Geology (Bryn Mawr)

Department Website:
https://www.brynmawr.edu/geology

The department seeks to give students a well-rounded Earth science education that balances fundamental knowledge of geology with broadly applicable problem-solving and communication skills. The integrated science of geology combines biology, chemistry, and physics as they apply to the workings of Earth and other planets. Well-trained geoscientists are increasingly in demand to address the environmental challenges and natural resource limitations of the modern world. A central tenet for understanding and predicting Earth processes and environmental change is the ability to decipher past Earth history from geologic records. Thus, the major in Geology includes study of the physics and chemistry of Earth materials and processes; the history of the Earth and its organisms; and the range of techniques used to investigate the past and present workings of the Earth system. Field and lab experiences are essential parts of geology training, and field trips and lab work are part of all introductory courses, most other classes, and most independent research projects.

Major Requirements

Thirteen courses are required for the major: GEOL B101 (How the Earth Works), GEOL B202 (Mineralogy), GEOL B203 (Biosphere through Time),GEOL B204 (Structural Geology), GEOL B205 (Sedimentary Materials and Environments), GEOL B208 (Super Lab), at least two semesters of quantitative or computational coursework (e.g., MATH B101 and MATH B102 or alternates approved by your adviser), a two-semester sequence of CHEM (CHEM B103-CHEM B104) or PHYS (PHYS B101-PHYS B102 or PHYS B121-PHYS B122), GEOL B399, and either two advanced geology courses or one advanced geology course and an additional upper-level course in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, or computer science.

The writing requirement for the major in Geology is fulfilled in GEOL B203 (Biosphere through Time). This course includes a semester-long research project culminating in a scientific manuscript based on material collected in the field by enrolled students.

Additional courses in the allied sciences are strongly recommended and are required by most graduate schools. A student who wishes to follow a career in geology are encouraged to attend a summer field course, usually following the completion of the 200-level courses.

All Geology majors participate in a senior capstone experience (GEOL B399), which is structured into a two-semester seminar that meets weekly for 1.5 hours for a total of 1.0 credit (0.5 credits per semester). The focus of the capstone seminar is to reinforce students' ability to address geoscience questions and to communicate their findings orally and in writing. The team-taught senior seminar integrates the student's major curriculum with weekly speakers or peer-led discussions on cutting-edge research, and on the impact and relevance of geology to modern society.

Thesis

At the discretion of the department faculty, rising seniors may undertake an independent thesis project (GEOL B398) in addition to mandatory full participation in the senior capstone seminar (GEOL B399). Student thesis projects must be supervised by a faculty advisor. The senior thesis is modeled after a Master's thesis project but is scaled down for the different time frame (one year versus two years) and educational level of a senior undergraduate student. The thesis project plan is initially developed and agreed upon through consultation between the supervising faculty member(s) and the student. This is usually done during the second semester of a students’ junior year. Most of the research is conducted independently by the student. The advisor serves as a source of ideas concerning scientific literature, methodologies, and project support. The advisor may visit and inspect the research sites, laboratory or model, and offer advice on how the research should be conducted or modified.

If approved to undertake a senior thesis, a student will enroll in GEOL B398 each of their final two semesters for a total of 1.0 credit (0.5 credits per semester). The thesis option adds the equivalent of one course to the standard Geology major requirements. The first semester will focus on thesis topic formulation, background research, and initiation of appropriate data acquisition. At the end of the first semester, the student must submit a formal written project proposal to department faculty members. This research proposal must demonstrate the student's ability to successfully complete a thesis during the following semester. Following review of submitted proposals, students or faculty members may choose or recommend, respectively, not to continue the independent thesis, in which case the student would not enroll for the second semester of GEOL B398.

Requirements for Honors

Honors are awarded to students who have outstanding academic records in Geology and allied fields, have completed an independent senior thesis project, and whose research is judged by the department faculty to be of the highest quality.

Minor Requirements

A minor in Geology consists of two 100-level Geology courses, and any four of the 200- or 300-level courses offered by the department. Two 0.5 credit courses may be combined to count toward one of the 100-level courses. Alternatively, an additional 200- or 300-level course may be substituted for one of the 100-level courses to meet the minor requirements.

