Geology Courses

GEOL 103. The Dynamic Earth
An introduction to the study of the Earth intended for students with little or no previous exposure to geology or other science. The course examines the materials from which the Earth is made and the forces that govern their distribution; it explores the formation, abundance and distribution of economically useful earth materials (oil, natural gas, coal, strategic metals, precious minerals, water resources) and examines natural hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, radiation exposure and floods. Laboratory work gives students hands-on and field experience with rocks, minerals and many kinds of maps.

GEOL 104. The Evolving Earth
An introduction to stratigraphic principles and the methods by which we can reconstruct geological events that have shaped the modern Earth. Where have modern ideas about the Earth come from? How do geologists unravel the history of the Earth? What has happened in the Earth’s history? The course examines fundamental controversies that have faced geology throughout its history as a science, reviews in detail the methods that geologists use to determine past events, and examines evidence recorded in rocks and fossils during the past 4.6 billion years to build an understanding of Earth’s history. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 or permission of instructor.

GEOL 110. Environmental Geology (MCR)
Environmental geology is a multidisciplinary field of applied science that involves the study of the interaction of humans with the geologic environment including the biosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. The field of environmental geology includes, but is in no way restricted to: 1) the study of the structure and processes of the earth, mineral, and rocks, especially those that are near-surface or have some significant effect upon humans, 2) the study of natural hazards and disasters, including defining and mitigation (or adaptation) of human exposure and threat, 3) managing industrial and domestic waste disposal and minimizing or eliminating effects of pollution, and 4) managing safe and environmentally responsible stewardship of geological resources, including minerals, fossil fuels, and water and land use. This course is designed to give the student basic understanding of the processes and materials of the earth and relate these concepts/products to human activities. Also offered as ENVS 110.

GEOL 112. Global Climate (MCR)
Climate is perhaps the single most important and pervasive factor controlling global ecosystems and human well-being. This interdisciplinary course examines global climate from a historical perspective, beginning with the formation of the solar system and continuing through geologic time to the present. Topics include the development of the atmosphere; the workings of the global “heat engine” of atmosphere, oceans and continents; evidence for past climate change; causes of global climate change; the effects of climate change on human evolution; and the effects of human evolution on the global climate system. Also offered as ENVS 112 and PHYS 112.

GEOL 115. Oceanography
This broad introductory course explores the oceans of the world, the living organisms of the ocean and the vast mineral wealth of the ocean floor. The course explores oceanography through discussion of elementary scientific concepts in the context of geology, biology, chemistry and physics. Topics include the origin of oceans; the composition and history of seawater; oceanic currents, tides, waves and beaches; the sea floor; plant and animal life in the sea; oceanic resources and food; and marine pollution.

GEOL 117. Dynamic Ocean Online (Summer only; online only) 
This online course is an introduction to geological and physical oceanography which provides students with an understanding of the marine environment and natural and human impacts on it. Topics include ocean in Earth system, plate tectonics, marine sediments, atmosphere and ocean, currents, waves and tides, coastal ocean and shoreline processes. It also includes study of oceans and climate change, ocean’s role in global warming, and ocean acidification.

GEOL 120. Roadsides and Rivercuts: North Country Landscapes through Geological Field Trips
(Special Summer Program) (2 units)

This special, field-intensive geology course will help you understand and appreciate the geological background of northern New York, from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain, including the Adirondacks through a synergistic combination of in-class lectures and field-oriented lectures and laboratories. In-class lecture periods will be 3 hours/day/twice weekly (M&W) and cover topics germane to the following day’s field-oriented lectures/labs. The twice-weekly (9 hours/day, T&H) field trips will focus on various components of this landscape: landforms, rock outcrops, settlement (including industrial development and mines), energy supply systems, etc. You will learn to collect, record and identify the minerals, rocks and glacial materials that form the basis of this environment and the processes that cause them.

GEOL 203. Mineralogy
An introduction to the nature of the crystalline state as displayed by the common rock-forming minerals through their physical and chemical properties. Topics include symmetry and its graphical representation; the relationship between crystal morphology and internal structure; hand-specimen description and recognition; mineral phase equilibria and mineral origins; economic uses; and an introduction to petrology and such analytical tools as the petrographic microscope and x-ray diffractometer. Prerequisite: GEOL 103.

GEOL 206. Invertebrate Paleontology
This course focuses on principles of invertebrate paleobiology, morphology and taxonomy as they are applied to the study of fossils. All macro-invertebrate groups having a significant fossil record are examined. Laboratory work centers on techniques employed in fossil preparation, on recognition of taxa from fossil material, and on the stratigraphic and evolutionary significance of invertebrate fossils. Oral and written presentations on paleontological issues are expected of each student as an introduction to the literature of the discipline. Participation in a field trip is expected. Prerequisite: GEOL 103.

