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Geology

The Geology Department offers a broad selection of courses aimed at both majors and non-majors. These courses reflect the diversity of modern earth science, covering subjects that range from the nature of environments at the dawn of earth's history to human effects on today's earth, from tiny crystals to gigantic tectonic plates, and from the deepest parts of the oceans to asteroids in outer space. We offer a major program that prepares students for graduate school or a career in earth sciences, but is also intended for students who seek a broader understanding of earth systems through scientific study en route to careers in teaching, environmental fields, or other areas. Many students incorporate geology into a double major following procedures outlined elsewhere in this catalog.

Advanced Placement. Students may count advanced placement credit earned in sciences such as AP biology, calculus, chemistry, or physics toward a geology major. Students seeking advanced placement for secondary-school courses in geology need to pass a placement examination administered by the department.

Course Sequence Suggestions. The Department offers a variety of introductory courses in the earth sciences. Either GEOL 160 (Physical Geology) or GEOL 162 (Environmental Geology) provides an introduction to earth science as a whole and is a good first course for students who see geology as a potential major. Neither course has any prerequisite, and both are also suitable for students who are interested in related fields such as environmental studies, oceanography, and evolutionary biology. The Department also offers a variety of topical introductory courses with no prerequisites intended for non-specialists and non-scientists. In 2001-2002, these are scheduled to include GEOL 115 (Coral Reefs: Biology, Geology and Politics), GEOL 117 (Meteorite Impacts in Space and Time), GEOL 119 (Volcanoes and Earthquakes), GEOL 121 (Geology in Our National Parks), and GEOL 128 (Headlines from the History of Life). These courses require no training in science or mathematics beyond the high-school level.

A substantial number of non-majors also enroll in upper-level geology courses. Students can enroll in any of the 200 level classes after taking either GEOL 160 (Physical Geology) or GEOL 162 (Environmental Geology). In order to enroll in 300 level geology courses, students must complete at least one of the 200 level courses. Note that GEOL 361 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) has a specific prerequisite of GEOL 201 (Mineralogy and Optical Crystallography), but students can progress from any of the 200 level courses directly into any of the other 300 level courses.

Major. An introductory lab course in geology, six (6) upper-level geology courses, and several additional courses in allied science and/or mathematics are required for a geology major. EITHER GEOL 160 (Physical Geology) OR GEOL 162 (Environmental Geology) is required both for the geology major and for all upper-level geology courses. Students considering a major in geology should take one of these two courses in their first or second years. Geology majors must also complete six of the seven geology courses currently offered at the 200 and 300 levels. As explained above, students can progress from any of the 200 level courses into any of the 300 level courses with the exception of GEOL 361 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) which has the specific prerequisite of GEOL 201 (Mineralogy and Optical Crystallography). Advanced electives (400-level courses) and independent research in geology are available, but not required for the geology major.

Coursework in allied sciences is also required for the geology major, specifically Chemistry 101 and 102 (or the equivalent) and a minimum of eight (8) hours of additional coursework in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and/or Physics. In order to count towards the geology major, each of these courses must count towards the major in its respective department or program. Students should select these additional courses with their geology advisor.

Advanced course work in geology can be completed in four semesters, but a less compact schedule is preferable. We also advise students to take courses in collateral sciences as early as possible. Prospective geology majors should discuss their major program with a member of the geology department as early as possible.

Students planning a professional career in earth science will want to take more than the minimum number of required 200- and 300-level geology courses, and will need more extra-departmental courses than the required minimum. In particular, most geology graduate programs require at least two semesters of college-level mathematics, many graduate programs require introductory Physics, and employers find computer skills attractive. We also urge majors to take a summer course in field geology. Students with interests in environmental policy and/or resource development who are considering geology as part of a pre-law program should consult with both the Geology Department chair and with a member of the Pre-law Advisory Committee.

Minor. Students may obtain a minor in geology by completing at least 15 hours of course work that includes EITHER GEOL 160 (Physical Geology) OR GEOL 162 (Environmental Geology) and a minimum of three courses at the 200 and 300 levels. Students interested in minoring should consult with the chair of the Department and submit a proposed program of study to the Department based on this consultation. Prior Departmental approval of the program is required.

Honors. Outstanding students may participate in the honors program in Geology. Honors students carry out a program of independent geological research under the supervision of an individual faculty member during their senior year. Any student interested in doing honors research should discuss this with a member of the Department in her or his junior year. In order to be accepted into the honors program, a student must submit a written proposal to the Department. Other guidelines for the honors program are set forth elsewhere in the catalog. The Geology Department also offers other avenues for independent research in addition to honors.

