Professor of Geology
Dave West is a North Carolina native who completed his Ph.D. in Geological Sciences at the University of Maine in 1993. Prior to arriving at Middlebury in 2001, Dave taught geology Bowdoin, Lafayette, and Earlham Colleges. Broadly speaking, Dave's research is focused on understanding the distribution, in time and space, of deformational and thermal events during mountain building processes. Dave is basically a "hard-rock field geologist" whose research involves bedrock geologic mapping, structural analysis, igneous and metamorphic petrology, and thermochronology. Most of his research to date has been directed towards unraveling the ancient plate tectonic history of the northern Appalachian mountains.
Visit Dave's website for more details.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
GEOL 0104 - Earthquakes and Volcanoes ▹
Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, despite being labeled as "natural disasters," are normal, natural geologic processes that have been occurring for billions of years on this planet. Unfortunately, these processes claim tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property damage annually (on average). This course will focus on the fundamental causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the wide range of secondary effects (e.g., landslides, tsunami, etc.) that accompany these natural disasters. (Students who have completed GEOL 0170 are not permitted to register for GEOL 0104) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
GEOL 0170 - The Dynamic Earth ▲
The Dynamic Earth
Sea-floor spreading and continental drift, earthquakes and volcanoes, origin and evolution of mountain systems, and concepts of plate tectonics are viewed in light of the geology of ocean basins and continents. Modern processes such as river, coastal, wind, and glaciers will be studied and their effect on shaping the geologic landscape. Laboratory: field problems in Vermont geology; interpretation of geologic maps, regional tectonic synthesis. 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab/field trips
Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
GEOL 0211 - Mineralogy
This course covers the nature, identification, composition, and meaning of minerals and mineral assemblages. Introduction to crystallography, hand-specimen identification, optical mineralogy, x-ray analysis, and electron microbeam analysis. Laboratory: study of minerals in hand-specimen and under the polarizing microscope; use of x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy in mineral analysis. (One geology course) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab
Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
GEOL 0281 - Structural Geology ▲
Plate tectonics and mountain building processes result in deformation of the Earth's crust. Structural geology is the study of this deformation, and this course will examine the many types of structures found in crustal rocks (folds, faults, etc.) and explore the forces responsible for their formation. Laboratory exercises will emphasize the hands-on description and analysis of structures in the field, as well as the practical aspects of map interpretation and computer analysis of structural data. (A geology course or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab/field trips
Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
GEOL 0301 - Plate Tectonics- World Geology ▹
Plate Tectonics and World Geology
Tectonics refers to the many processes associated with development of regional-scale geologic features. These features include the origin and evolution of mountain belts, the growth of continents and ocean basins, and the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The challenge of tectonic analysis lies in the accumulation and synthesis of a wide range of geologic information in an attempt to reconstruct the tectonic history of a particular region. An overnight weekend field trip towards the end of the semester will introduce students firsthand to the tectonic elements of the Appalachians. 3 hrs. lect.
GEOL 0400 - Senior Thesis Research Seminar
Senior Thesis Research Seminar
This seminar will focus on methods and strategies for completing advanced geological research and provides a springboard for senior thesis research. Topics will include field and laboratory techniques, primary literature review, and scientific writing. Students taking this course are expected to be simultaneously working on the early stages of their senior thesis research. During the semester students will present a thesis proposal and the seminar will culminate with each student completing a draft of the first chapter of their senior thesis. GEOL 0400 is required of all geology majors. 3 hrs. disc. or lab
GEOL 0500 - Readings And Research ▲ ▹
Readings and Research
Individual or group independent study, laboratory or field research projects, readings and discussion of timely topics in earth and environmental science. (Approval only)
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015
GEOL 0700 - Senior Thesis Research ▲ ▹
Upon completion of GEOL 0400, all senior geology majors will continue their independent senior thesis research by taking one unit of GEOL 0700. This research will culminate in a written thesis which must be orally defended. (Approval only)
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015
GEOL 1005 - Geol Controls VT Landscape
Geologic Controls on the Vermont Landscape
In this course we will investigate the various processes that have shaped the Vermont landscape throughout time, from hundreds of millions of years ago through to the present. We will focus on tectonic collisions that formed the Green Mountains, erosion and sculpting by continental ice sheets, and anthropogenic modifications of the landscape. We will take weekly local field trips, so please be prepared for winter hiking and cold weather. The goals of this course are to better understand the landscape on which we live, and to better place our own lives in the larger context of geologic time. (This course counts as a lab science cognate for ENVS majors with a focus in the humanities or social sciences.)
GEOL 1006 / FYSE 1120 - Energy Resources
Energy Resources: Geological Origins and Environmental Impacts
In this course we will discuss how different types of energy resources are formed by geological processes, how they are extracted and used, and how these activities impact the Earth’s environment. We will discuss traditional fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas, as well as nuclear, wind, and solar power. A portion of the class will focus on major energy issues facing the northeastern United States, such as the role of nuclear power in Vermont, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas in New York and Pennsylvania, and the wide spread installation of wind turbines and solar farms. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1120)
Fall 2011, Winter 2013
- West, D.P., Jr. (editor), 2011, Guidebook for Field Trips in Vermont and Adjacent New York: New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference Guidebook, 347 p.
- West, D.P., Jr., Yates, M.G., Gerbi, C., and *Barnard, N.Q., 2008, Metamorphosed Ordovician iron- and manganese-rich rocks in south-central Maine: From peri-Gondwanan deposition through Acadian metamorphism: American Mineralogist, v. 93, p. 270-282.
- West, D.P., Jr., Roden-Tice, M.K., Potter, J.K., and *Barnard, N.Q., 2008, Assessing the role of orogen-parallel faulting in post-orogenic exhumation: Low temperature thermochronology across the Norumbega fault system, Maine: Canadian Journal of Earth Science, v. 45, p. 287-301.
- West, D.P., Jr., Tomascak, P.B., Coish, R.A., Yates, M.G., and *Reilly, M.J., 2007, Petrogenesis of the Lincoln Syenite, Maine: Late Silurian-Early Devonian melting of a source region modified by subduction driven metasomatism. American Journal of Science, v. 307, p. 265-310.