Concentration Requirements

Concentration in Geoarchaeology

The geoarchaeology concentration allows students majoring in Anthropology, Archaeology, or Geology to explore the connections among these fields with respect to how our human ancestors interacted with past environments, and how traces of human behavior are preserved in the physical environment. In Geology, the geoarchaeology concentration consists of 13 courses: GEOL B101,GEOL B202, GEOL B203, GEOL B204, GEOL B205, GEOL B208, GEOL B270, and GEOL B399; two semesters of chemistry; two semesters of math, statistics, or computational methods; either ARCH B101 or ANTH B101; and one 200- or 300-level elective from among current offerings in Anthropology or Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For course planning advice, consult with Don Barber (Geology), Casey Barrier (Anthropology) or Peter Magee (Archaeology).

Concentration in Geochemistry

The geochemistry concentration encourages students majoring either in Geology or in Chemistry to design a course of study that emphasizes Earth chemistry. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For a Geology major with a concentration in geochemistry, the following are required: GEOL B101, GEOL B202GEOL B203, GEOL B204, GEOL B205, GEOL B208, and GEOL B399; CHEM B103 (General Chemistry) and CHEM B104 (General Chemistry II); CHEM B211(Organic Chemistry) or CHEM B231 (Inorganic Chemistry); GEOL B302 (Low Temperature Geochemistry) or GEOL B305 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) or GEOL B350 (requires major advisor approval); one additional 300-level geochemistry-themed GEOL course or one additional advanced CHEM course. For a Chemistry major with a concentration in geochemistry, the following are required in addition to Chemistry major requirements (see Chemistry major advisor): GEOL B101 (How the Earth Works), GEOL B202 (Mineralogy/Crystal Chemistry), two additional 300-level geochemistry-themed GEOL courses including GEOL B302 (Low Temperature Geochemistry) or GEOL B305 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) or GEOL B350 (requires Geology major advisor approval). For course planning advice, contact Pedro Marenco (Geology) or Sharon Burgmayer (Chemistry).

Faculty at Bryn Mawr

Selby Hearth
Associate Professor of Geology

Pedro Marenco
Associate Professor of Geology

Katherine Marenco
Lecturer in Geology

Arlo Weil
Marion Bridgman Slusser Professor in the Sciences and Chair and Professor of Geology

Courses

GEOL B101  HOW THE EARTH WORKS  (1.0 Credit)

Arlo Weil, Katherine Marenco

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

An introduction to the study of planet Earth—the materials of which it is made, the forces that shape its surface and interior, the relationship of geological processes to people, and the application of geological knowledge to the search for useful materials. Laboratory and fieldwork focus on learning the tools for geological investigations and applying them to the local area and selected areas around the world. Three lectures and one afternoon of laboratory or fieldwork a week. One required one-day field trip on a weekend.

(Offered: Fall 2020)

GEOL B104  THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE  (1.0 Credit)

Selby Hearth

A survey of the science behind climate change. Students will analyze climate data, read primary scientific literature, examine the drivers of climate change, and investigate the fundamental Earth processes that are affected. We will also examine deep-time climate change and the geologic proxies that Earth scientists use to understand climate change on many different time scales. This course is appropriate for students with little to no scientific background, but is geared toward students who are considering a science major. Two 90-minute lectures per week. One required all-day field trip on a weekend.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B108  EARTH'S OCEANS: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE  (1.0 Credit)

Pedro Marenco

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

This course is designed to expose students to the fundamentals of oceanography with an emphasis on how Earth’s oceans are tied to life and climate and how we study these links in the present and in the fossil record. We will spend much time understanding how the modern ocean works and how biogeochemical cycles interact with it. A major focus will be how we can use the ocean’s past and present to make predictions about its future.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B202  MINERALOGY AND CRYSTAL CHEMISTRY  (1.0 Credit)

Selby Hearth

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

The crystal chemistry of representative minerals as well as the relationship between the physical properties of minerals and their structures and chemical compositions. Emphasis is placed on mineral identification and interpretation. The occurrence and petrography of typical mineral associations and rocks is also covered. Lecture three hours, laboratory at least three hours a week. One required field trip on a weekend. Prerequisite: introductory course in Geology or Chemistry (both recommended, one required).

