Head: W.S. Holbrook
University Distinguished Professors: R.J. Bodnar, P.M. Dove, G.V. Gibbs (Emeritus), and M.F. Hochella Jr. (Emeritus)
National Academy of Science: P.M. Dove
Professors: R.J. Bodnar, T. J. Burbey, P.M. Dove, K.A. Eriksson, W.S. Holbrook, J.A. Hole, S.D. King, R.D. Law, N.L. Ross, M.E. Schreiber, J.A. Spotila, R. Weiss, and S. Xiao
Associate Professors: M.J. Caddick, B.C. Gill, F.M. Michel, S.J. Nesbitt, B.W. Romans, M. Shirzaei, and Y. Zhou
Assistant Professors: M. Duncan, C. Dura, R.M. Pollyea, D.S. Stamps, and M.R. Stocker
Research Professor: M.C. Chapman and R.P. Lowell
Research Associate Professor: S. Werth
Research Scientists: S. Bemis, R. Reid
Collegiate Associate Professor: J.A. Chermak
Senior Research Associate: L. Fedele
Senior Instructor: N.E. Johnson
Adjunct Faculty: P. Prince
Affiliated Faculty: M. Murayama and E. Martin
Geosciences offer exciting opportunities for students with an interest in applying a full range of science and mathematical skills to understand the earth's properties and dynamic processes. This is a highly interdisciplinary program that applies physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics to understand and manage all aspects of Earth and the environment. Geoscientists work everywhere in the world under almost any condition as they search for earth resources, manage the environment and natural hazards, and supervise technical and business enterprises. For more information about exciting careers in Geosciences consult www.agiweb.org/careers.html. The extensive scientific and mathematical skills of geoscientists, along with their broad field experience, allow them to pursue careers in many related fields ranging from material science to technical management to scientific reporting.
The internationally recognized faculty in Geosciences has developed six challenging options, described below, that lead to a B.S. in Geosciences. Coursework emphasizes the acquisition and processing of field data beginning with a special course in field methods taken in the spring of the first year. The geology option requires, and the other options recommend, that the student participate in a six-week field camp. The B.S. in Geosciences provides pre-professional preparation that will allow students to continue their education in post graduate programs in science, law, and business.
Earth systems and processes are enormously complicated and require a full range of intellectual skills to decipher and manage. Geoscientists must possess strong quantitative skills and a solid understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology. They must be able to read maps, identify rocks, minerals, and fossils as well as visualize earth structures in three dimensions. They must have strong communication skills, both written and verbal. Learning to use these skills in an integrated way is a challenging and rewarding experience.
The graduation requirements in effect during the academic year of admission to Virginia Tech apply. Requirements for graduation are listed on checksheets. Students must satisfactorily complete all requirements and university obligations for degree completion. The university reserves the right to modify requirements in a degree program.
Please visit the University Registrar's website at https://www.registrar.vt.edu/graduation-multi-brief/checksheets.html for degree requirements.
The Geology option offers a detailed coverage of the broad range of classic disciplines within the geosciences. This option emphasizes the study of minerals, rocks and fossils, and teaches the student how to understand the processes and history of the earth based on the occurrences and relationships of these materials at or near the Earth's surface.
The Geochemistry option is designed for those students who have special interest in the fundamental chemical aspects of the Earth and its materials with applications to a broad range of geochemical and environmental problems.
The Geophysics option offers students the opportunity to specialize in the branch of the geosciences that investigates physical earth processes such as earthquakes and that images the interior of the earth through surface-based physical measurements.
The Earth Science Education option provides students with a broad Earth Science curriculum that meets the content goals for secondary earth science teaching. Certification for Earth Science teaching is not provided in the program. Information about teaching certification in Virginia can be obtained from the School of Education.
The Environmental and Engineering Geosciences option is designed for students with interests in applying geosciences to solve problems related to human interaction with the natural environment and to apply geologic principles to engineering issues.
The Geobiology and Paleobiology option is designed for students interested in studying the interactions between life and its environment in the modern Earth and ancient past (geobiology) and in reconstructing the biology and relationships of extinct life (paleobiology).