GEOL 207. Paleoecology
The challenge of understanding the organizing principles, the evolution of and the functioning of ecosystems of the Earth is the essence of this course. Earth is entering a time of massive extinction, which happens first to species and then to communities and ecosystems. In paleoecology one aim is to understand how, why and when ecosystems collapse by studying the geologic record of such collapse events in the past. Such understanding may reveal our future. Techniques employed in these studies blend theory with application. The course is appropriate for students who have some paleontology or biology experience. Offered every other year. Prerequisite: GEOL 206 or permission of instructor.

GEOL 210. Optical Mineralogy
This course involves a study of the nature of light in its interaction with crystalline material. Specifically, it studies the optical characteristics and properties of minerals and how minerals may be identified using the petrographic microscope. Participants gain experience in microscopic mineral identification and in the preparation of rock thin sections. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: GEOL 103.

GEOL 211. Geomorphology
Geomorphology, literally “earth-shape-study,” is the study of the landscape, its evolution and the processes that sculpt it. The purpose of this course is to enhance the student’s ability to read geologic information from the record preserved in the landscape. This is achieved through understanding the relationship between the form of the Earth’s surface and the processes that shape that form. Students combine quantitative description of the landscape with study of landscape-shaping processes into a comprehensive investigation of the dynamic landscape system including glaciation, hills, rivers, mountains and plains. Prerequisite: GEOL 103. Also offered as ENVS 211.

GEOL 216. Sedimentology
This course explores the processes of sedimentation and their products in different depositional environments. It covers characteristics and origins of sedimentary rock types; processes that erode, transport and deposit sediments; and postdepositional modification. Emphasis is on modern depositional environments and how their study can help us better understand ancient depositional environments. The course also covers the principles of stratigraphy and reconstruction methods of sea level and paleoclimate. Field and laboratory analyses, including petrography, focus on description and classification of sedimentary rocks, and on the interpretation of their origin. Field trips required. Prerequisite: GEOL 103.

GEOL 217. Dinosaurs (MCR)
Few groups of animals are more recognized than the Dinosauria; likewise, there are few groups about which more misinformation (pseudoscience) has been circulated. (Was Jurassic Park actually Jurassic?) In the setting of vertebrate evolution, this course presents the science of Dinosauria, explains the history of their study, and investigates the origins of the group, its paleoecology, collection techniques, morphology and taxonomy. We consider cutting-edge issues of dinosaur research (are birds simply dinosaurs with feathers?), and confront all manner of misinformation, anachronism and illusion based on dinosaur myths.

GEOL 241. Field Methods for Environmental Scientists
This interdisciplinary course is intended for students interested in environmental science (e.g., environmental studies, biology, geology or chemistry majors or minors). Familiarization with experimental design and statistics and training in field techniques includes map and compass work, basic surveying, and water, soil, vegetation and faunal sampling. Introduces students to the use of Geographic Information  Systems (GIS) for research in environmental science. Students acquire a working knowledge of ArcView GIS software and gain experience creating and managing GIS projects. Students interested in developing highly marketable GIS and field skills in the context of environmental research should consider taking this course. Also offered as BIOL 241.

GEOL 280,281. Directed Studies in Geology (MCR)
Semester-long studies in appropriate areas of the earth sciences may be designed in consultation with an individual instructor in the geology department. May use seminar format when appropriate. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 and permission of instructor and sophomore standing are required.

GEOL 3000-3999. Special Topics (MCR)
Numerous special topics course are offered annually and generally involve a field component and travel. These courses are designed to provide students with the field experience needed to be competitive for graduate and professional positions. The content of each course or section of these 200-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.

GEOL 302. Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Petrology is the study of the origin of rocks, based on detailed observation of rock characteristics (petrography) together with theoretical/experimental approaches. This course provides a review of the occurrence, characteristics and origins of the common igneous and metamorphic rocks. Areas of study include the origin and differentiation of primary magmas, common rock associations, metamorphic zones and facies, the nature of the deep crust, and use of phase diagrams in the understanding of igneous and metamorphic petrogenesis. The relationship of plate tectonics to the formation of these generally holocrystalline rocks is emphasized. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 and 203 or permission of instructor.

GEOL 314. Glacial and Quaternary Geology
This seminar examines the details of at least two million years of Earth history. During this period, extreme fluctuation in the climate caused great ice sheets to form and melt many times, working profound changes on the environment. The course examines the causes, mechanics and effects of glaciation in the context of long-term climatic and environmental change. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 and 211 or permission of instructor.

GEOL 316. Carbonate Sedimentology
Carbonate Sedimentology is an advanced course that examines carbonate sedimentology and depositional environments. The course includes field trips to several classic localities in the country. The course focuses on the temporal and spatial makeup and controls on mineralogy and constituent composition of sedimentary carbonates, and introduces students to carbonate facies, carbonate platform models, sequence stratigraphy, carbonate cycles, orbital (Milankovitch climate) forcing and porosity in carbonates as well as field and lab methods. It will provide an understanding of why no other rock type is as economically important as carbonates, major reservoirs for petroleum, base metals and potable water. Prerequisite: GEOL 103, and two 200-level geology courses.