(Offered: Fall 2020)

GEOL B203  BIOSPHERE THROUGH TIME  (1.0 Credit)

Katherine Marenco, Pedro Marenco

Division: Natural Science

We will explore how the Earth-life system has evolved through time by studying the interactions between life, climate, and tectonic processes. During the lab component of the course, we will study important fossil groups to better understand their paleoecology and roles in the Earth-life system. Prerequisite: GEOL B101

(Offered: Fall 2020)

GEOL B204  STRUCTURAL GEOLOGY  (1.0 Credit)

Arlo Weil

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

An introduction to the study of rock deformation in the Earth’s lithosphere viewed from all scales - from the microscopic (atomic scale) to the macroscopic (continental scale). This class focuses on building a foundation of knowledge and understanding that will allow students to broaden their appreciation and understanding of the complexity of the Earth system and the links between geologic structures at all scales and plate tectonics. Three lectures and three hours of laboratory a week, plus a required three-day, weekend field trip. Prerequisite: GEOL 101 and MATH 101.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B205  SEDIMENTARY MATERIALS AND ENVIRONMENTS  (1.0 Credit)

Katherine Marenco

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

An introduction to sediment transport, depositional processes, and stratigraphic analysis, with emphasis on interpretation of sedimentary sequences and the reconstruction of past environments. Three lectures and one lab a week, plus a one-day field trip. Prerequisite: GEOL 101, 102, or 103 or permission of instructor. Recommended: GEOL B202 and B203.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B206  ENERGY RESOURCES AND SUSTAINABILITY  (1.0 Credit)

Staff

Division: Natural Science

An examination of issues concerning the supply of energy required by humanity. This includes an investigation of the geological framework that determines resource availability, aspects of energy production and resource development and the science of global climate change. Two 90-minute lectures a week. Suggested preparation: one year of college science.

(Offered: Fall 2020)

GEOL B208  GEOLOGY SUPER LAB  (1.0 Credit)

Pedro Marenco

Students will learn the fundamentals of geological laboratory analysis via measurements on geological materials chosen by the students. We will utilize the analytical equipment and techniques available in the Geology Department including (but not limited to) X-ray diffractometry, thin-section petrography, carbon isotope mass spectrometry, and inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Emphasis will be placed on data processing and quantitative analysis of large datasets. Prerequisites: GEOL 101, GEOL 202, one other 200 level course, junior/senior status.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B209  NATURAL HAZARDS  (1.0 Credit)

Katherine Marenco

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

A quantitative approach to understanding the earth processes that impact human societies. We consider the past, current, and future hazards presented by geologic processes, including earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, and hurricanes. The course includes discussion of the social, economic, and policy contexts within which natural geologic processes become hazards. Case studies are drawn from contemporary and ancient societies. Lecture three hours a week.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B299  GEOLOGY FIELD SHORT COURSE  (0.5 Credit)

Staff

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

Geology majors choosing to participate in the annual Fall- or Spring-Break Geology Department Field Trip must enroll in GEOL B299. Enrollment in this class does not guarantee a spot on the field trip. Several pre-trip class meetings help maximize student engagement on the trip by providing a forum for discussing the assigned readings. During the week-long field trip, students are exposed to geologic field methods while visiting sites that exemplify different geology from that at sites near campus. Geologic methods introduced include proper field note-taking, mapping and measuring geologic structures, and interpreting geologic history. Culminating work introduces students to geologic illustration and report writing. A passing grade requires full participation and engagement by the student before, during and after the field trip. At least one post-trip meeting is held on campus to synthesize the material covered, and to go over students’ final reports. Prerequisite: GEOL B101, B102 or B103; and GEOL B202, B203, B204 or B205.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B302  LOW-TEMPERATURE GEOCHEMISTRY  (1.0 Credit)

Pedro Marenco

Division: Natural Science

Stable isotope geochemistry is one of the most important subfields of the Earth sciences for understanding environmental and climatic change. In this course, we will explore stable isotopic fundamentals and applications including a number of important case studies from the recent and deep time dealing with important biotic events in the fossil record and major climate changes. Prerequisites: GEOL 101 or GEOL 102, and at least one semester of chemistry or physics, or professor approval.

(Offered: Fall 2020)

GEOL B304  TECTONICS  (1.0 Credit)

Arlo Weil

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

Plate tectonics and continental orogeny are reviewed in light of the geologic record in selected mountain ranges and certain geophysical data. Three hours of lecture and a problem session a week. Prerequisite: GEOL 204 or permission of instructor.