The requirements to earn a minor in Geosciences can be found on its checksheet by visiting the University Registrar website at http://registrar.vt.edu/graduation-multi-brief/index1.html.
The department offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geosciences with specializations in many sub-disciplines. (See the Graduate Catalog for further information.)
University policy requires that students who are making satisfactory progress toward a degree meet minimum criteria toward the General Education (Curriculum for Liberal Education) (see "Academics") and toward the degree.
Satisfactory progress requirements toward the B.S. in Geosciences with any of the available options can be found on the specific major checksheet by visiting the University Registrar website at http://registrar.vt.edu/graduation-multi-brief/index1.html.
1004: EARTH SCIENCE: OUR PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE Introduction to Earth science, including the fundamental concepts of geology in the modern context of humans interacting with the Earth. Formation and evolution of the Earth (history, plate tectonics, the rock cycle, geologic time), internal Earth dynamics (earthquakes, volcanoes, mitigating natural hazards), Earth materials (minerals and rocks, energy and mineral resources), surface processes (Earth system science, hydrologic cycle, global geochemical cycles, oceans and atmosphere, climate, erosion and landscapes), Earth sustainability (resources, environmental change), evaluating geological information and products of research, the scientific approach to problem solving, and the ethical issues associated with geoscience and the environment. (3H,3C)
1014: EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH-LIFE SYSTEM Introduction to the interaction of the Earth’s processes that shape our planet and its biosphere through time. Application of modern geoscientific inquiry; biological, chemical and physical interactions that are part of the Earth system; distribution of life on Earth (i.e., biogeography); diversity of life over time; the differentiation between science and pseudoscience; ethical issues around human activities and their impact on the Earth-Life system. (3H,3C)
1024: EARTH RESOURCES, SOCIETY, AND ENVIRONMENT Introduction to the Earth’s resources including their nature, formation, occurrence, extraction, distribution, consumption, and waste management and disposal using an integrated cradle to grave analysis. Population, the Earth’s metallic and non-metallic resources, rare earth elements, non-renewable and renewable energy and water. Social, environmental, economic and political impacts resource production and consumption have had historically, currently, and that are predicted into the future including current and future sources of energy in the United States and internationally. Sustainability, water abundance and quality, fracking, climate change, ocean acidification, and ozone depletion. (3H,3C)
1034: EARTH’S NATURAL HAZARDS Fundamentals of Earth processes that drive natural hazards, including earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, climate change and impacts with space objects; impacts of human activities on the Earth; defining and analyzing hazards and risks through testing hypotheses on geologic data; ethical issues arising from hazard mitigation; analysis of uncertainties of scientific information. (3H,3C)
1054: AGE OF DINOSAURS Introduction to dinosaur paleontology, including fundamental geological and biological concepts, with focus on how modern paleontologists ask interdisciplinary questions to examine the fossil record. Use of dinosaurs to explore: process and impact of scientific method; geologic processes, geologic time, global change, ecosystems, biogeography; anatomy, evolution, biodiversity, phylogenetic relationships; and media portrayal of extinct animals. (3H,3C)
1064: CLIMATE HISTORY: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE Introduction to the fundamental components of Earth’s climate system. Changes of Earth’s climate at different time scales. Climate change induced by plate tectonics, variations in Earth’s orbit and transition to and from ice ages. Historical and future changes of Earth’s climate. Climate models as tools to interpret climate data. Impacts of climate change. Climate ethics and policies. (3H,3C)
1104: INTRODUCTION TO EARTH SCIENCES LABORATORY Introduction to Earth sciences laboratory, including identification of minerals and rocks, topographic and geologic maps, structural geology, geology impacting humans and humans impacting geology, environmental and social impacts. (3L,1C)
