
This integrated approach to studying the Earth focuses on interactions among geology, oceanography, and biology. Also discussed are the consequences of population growth, industrial development, and human land use. Two lectures and one afternoon of laboratory or fieldwork per week. A required two-day (Fri.-Sat.) field trip is taken in April.
(Barber, Division II with Lab)
Cross-listed as CITY B103

GEOL B115 Living with Volcanoes
This course explores how people have long lived alongside, in the shadow of, and at times directly on top of active volcanoes. Volcanic centers are hosts to sporadic and difficult-to-predict destructive and explosive activity, persistent and damaging passive degassing, valuable nutrient-rich soils, vibrant ecosystems, and important geothermal energy systems. The goals of this class are to examine the scientific basis for understanding volcanoes and predicting their behavior; to study the role of volcanoes in history and lore across human societies; and to examine our complicated relationship with them in the modern world.

GEOL B120 Origin & Early Evolution of Life
Where and how did life originate on Earth? What are the minimum conditions for life to arise, and persist, on any planet? Scientists are closer now than ever before to answering these intriguing questions. In this course, we will explore the fundamental requirements for life; critically examine many of the hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the origin of life on Earth; survey the fossil, geochemical, and molecular evidence for early life, from the earliest-known examples through the “Cambrian Explosion”; and propose means of identifying life and its effects elsewhere in the universe. Two lectures per week, plus a one-day fieldtrip.
(K. Marenco)

GEOL B202 Mineralogy and Crystal Chemistry
The crystal chemistry of representative minerals, descriptive and determinative mineralogy, as well as the relation between the physical properties of minerals and their structures and chemical compositions. The occurrence and petrography of typical mineral associations and rocks is also covered. Lecture three hours, laboratory at least three hours a week. Prerequisite: introductory course in geology or chemistry (both recommended).
(Elkins, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B203 Invertebrate Paleobiology
Biology, evolution, ecology, and morphology of the major marine invertebrate fossil groups. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory a week. A semester-long research project culminating in a scientific manuscript will be based on material collected on a two-day trip to the Tertiary deposits of the Chesapeake Bay.
(Marenco, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B204 Structural Geology
An introduction to the study of rock deformation in the Earth’s lithosphere viewed from all scales - from the microscopic (atomic scale) to the macroscopic (continental scale). This class focuses on building a foundation of knowledge and understanding that will allow students to broaden their appreciation and understanding of the complexity of the Earth system and the links between geologic structures at all scales and plate tectonics. Three lectures and three hours of laboratory a week, plus weekend field trips. Prerequisites: GEOL 101 and MATH 101.
(Weil, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B205 Sedimentary Materials and Environments
An introduction to sediment transport, depositional processes, and stratigraphic analysis, with emphasis on interpretation of sedimentary sequences and the reconstruction of past environments. Three lectures and one lab a week, plus a weekend field trip. Prerequisite: GEOL 101, 102, 103 or instructor permission. Recommended: GEOL 202 and 203.
(Barber, Division II with Lab)

GEOL B206 Resources
An examination of issues concerning the supply of energy and raw materials required by humanity. This includes an investigation of the geological framework that determines resource availability, and of the social, economic, and political considerations related to energy production and resource development. Two 90-minute lectures a week. Prerequisite: one year of college science.
(Barber, Division II: Natural Science)

GEOL B209 Natural Hazards
A quantitative approach to understanding the earth processes that impact human societies. We consider the past, current, and future hazards presented by geologic processes, including earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, and hurricanes. The course includes discussion of the social, economic, and policy contexts within which natural geologic processes become hazards. Case studies are drawn from contemporary and ancient societies. Lecture three hours a week, with one day-long field trip. Prerequisite: one semester of college science or permission of instructor.
(Weil, Division II and Quantitative Skills)
Cross-listed as CITY B210
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B230 The Science of Soils
Physical, chemical, and biological processes within soil systems. Emphasis is on factors governing the physical properties, nutrient availability, and plant growth and production within soils. How to classify soils and to assess nutrient cycling and contaminant fate will be covered. Prerequisite: at least one introductory course in Geology, Biology or Chemistry.
(Staff, Division II: Natural Science)
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B236 Evolution
(Gardiner, Marenco, Division II: Natural Science)
Cross-listed as BIOL B236
Cross-listed as ANTH B236

