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Professor John Brady and students

Geosciences

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.

Department Update

Geoscience Email Updates

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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 & Courses

Goals for Geosciences 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.

Geosciences Major

Geoscience Track
Requirements
  1. Basis: GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108, or GEO 102 and one other 100-level geoscience course
  2. Six intermediate-level geoscience courses (30 credits): GEO 221, GEO 222, GEO 231, GEO 232, GEO 241 and GEO 251
  3. Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (minimum of 8 credits). One 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp may count for one course, including but not limited to: GEO 301GEO 302GEO 311GEO 334GEO 341GEO 361
Environmental Geoscience Track
Requirements
  1. Basis: GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108, or GEO 102 and one other 100-level geoscience course
  2. Two chemistry courses.
    • No more than one course at the 100 level
    • GEO 301 may count for one course
  3. One ecology course with lab: BIO 130/BIO 131BIO 268/BIO 269BIO 266/BIO 267 or BIO 364/BIO 365
  4. One environmental policy or social science course that relates environmental processes to societal issues, as approved by the major advisor. Courses could be selected from the areas of anthropology, economics, environmental science and policy, landscape studies, government or sociology.
  5. Four intermediate-level geoscience courses: GEO 221, GEO 222, GEO 231, GEO 232, GEO 241 or GEO 251
  6. Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses ( minimum of 8 credits)
    • One 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp may count for one course, including but not limited to: GEO 301, GEO 302, GEO 311, GEO 334, GEO 341, GEO 361
    • GEO 301 may count for either for the chemistry requirement or this elective requirement, but not both
Geobiology Track
Requirements
  1. Basis: GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108, or GEO 102 and one other 100-level geoscience course

  2. Two intermediate or upper-level biological sciences courses, above the 100 level, at least one of which should have a lab (minimum of 8 credits)

  3. Four intermediate-level geoscience courses: GEO 221GEO 222GEO 231GEO 232GEO 241 or GEO 251

  4. Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (minimum of 8 credits). One 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp may count for one course, including but not limited to: GEO 301GEO 302GEO 311GEO 334GEO 341GEO 361

Educational Geoscience Track
Requirements
  1. Basis: GEO 101 and GEO 102; or GEO 108; or GEO 102 and one other 100-level geoscience course
  2. Three education courses:  EDC 238EDC 347EDC 352 or EDC 390
  3. Six additional geoscience courses above the 100 level.
    • At least one course must be at the 300 level.
    • One 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp may count for one course, including but not limited to: GEO 301GEO 302GEO 311GEO 334GEO 341GEO 361

Major Requirement Details

  • The educational geosciences track does not lead to educator licensure. Students who wish to satisfy licensure requirements would need to take all EDC courses listed above, plus additional courses, and should consult with a faculty member of the Department of Education and Child Study.
  • Smith courses that satisfy the advanced-level course requirement include any 300-level geoscience course, EGR 315EGR 340EGR 314EGR 312 or GEO 400. Appropriate courses taken at other institutions also may qualify, as does a 4- to 6-credit geology field camp.
  • 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.

Honors 

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. Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.

The Minor

Requirements

Twenty-four credits

  1. Basis: GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108, or GEO 102 and one other 100-level geoscience course
  2. Electives to total 24 credits
    • All courses that fulfill minor requirements must be taken within the geosciences department at Smith College
    • No more than 14 credits can be at the 100 level

Courses

Students contemplating a major in geosciences should elect GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108. Another 100-level course may be substituted for GEO 101.

GEO 101 Introduction to Earth Processes and History (4 Credits)

Geology is a study of the Earth. In this course, students will examine the processes that formed the Earth and that have continued to change the planet during its 4.57 billion year history. In rocks, minerals and the landscape, geologists see puzzles that tell a story about Earth’s past. In this course, students will develop their geologic observation skills. Together, the class will investigate the origins of minerals and rocks and the dynamic processes that form volcanoes, cause earthquakes, shape landscapes, create natural resources, and control the climate—today as well as during the Earth’s past. Students learn to view the Earth with a new perspective and appreciate how the planet is constantly changing, even if at extremely slow rates. Students planning to major in geosciences should take GEO 102 concurrently. {N}

Fall

GEO 102 Exploring the Local Geologic Landscape (2 Credits)

The Connecticut Valley region is rich with geologic features that can be reached by a short van ride from Smith. This is a field-based course that explores geology through weekly trips and associated assignments during which we examine evidence for volcanoes, dinosaurs, glaciers, rifting continents and Himalayan-size mountains in Western Massachusetts. Students who have taken FYS 103 are not eligible to take GEO 102. This class, when taken in conjunction with any other 100-level course, can serve as a pathway to the Geoscience major. Preference given to students taking GEO 101 concurrently and students who have previously taken a Geoscience course. Enrollment limited to 17. {N}