1124: EARTH RESOURCES, SOCIETY & ENVIRONMENT LABORATORY Laboratory course on Earth’s resources including their nature, importance, occurrence, extraction, and environmental, social, and political impacts of consumption. Earth’s resources include metal ores, non-metallic resources which includes surface and ground water and non-renewable (e.g., fossil fuels) and renewable energy (e.g., hydroelectric). Sustainability, water quality and quantity, climate change, and ocean acidification related to resource extraction and consumption. (3L,1C)
2004: GEOSCIENCE FUNDAMENTALS Introduction to geoscientific reasoning, methods, written and oral communication, professional expectations, and career options. Scientific methodology, empirical reasoning, and the specific application of these methods to conducting investigations and communicating the results to a geoscientific audience. Introduction to: accessing and using the geoscientific literature, conducting research, collaborating in research groups, using technologies that support collaborative oral and written communication, and building a professional presence. Restricted to Geoscience majors. (2H,3L,3C)
2014: MISSION TO THE PLANETS The events and processes that shaped the terrestrial planets; the scientific method (i.e., observations, techniques, and theories) that supports our understanding of these events and processes; the role of science, politics, and engineering and how these impact planetary science missions; ethical issues associated with planetary research; manned and unmanned exploration and how they have shaped our understanding of the planets. (3H,3C)
2024: EARTH’S DYNAMIC SYSTEMS Overview of the geosciences emphasizing processes operating within and on Earth now and over the last 4.55 billion years Integrates Earth’s systems and cycles, includes the rock cycle, hydrologic cycle, origin and evolution of life, extinction. Earth’s surface, and atmosphere. Field trips required. Restricted to geosciences majors. Partial duplication of GEOS 1004. (6H,6L,8C)
2104: ELEMENTS OF GEOLOGY Structure of the earth, properties of minerals and rocks, and geologic processes that act on the surface and in the interior of the earth, and integrated geologic systems of importance in engineering and regional planning. For students in engineering and physical sciences. Geology 2104 duplicates material in Geology 1004 and both may not be taken for credit. (2H,3L,3C)
2444: GEOSCIENCE FIELD OBSERVATIONS Study of geological phenomena in the field. Students make observations in the field, integrate them into coherent datasets, and construct interpretations. Rock type and structure identification in outcrop. Field techniques and applications in structural geology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, geomorphology, environmental geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, and geophysics. 10 full days spent in the field (Mondays through Fridays during Summer I), plus additional classroom or laboratory meetings. Pre: (1004, 1104) or 2024 or 2104. (6L,2C)
2964: FIELD STUDY Pass/Fail only. Variable credit course. X-grade allowed.
2974: INDEPENDENT STUDY Variable credit course.
2974H: INDEPENDENT STUDY Honors section. Variable credit course.
2984: SPECIAL STUDY Variable credit course. X-grade allowed.
2994: UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH Variable credit course.
3014: ENVIRONMENTAL GEOSCIENCES The roles of geology and geophysics in defining and monitoring the natural environment, with special application to interactions between humans and the geologic environment. Both descriptive treatment and quantitative concepts related to environmental processes involving the solid earth and earth’s surface, with emphasis on geologic hazards (e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and slope failures, flooding, groundwater problems, mineral and rock dusts). Pre: 1004 or 1024 or 2024 or 2104. (3H,3C)
3024: COMPUTATIONAL METHODS IN THE GEOSCIENCES Development of computational skills aimed at extracting pertinent trends and significance of a wide variety and quantity of highly heterogeneous geoscience data; application of analytical, statistical and signal processing methods for analyzing time-series, spatial and satellite imagery data; tools for producing publication quality maps, graphs, charts, and other visual aids. Pre: (1004 or 2024 or 2104), (MATH 1225 or MATH 1025). (3H,3C)
3034: OCEANOGRAPHY Descriptive and quantitative treatment of the geological, physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in, or are influenced by, the oceans. The history of oceanic exploration and discovery is addressed. (3H,3C)
3044: GEOSCIENCES OUTREACH Service-learning through teaching. Identification and development of geoscience outreach activities based on national and state science education standards. Assessment methods for evaluating the effectiveness of outreach activities. Techniques for effective instructional design and communication of geoscience concepts to enrich the general public’s awareness of the geosciences. Pre: 2024 or (1004, 1014) or (2104, 1014). (2H,2C)