GEOL B250 Computational Methods in the Sciences
(Sears, Division II and Quantitative Skills)
Cross-listed as BIOL B250
Cross-listed as CMSC B250
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B255 Problem Solving in the Environmental Sciences
Provides basic quantitative and numerical modeling skills that can be applied to any of the natural sciences, including geology and environmental studies. Students will learn fundamental quantitative concepts while exploring issues such as global warming, sudden catastrophes, and the effects of steady flow of wind and water on Earth’s surface. Lecture/discussion three hours a week.
(Staff, Division II and Quantitative Skills)
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B270 Geoarchaeology
(Barber, Magee)
Cross-listed as ARCH B270
Cross-listed as ANTH B270
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B302 Low-Temperature Geochemistry
The geochemistry of Earth surface processes. Emphasis is on the chemistry of surface waters, atmosphere-water environmental chemistry, chemical evolution of natural waters, and pollution issues. Fundamental principles are applied to natural systems with particular focus on environmental chemistry. Prerequisites: CHEM 103, 104 and GEOL 202 or two 200-level chemistry courses, or permission of instructor.
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B303 Advanced Paleobiology/Advanced Evolution Seminar
Principles, theory, and application of various aspects of paleobiology such as evolution. Seminar-based, with a semester-long research project or paper. Three hours of seminar a week and a weekend fieldtrip. Prerequisite: GEOL 203 or permission of instructor.
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B304 Tectonics
Plate tectonics and continental orogeny are reviewed in light of the geologic record in selected mountain ranges and certain geophysical data. Three hours of lecture and a problem session a week. Prerequisite: GEOL 204 or permission of instructor.

GEOL B305 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
The origin, mode of occurrence, and distribution of igneous and metamorphic rocks. The focus is on the experimental and field evidence for interpreting rock associations and the interplay between igneous and metamorphic rock genesis and tectonics. Three lectures and three hours of laboratory or equivalent field work a week. Occasional weekend field trips. Prerequisites: GEOL 202 and CHEM 101 or 103, and 104.

GEOL B310 Introduction to Geophysics
An overview covering how geophysical observations of the Earth’s magnetic field, gravity field, heat flow, radioactivity, and seismic waves provide a means to study plate tectonics. Also covered are the geophysical techniques used in mineral and energy resources exploration, and in the monitoring of groundwater, earthquakes and volcanoes. Three class hours a week. Prerequisites: GEOL 101 and PHYS 101, 102.
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B312 Quaternary Geology
The Quaternary Period comprises the last 1.8 million years of Earth history, an interval dominated by climate fluctuations and the waxing and waning of large northern hemisphere ice sheets. This course covers the many types of geological evidence used to reconstruct Quaternary climate variability. Three class hours a week, including hands-on data analysis exercises. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 or 205, or permission of instructor.
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B314 Marine Geology
An introduction to the structure of ocean basins, and the marine sedimentary record. Includes an overview of physical, biological, and chemical oceanography, and modern coastal processes such as shoreline erosion. Meets twice weekly for a combination of lecture, discussion and hands-on exercises, including one day-long field trip. Prerequisite: GEOL 101, 102 or 103, and 205, or permission of instructor.
Not offered in 2010-11.

GEOL B328 Analysis of Geospatial Data Using GIS
Cross-listed as ARCH B328
Cross-listed as BIOL B328
Cross-listed as CITY B328

GEOL B350 Advanced Topics in Geology (Fall 2010): Time Scales of Climate Change

A seminar course designed to familiarize students with primary scientific literature in the often contentious research fields attempting to determine how, when, why and at what rates earth’s climate has varied over geologic history.
(Barber, Marenco)

GEOL B350 Advanced Topics in Geology (Spring 2011): Carbonate Petrography and Geochemistry

This course is designed to help students learn techniques for understanding Earth’s changing environments by using mineral and geochemical indicators preserved in carbonate rocks. The course is largely laboratory-based, with an emphasis on making predictions, observations, and interpretations for rocks collected by the class. To this end, students will be learning how to use advanced petrographic and geochemical tools such as cathodoluminescence petrography, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and ion chromatography.

GEOL B397 Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies
A seminar course that encourages and facilitates environmental problem solving by interdisciplinary teams of ES concentrators. Coursework may take the form of civic engagement (Praxis) projects. Students hone their research, collaboration, and leadership abilities by working on real problems facing our community and the broader world. Students will provide oral and written progress reports and submit written summaries of their findings. Collaborative research projects also are possible. Three hours per week.
(Barber, Hager)
Cross-listed as ANTH B397
Cross-listed as BIOL B397
Cross-listed as POLS B397

GEOL B399 Senior Thesis
An independent project in the field, laboratory, or library culminating in a written report and oral presentation. Required for all geology majors in the spring semester of the senior year.

GEOL B403 Independent Research

GEOL B425 Praxis III
Independent or group projects with a significant emphasis on community outreach and service. Projects usually focus on addressing environmental issues through collaborative work with off-campus practitioners. Prerequisites: advanced standing in the environmental studies concentration or permission of the instructor.