Department Information

Geology

Professors O’Brien (Chair), Birsic, Cole, Schwartz

Geology is the study of the Earth—the materials that make it up, the processes that shape it, the record of ancient and modern environments, and the history of the planet and its life forms since its origin. Like other sciences, geology is based upon observation and problem solving. Unlike most sciences, however, it is an outdoor science with the Earth as its laboratory. It is also an interdisciplinary science, utilizing principles of physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics to unravel the mysteries of Earth and other planets. By studying geology, you develop an understanding of earth processes; an understanding of the interactions between the solid earth (lithosphere), the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere; you also learn to appreciate the place and role of humanity living on the Earth today as well as within the context of geologic time.

Geology has both theoretical and applied aspects. The study of geology provides the knowledge needed to answer fundamental questions about how our planet works. In addition, the knowledge of the Earth gained through geology serves humanity by helping to better understand the past, manage the present, and predict the future. As stresses due to increased population and resource development have increased rapidly in the past few decades, so has the recognized need for geologists with a special understanding of how the Earth operates. Environmental geology is the application of geologic principles and knowledge to a wide spectrum of topics defined by possible interactions between humanity and the physical Earth. Geologic principles have been applied to problems of the environment since the birth of geology. Some topics studied within environmental geology are water resources and contamination; river flooding; groundwater; coastal processes; impact of climate change; hazards such as landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes; energy and mineral resources; and land use.

Major programs offered within the Department of Geology meet specific professional objectives as well as the broad objectives of a liberal arts college. The department offers three programs that are designed to meet different objectives: Bachelor of Science in Geology, the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geology, and the Bachelor of Arts in Geology. The Bachelor of Science program in Geology is designed to prepare students for graduate study in all aspects of geology or for employment as professional geologists. The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geology is designed to prepare the student for graduate study involving Earth-surface processes or for employment as an environmental geologist. The Bachelor of Arts program can be arranged to accommodate other objectives such as teaching earth science at the secondary level, preparing for graduate programs in law or business, or entry into a career field.

Geology Learning Outcomes

The mission of the Allegheny College Geology Department is to provide our students a high-quality education to meet societal and scientific needs connected to earth processes with core geoscience, critical-thinking, and communication skills.

Learning Outcomes for Students Completing Geology Courses

All students who successfully complete a course in the Department of Geology are expected to:

  1. Demonstrate fundamental knowledge of: the physical and chemical properties of the lithosphere and hydrosphere (minerals, rocks, soils, and water); geologic time and earth history; and crustal materials and dynamics in the context of plate tectonics theory;
  2. Demonstrate skills in: mineral, rock, and soil identification; interpretation of topographic and geologic maps; and interpreting and evaluating geological data, hypotheses, and ideas;
  3. Gain an understanding of the societal relevance of earth systems;
  4. Effectively communicate this knowledge and these skills using written and/or oral methods.

Off-Campus Study in Marine Geology

Students who are eligible (at least 3.0 GPA and approval of Director of International Education) can participate in our cooperative program with the Duke Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. Students receive Allegheny grades and credit for Geology major and minor requirements. Contact the Director of International Education in the Gateway for more information on this program.