Related Programs. The Department of Geology encourages students who are interested in fields not covered in depth in Oberlin courses to attend off-campus programs. We especially recommend participation in programs where students get the opportunity to study different types of geological processes in the field. Many excellent institutions offer semester and summer programs in geology; a list is available in the Department office or in the Office of Student Academic Affairs. Integrating a semester of off-campus study into a geology major requires advanced planning, so students considering this possibility should consult with a Department member as early as possible.

Transfer of Credit. The Department grants major credit for students who do off-campus course work that is comparable to Oberlin's offerings, but students must consult with and receive prior approval from the Geology chair in order to guarantee earning credit. The Department generally does NOT approve work done as part of NOLS programs for geology credit.

Winter Term. The Department offers one group project each Winter Term centered on an extended geologic field trip. In recent years faculty and students have traveled to the Virgin Islands, southern California, and the island of Java in Indonesia. Although most participants in these projects are geology majors, non-majors also participate on a space-available basis. The Geology faculty who are available to sponsor individual Winter Term projects in 2002 and their primary areas of expertise are as follows: Mr. Castro: Igneous Petrology and Volcanology; Structural Geology; Rheology. Mr. Hubbard: Environmental Science ; Geomorphology and Surface Processes; Clastic and carbonate sedimentology; Marine Geology; Physical Oceanography; Mapping and field methods. Mr. Simonson: sedimentary and Precambrian geology; hydrogeology; environmental science; meteorite impacts; regional geology (especially Australia, Canada, Central America, and South Africa).

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Courses of General Interest (for non-majors)

111. Glaciology, Ice Ages, and Climate Change 3 hours
3NS, QPh
Next offered 2002-2003.

115. Coral Reefs: Biology, Geology and Politics 3 hours
3NS
The course provides a broad overview of both modern and fossil reefs. It starts with modern coral reefs, focusing on how they form, how they function as part of a larger system and what controls their present distribution. The early emphasis is more biological in nature. It examines processes on spatial scales of millimeters to hundreds of kilometers - over timeframes ranging from minutes to lifetimes. The second part shifts to viewing reefs over a longer temporal scale (i.e., millions to hundreds of millions of years), using modern models to understand how ancient reefs formed and changed naturally through geological time. Finally, we will examine recent changes in modern reefs, using the backdrop of natural processes to understand how growing human population and increased exploitation of natural resources have changed the environment in which today's coral reefs struggle to survive. To a limited extent, we will discuss where science fits into societal perceptions and the policy-making apparatus. However, the larger goal is to begin to understand the most diverse marine system on the planet, how we depend on it, how we are impacting it and what we might do to become better global citizens. Enrollment Limit: 50.
Sem 1 GEOL-115-01 TuTh 1:30-2:45 Mr. Hubbard

117. Meteorite Impacts in Space and Time 1 hour
1NS
This course is an exploration of where and why impacts take place and what happens in the aftermath. As Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 demonstrated in 1994, enormous amounts of energy are released when meteorites, asteroids, comets, and planets collide. Such collisions are commonplace on a geological time scale; impact craters are ubiquitous throughout the solar system. Questions addressed will include: Was the moon created when a Mars-size body struck the Earth? Do meteorites from Mars contain evidence of extraterrestrial life? Did a giant rock from space kill off the dinosaurs? Could a large impact end human civilization? Enrollment Limit: 50.
Sem 1 GEOL-117-01 TuTh 9:00-9:50 Mr. Simonson MODULE I

119. Volcanoes and Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest 1 hour
1NS
The Pacific Northwest lies in an area of active tectonics. It is located at the boundary of two plates, the North American plate and the Juan de Fuca plate. This plate boundary, or subduction zone, is responsible for creation of the Cascade volcanoes and, indirectly, for earthquakes such as the 1993 Woodburn and Klamath Falls, OR, events. In this class we will learn why the movement of tectonic plates gives rise to particular types of earthquakes and volcanoes. We'll study the processes that lead to the rock failure that generates earthquakes, and to the upward migration of magma that forms volcanoes. We'll read about historic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and learn to apply observations on past events to develop models for future activity. And finally, I hope that through this process you'll discover something about how science is done, and how scientific knowledge can help you to better appreciate the world around you. Enrollment Limit: 60.
Sem 2 GEOL-119-01 MW 2:30-3:20 Mr. Castro MODULE I

