What are the Geosciences?
Geosciences is a multidisciplinary field that studies the features, processes and history of the earth. The role of geoscientists will be central to the primary challenges facing the world in the 21st Century, including global climate change and evolving demands for energy resources, construction and manufacturing materials, food and agricultural products, and building sites necessary to support a growing population. The geosciences are distinct from other natural sciences in that knowledge from many other fields is integrated to explore questions that arise as humans interact with the Earth.
What do Geoscientists do?
Geoscientists investigate processes that change the Earth over time, including dramatic geological processes such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and ongoing processes associated with rivers, wind, glaciers, oceans, and soil erosion. Geoscientists are trained to explore how the materials of the Earth react over different time scales, from seconds to billions of years, and over different spatial scales, from atomic to planetary. Study in the geosciences requires creativity, collaboration, and the ability to integrate information from a wide range of connected topics such as chemistry, biology, physics, and geography. In this light, geoscientists have a particularly flexible professional skillset that is founded in core analysis and interpretation skills developed in the field and laboratory. Successful students must be able to think three dimensionally, have strong quantitative skills, and be able to communicate clearly through writing and speaking. Field trips are included in most courses.
Why study Geosciences at PLU?
Pacific Lutheran University is located at the leading edge of western North America offering a unique setting for the study of geosciences. The natural environments of the Pacific Northwest region are unsurpassed in providing a rich variety of geologic field studies in the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River Basalt Plateau, the coastal areas of the Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, and the Olympic Peninsula. The student/faculty ratio in geosciences at PLU allows students to work closely with faculty in classes, laboratories, and field studies. Faculty members work individually with students in small seminar groups and on research projects.
Geosciences graduates who elect to work after completing a PLU degree are employed by the U.S. Geological Survey, natural resource companies, governmental agencies, and private-sector geotechnical and environmental consulting firms. Graduates who combine geosciences with education are employed in primary and secondary education.
Careers in geosciences often require post-graduate degrees. Many B.S. majors have been successful at major research graduate schools.
Degree Offerings and Policies
The Bachelor of Science degree is intended as a pre-professional degree, and is best suited to students interested in graduate school in the natural sciences or as a career as a professional geoscientist. The Bachelor of Arts degree is the minimum preparation appropriate for the field and is best combined with other degree programs, such as a second major or a minor. The minor in geosciences is ideal for those who do not have the time or space to complete a major in the field.
The department strongly recommends that all students complete MATH 140 or higher before enrolling in 300-level and higher courses in geosciences. The department also strongly encourages students to complete the chemistry and physics requirements as early as possible. Students should also note that upper-division courses are offered on a two-year cycle. Early declaration of majors or minors in geosciences will facilitate development of individual programs and avoid scheduling conflicts.
Students must complete a geosciences capstone project for the major. They may not use the capstone of another major to fulfill the geosciences capstone. While there can be overlap in the topic chosen, they must complete all of the geosciences capstone requirements and take GEOS 498 and GEOS 499.
Students may enroll in a course that has GEOS 201 as a prerequisite only when they have completed GEOS 201 with a grade of C+ or higher. In the case of other prerequisite courses, they must be successfully completed with a C- or higher before enrolling in the next course.All courses taken for the major (either B.A. or B.S.) must be completed with a grade of C- or higher; overall geosciences GPA of 2.00 or higher is required for graduation.
All courses taken for the minor must be completed with a grade of C or higher.
Bachelor of Arts Degree
Major in Geosciences
34 semester hours in following geosciences courses, plus 4 semester hours in supporting courses
The bachelor of arts degree is the minimum preparation for the field and is best combined with other degree programs, such as another major or minor. Students interested in Earth Science and completing a bachelor of arts in education often combine it with this degree.
- Required: GEOS 201, 401, 498, 499
- 8 semester hours from: GEOS 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, or 109
- 16 semester hours from: GEOS 325, 327, 331, 332, 334, 335, 336, 340, 345, 350, or 387/388/389
- Required supporting non-geoscience course: CHEM 104 or CHEM 115
- Recommended: Geologic Field Experience
- Course selections should reflect a student’s interests and are discussed with an advisor
- All courses taken for the major must be completed with a grade of C- or higher
Bachelor of Science Degree
Major in Geosciences
42 to 44 semester hours in following geosciences courses, plus 26 semester hours in required and recommended supporting courses
The bachelor of science degree is a preprofessional degree, intended for students interested in a career as a professional geologist or graduate study in the field of geology.
