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Geology Department Learning Goals

Geology majors should graduate with knowledge of fundamental theories and content in geology, including topics from across the spectrum of geologic time pertaining to both bedrock geology and surficial geology.

  1. Upon receiving their degree in Geology, students will possess an understanding of the Theory of Plate Tectonics and how it applies to understanding and interpreting the Earth.
  2. All geology majors will study, in the field and in the lab, elements of the igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, structural and surficial geology of Vermont.
  3. All geology majors will study structural geology and mineralogy.
  4. All geology majors will gain understanding of surficial processes, including elements of Earth's climate system, by taking a course in geomorphology or hydrology.
  5. Geology majors will gain depth in certain areas by taking elective courses including (but not limited to) topics such as marine geology, global tectonics, sedimentary geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology, geophysics, soils, geochemistry and glacial geology.
  6. All geology majors will explore a single topic in great depth as part of the required senior thesis.
  7. Through cognate courses, geology majors will obtain perspectives from allied fields in quantitative analysis and the sciences.

Geology majors will be able to critically assess and analyze data, write effectively as scientists, possess excellent oral presentation skills, and be well-versed in field-based skills and instrumental analysis in the geosciences.

  1. At all levels of the curriculum of the geology department, students are presented with the opportunity and expectation that they analyze, question, and argue concepts in geology through critical reading, writing, discussion, and quantitative and spatial analysis.
  2. The geology senior research seminar provides a capstone experience that particularly emphasizes many of the skills outlined above.
  3. Independent research in geology implicitly requires the above-mentioned skills, so the senior thesis program provides an additional, significant, in-depth means of providing students with the opportunity to hone these skills.

Students will be required to explore an in-depth topic through independent research that emphasizes critical analysis, quantitative analysis, and presentation of results in written and oral form.

In their capstone senior thesis, students integrate these skills and their breadth and depth of geological knowledge through projects where students do independent research under the supervision of a geology professor. Students generate their own data to analyze and interpret, present in written and oral forms, and ultimately defend in front of the faculty of the Geology Department.

Curricular Map
  1. Geology majors are expected to enter the major through one of three introductory-level lab courses - Environmental Geology (GEOL 112), Elements of Oceanography (GEOL 161) or The Dynamic Earth (GEOL 170).
  2. Four required core courses provide all majors and minors with a common base of knowledge in basic principles and concepts in geology - the courses are Bedrock Geology of Vermont (GEOL 201), Mineralogy (GEOL 211) and Structural Geology (GEOL 281), and all students also must take a course in surficial geology, either Geomorphology (GEOL 251) or Surface and Ground Water (GEOL 255). Students carrying out the joint geology-environmental studies major (ES-Geology) are required to take one of three of the following: GEOL 201, GEOL 211, GEOL 281; they also must take either GEOL 251 or 255. In addition to geology requirements, ES-Geology students are required to take 4 ES core courses, 2 ES cognate courses and the ES senior seminar in order to provide breadth of understanding of the interdisciplinary topics within environmental studies.
  3. Geology students must take four elective courses in geology to broaden their knowledge base and provide opportunity for deeper study in selected areas. At least two of these must be at the 300-level. ES-Geology students must take three electives, two of which must be at the 300-level.
  4. Geology students must take two credits of an integrated senior capstone experience consisting of the senior research seminar (GEOL 400) and senior thesis (GEOL 700).
  5. Geology majors are also required to take two cognate courses from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics or Math (MATH 0116 or higher). The science courses must be laboratory courses.

Department of Geology

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753