3104: ELEMENTARY GEOPHYSICS Acquisition and interpretation of exploration geophysical data. Seismic reflection and refraction methods, gravity and magnetic fields, geoelectrical methods, and geophysical well logging. Co: PHYS 2206 or PHYS 2306 Pre: (1004 or 2024 or 2104), (MATH 1026 or MATH 1226), (PHYS 2205 or PHYS 2305). (2H,3L,3C)
3204: SEDIMENTOLOGY-STRATIGRAPHY Study of sedimentary basins in a plate-tectonic framework, mechanisms of basin formation, three-dimensional geometry of basin fill, and controls on basin fill. Siliciclastic and carbonate-evaporate rocks as examples of basin fill are discussed in lectures and studied in the lab and in the field. Applied aspects of the course include a discussion of geometries of sedimentary aquifers and reservoirs. Pre: 1004 or 2024 or 2104. (2H,3L,3C)
3304 (CSES 3304) (GEOG 3304): GEOMORPHOLOGY Examines the variety of landforms that exist at the earth’s surface. Detailed investigation of major processes operating at the earth’s surface including: tectonic, weathering, fluvial, coastal, eolian, and glacial processes. Field excursion. Pre: GEOG 1104 or GEOS 1004 or GEOS 2104 or GEOS 2024. (3H,3C)
3404: ELEMENTS OF STRUCTURAL GEOLOGY Introduction to basic geological structures, evolution of microfabrics, development of faults, folds and foliations, stereographic analysis of geological structures, thrust fault geometries, balancing of geological cross-sections, and introduction to the concepts of stress and strain. Pre: 1004 or 2024 or 2104. (2H,3L,3C)
3504 (MSE 3104): MINERALOGY Principles of modern mineralogy, crystal chemistry, and crystallography, with emphasis on mineral atomic structure and physical property relationships, mineralogy in the context of geology, geochemistry, environmental science and geophysics, phase equilibria, mineral associations, and mineral identification, and industrial applications of minerals. There are three required field trips during the semester. Pre: CHEM 1035. (2H,3L,3C)
3604: PALEONTOLOGY Paleontological principles and techniques and their application to the evolution of life, the ecological structure of ancient biological communities, the interpretation of ancient depositional environments, and the history of the earth. Pre: (1004, 1014) or 2024. (2H,3L,3C)
3614 (CSES 3114) (ENSC 3114): SOILS Characterization of soils as a natural resource emphasizing their physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological properties in relation to nutrient availability, fertilization, plant growth, land-use management, waste application, soil and water quality, and food production. For CSES, ENSC, and related plant- and earth-science majors. Partially duplicates CSES/ENSC 3134. Pre: CHEM 1036. (3H,3C)
3624 (CSES 3124) (ENSC 3124): SOILS LABORATORY Parent materials, morphology, physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils and related soil management and land use practices will be studied in field and lab. Partially duplicates CSES/ENSC 3134. Co: 3614. (3L,1C)
3634: NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS AND CURATION Introduction to museums and natural history collections, with a focus on hands-on curation of specimens to learn standard archival practices and principles. Exploration of campus collections such as the Museum of Geosciences, Massey Herbarium, and Cheatham Vertebrate Collection with particular focus on: specimen acquisition and accessioning; specimen preparation, preservation, and identification; collection labeling, organization, and storage; collection management databases; metadata; emergency response plans; and the role of museums over time for outreach and interpretation. Application of knowledge through final project. Pre: 2024 or (1004, 1014) or (2104, 1014) or (BIOL 1105, BIOL 1106) or (BIOL 1005, BI OL 1006). (2H,3L,3C)
3644: PALEONTOLOGICAL LABORATORY TECHNIQUES Laboratory techniques for extracting and preserving paleontological data. Tracing the process a fossil goes through from the field until it is permanently curated. Supervised hands-on experience in an active paleontological laboratory. Independent paleontology information preservation projects. Topics include: philosophy of fossil preparation, mechanical and chemical preparation, conservation and lab materials, digital data and virtual preparation, molding and casting, 3D printing, and collaboration with other museums. Pre: 3604. (2H,2C)
3704: IGNEOUS AND METAMORPHIC ROCKS Study of characteristics and mechanisms of igneous intrusion at depth in the crust, volcanic phenomena on the surface, and textural and mineralogical modification of rocks at elevated temperatures and pressures of crustal metamorphism. Tectonic aspects of igneous and metamorphic rocks will be stressed. Pre: (1004, 1104) or 2024. (2H,3L,3C)
3954: STUDY ABROAD Variable credit course.