121. Geology in Our National Parks 3 hours
3NS
This course introduces the principles of physical and historical geology necessary to an understanding of the processes that formed the rocks and landforms found in some of our more spectacular National Parks, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and several more. A primary objective of the course is to develop skills in interpreting landscapes in terms of geological processes and sequences of events. The processes include those associated with volcanoes, glaciers, rivers, deserts, shorelines and tectonics. Lectures will be illustrated with color slides and maps to aid in the development of observational and interpretative skills. Notes: The course may not be taken by those who have received credit for GEOL 160 or GEOL 162. Enrollment Limit: 50.
Sem 2 GEOL-121-01 MWF 3:30-4:20 Mr. Skinner

128. Headlines from the History of Life 1 hour
1NS
The history of life is punctuated by major changes and governed by diverse processes, and these are reflected in the fossil record. Topics include: the origin of life, the life and demise of the dinosaurs, evolutionary patterns in the fossil record, causes and consequences of mass extinction, and the evolution of mammals, including humans. Did asteroids wipe out the dinosaurs? How do major adaptations such as flight evolve? Why do human beings have big brains? Enrollment Limit: 60.
Sem 2 GEOL-128-01 TuTh 9:00-9:50 Ms. Parsons-Hubbard MODULE I

161. Marine Science 3 hours
3NS
Next offered 2002-2003.

199. Independent Study in Geology 1-2 hours
1-2NS
An opportunity for interested students to pursue a geological interest not covered by formal courses. Students must consult with a member of the Department before registering. Consent of instructor required. Sponsored by Mr. Castro, Mr. Hubbard, Ms. Parsons-Hubbard, and Mr. Simonson

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Introductory Courses (for Nonmajors and Prospective Majors)

160. Physical Geology 3 hours
3NS
A survey of the internal and external features of the solid earth and the processes that created them, emphasizing the unifying theory of plate tectonics. Labs are devoted to studying earth materials and landforms and include two local field trips. This course is intended for both non-majors and prospective geology majors. High-school chemistry recommended. All students must enroll in the lecture section (01) plus one lab section (02 or 03). Notes: May not be taken for credit in addition to GEOL 162.
Sem 1 GEOL-160-01 TuTh 10:00-10:50 Mr. Castro Limit: 56
Laboratories
GEOL-160-02 Tu 1:30-4:30 Mr. Castro Limit: 28
GEOL-160-03 W 1:30-4:30 Mr. Skinner Limit: 28

162. Environmental Geology 4 hours
4NS
The course provides an overview of geologic processes similar to GEOL 160. In addition, it applies those principles to current environmental problems and addresses the role of science in making social and political decisions based on sound scientific principles. Topics covered include general geological processes, geologic hazards, the formation and utilization of Earth's natural resources (including renewable and non-renewable energy), waste management and pollution. Laboratories provide hands-on experience with earth materials and resource management. Field trips (e.g., Oberlin water-treatment plant, Lake Erie coast, trips to examine the rocks that record Ohio's geologic history) provide local examples for comparison with national and global examples discussed in class. All students must enroll in the lecture section (01) plus one lab section (02 or 03). Note: This course may not be taken for credit in addition to GEOL 160.
Sem 2 GEOL-162-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Mr. Hubbard Limit: 56
Laboratories
GEOL-162-02 Tu 1:30-4:30 Mr. Hubbard Limit: 28
GEOL-162-03 W 1:30-4:30 Ms. Parsons-Hubbard Limit: 28

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Core Courses (First level)

201. Mineralogy and Optical Crystallography 4 hours
4NS, QPf
Lectures cover the basic principles of crystallography, crystal chemistry and crystal physics, the composition and structure of rock forming minerals, and the mode of occurrence and associations of minerals. Laboratories include identification of minerals in hand specimen, theory and use of the petrographic microscope for the identification of minerals, and theory and use of x-ray diffraction for the identification of minerals. Prerequisites: GEOL 160 or GEOL 162 and CHEM 101 or CHEM 103, or consent of instructor.

Sem 1 GEOL-201-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Castro
Th 1:30-4:30

204. Evolution of the Earth 4 hours
4NS
This course examines the major events and processes of earth history, such as the growth of continents, mountain belts and ocean basins, accretion of terranes, sea level changes, and climatic changes in the context of plate tectonics. We explore the evolution of life in the perspective of the dramatic paleogeographic and paleoclimatologic changes that have taken place on the earth through its history. Lectures and labs emphasize principles and techniques used to reconstruct earth history. At least two field trips required. Prerequisites: GEOL 160 or GEOL 162, or consent of instructor. Enrollment Limit: 28.
Sem 1 GEOL-204-01 TuTh 11:00-12:15 Staff
M 1:30-4:30