- Required: GEOS 201, 325, 327, 401, 498, and 499
- 4 semester hours from: GEOS 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, or 109
- 16 semester hours from: GEOS 331, 332, 334, 335, 336, 340, 345, 350, or 387/388/389
- Required Geological Field Experience (minimum of 4 semester hours)
- Required supporting courses
- CHEM 115 and 116
- PHYS 125, 126 (with 135,136 labs) or PHYS 153, 154 (with 163, 164 labs)
- MATH 151 and either MATH 152 or CSCI 120
- Recommended: BIOL 226 and additional courses are recommended when paleontology is a major interest.
- All courses taken for the major must be completed with a grade of C- or higher
20 semester hours in geosciences
The minor is for students with another major who are interested in geology but do not have space to complete a second major.
- GEOS 201
- A minimum of eight upper-division semester hours of geosciences courses
- All courses for the minor just be completed with a grade of C or higher
In recognition of outstanding work the designation with Departmental Honors may be granted to Bachelor of Science graduates by a vote of the faculty of the Department of Geosciences, based upon the student’s performance in these areas:
- Course work:
The grade point average in geoscience courses must be at least 3.50.
- Written work:
From the time a student declares a major in geosciences, copies of outstanding work (e.g., laboratory reports, poster presentations, written reports) will be kept for later summary evaluation.
- Oral communication:
Students must evidence ability to communicate effectively as indicated by the sum of their participation in class discussions, seminars, help sessions, and teaching assistantship work.
- Other activities:
Positive considerations for honors include involvement in the department, doing independent research, geoscience-related employment, and participation in professional organizations.
The departmental honors designation will appear on the transcript of a student graduating with a geosciences major.
Course Offerings by Semester/Term
- Fall Semester: 201, 332, 334, 335, 340, 345, 350, 498
- J-Term: 331, 334, 336
- Spring Semester: 201, 325, 327, 328, 334, 350, 401, 499
- Alternate Years: 325, 327, 331, 332, 334, 335, 336, 340, 345, 350, 401
Geosciences (GEOS) - Undergraduate Courses
GEOS 102 : General Oceanography - NS, SM
Oceanography and its relationship to other fields; physical, chemical, biological, climatic, and geological aspects of the sea. Includes labs and field trips. (4)
GEOS 103 : Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Geologic Hazards - NS, SM
Study of the geologic environment and its relationship to humans, with emphasis on geologic features and processes that create hazards when encroached upon by human activity, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and avalanches, and solutions to problems created by these hazards. Includes labs and field trips. (4)
GEOS 104 : Conservation of Natural Resources - NS, SM
Principles and problems of public and private stewardship of our resources with special reference to the Pacific Northwest. Includes labs and field trips. Cross-listed with ENVT 104. (4)
GEOS 105 : Meteorology - NS, SM
A full, balanced, and up-to-date coverage of the basic principles of meteorology. Examination of the impacts of severe weather on humans and the environment. Includes labs. (4)
GEOS 106 : Geology of National Parks - NS
Study of the significant geologic features, processes, and history as illustrated by selected National Parks. Relationship between human history and geology and the impact of geology on our lives will be included. (4)
GEOS 107 : Global Climate Changes - NS
A survey of current climate change research. Students will develop and apply a fundamental understanding of earth systems through evaluation of geologic and other scientific evidence for long- and short-term climate change. (4)
GEOS 109 : The Geology of Energy - NS, SM
Geoscientific exploration of natural systems and processes that create non-renewable and renewable energy resources. Issues of extraction and exploitation of diverse energy resources in a global context. May not be repeated for credit. (4)
GEOS 190 : FYEP190: Inquiry Seminar
A four-credit seminar to introduce students to the methods and topics of study within a particular academic discipline or field. Students practice the academic skills that are at the center of the General Education Program. (4)
GEOS 201 : Geologic Principles - NS, SM
This course prepares students for upper-division classes in geosciences by investigating earth materials and tectonic processes across spatial scales from the microscopic to the planetary and through geologic time. Emphasis is placed on learning how to form and answer geologically appropriate questions. Includes labs and field trips outside of class time. This course meets state education certification requirements for content in physical and historical geology. Prerequisite: none (4)
GEOS 287 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 288 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 289 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 291 : Directed Study
To provide individual undergraduate students with introductory study not available in the regular curriculum. The title will be listed on the student term-based record as DS: followed by the specific title designated by the student. (1 to 4)
GEOS 325 : Structural Geology
