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Geosciences

Professor John Brady and students

Why study geosciences? Because the Earth is fascinating! Our planet is geologically dynamic, with 4.5 billion years of history and a future we want to protect. Studying geosciences at Smith means you’ll learn to the fullest extent possible how the Earth works. You’ll explore multiple disciplines, including geology, biology, chemistry, physics and math. Courses highlight hands-on and discovery-based learning by doing, modern field and laboratory techniques, and interactive student-faculty research experiences. A degree in geosciences can lead to a variety of rewarding careers that address pressing issues, including climate change, energy and water resources, environmental stewardship and natural hazards.

Announcements

Geoscience Email Updates

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and opportunities in the geosciences department. Of course you do! Sign up for our email lists for students and alumnae.

Looking to provide feedback? How to Provide Feedback to the Department of Geosciences 

Geosciences Slack Workspace

If you’re a Smith student and would like to learn more about the geosciences department, request to join our Slack Workspace.

Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences

The Smith College Department of Geosciences is pleased to announce that all of its faculty are participating in an URGE (Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences) Pod. We look forward to sharing what we learn with our community in the coming months.

 

Requirements

Graduating geoscience majors:

  • Are able to integrate ideas and knowledge from a variety of areas within geosciences and other sciences and programs.
  • Can write well and speak clearly and coherently.
  • Are able to critically read and understand scientific literature.
  • Know how to define and address research problems individually and as part of a team.
  • Can collect and properly utilize geological data from the field and laboratory.
  • Know how to solve problems using geological data, including specimens and maps.
  • Are able to use resources and technology to access, display, and analyze data.
  • Can think creatively and reach conclusions based on a limited data-base.

Majors in geosciences study a wide variety of earth science disciplines.

Advisers

Class of 2022
Jack Loveless

Class of 2023
Amy Rhodes

Class of 2024
Sarah Mazza

Class of 2025
Greg de Wet

Requirements

  • Six intermediate-level geoscience courses (30 credits): 221, 222, 231, 232, 241 and 251.
  • Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (at least 8 credits total); a 4–6 credit summer geology field camp may substitute for one.

Majors in environmental geosciences prepare for a career in a field that addresses environmental issues. In addition to a range of courses within the department, environmental geosciences majors take classes in chemistry, ecology and environmental policy.

Advisers

Class of 2022
Jack Loveless

Class of 2023
Amy Rhodes

Class of 2024
Sarah Mazza

Class of 2025
Greg de Wet

Requirements

  • Two chemistry courses. No more than one at the 100 level. Aqueous Geochemistry (GEO 301) may count for one.
  • One ecology course with a lab.
  • One environmental policy course approved by the major adviser.
  • Four intermediate-level geoscience courses (200 level).
  • Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (at least 8 credits total); a 4-6 credit summer geology field camp may substitute for one.

Majors in geosciences education prepare for a career in elementary or secondary science teaching by combining courses in the sciences with education and child study.

Advisers

Class of 2022
Jack Loveless

Class of 2023
Amy Rhodes

Class of 2024
Sarah Mazza

Class of 2025
Greg de Wet

Requirements

  • Three education courses.
  • Six additional geoscience courses above the 100-level. One of these must be at the 300-level or be a 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp course.

Note: This track does not lead to educator licensure. If you wish to satisfy licensure requirements, you must take all EDC courses listed above, plus EDC 346 Clinical Internship in Teaching. You should consult with a faculty member in the Department of Education and Child Study.

Students contemplating a minor in geosciences should see a departmental adviser as early as possible to develop a minor course program that must be submitted for approval no later than the beginning of the senior year.

Advisers

Class of 2022
Jack Loveless

Class of 2023
Amy Rhodes

Class of 2024
Sarah Mazza

Class of 2025
Greg de Wet

Requirements

Unlike the major, where some courses outside the department can be counted toward the major, all courses counting toward the minor must come from the geosciences department. You must have a total of 24 credits in geosciences, with no more than 14 credited at the 100-level.

Please see this document and/or consult the director of honors for specific requirements and application procedures.

Honors Directors

Jack Loveless, 2021–22

Requirements

Honors students must complete all the 100-level and 200-level requirements for one of the three geosciences tracks, at least one 300-level class, plus an honors thesis, GEO 430D or GEO 432D.

GEO 430D Honors Project
Credits: 4 per semester, 8 for yearlong course

GEO 432D Honors Project
Credits: 6 per semester, 12 for yearlong course


Courses

Our courses are designed to present an interdisciplinary body of geological knowledge and methodology to the broadest possible range of students. We contribute to programs at Smith where geological input is vital, including archaeology, environmental science, marine science, public policy and engineering. We also provide geological leadership through our cooperation with the Five Colleges, the Keck Geology Consortium, and our outreach to local, national and international communities.

