Geology Department

If you are interested in planet Earth—how it developed its present features and what may happen to it in the future, how it functions as a complex physical and chemical system and why we should care, where life originated and how and why our planet supports us, how the environment works and how what we do affects the world around us—a major in geology may be right for you.

The Department of Geology possesses extensive rock, mineral, and fossil collections as a basis from which to investigate Earth, a micro X-ray fluorescence (micro-XRF) spectrometer for mapping rock and mineral elemental compositions, a powder X-ray diffractometer (XRD) for determining mineral identities, research-grade stereo and petrographic microscopes, and Logitech-equipped rock thin-section preparation equipment. The department houses the College’s scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer for micron-scale elemental analyses. Additional research equipment available for student use, shared with other departments in the Division of Natural Sciences, includes a C,H,N,O,S elemental analyzer, an inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometer for determining elemental compositions, and the Colby Compass, a research boat equipped with an array of instrumentation for real-time environmental analyses.

Colby’s setting provides an intriguing and exciting area for field study, enabling students to integrate field and laboratory experiences. Students are encouraged to work on independent and honors projects in which they actively examine and interpret observational data. Research opportunities are offered routinely during the summer by departmental faculty at Colby and abroad.

Fieldwork is an integral part of many courses and introduces students to various aspects of local and regional geology. Multi-day off-campus trips are scheduled regularly to localities and areas of particular geologic interest, such as the Hartford Basin of Connecticut, the Mohawk Valley or Catskill Mountains of New York, the classic Joggins and Brule localities in Nova Scotia, and late Paleozoic rocks of New Brunswick. The department also provides off-campus international experiences, including study in Bermuda.

The Geology Department offers two major programs and a minor for students with different interests. The point scale for retention of the major applies to all courses taken in the major; no requirement may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Students should consult regularly with their advisor in selecting courses appropriate for meeting their goals of post-graduation employment or graduate study.


ChairAssociate Professor Walter (Bill) Sullivan
Professors Robert Gastaldo and Robert Nelson; Associate Professor Walter (Bill) Sullivan; Assistant Professor Tasha Dunn; Visiting Assistant Professor Bruce Rueger

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Geology

This curriculum is designed for students seeking a preprofessional degree program. The requirements are Geology 141 and 142; four core courses that include 225, 231, 254, and 256; four geology elective courses (numbered 200-level or higher and may include a course in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, or GIS); three credits of Geology 391; Geology 494 or a geology honors project; Chemistry 141; one two-semester sequence of chemistry, physics, or biology; Mathematics 122 or Statistics 212. Additional course work in chemistry, physics, and mathematics beyond the minimum requirements is strongly encouraged to broaden students’ skill sets and maximize options after graduation. Students should consult one of the major advisors in the first and second years regarding election of languages and other Colby required courses.

Requirements for the Major in Geoscience

Geology 141 and 142; four fundamental core courses that include 225, 231, 254, and 256; two geology elective courses (that are 200-level or higher and may include one course in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, or GIS); three credits of Geology 391; Geology 494; Mathematics 122 or Statistics 212; Chemistry 141; and one additional laboratory science course in chemistry, biology, or physics.

Requirements for Honors in Geology

This program involves a substantial research component in the student’s senior year, with no fewer than six hours of credit elected in research activities. Participation in the honors program requires a 3.5 GPA in the major by the end of the junior year before a faculty sponsor can consider the project. The honors program involves presentation of a research proposal to a faculty committee early in the fall semester, submission of a midterm progress report, drafting of introductory sections before January, and submission of a full draft manuscript for committee review by spring break. Satisfactory progress will result in credit for Geology 483 and 484. Successful completion of an honors research project, and the major, will enable the student to graduate with “Honors in Geology.” Students who wish to pursue an even more intensive research agenda should consider the Senior Scholars Program, an all-campus honors program in which half the student’s academic credits in the senior year are devoted exclusively to a major research project.

Requirements for the Minor in Geology

A minor in geology is available to students majoring in other disciplines who also desire an introductory understanding of the geosciences. Minor programs are tailored to the needs of individual students; course selection should be done only after consultation with the minor advisor. Requirements are Geology 141 and 142, and three geology courses selected from courses numbered 225 and above.