Fall

GEO 104 Global Climate Change: Exploring the Past, the Present and Options for the Future (4 Credits)

This course seeks to answer the following questions: What do we know about past climate and how do we know it? What causes climate to change? What have been the results of relatively recent climate change on human populations? What is happening today? What is likely to happen in the future? What choices do we have?. {N}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GEO 106 Extraordinary Events in the History of Earth, Life and Climate (4 Credits)

A journey through the 4.6 billion-year history of global change, with a focus on extraordinary events that have shaped the evolution of Earth and life through time. These events include the earliest development of life, the buildup of oxygen in the atmosphere, the devastation of the living world by catastrophic mass extinctions, the tectonic rearrangement of continents, the alternation of ice ages and eras of extreme warmth, and the evolution of modern humans. We also examine ways in which humans are changing our climatic and biologic environment and discuss potential consequences for the future of our planet. {N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 108 Oceanography: An Introduction to the Marine Environment (4 Credits)

An introduction to the global marine environment, with emphasis on the carbon cycle, seafloor dynamics, submarine topography and sediments, the nature and circulation of oceanic waters, ocean-atmosphere-climate interactions and global climate change, coastal processes, marine biologic productivity, and issues of ocean pollution and the sustainable utilization of marine resources by humans. At least one required field trip. {N}

Spring

GEO 150/ ENV 150 Mapping our World: An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4 Credits)

Offered as GEO 150 and ENV 150. A geographic information system (GIS) enables data and maps to be overlain, queried and visualized in order to solve problems in many diverse fields. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental elements of GIS and applies the analysis of spatial data to issues in geoscience, environmental science and public policy. Students gain expertise in ArcGIS--the industry standard GIS software--and online mapping platforms, and carry out semester-long projects in partnership with campus offices or local conservation organizations. Enrollment limited to 20. {N}

Fall

GEO 201 Colloquium: Earth History (1 Credit)

This course will involve reading a series of papers on the diverse record of life, ranging from Snowball Earth ~720 million years ago to the aftermath of one of Earth’s largest mass extinctions ~250 million years ago. The sections we will focus on are preserved in Death Valley and adjacent areas. The goals of this class are to familiarize students with the vast record of Earth History preserved in the western US through a series of focused readings and an optional field trip. Prerequisites: One GEO course. Enrollment limited to 15. (E) {H}{N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 221 Mineralogy (5 Credits)

A project-oriented study of minerals and the information they contain about planetary processes. The theory and application to mineralogic problems of crystallography, crystal chemistry, crystal optics, x-ray diffraction, quantitative x-ray spectroscopy and other spectroscopic techniques. The course normally includes a weekend field trip to see minerals in the field. Prerequisite: GEO 101 and GEO 102; GEO 108; FYS 103; or GEO 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. GEO 102 can be taken concurrently. Recommended: CHM 111 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Fall

GEO 222 Petrology (5 Credits)

An examination of typical igneous and metamorphic rocks in the laboratory and in the field in search of clues to their formation. Lab work emphasizes the microscopic study of rocks in thin sections. The course normally includes a weekend field trip (e.g. Cape Ann or Vermont) which is an important part of the course. Prerequisite: GEO 221. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Spring

GEO 223 Geology of Active Volcanoes (1 Credit)

A field-based course to examine volcanic materials and processes at locations with active volcanoes, such as Oregon, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Iceland and Italy. Discussions include eruptive styles and cycles; magmatic evolution; lava fountains, flows, lakes, and tubes; normal faulting; crater formation; landscape development; and destruction. Participants must be physically fit and prepared for considerable hiking in rough terrain. Prerequisites: completion of an introductory level geology course. Preference given to Geosciences majors. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission required. {N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 231 Invertebrate Paleontology and the History of Life (5 Credits)

A study of the major evolutionary events in the history of life, with a special focus on marine invertebrates. Special topics include evolution, functional adaptations, paleoenvironments, the origin of life, mass extinction and origination, and how life has changed through time. At least one weekend field trip. Prerequisite: GEO 101 and GEO 102; GEO 108; FYS 103; or GEO 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. GEO 102 can be taken concurrently; open also to students who have fulfilled the basis for the BIO major. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Fall

GEO 232 Sedimentary Geology (5 Credits)