242. Groundwater Hydrogeology 4 hours
4NS
An introduction to the principles controlling the flow of groundwater and the geologic controls on both its quantity and quality. Topics covered will include groundwater flow dynamics, related aspects of surface water hydrology, well drilling and hydraulics, contaminant transport and remediation, and how groundwater varies from region to region throughout the United States. Student activities will include problem sets, physical and numerical modeling, field tests conducted on nearby water wells, and a weekend field trip to Niagara Falls. Prerequisites: Knowledge of algebra, CHEM 101, and either GEOL 160 or GEOL 162, or consent of instructor. Enrollment Limit: 28.
Sem 2 GEOL-242-01 TuTh 11:00-12:15 Mr. Simonson
F 1:30-4:30

 

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Core Courses (Second level)

320. Paleontology 4 hours
4NS
A comprehensive examination of the history of life, presented within the context of evolutionary theory and with an emphasis on invertebrate organisms. Topics include taphonomy, phylogenetic inference, functional morphology, paleoecology, biostratigraphy, biogeography, evolutionary patterns and processes, and extinction. Laboratory exercises will explore the morphology and systematics of the major invertebrate fossil groups, the use of paleontological data in solving paleoecologic and geologic problems, and will emphasize discussion of scientific literature. Field trip and term paper required. Prerequisites: Any 200-level geology course or consent of instructor. Enrollment Limit: 28.
Sem 2 GEOL-320-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Ms. Parsons-Hubbard
M 1:30-4:30

330. Sedimentary Geology 4 hours
4NS
Sedimentary deposits provide vast quantities of the energy, water, and mineral resources required by modern human societies. We will study the processes of sediment formation in modern environments ranging from desert dunes to the deep sea, as well as how loose sediments are converted to solid rocks. Emphasis will be placed on how prehistoric environmental conditions can be deduced from sedimentary strata. Labs focus on the first-hand study of sedimentary materials and include a series of field trips to local sites and a weekend field trip to the Appalachians. Prerequisites: Any 200-level geology course or consent of instructor. Enrollment Limit: 28.
Sem 1 GEOL-330-01 MWF 12:00-12:50 Mr. Simonson
T 1:30-4:30

340. Structural Geology 4 hours
4NS, QPf
The measurable deformation that occurs within the earth's crust produces a variety of rock structures. Lectures examine rock structures, analyze the factors that control how rocks deform, and discuss the global setting and importance of rock deformation. Labs emphasize the observation and interpretation of hand samples of rock structures and map patterns of deformed rocks. Prerequisites: Any 200-level geology course or consent of instructor.

Sem 2 GEOL-340-01 MWF 9:00-9:50 Staff
M 1:30-4:30

361. Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology 4 hours
4NS
This course will emphasize the concepts and methods of igneous and metamorphic petrology, including the use of the petrographic microscope for the determination of minerals and the interpretation of rock textures. Topics to be covered include: interpretation of phase diagrams; classification of igneous and metamorphic rocks; origins and differentiation of magmas; rock associations in the geotectonic cycle, especially the spatial and temporal development of igneous and metamorphic terrains. Prerequisites: GEOL 201.
Sem 2 GEOL-361-01 TuTh 10:00-10:50 Mr. Castro
TuTh 1:30-4:30

 

 

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Other Advanced Courses

426. Research Colloquium 1 hour
1NS
Students and faculty will meet every other week to hear and discuss presentations by faculty, students, and invited speakers. This course may be repeated for credit in successive semesters. Prerequisites: one 200-level course in Geology.

Sem 1 GEOL-426-01 W 7:30-9:00 p.m. Mr. Skinner
Sem 2 GEOL-426-01 W 7:30-9:00 p.m. Mr. Skinner

440. Advanced Structural Geology 3 hours
3NS
Next offered 2002-2003.

501. Research in Geology 2-3 hours
2-3NS
Independent or faculty-sponsored research. Students should select a topic and make other necessary arrangements in consultation with an individual faculty member. Consent of instructor required. Sponsored by Mr. Castro, Mr. Hubbard, Ms. Parsons-Hubbard, and Mr. Simonson.

503. Honors 2-5 hours
2-5NS
Consent of instructor required. Sponsored by Mr. Castro, Mr. Hubbard, Ms. Parsons-Hubbard, and Mr. Simonson.

995. Private Reading 1-3 hours
1-3NS
Consent of instructor required. Sponsored by Mr. Castro, Mr. Hubbard, Ms. Parsons-Hubbard, and Mr. Simonson

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