Geosciences courses highlight:

  • hands-on, discovery-based learning by doing substantial field-based geological inquiry
  • modern field and laboratory techniques
  • the use of specialized equipment
  • interactive student-faculty research experiences

All introductory-level courses are designed for non-science majors but are appropriate for science majors as well.

Consult the Smith College Course Catalog for more information.

Students contemplating a major in geosciences should elect 101 and 102, or FYS 103 or 108, or any 100-level geoscience course and GEO 102. We encourage you to see a departmental adviser as early as possible to learn more about the tracks within the major. Prospective geoscience majors should seriously consider introductory-level courses in chemistry and/or calculus.

Course offerings include:

Fall

GEO 101–Introduction to Earth Processes and History
GEO 102–Exploring the Local Geologic Landscape (2 credits)
GEO 104-Global Climate Change: Exploring the Past, the Present and Options for the Future
FYS 109–Exobiology and the Search for Life in the Universe
 

Spring

GEO 106–Extraordinary Events in the History of the Earth, Life and Climate
GEO 108–Oceanography: An Introduction to the Marine Environment

Consult the Smith College Course Catalog for more information.

Prospective geoscience majors should seriously consider introductory-level courses in chemistry and/or calculus.

Smith courses that satisfy the advanced-level course requirement include any 300-level geoscience course, Ecohydrology (EGR 315), Seminar: Topics in Astrophysics-Asteroids (AST 330), Mechanics of Granular Media (EGR 340), and advanced work or Special Problems in Geology (GEO 400). Courses taken at other institutions also may qualify, as does a 4- to 6-credit geology field camp.

Consult the Smith College Course Catalog for more information.

Our majors and minors regularly use state-of-the-art field and laboratory facilities for course and research projects. Experience with specialized and sophisticated equipment, much of which is more typical of graduate school departments, provides students with valuable skills for graduate school and the workforce. 

Laboratory and Field Facilities

Instruments and Field Equipment

  • X-ray diffractometer
  • Scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer
  • Field geophysical equipment, including a 12-channel seismograph, gravimeter, proton/precession magnetometers and electrical resistivity meter
  • Field hydrology equipment, including current meters, data loggers and pressure transducers
  • Research-grade petrographic microscopes with cathode luminescence

A summer field course is strongly recommended for all majors and is a requirement for admission to some graduate programs. Majors planning for graduate school will need introductory courses in other basic sciences and mathematics. Prospective majors should see a departmental adviser as early as possible.


Smith Off-Campus Field Experience

Each year the department sponsors an off-campus course designed to offer a field experience that lets geosciences majors and minors observe and study a fascinating area in detail. This course may be entirely during interterm or it may be a spring semester course with a field trip during spring break or the following summer. Courses include Carbonate Systems and Coral Reefs of the Bahamas (270j) and Geology of Hawaii (223j).

Because there are many important geologic features that are not found in New England, geoscience majors are encouraged to take at least one of these courses to add breadth to their geologic understanding.


Field Camp

Attending a field camp is also a recommended experience for all students. Field camps give you the opportunity to apply your classroom and laboratory knowledge directly out in the field, fully engaging in the actual work of a professional geologist. Many, but not all, field camps are run during the summer for three-to-six weeks and allow you to earn credit toward the advanced geoscience requirement of the major.

Summer field camps in geosciences
A variety of summer field courses are offered at locations across the United States and around the world; most emphasize general geologic field methods and mapping, but some focus on specialties such as hydrology, volcanology or geophysics.

GSA/ExxonMobil Bighorn Basin Field Award
This one-week, all-expenses-paid field seminar in the Bighorn Basin of north-central Wyoming emphasizes multidisciplinary, integrated basin analysis.

National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Scholarships for Field Study
This organization offers $500 scholarships to support student participation in field-based courses, including (but not limited to) summer field camps. It offers a small number of awards specifically for women geoscience students, sponsored by the Association of Women Geoscientists (AWG).

Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP)
This is an exciting summer field project in southeastern Alaska and British Columbia, with emphases on glacier monitoring, glacial landscapes, climate studies and alpine environments.  For more information, contact Mark Brandriss in the Department of Geosciences or visit the JIRP website.

 

 

Many study abroad and study away experiences can be integrated into the the department curriculum. Several study abroad and study away programs are particularly well suited to the pursuit of a geosciences degree, including:

Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program
This is a one-semester, interdisciplinary program based at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, with emphasis on marine sciences, marine policy and the literature of the sea. It includes extended field seminars on the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a 10-day voyage on a sailing ship. This program is part of Smith's 12-College Exchange.

Frontiers Abroad
This organization offers half-year Earth and environmental study abroad programs in New Zealand. Most programs run from January through June, including the Geology of New Zealand program that has been popular with Smith students in recent years.

Study Abroad Adviser: Amy Rhodes

Contact

Department of Geosciences

Burton Hall 115
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3805
Fax: 413-585-3786

Administrative Assistant: Victoria McAndrew

Geosciences Department Slack Workspace: smi-geosciences-dept.slack.com