A project-oriented study of the processes and products of sediment formation, transport, deposition and lithification. Modern sediments and depositional environments of the Massachusetts coast are examined and compared with ancient sedimentary rocks of the Connecticut River Valley and eastern New York. Field and laboratory analyses focus on the description and classification of sedimentary rocks, and on the interpretation of their origin. The results provide unique insights into the geologic history of eastern North America. Two weekend field trips. Prerequisites: GEO 101 and GEO 102; GEO 108; or GEO 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. GEO 102 can be taken concurrently. Enrollment limited to 22. {N}

Fall

GEO 241 Structural Geology (5 Credits)

The study and interpretation of rock structures with emphasis on the mechanics of deformation, behavior of rock materials, methods of analysis and relationship to plate tectonics. Laboratories involve computer-based analysis of the map patterns of geologic structures, the mechanics of their formation and field trips during the lab period to connect local examples of structures to New England tectonics. Prerequisite: GEO 101 and GEO 102, or GEO 108, or FYS 103, or GEO 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. Enrollment limited to 20. {N}

Spring

GEO 251 Geomorphology (5 Credits)

The study of landforms and their significance in terms of the processes that form them. Selected reference is made to examples in the New England region and the classic landforms of the world. During the first part of the semester laboratories involve learning to use geographic information system (GIS) software to analyze landforms. During the second part of the semester laboratories include field trips to examine landforms in the local area. Prerequisite: GEO 101, GEO 102, GEO 108 or FYS 103. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Spring

GEO 301 Aqueous Geochemistry (5 Credits)

This project-based course examines the geochemical reactions between water and the natural system. Water and soil samples collected from a weekend field trip serve as the basis for understanding principles of pH, alkalinity, equilibrium thermodynamics, mineral solubility, soil chemistry, redox reactions, acid rain and acid mine drainage. The laboratory emphasizes wet-chemistry analytical techniques. One weekend field trip. Prerequisites: One geoscience course and (CHM 108 or CHM 111). Enrollment limited to 16. {N}

Spring

GEO 302 Field Studies of the Desert Southwest (5 Credits)

This field-oriented course examines the diverse stratigraphic record of mass extinction and Snowball Earth as well as structural complexities preserved in Death Valley and adjacent areas. A required week-long field trip takes place in January followed by a semester-long course in the spring semester. Field analyses include measuring stratigraphic sections and field mapping. Prerequisites: GEO 231 or GEO 232 or GEO 241. Enrollment limited to 10. Instructor permission required. {N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 309 Groundwater Geology (5 Credits)

A study of the occurrence, movement and exploitation of water in geologic materials. Topics include well hydraulics, groundwater chemistry, the relationship of geology to groundwater occurrence, basin-wide groundwater development and groundwater contamination. A class project involves studying a local groundwater problem. Prerequisites: (GEO 101, 102, 108 or FYS 103) and MTH 111. Enrollment limited to 14.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GEO 311 Modeling the Earth: Data Analysis in the Geosciences (4 Credits)

Major advances in our understanding of Earth’s physical processes have been made through analysis and interpretation of datasets, including precise tracking of plate tectonic motions, the rate and significance of modern climate change and sea level rise, and the timing and environmental conditions of extraordinary events in Earth history. This course introduces programming and analysis skills using Python to import, query, model, and visualize geoscience datasets, with applications drawn from seismology, climate change, hydrology, and geochemistry. Prerequisite: GEO 101, GEO 102, GEO 104, GEO 106, GEO 108, GEO 112, a GEO-based FYS or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 20. {M}{N}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GEO 334 Carbonate Sedimentology (5 Credits)

Students in this class engage in detailed studies of the formation of carbonate sediments and rocks through participation in a required 7-10 day field trip to one of the modern tropical carbonate-producing environments (such as the Bahamas) during January interterm, followed by semester-long research projects based on the data and specimens collected in the field. Students present their results at Celebrating Collaborations in April. Class discussion topics include the history of carbonate rocks from the Precambrian to the present. Prerequisite: GEO 231 or GEO 232. Enrollment limited to 8. Instructor permission required. Interested students should contact the course instructor. Students are responsible to partially cover expenses associated with the January trip. {N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 341 Seminar: Advanced Studies in Geobiology (4 Credits)

This seminar course will examine the record of life with an approach from a geobiological perspective. We will examine the interactions between life and the environment from the early Earth through to the Modern. We will explore microbial metabolisms, isotopic systems, and their interrelated nature from the Proterozoic to the Recent. We will read recent peer-reviewed papers from the literature to inform our class discussions, and students will present material in class. Prerequisites: GEO 221 or 231. BIO majors could be admitted by permission of instructor. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GEO 361 Tectonics (4 Credits)