GEOL B305  IGNEOUS AND METAMORPHIC PETROLOGY  (1.0 Credit)

Selby Hearth

Division: Natural Science
Domain(s): C: Physical and Natural Processes

The study of igneous and metamorphic rocks, including their origins and modes of occurrence. The focus is on understanding how these rocks form, and on applying a combination of field methods, laboratory techniques, and theoretical understanding to interpret the origins of igneous and metamorphic rocks. The class will build on the study of mineralogy by examining assemblages of coexisting minerals, and what those assemblages reveal about the pressure, temperature, and chemical conditions under which a rock must have formed. For a culminating term project we will conduct an intensive study of local metamorphic rocks. Three lecture hours weekly and one weekly lab. One weekend field trip. Prerequisites: GEOL 202.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B310  INTRODUCTION TO GEOPHYSICS  (1.0 Credit)

Arlo Weil

Division: Natural Science

An overview covering how geophysical observations of the Earth’s magnetic field, gravity field, heat flow, radioactivity, and seismic waves provide a means to study plate tectonics and the earth's interior. Three class hours a week with weekly problem sets. Prerequisite: one year of college physics or with permission of professor.

GEOL B314  MARINE GEOLOGY  (1.0 Credit)

Staff

An introduction to oceanography, coastal processes, and the geomorphology of temperate and tropical shorelines. Includes an overview of the many parameters, including sea level change, that shape coastal environments. Meets twice weekly for a combination of lecture, discussion and hands-on exercises, including a mandatory multi-day field trip to investigate developed and pristine sections of the Mid-Atlantic US coast. Prerequisite: One 200-level GEOL course OR one GEOL course AND one BIOL course (any level), OR advanced BIOL major standing (junior or senior).

GEOL B350  ADVANCED TOPICS IN GEOLOGY  (1.0 Credit)

Arlo Weil

Division: Natural Science

This is a topics course. Course content varies. Recent topics include Carbonate Petrology, Appalachian Geology, Advanced Evolution, The Snowball Controversy, and Climate Change.

(Offered: Fall 2020, Spring 2021)

GEOL B399  SENIOR CAPSTONE SEMINAR  (0.5 Credit)

Arlo Weil, Katherine Marenco, Pedro Marenco, Selby Hearth

Division: Natural Science

A capstone seminar course required for all Geology majors. All Geology seniors will be required to participate in this two-semester seminar that meets weekly for 1.5 hours for a total of 1.0 credit (0.5 credits per semester). Enrollment required in two half-credit courses, one in the fall and one in the spring semester of the senior year. The focus of the seminar will be to integrate the student's major curriculum into open peer-led discussions on cutting edge research in the many diverse fields of Geology, to discuss the impact and relevance of Geology to modern society, and to work on oral and written communication skills.

(Offered: Spring 2021)

GEOL B400  SENIOR THESIS  (0.5 Credit)

Arlo Weil, Katherine Marenco, Pedro Marenco, Selby Hearth, Staff

At the discretion of the department faculty, rising seniors may undertake an independent thesis project in addition to mandatory full participation in the senior capstone seminar. This student thesis is conducted under the supervision of a faculty advisor(s). The undertaking of a thesis is modeled after a Master's thesis project, but is scaled down for the shorter time frame (one versus two years) and educational level of a senior undergraduate student. The thesis project plan is initially developed, and agreed upon by conference between the supervising faculty member(s) and the student. Most of the research is conducted independently by the student. The advisor serves as a source of ideas concerning scientific literature, methodologies, and financial support. The advisor may visit and inspect the research sites, laboratory or model, and offer advice on how the research should be conducted or modified.

(Offered: Fall 2020, Spring 2021)

GEOL B403  SUPERVISED RESEARCH  (0.5 Credit)

Arlo Weil, Katherine Marenco, Pedro Marenco, Selby Hearth, Staff

Division: Natural Science

Optional laboratory or field research on a wide variety of topics, open to junior or senior majors. Interested students must consult with department faculty members as early as possible, preferably before the start of the semester, in order to choose a faculty supervisor. The student and faculty supervisor meet early in the semester to plan the research and discuss gradable outcomes (e.g., final research paper). Requires permission of the instructor and the major advisor.

(Offered: Fall 2020, Spring 2021)