Earlham College | Earth and Environmental Science
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Earth and Environmental Science

Studying the earth to make a difference

Overview   |   Meet An Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


Earth and Environmental Science at Earlham integrates the study of the Earth with our environment. To us these are one and the same! You receive the traditional breadth and depth of a earth and environmental science major with the applied focus and frame of reference of an environmental science major.

Our students and faculty work together on problems of mineral, energy and water resources; and on geological hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

The earth and environmental science department and Joseph Moore Museum maintain excellent reference collections of rocks, minerals and fossils. Laboratory investigation is emphasized in most of our courses and all of the Department’s laboratory equipment is available to our students.

The Department's faculty assist students in finding research experiences that match their interests.

More from the earth and environmental science Department:


Located on the Earlham campus, the Joseph Moore Museum is the regional natural history museum for eastern Indiana. It provides opportunities for Earlham students to have hands-on experience curating the collection, providing tours, maintaining the collections, and designing and building exhibits.

There are several Earth and Environmental Science internships available through Earlham’s Center for Integrated Learning, including the Patriot Engineering program.

Our graduates are employed in the field of earth and environmental science in areas such as environmental consulting and work with private companies or government agencies.

Recent graduates have received full funding for pursuing graduate degrees at Indiana University-Bloomington, Lehigh University, University of Idaho, and University of Texas-Austin among others.

Meet An Earlhamite

Katherine Sorrows
Place-Based Education

Geology major Katherine Sorrows ’17 says she sets her ambition toward anything that catches her interest. During her first year at Earlham, several things have caught her interest.

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Minda Dettman
Not Every Journey Starts with a Map

Minda Dettman ’18 experienced everything at Earlham from Indonesian gamelan ensembles to translation work to studying geology to learning about museums. She puts it all to use in her role as coordinator for international relations at Murote UNESCO Geopark with the Japan Exchange and Teaching program.

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Ken Edgett
Martian Man

Ken Edgett ’87 is a senior research scientist at Malin Space Science Systems and the principal investigator for the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, which touched down on the Red Planet on Aug. 6, 2012.

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Our Faculty

Cynthia Fadem
Associate Professor of earth and environmental science; 3-2 Engineering Program Liaison

Andy Moore
Professor of Earth and Environmental Science

Meg Streepey-Smith
Professor of Earth and Environmental Science

Plan of Study

General Education and Graduation Requirements

The study of Earth incorporates many ways of knowing. Accordingly the earth and environmental science major satisfies many general education and graduation requirements: Quantitative Reasoning, Diversity-International, Writing Intensive and Research.

The Major

All of the following courses:

  • GEOL 201 Earth and the Environment
  • GEOL 314 Interpreting Earth History
  • GEOL 315 Earth Materials
  • GEOL 316 Geochemistry
  • GEOL 488 Senior Capstone Experience

Four 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 412 Petrology


  • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
  • GEOL 421 Depositional Environments


  • GEOL 430 Ground & Surface Water Hydrology
  • GEOL 431 Soils and Sustainable Agriculture
  • GEOL 432 Climate Systems

Two of the following supporting science courses from two different departments:

  • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
  • CHEM 111 Principles of Chemistry
  • CS 128 Programming and Problem Solving
  • MATH 120 Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • PHYS 120 General Physics I
  • PHYS 125 Analytical Physics I

One of the following department-approved experiences

  • GEOL 475 Senior Comprehensive Examination
  • GEOL 481 Internships, Field Studies and Other Field Experiences
  • GEOL 486 Independent Student Research

The Minor

Required introductory course:

  • GEOL 201 Earth and the Environment

Two of the following core courses:

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

Two of the following upper-level courses:

  • GEOL 410 Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • GEOL 411 Tectonics and Geophysics
  • GEOL 412 Petrology
  • GEOL 420 Earth Surface Processes
  • GEOL 421 Depositional Environments
  • GEOL 430 Ground & Surface Water Hydrology
  • GEOL 431 Soils and Sustainable Agriculture
  • GEOL 432 Climate Systems


* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*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. (A-QR)

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. (A-QR)

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, D-I)

*GEOL 202 METEOROLOGY (4 credits)
This course introduces the study of the atmosphere, climate and weather. It surveys atmospheric phenomena and places them in social context for analysis and reflection. Laboratory activities and field trips examine these phenomena and provide methods to visualize and conceptualize these largely invisible processes. This course is designed for students who want to understand weather manifestations like temperature, humidity and wind, as well as hazards like thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes. First-year appropriate. Lab. (A-QR)

*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)

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.

*GEOL 301 FIELD STUDIES (1 credit)
This Early Semester Break trip includes hiking, camping, cooking, and general exploration of an area of geologic interest. Tents, cook kits and transportation are provided by the Geology Department. Prerequisite: any GEOL course, including concurrent enrollment. (W)

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. (A-QR, RCH)

*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)

This introduction to the chemical Earth helps students understand geoscientific phenomena and environmental processes by applying thermodynamics and kinetics as fundamental relationships. Students explore 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 human activities and surface conditions on Earth materials and living things. Coursework focuses on scientific literacy by incorporating primary literature and building writing skills through journaling and report- and paper-writing. Prerequisite: GEOL 201. (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)

GEOL 412 PETROLOGY (4 credits)
This course focuses on the geologic significance, identification and petrogenesis of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Laboratory time is devoted to the identification of rock types in hand sample and thin section and analysis using mineralogical and geochemical data. Prerequisite: 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)

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)

This course advances student understanding of water science and global water concerns by examining Earth’s surface and groundwater systems using theoretical, empirical, physical and chemical perspectives. Alongside exploration of water system fundamentals, this course emphasizes critical social issues, from transport and contamination to supply and treatment. Coursework includes research projects, scientific writing, field sampling, laboratory analysis, and modeling and analysis in GIS. Prerequisite: GEOL 316. (AY)

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)

GEOL 432 CLIMATE SYSTEMS (4 credits)
Interpreting planetary atmospheres, reconstructing paleoenvironments and predicting our future world all rely on understanding climate systems. This course examines the past, present and future of Earth’s climate, as well as the applicability of such studies to the rest of the Solar System. Paleoclimatology will include both important climate history and methods of interpreting paleoenvironments. Current climatology will include interactions between air, ice, oceans, rock, soil, living things and precipitation. Planetary climatology will include the evolution of the Solar System and the interaction of the Sun and planetary bodies. Laboratories will utilize mathematics and computation to analyze authentic climate data of varying scales as well as rock and soil samples. Prerequisite: GEOL 316.

An individual oral comprehensive examination.


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.



Requires utilization of technical literature, regular oral presentations, and an independent project. Majors must take this course at least once, but may take it twice. Prerequisites: GEOL 314, 315 and 316.

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

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.