Courses & Requirements

IMPORTANT NOTE

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2022-2023 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

Geology

Overview

The mission of the Geology major is to foster in students an understanding of the Earth: the processes that affect its surface and interior; its formation and evolution through time; and its functioning as the physical environment for the living world. The major accomplishes this goal by offering to students a set of coordinated experiences in the classroom, laboratory, and field. Geology is an intrinsically interdisciplinary science, drawing upon the tools of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and environmental science to examine problems that range in scale from a single mineral grain to the entire solar system. Geology majors learn to work together on inquiry-based laboratory and field projects, and each produces a Senior Thesis describing independent research they have undertaken with a faculty mentor. There is a special emphasis on articulating ideas orally, graphically, and in writing, skills that are valuable not only in science but also in the many other careers where geology majors from Occidental have found success. Geology is a global science, and so students who have made progress in the major as sophomores are encouraged to study abroad for a semester during their junior year. The Geology major expresses the Department's commitment to prepare students to excel in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.

GEO 105 is open to first-year and second-year students only; 200-level courses are open to any student who has completed GEO 105; 300-level courses are intended for junior and senior geology majors and minors; 400-level seminars are for senior majors.

Major Requirements

COURSEWORK

The following courses (13) are required for completion of the major program in the Department of Geology:

Fundamental Coursework:

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

Or

GEO 106Earth and the Human Future

4 units

 

And

GEO 220Earth Materials

4 units

GEO 225Earth: A field perspective

4 units

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

GEO 315Sedimentary Geology

4 units

GEO 315LSedimentary Geology Laboratory

1 unit

GEO 324Advanced Field Mapping

2 units

GEO 325Structural Geology

4 units

GEO 325LStructural Geology Laboratory

1 unit

GEO 345Petrology

4 units

GEO 345LPetrology Laboratory

1 unit

GEO 391Research Methods

2 units

GEO 491Senior Seminar

2 units

Electives

Students must select an additional four courses from the list below, one of which may be a 200-level course. Geo 390 (Special Topics) may be taken multiple times as course content varies. 

 

GEO 215Evolution of the Earth

4 units

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4 units

GEO 255Remote Exploration of Earth

4 units

GEO 342Geomorphology

4 units

Mathematics Component:

Choose one option:

Option 1-
MATH 120Calculus 2

4 units

Or department approved equivalent.

Option 2-
MATH 110Calculus 1

4 units

And

 

GEO 160Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4 units

Or

COMP 146Statistics

4 units

Major with ES Concentration

Fundamental Geology:

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

Or

GEO 106Earth and the Human Future

4 units

And

GEO 220Earth Materials

4 units

GEO 225Earth: A field perspective

4 units

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4 units

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

GEO 315Sedimentary Geology

4 units

GEO 315LSedimentary Geology Laboratory

1 unit

GEO 324Advanced Field Mapping

2 units

GEO 325Structural Geology

4 units

GEO 325LStructural Geology Laboratory

1 unit

GEO 391Research Methods

2 units

GEO 491Senior Seminar

2 units

Geology Elective

GEO 255Remote Exploration of Earth

4 units

GEO 342Geomorphology

4 units

Students may also apply GEO 390 as an elective for the Environmental Science concentration if they have enrolled in the "Volcanology" or "Geochemistry" sections of the course.

Biology Component:

One course from:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4 units

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4 units

BIO 115General Zoology

4 units

 

And one course from:

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4 units

BIO 270Ecology

4 units

Economics Component:

ECON 101Principles of Economics I

4 units

ECON 301Environmental Economics and Policy

4 units

Mathematics Component:

Choose one option:

Option 1-
MATH 120Calculus 2

4 units

Or department approved equivalent.

Option 2-
MATH 110Calculus 1

4 units

And

 

GEO 160Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4 units

Or

COMP 146Statistics

4 units

Honors in the Major

Students with a GPA of at least 3.25 are eligible to graduate with honors in geology. For these students, a larger senior thesis is planned, and students start their research earlier than the fall of their senior year. For this extra work, the honors student receives additional course credit (GEO 499) beyond credit for comprehensives.