A broadly-based examination of tectonics, the unifying theory of geology. The class discusses lithospheric plate movements, the creation and destruction of Earth’s crust, the formation of mountain belts and sedimentary basins, the dynamic coupling of crust and mantle, and how these processes have shaped the Earth through time. Emphases includes critical reading of the primary literature, communication of scientific ideas orally and in writing and the central role of tectonics in uniting diverse fields of geology to create a cogent picture of how the Earth works. Prerequisite: any two 200-level courses in geosciences, one of which may be taken concurrently. {N}

Fall

GEO 399 Research Practicum in Earth History: Inquiry and Collaboration Through Research (4 Credits)

Collaboration is at the heart of nearly all scientific inquiry. This course will enable students to engage with the learning sciences on the art of collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving through the pursuit of independent research projects in Paleontology, Earth History and Geobiology. This course will marry the state of the art on collaborative work through readings and participation in workshops on collaboration while allowing students to pursue their own independent research projects. Some goals of this class will be to 1) develop a frame for how scientists build expertise through collaboration; 2) develop skills in team building and problem solving; 3) develop lab research skills and expertise in project design; 4) gather and interpret data in support of a research project; 5) present the data in a poster presentation; 6) work towards writing a peer-reviewed and collaborative publication. May be repeated once for credit. Instructor permission required.

Fall, Spring, Annually

GEO 400 Advanced Work or Special Problems in Geosciences (1-4 Credits)

Admission by permission of the department. Proposals must be submitted in writing to the project director by the end of the first week of classes.

Fall, Spring

GEO 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Fall, Spring, Annually

GEO 432D Honors Project (6 Credits)

Fall, Spring, Annually

Crosslisted Courses

EGR 315 Seminar: Ecohydrology (4 Credits)

This seminar focuses on the measurement and modeling of hydrologic processes and their interplay with ecosystems. Material includes the statistical and mathematical representation of infiltration, evapotranspiration, plant uptake and runoff over a range of scales (plot to watershed). The course addresses characterization of the temporal and spatial variability of environmental parameters and representation of the processes. The course introduces students to the Pioneer Valley, the cloud forests of Costa Rica and African savannas. Prerequisites: MTH 112 and SDS 220. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and senior Engineering majors only.

Fall, Spring, Variable

EGR 340 Seminar: Geotechnical Engineering (4 Credits)

What is quicksand and can one really drown in it? Why is Venice sinking? In this seminar students are introduced to the engineering behavior of soil within the context of a variety of real-world applications that include constructing dams, roads and buildings; protecting structures from earthquake and settlement damage; and preventing groundwater contamination. Topics covered include soil classification, permeability and seepage; volume changes; and effective stress, strength and compaction. Students use a variety of approaches to learning including discussion, hands-on activities, labs, projects, field trips and in-depth explorations of topics chosen by the students. Prerequisite: EGR 270 or GEO 241. Enrollment limited to 12. Junior and senior engineering majors only. {N}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENV 150/ GEO 150 Mapping our World: An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4 Credits)

Offered as GEO 150 and ENV 150. A geographic information system (GIS) enables data and maps to be overlain, queried and visualized in order to solve problems in many diverse fields. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental elements of GIS and applies the analysis of spatial data to issues in geoscience, environmental science and public policy. Students gain expertise in ArcGIS--the industry standard GIS software--and online mapping platforms, and carry out semester-long projects in partnership with campus offices or local conservation organizations. Enrollment limited to 20. {N}

Fall

Additional Programmatic Information

Class of 2024
Sarah Mazza

Class of 2025
Greg de Wet

Class of 2026
Jack Loveless

Class of 2027
Bosiljka Glumac

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

Honors Directors

Sarah Mazza, 2023–24

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

Additional Course Information

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 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.

Faculty

Jack Loveless

Geosciences

Professor of Geosciences; Chair, Department of Geosciences

Jack Loveless

Sara Pruss

Geosciences

Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor of Geosciences

Sara Pruss

L.M. Ward

Geosciences

Laboratory Instructor & Technical Support for Geosciences

Emeriti

John Brady
Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor Emeritus of Geosciences

Mark Brandriss
Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Geosciences

H. Robert Burger
Achilles Professor Emeritus of Geosciences

H. Allen Curran
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Geology

Robert Newton
Professor Emeritus of Geosciences

Resources

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: YOUR MAJOR ADVISOR

We encourage all students to pursue independent research, either with a department faculty member or through external opportunities. Because we have been a leader in interdisciplinary initiatives, the geosciences department has close ties with other departments throughout Smith, as well as with the Five Colleges and elsewhere, in such programs as archeology, public policy, environmental science, marine science and engineering. These connections open up a wide range of opportunities for research and internships. Don't hesitate to seek our advice on any opportunities that may be of interest. Faculty members are engaged in a wide variety of projects, and they often involve students in research and field trips.