4024: SENIOR SEMINAR Integration and solution of significant geoscience research problems and case studies by analysis and integration of information across a wide spectrum of geoscience sub-disciplines. Techniques for effective oral and written communication of technical information to experts and non-experts. Independent and team research projects. Analysis of ethics associated with societally-relevant geosciences issues. Ethics and professionalism in geosciences. Pre: 2004, 2024, 2444, 3204, 3404, 3504. (3H,3C)
4084 (GEOG 4084): MODELING WITH GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS Use of automated systems for geographic data collection, digitization, storage, display, modeling and analysis. Basic data flow in GIS modeling applications. Development of proficiency in the use of current GIS software. Senior Standing. Pre: GEOG 2084. (1H,6L,3C)
4124: SEISMIC STRATIGRAPHY Overview of seismic data acquisition and processing methods, seismic wavelets, static and dynamic corrections, and seismic velocities; seismic reflection data interpretation; seismic reflection responses Seismic mapping; seismic stratigraphy and seismic lithology. Consent required. Pre: 3104, 3204. (2H,3L,3C)
4134 (GEOG 4134): INTERDISCIPLINARY ISSUES AND ETHICS IN WATER RESOURCES Analysis of issues and ethics related to water resources, water as a hazard upon human (infrastructure, economy) and ecological (rivers, groundwater) systems, water and vector borne disease, climate change, dams, and eutrophication. Development of proficiency in demonstrating the multidimensionality of water resources. Pre: Junior standing. (3H,3C)
4154: EARTHQUAKE SEISMOLOGY Seismicity and its causes in the context of plate tectonics; determination of earthquake location, size and focal parameters; seismogram interpretation; seismometry; hazard potential; use of earthquakes in determining earth structure. Pre: MATH 2204 or MATH 2204H, MATH 2214, PHYS 2305, GEOS 3104. (2H,3L,3C)
4164: POTENTIAL FIELD METHODS IN EXPLORATION GEOPHYSICS Theory and application to engineering, environmental, and resource exploration. Gravity, magnetics, electrical resistivity, self potential, induced polarization, ground-penetrating radar, magnetotellurics, electromagnetic induction. Pre: MATH 2204 or MATH 2204H, MATH 2214, PHYS 2306, GEOS 3104. (3H,3L,4C)
4174: EXPLORATION SEISMOLOGY Theory and application of seismic methods to engineering, environmental and resource exploration: reflection seismics, refraction seismics, and tomography. Data acquisition, digital filtering, data corrections, imaging, interpretation, and forward modeling. Pre: MATH 2204 or MATH 2204H, MATH 2214, PHYS 2305, GEOS 3104. (3H,3L,4C)
4234: VERTEBRATE EVOLUTION Characterization of the evolution of vertebrates from the fossil record to now. Tracing anatomical features in humans to their origin of different vertebrate groups. Chronicling vertebrate diversification events through extinctions, changes in climate in the last 600 million years, biogeography, and phylogenetic methods. Evidence of evolution through fossils and dissection. Pre: 1014 or BIOL 2704 or GEOS 2024. (3H,3L,4C)
4244: MORPHOLOGY OF THE VERTEBRATES Identification of skeletal osteological elements of major groups of vertebrates, including aspects of skeletal functional morphology and homology, with emphasis on extant taxa. Skeletal systems of model and non-model organisms such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals; specimen care and data management; modern skeletal collection practices. Pre: (1014 or 2024 or 1054) or (BIOL 1105, BIOL 1106). (3H,3L,4C)
4254: INTEGRATIVE EARTH SYSTEM HISTORY Study of Earth system evolution, with a focus on critical transitions that shaped the history of the Earth, and the integration and interaction of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere. Principles of system science, box models, atmospheric and oceanographic processes, microbial processes, isotopic tracers, elemental cycles, and critical transitions in Earth history, including the origin of life, changes in atmospheric composition, climatic events and mass extinctions. Pre: 2024 or (1004, 1014) or (2104, 1014). (3H,3C)
