Courses of Study

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Chair,  Professor Robert Gastaldo
Professors Robert Gastaldo and Robert Nelson; Assistant Professors Valerie Reynolds and Walter (Bill) Sullivan; Visiting Assistant Professor Bruce Rueger

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 state-of-the-art powder X-ray diffractometer for determining mineral identities, various geophysical instruments, research-grade stereo and petrographic microscopes, and Logitech-equipped rock preparation. The department houses the College’s scanning electron microscope equipped with Energy Dispersive X-ray Flourescence, as well as specialized equipment for student and faculty research. Additional research equipment, shared with other departments in the Division of Natural Sciences, includes a C,H,N,O, S Elemental Analyzer and The Colby Compass, a research boat equipped with an array of instrumentation from which real-time environmental analyses and studies can be conducted.

Colby’s setting provides an intriguing and exciting area for field study, allowing students to integrate field and laboratory experiences. Students are encouraged to work on independent and honors projects in which they develop ways of actively examining and interpreting observational data. Majors are expected to undertake and complete independent research as part of their undergraduate training, and such 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 also 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 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 studies.

Requirements for the Major in Geoscience
Geology 141, 142; four fundamental core courses that include 225, 231, 251, and 254; two geology elective courses (that are 200-level or higher and may include one course in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology), three credits of Geology 391, and at least three hours of independent study (491, 492, or 493); Mathematics 122; Chemistry 141; and one additional laboratory science course in chemistry, biology, or physics.
Requirements for the Major in Geology
This curriculum is designed for those students interested in pursuing a pre-professional degree program. The requirements are Geology 141, 142; four core courses that include 225, 231, 251, and 254; four geology elective courses (numbered 200-level or higher and may include a course in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology), three credits of Geology 391, and at least four hours of independent study (491, 492, or 493); Chemistry 141; one two-semester sequence of chemistry, physics, or biology; Mathematics 122.

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 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. The honors program involves presentation of a research proposal to a faculty committee early in the fall semester, the submission of a midterm progress report, and the draft of introductory sections before January. Satisfactory progress will result in Geology 483 credit and allow the student to register for Geology 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 a more intensive research agenda should consider the Senior Scholars Program.
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 will be tailored to the needs of individual students; course selection should be done only after consultation with the minor advisor. Requirements are Geology 141, 142, and five courses selected from Chemistry 141, Physics 141, and geology courses numbered 225 and above.