Major Requirements

Earth science is an unusually broad subject. It addresses everything from the chemical processes that make rocks and minerals to the physics behind plate tectonics and the travel of earthquake shock waves through the planet. It explores the history of the evolution of life revealed in fossils, and it probes the earth processes that affect how humans can survive on the surface of the planet. To address this breadth, the department offers four curricular tracks for a major in earth sciences.

All tracks require a common core of general chemistry, calculus, general geology, and physics, except that paleontology-option students may take biology in place of physics. Every track includes an introductory geology sequence. The courses in each track are divided into three categories: core, additional requirements, and electives.

Geology Track

Are you fascinated by rocks and their formation?

The Geology track provides students with a rigorous background that emphasizes traditional disciplines of petrology, structural geology, tectonics, stratigraphy, and field studies. Upper-division electives permit students to focus in a chosen subdiscipline or develop greater breadth, and include courses in geophysics, geochemistry, petrology, data analysis, physics, math, geomorphology, and neotectonics.

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Environmental Geoscience Track

Are you interested in geologic hazards? Do you want to study how society interacts with Earth's surface environment?

Consider the Environmental Geoscience track. This track is for students who want to understand the Earth’s surface environments – rivers, hillslopes, soils, ground water and oceans – and how humans interact with these environments. Track requirements include courses in energy resources, sedimentary environments, and geologic hazards. Electives are selected from all geology courses numbered 414 and higher, as well as courses in geography, chemistry, math, physics, and biology.

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Geophysics Track

Are you intrigued by physics and the deep earth?

In the Geophysics track, students develop a foundation in mathematics and physics that enables them to apply quantitative methods to understanding processes such as earthquakes, mantle flow, plate movements, heat flow, and crustal deformation. Upper-division electives are selected from courses in structural geology, geodynamics, neotectonics, fault mechanics, remote sensing, geomorphology, and advanced math courses.

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Paleontology Track

Are you interested in studying past life? Are you fascinated by fossils?

Consider the Paleontology track. In this track, students study the evolution of life as preserved in fossils extracted from ancient rocks. Students take courses in vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, paleosols, stratigraphy, and field methods. Elective courses permit students to develop a complementary focus in biology or chemistry, and/or additional paleontology.

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