4264: SEDIMENTARY BASINS Formation, evolution, and characterization of regions of the Earth’s surface that experience long-lived subsidence and sediment accumulation. Integration of concepts and skills from: stratigraphy, surface processes, tectonics, structural geology, burial/thermal history, geo/thermochronology, and geodynamics; content is relevant to fields such as paleontology, (paleo)climatology, and subsurface resource management. Use of programming/statistical software packages. Pre: 3204. (2H,3L,3C)
4354 (GEOG 4354): INTRODUCTION TO REMOTE SENSING Theory and methods of remote sensing. Practical exercises in interpretation of aerial photography, satellite, radar and thermal infrared imagery. Digital analysis, image classification and evaluation. Applications in earth sciences, hydrology, plant sciences, and land use studies. (2H,3L,3C)
4404: ADVANCED STRUCTURAL GEOLOGY Basic principles of rock behavior under applied, non-hydrostatic stress (experimental and tectonic) and analysis of the geometrical patterns produced. Alternate years. Pre: 3404. (2H,3L,3C)
4624: MINERAL DEPOSITS Introduction to the range and variety of metallic and non-metallic economic mineral deposits. Classification of the petrologic and tectonic settings of mineral deposits. Source, transport and depositional mechanisms of mineral deposit formation. Laboratory emphasizes identification of ore minerals, gangue minerals, common host rocks, wall-rock alteration and mineral zoning. Course requirement of 3 hours of GEOS at the 3000-level or above, may be satisfied by taking prerequisite prior to or concurrent with course. Pre: 1004 or 2104 or 2024. (2H,3L,3C)
4634: ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY Application of quantitative methods of thermodynamic and physicochemical analysis to the study of the distribution and movement of chemical elements in surface and near-surface geological environments. Emphasis on practical approaches to environmental geochemistry. Pre: MATH 1225, CHEM 1035. (2H,3L,3C)
4714: VOLCANOES AND VOLCANIC PROCESSES Study of characteristics and mechanisms of volcanic phenomena, including magma dynamics, origin and chemistry of lavas, physics of eruptions, and characteristics of volcanic products, particularly pyroclastic deposits. Includes focus on volcanism as a general planetary process, on terrestrial tectonic settings of volcanism and on volcanic hazards. (2H,3L,3C)
4804: GROUNDWATER HYDROLOGY Physical principles of groundwater flow, including application of analytical solutions to real-world problems. Well hydraulics. Geologic controls on groundwater flow. Pre: (MATH 1226 or MATH 2024), (PHYS 2205 or PHYS 2305). (2H,3L,3C)
4824: ENGINEERING GEOLOGY Application of geological, geochemical, and hyrdogeological principles to engineering problems; relating rock and soil forming processes to engineering properties of geological materials; physical and chemical weathering processes and relationships with engineering properties of soil and rock; effective stress theory and geologic hazards; methods and data types for environmental applications and engineering works; geologic hazards and human-land interactions; professionalism and ethics in the practice of engineering geology. Pre: (1004 or 2024 or 2104), (PHYS 2305 or PHYS 2205), (CHEM 1035 or CHEM 1015), (MAT H 1225 or MATH 1025). (3H,3C)
4924: TECTONICS Overview of modern plate tectonic theory and history. Physical processes driving present-day plate tectonic deformation including continental rifts, rifted margins, continental transforms, strike-slip faults, subduction zones and orogenic belts. Plate kinematic concepts and information about the Earth\031s structure. Application of scientific method, data analysis, and computational modeling. Pre: (MATH 1025 or MATH 1225), (PHYS 2205 or PHYS 2305). (3H,3L,4C)
4954: STUDY ABROAD Variable credit course.
4964: FIELD STUDY Variable credit course.
4974: INDEPENDENT STUDY Variable credit course.
4974H: INDEPENDENT STUDY Honors section. Variable credit course.
4984: SPECIAL STUDY Variable credit course.
4994: UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH May be repeated for a maximum of 4 credits. Variable credit course.
4994H: UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH Honors section. Variable credit course.