The Program

General Education Requirements

All 100-, 200-, and 300-level Geology courses carry Scientific Inquiry General Education credit. The 200-level Geology courses also fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning component in addition to SI. GEOL 201 also fulfills the Diversity-International general education credit and GEOL 314 fulfills the Writing Intensive credit.

The Major

One of the following introductory courses:

  • GEOL 201 Environmental Geology
  • GEOL 211 Physical Geology

All of the following core courses:

  • GEOL 314 Interpreting Earth History
  • GEOL 315 Earth Materials
  • GEOL 316 Geochemistry

Four elective courses from the following three groups,
at least one course from each group:


  • GEOL 410 Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • GEOL 411 Tectonics and Geophysics


  • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
  • GEOL 421 Sedimentology


  • GEOL 430 Hydrogeology
  • GEOL 431 Soils

Any two of the following cognate courses,
courses must be in different departments:

  • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
  • CHEM 111 Principles of Chemistry
  • CHEM 221 Organic Chemistry I
  • CHEM 331 Equilibrium and Analysis
  • MATH 120 Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • PHYS 120 General Physics I
  • PHYS 125 Analytical Physics I

All seniors must complete:

  • GEOL 480 Seminar on Current Topics

And one of the following:

  • GEOL 481 Internships, Field Studies and Other Field Experiences
  • GEOL 486 Independent Student Research
  • GEOL 488 Senior Capstone Experience

The Minor

One of the following introductory courses:

  • GEOL 201 Environmental Geology
  • GEOL 211 Physical Geology

All of the following core courses:

  • GEOL 314 Interpreting Earth History
  • GEOL 315 Earth Materials
  • GEOL 316 Geochemistry

One of the following upper-level courses:

  • GEOL 410 Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • GEOL 411 Tectonics and Geophysics
  • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
  • GEOL 421 Sedimentology
  • GEOL 430 Hydrogeology
  • GEOL 431 Soils

Environmental Geology Minor

One of the following introductory courses:

  • GEOL 210 Environmental Geology
  • GEOL 211 Physical Geology

Required core course:

  • GEOL 316 Geochemistry

One of the other core courses:

  • GEOL 314 Interpreting Earth History
  • GEOL 315 Earth Materials

Two of the following upper-level courses:

  • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
  • GEOL 430 Hydrogeology
  • GEOL 431 Soils

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*GEOL 110 OCEANOGRAPHY (3 credits)
An introduction to the ocean and its currents, waves, tides and coastlines. Emphasizes the interaction between humans and the oceans, and the importance of the ocean to life on the planet. Includes optional trips to local Paleozoic outcrops and the Great Lakes. A non-lab course. (SI)

*GEOL 112 GEOHAZARDS (3 credits)
An introduction to geological and environmental hazards — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, tsunamis, flooding, costal storms, tornadoes and climate change, and their effects upon human societies. Introduces the science behind the natural phenomena: causes behind different hazards, methods of forensic analysis, prediction, etc. Explores the human response to geohazards: the mitigation (or inadvertent aggravation) of hazards, political/economic/social factors, cost-benefit analysis, emergency response and how to avoid or survive hazards. (SI)

Examines Earth’s turbulent climatic past in an exploration of its possible futures. Combines the basic tenets of geology with current atmospheric system data in an effort to clarify our concurrently known and unknowable climate system. Designed for students who want to understand the ways in which the Earth we experience comes into being. First-year appropriate. A non-lab course. (SI)

*GEOL 150 EARLHAM SEMINAR (4 credits)
Offered for first-year students. Topics vary. (ES)

Introduces whole-Earth materials and processes with a focus on the formation of and human interaction with surficial environments. Examines phenomena such as volcanoes, earthquakes, wasting, flooding, desertification and climate change. Topics include other elements of environmental geoscience such as sustainable development, water supply, mining, agriculture and waste disposal. Laboratory and field trip exercises employ maps, specimens, real-world datasets, and local geological sites and resources. Specifically designed for students who want to better understand Earth and how it works. First-year appropriate. Lab. (A-QR, SI, D-I)

*GEOL 211 PHYSICAL GEOLOGY (4 credits)
An introductory course investigating fundamental Earth materials, plate tectonics and processes changing the surface of the Earth. Lab exercises address mineral and rock identification, topographic and geologic map interpretation and geologic history interpretation. Field trips explore local Paleozoic limestone outcrops, glacial sequences and fluvial systems. Lab. (A-QR, SI)

GEOL 285 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
An independent research opportunity for students wishing to extend study of a topic from GEOL 111 or 211 to another area of interest, perhaps their major. Departmental approval required pending an acceptable proposal and faculty availability. Prerequisite: GEOL 201 or 211.