Minor

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

GEO 215Evolution of the Earth

4 units

GEO 235Global Geophysics and Tectonics

4 units

Two additional GEO electives

To be selected with department approval. These courses must be filed with the Registrar's Office by submitting the Transfer Credit & Course Substitution Form.

Second-Stage Writing Proficiency

Students majoring in Geology will satisfy the Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement by submitting a portfolio of at least two papers from any of the intermediate- or advanced-level writing-intensive Geology courses normally required for the major (or appropriate course work). The portfolios will be evaluated by at least two faculty members using the departmental writing rubric. Students receiving a passing score on the portfolio will fulfill the requirement; a student who does not receive a passing score will be required to submit his/her major writing intensive paper/project from GEO 391 Research Methods.

Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement in the college catalog and consult the department chair for additional information about which courses will fulfill the requirement and for a copy of the department's evaluation rubric.

Comprehensive Requirement

The comprehensive requirement in Geology is met by a passing grade on the senior comprehensive project. The senior comprehensive project is based on research conducted under the supervision of Department faculty or in an off-campus summer research program or field camp. This project can be started as early as the junior year (GEO 391) and typically involves field or laboratory work during the summer between junior and senior years. Seniors are expected to present their research orally and submit a written thesis by Spring Break. During the fall semester of senior year, all Geology majors attend a senior seminar (GEO 491 or equivalent). A major goal of these meetings is to help students make timely progress on their comprehensive projects.

Advising Information

Students interested in majoring in Geology should consider taking GEO 105 (Earth: Our Environment) or GEO 106 (Earth and the Human Future) during their first year. Either of these courses can be used to fulfill the prerequisite for subsequent courses in the major.

All Geology majors must complete Calculus I (MATH 110 or MATH 114). In addition, majors must complete either Calculus II (MATH 120 or MATH 128) or a department-approved statistics course. Geology is a global science, and so students who have made progress in the major as sophomores are encouraged to study abroad for a semester during their junior year. Though not required for the major, students considering graduate school or professional careers in geology or environmental science are encouraged to take CHEM 120 or CHEM 130; PHYS 110 or PHYS 115; and PHYS 125 or PHYS 230.

Placement Information

Most students who are interested in majoring in geology should take the Calculus Placement Assessment (ALEKS) during the summer prior to their first year. You do not need to take the Calculus Placement Assessment if you any of the following are true:

  • You received a score of 4 or 5 on either the AP Calculus AB or BC exam;

  • You receive an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above;

  • You have already taken a Calculus 1 course at another accredited college or university. Courses that have not been pre-approved by the Math department will need to be filed by submitting the Transfer Credit & Course Substitution Form.

Sample 4-Year Plan

No Concentration


Fall

Spring

Year 1

Year 2

  • GEO 225

  • GEO 245

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

  • GEO 315 + GEO 315L (5 units)

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

Year 3

  • GEO Elective

  • GEO Elective

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

Year 4

  • GEO 491 (Senior Seminar; 2 units)

  • GEO Elective

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • GEO 345 + GEO 345L (5 units)

  • GEO Elective

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

Major with a concentration in Environmental Science


Fall

Spring

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

  • GEO 491 (Senior Seminar; 2 units)

  • GEO 342 + GEO 342L (5 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • General Elective (4 units)

Curricular Notes

  • To complete all core requirements by the sophomore year, at minimum, one course will need to satisfy two core requirements.

  • With the Geology major Environmental Science Concentration, there is great flexibility with regards to when a course needs to be taken.  Many students take their first GEO 105 course during Year 2.

  • There are two options for fulfilling the mathematics component of the major:

  • An AP Calculus AB score of 4 or 5 fulfills the Calculus 1 requirement. 

  • An AP Calculus BC score of 4 or 5 fulfills the Calculus 2 requirement.

  • The required 200-level GEO courses can be taken in any order. 

  • GEO 220 and GEO 225 are a prerequisite for some GEO 300-level courses

  • For the Environmental Science concentration: To complete the Biology Component, students must take one course from BIO 105, BIO 110, or BIO 115, and either BIO 260 or BIO 270.

Transfer Credit Policies

The Geology Department policy on transfer credit conforms to College policy. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for details.

Courses

Geology Courses