The form and spatial relationships of various rock masses and an introduction to rock deformation; consideration of basic processes to understand mountain building and continental formation; laboratory emphasizes practical techniques which enable students to analyze regional structural patterns. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 327 : Stratigraphy and Sedimentation
Formational principles of surface-accumulated rocks, and their incorporation in the stratigraphic record. This subject is basic to field mapping and structural interpretation. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 331 : Maps: Computer-Aided Mapping and Analysis
Computer-based Geographic Information Systems, digital maps, and data sources. The creation, interpretation, and analysis of digital maps from multiple data sources. Analysis of spatial information from sciences, social sciences, and humanities using sets of digital maps. Includes labs. Prerequisite: previous science (geosciences preferred), math or computer science course or consent of instructor. Familiarity with maps recommended. (4)
GEOS 332 : Geomorphology
Study of the processes that shape the Earth's surface with emphasis on the effects of rock type, geologic structure, and climate on the formation and evolution of landforms. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 334 : Hydrogeology
Study of the hydrologic cycle, investigating surface and groundwater flow, resource evaluation and development, wells, water quality and geothermal resources. Emphasis on water problems in the Puget Sound area, with additional examples from diverse geologic environments. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 335 : Geophysics
Study of the physical nature of the earth, its properties and processes, employing techniques from seismology, heat flow, gravity, magnetism, and electrical conductivity. Emphasis on understanding the earth's formation, structure, and plate tectonics processes as well as geophysical exploration techniques. Includes labs. Prerequisites: GEOS 201, one semester of calculus, physics (high-school-level or above), or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 336 : Geochemistry
Study of fundamental geochemistry principles with focus on applications to investigations into a wide-range of earth and atmospheric processes and systems. Analysis and interpretation of student-collected and published field and lab data. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 and either CHEM 104 or 115, or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 340 : Glacial Geology
Applied and theoretical study of glacier dynamics, glacial geomorphology, and ice ages. Includes the role of glaciers in water resources, earth history, and climate change. Examines ice on microscopic to continental scales. Examines glacial change on short- and long-term timescales. Local glaciated environments will be featured. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 345 : Tectonic Petrology
This class introduces igneous and metamorphic petrology by following rock compositions through several tectonic processes to see how petrology can be used to better understand large-scale tectonics. Students will interpret rock samples and 8 datasets to produce a comprehensive petro-tectonic analysis in a research-group like setting. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 350 : Marine Geology
Study of the 70% of the earth beneath the oceans, focusing on the extensive discoveries of the past few decades. Emphasis on marine sediments, sedimentary processes, plate tectonic processes, and the historical geology of the oceans. Includes labs. Prerequisite: GEOS 102 or 201, or consent of instructor. (4)
GEOS 387 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 388 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 389 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 401 : Field Trip
Field and on-campus study of major geologic sites in western U.S. Trips take place during spring break or at end of spring semester. Prerequisite: GEOS 201 or consent of instructor. A minimum of 4 semester hours of 300-level geosciences courses. Pass/Fail. (1)
GEOS 487 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 488 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 489 : Special Topics in Geosciences
GEOS 491 : Independent Study
Investigations or research in areas of special interest not covered by regular courses. Requires regular supervision by a faculty member. (1 to 4)
GEOS 495 : Internship
To permit undergraduate students to relate theory and practice in a work situation. The title will be listed on the student term-based record as Intern: followed by the specific title designated by the instructor in consultation with the student. (1 to 12)
GEOS 498 : Seminar
Discussion of professional papers and introduction to directed research for the Capstone project. Required of all majors in their senior year. December graduates should complete the sequence (GEOS 498-499) in their final full year. Prerequisite: at least 8 semester hours of 300-level or above courses in geosciences. Pass/Fail. (1)
GEOS 499 : Capstone: Senior Seminar - SR
Culminating experience applying geological methods and theory through original literature or field or laboratory research under the guidance of a faculty mentor, with written and oral presentation of results. Required of all majors in their senior year. Prerequisite: GEOS 498. (4)