Summarizes Earth's evolution through the past 4.6 billion years and examines the evidence that has allowed us to interpret changes in Earth and its life. Weekly laboratories include study of Earth materials and methods of their analysis. Primary objective: to provide students context for understanding current discussions on the nature, tempo and initiation of change in the natural world. Required Lab and field trips. Prerequisite: GEOL 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. (RCH, SI)

*GEOL 315 EARTH MATERIALS (4 credits)
Focus on the description and occurrence of common rock-forming minerals as well as the genesis, classification and geologic significance of major rock groups. Lab familiarizes students with physical rock and mineral specimens and common optical techniques. Prerequisites: GEOL 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. (RCH, SI)

GEOL 316 GEOCHEMISTRY (4 credits)
An introduction to the chemical Earth that helps students understand fundamental geological interaction and the occurrence of geoscientific phenomena. Study includes the structures and activities of atoms and matter; the formation of planets, rocks and minerals; the nature of Earth’s core, mantle, crust and skin; and the impact of surface conditions on Earth materials. Emphasizes the manner in which our experience of Earth materials is shaped by the chemical and physical tendencies of the universe. Laboratory analyses stress the nature of human-environment interactions and incorporates the instructor’s research. One weekend field trip is required. Prerequisites: GEOL 201 or 211; CHEM 111 strongly recommended. (RCH, SI, WI)

GEOL 400 FIELD STUDIES (0-4 credits)
Declared Geology majors and minors given first preference if course is oversubscribed. During this 12- to 16-day field excursion, students study rocks of another geologic region, such as the mountainous areas of the East, Southwest or West; the mining districts of the North, West or Southwest; the Atlantic or Gulf coasts or off-shore islands; historically significant areas such as Scotland or Iceland, or other geologically significant sites. Topics include modern geologic processes, stratigraphy, structure and geologic history through the use of applicable standard field techniques, including geologic mapping and the collection, analysis and presentation of field data. Offered during alternate May Terms. Prerequisites: GEOL 201 or 211. (AY)

GEOL 401 PALEONTOLOGY (4 credits)
Examines the principles by which geoscientists employ fossils to determine the ages and ancient environments of fossil-bearing rock units. Includes references to modern analogs of geologically significant fossil groups. Field projects employ the rich fossil faunas of the Richmond area. Laboratory study of fossil groups is self-conducted by students. Two weekend day trips required. Prerequisite: GEOL 314. (AY)

Examines the architecture of the Earth's crust as well as the principles involved in the formation of primary and secondary earth structures, their historical significance, and their relation to economic resources and landscape features. Lab. Prerequisite: GEOL 315. (AY)

Introduces the basic geophysical concepts necessary to understand deep Earth structure and dynamics. Fundamental concepts such as paleomagnetism, gravity, seismicity and heat flow are examined in the context of plate tectonic theory and also applied to environmental problems and energy resource exploration. Lab. Prerequisites: GEOL 315. (AY)

Surveys significant continental landscapes through analyses of the processes that form them. Emphasizes understanding of fluid mechanics and sediment transport, and applies those concepts to understanding how fluids shape the surface of the earth. Field trips and outdoor labs examine local landforms. Prerequisite: GEOL 314. (AY)

GEOL 421 SEDIMENTOLOGY (4 credits)
Examines the processes that generate, transport, modify, deposit and lithify sedimentary materials and the products that result. Emphasizes understanding modern sedimentary depositional environments as a means of interpreting ancient sedimentary sequences. Laboratory exercises teach the identification and analysis of clastics and carbonates in hand-specimen and thin-section. Field exercises analyze local and regional fluvial environments and glacial sediments, and Paleozoic carbonates. Prerequisite: GEOL 314. (AY)

GEOL 430 HYDROGEOLOGY (4 credits)
Many of Earth’s surface environments are governed by the interaction of water and earth materials. Introduces students to the nature of these interactions, including qualitative, quantitative, physical and chemical perspectives. Alongside exploration of surface and groundwater fundamentals, discussion includes topics such as current water-related issues, from transport and contamination to supplies and treatment. Laboratory exercises include field mapping and sampling, laboratory analysis, and GIS mapping and modeling. Prerequisite: GEOL 316. (AY)

GEOL 431 SOILS (4 credits)
Introduces students to the skin of the Earth, examining soil as both a geological material and a natural resource. Explores the awesome complexity of soils from molecular to landscape-scale and examines the particular problems soils pose to human-landscape interaction. Topics include the formation, physics, chemistry, ecology and sustainable management of the world’s soils. Laboratory exercises incorporate field description, laboratory analysis and large-scale research questions. One weekend field trip is required. Prerequisite: GEOL 316. (AY)

Requires utilization of technical literature, regular oral presentations, and an independently researched major project involving extensive library research. Final term paper and public presentation required. Majors must take this course at least once, but may take it twice. Open only to advanced Geology majors with 12 or more completed upperclass credits; majors of similar standing in other Natural Sciences need consent of the instructor. Prerequisite: GEOL 314, 315 and 316.


GEOL 482 SPECIAL TOPICS (3 credits)
Selected topics determined by the instructor for upper-level study.


Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

GEOL 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
An investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty adviser. Requires submission of the final draft of a term paper and its public oral presentation before the first reading day of a semester. Prerequisites: Senior standing and faculty adviser's prior approval of project proposal.


A comprehensive exam that includes a written component and a two-hour individual oral examination.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
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