GEOL 317. Micropaleontology
Micropaleontology is the branch of the earth sciences that deals with fossil organisms too small to resolve in detail with the unaided eye. This course introduces students to the broad range of micropaleontological techniques and to the numerous groups of fossils on which these are practiced. Microfossils are the basis for most synthesis of global climate change, biostratigraphy of ocean basins and regional and global rock correlation. The modern time scale is built on them. Both light and scanning electron microscopy are employed by students in the course. Offered every other year. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 and 206 or permission of the instructor.

GEOL 318. Geotechnical Writing (MCR)
A major responsibility of all scientists, regardless of their employment, is to convey the technical results of their work to any of several audiences in a factual, informative and accurate manner. Most of this process requires particular writing skills. In geology these are combined with a wide range of graphics techniques around which text is often formed, with unique methods of reference citation and the need for careful attention to the ethics of ideas and their attribution.

GEOL 319. Hydrology and Hydrogeology
This course provides an introduction to the movement and storage of water on the Earth’s surface (hydrology) and in the subsurface (hydrogeology). We discuss the fundamentals of the water cycle and hydrologic processes at the surface, the transfer of water in and out of the subsurface and the processes of groundwater flow. Human impacts upon water are also examined, including water resources, contamination, changing land use and climate change. Prerequisite: GEOL 103. Also offered as ENVS 319.

GEOL 320. Regional Field Studies (0.5 units)
Field-based studies form the core of geological inquiry. The purpose of this course is to enrich students’ understanding of the process of conducting geological research in the field. The course consists of on-campus trip preparation and data analysis and reporting, and a field trip lasting approximately two weeks. Field trip locations and topics vary. Students may be responsible for some costs. Prerequisite: GEOL 103 or permission of instructor.

GEOL 350. Structural Geology
The deformation of rocks through brittle and ductile processes is the focus of structural geology. This course examines how forces such as those associated with plate tectonics and mountain-building are recorded in rocks on the regional, outcrop and microscopic scale. The genesis, recognition and classification of structures such as folds, faults, joints and microstructures,  as well as the mechanical behavior of rocks and stress and strain are studied as important components in deciphering the tectonic and deformational history of an area. The laboratory emphasizes application of theory to field problems. Prerequisite or co-requisite: GEOL 103 and 203 or permission of instructor. Also offered through Outdoor Studies.

GEOL 362. Geochemistry
Geochemistry is the study of the distribution, concentration and cycling of the elements in Earth materials. The course explores the composition and origin of the solar system and Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. It focuses on the tools utilized by geochemists, including major, trace and rare earth element analyses, stable and radiogenic isotopes, geochronology, and sampling methods and retrospective studies, and introduces new and emerging concerns in environmental geochemistry. The use, misuse and presentation of chemical analyses are explored in detail. Prerequisites: GEOL 103 and 203, CHEM 103 and 104 or 105, or the permission of the instructor.

GEOL 380, 381. Directed Studies in Geology (MCR)
Semester-long studies in appropriate areas of the earth sciences may be designed in consultation with an individual instructor in the geology department. May use seminar format when appropriate. Permission of instructor and junior standing are required.

GEOL 391. Research Methods in Scanning Electron Microscopy (.5 unit)
Detailed instruction in the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and support techniques such as critical point drying, specimen coating (standard vacuum and sputter coating), specimen fixation, black and white photographic techniques and computer image acquisition and analysis. The theory and practice of energy-dispersive x-ray analysis (EDAX) for determining atomic element makeup and element mapping is also learned. Prerequisite: any 200or 300-level science course, or permission of the instructor. Also offered as BIOL 391.

GEOL 4000-4999. Special Topics (MCR)
Numerous special topics course are offered annually and generally involve a field component and travel. These courses are designed to provide students with the field experience needed to be competitive for graduate and professional positions. The content of each course or section of these 300-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.

GEOL 415. Tectonics
A comprehensive overview of the theory of plate tectonics. The historical development of the theory is reviewed, considering in detail the contributions of continental drift, geosynclines, apparent polar wandering, sea floor spreading and geomagnetic reversals. Current interpretations of the plate tectonic theory are discussed in relation to rock assemblages, geophysics and paleogeographic reconstructions. There is significant emphasis on the nature and origin of orogenic belts. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: GEOL 103.

GEOL489, 490. SYE: Directed Studies in Geology (MCR)
Semester-long studies in appropriate areas of the earth sciences may be designed in consultation with an individual instructor in the geology department. May use seminar format when appropriate. Permission of instructor and senior standing are required. Counts for SYE credit. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

GEOL 498, 499. SYE: Senior Thesis (MCR)
The senior thesis is an extended application of a student’s geological background toward research of an original nature. It involves posing questions, developing hypotheses, conducting field and/or laboratory work, applying scholarship and library research, interpreting results and compiling those results into a finished thesis for submission to the department. Completion of Senior Thesis may lead to graduation with honors (see Honors in the Curriculum section of this Catalog). Guidelines and deadlines for thesis preparation should be obtained from the department chair. Counts for SYE credit. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.