Faculty Research

John Brady
Metamorphism of rocks from Syros, Greece
Geology of the Tobacco Root Mountains of Montana

Mark Brandriss
Continental arc plutonism and magma mixing in Alaska, Iceland and Scotland

H. Robert Burger
Comparison of the structural evolution of Death Valley
and the Connecticut Valley
Geophysical imaging of Connecticut Valley structure

H. Allen Curran
Coral reefs of the Bahamas, Belize and the Dominican Republic

Bosiljka Glumac
Use of isotopic techniques in sedimentology and stratigraphy of carbonate rocks

Jack Loveless
Use of GPS data to constrain earthquake cycle processes
Active tectonics of southern California, Pacific Northwest, Chile, and Japan

Sarah Mazza
Intraplate volcanism
Subduction zone volcanism
Magmatic history of New England
Plate tectonics in the Archean

Robert Newton
Groundwater contamination issues
The role of groundwater/wetland interactions

Sara Pruss
Understanding the role of ancient skeleton-producing invertebrates in the carbonate cycle

Amy Rhodes
Hydrology of cloud forests in Monte Verde, Chile and Costa Rica
The impact of road salt on Kampoosa Bog, Massachusetts

Student Research

In the past several years, geosciences majors have done research projects in Iceland, Scotland, Norway, Costa Rica, Croatia, Alaska, New York and Massachusetts.

Internships and External Research Projects

The Clark Science Center Director's Office site lists research opportunities, both in the Five Colleges and other locations, including the Smith Summer Research Fellows (SURF) Program.

A number of scholarship, fellowship and grant opportunities are shared via the Science Students mailing list. Students can self-subscribe to this list at any time. The following sources offer assistance for various projects.

GeoStars
This Smith geosciences fund provides small grants to help students pay expenses for attending geological conferences and meetings.

Goldwater and Udall Fellowships
These highly competitive fellowships are coordinated through the Clark Science Center. Application procedures typically begin in October of each year. Contact a geoscience faculty member if you are interested in competing for one of these fellowships.

International Experience Grants
These Smith grants provide partial funding toward study, research, internships or volunteer projects outside of the United States during interterm or the summer.

NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program
This scholarship is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education and to foster multidisciplinary training.

Praxis Internships
Praxis programs provide stipends to Smith students who are doing unpaid summer internships. This page explains the guidelines.

Schalk Fund
This Smith geosciences fund provides small grants to help students pay for summer field camps and other field geology projects. To apply, submit your request to the geology department chair. Include a description and the dates of your intended field activity, as well as anticipated expenses and the level of support you are seeking. Note: You are not eligible for Schalk funds if you are receiving money from Praxis.

Smith Students’ Aid Society
This source offers additional assistance to students whose needs are not met by financial aid. Available grants include helping students with emergency expenses and spring break and summer study opportunities.

Special Programs

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Master of Arts in Teaching Program
This full-time, 15-month program takes place at the museum and in urban partner schools. All degree candidates receive free tuition and books and a $30,000 living stipend; in return, candidates commit to teaching in a high-need New York State school for four years. Graduates also receive a $10,000 annual salary supplement for their first four years of teaching.

Churchill Scholarships
This highly competitive scholarship program offers a year of graduate study in the sciences at Cambridge University, with Smith applications coordinated through the Science Center Distinguished Fellowships and Scholarships Committee (application procedures typically begin in October of each year). Contact a faculty member if you’re interested in competing for one of these scholarships.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
These are fellowships for beginning graduate students.

Graduate Programs

Many geoscience students go on to pursue graduate studies in other academic fields. Geosciences support a broad range of interests, including:

  • Climate science
  • Environmental science & policy
  • Environmental law
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry
  • Geophysics
  • Marine science
  • Oceanography
  • Petroleum geology and economic geology

Funding for Graduate School

Most Smith alumnae who pursue graduate studies have their graduate work funded through research and teaching.

COMMON REQUIREMENTS FOR FURTHER STUDY

Most graduate programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

ENHANCING YOUR CURRICULUM

Students who are considering graduate studies can enhance their transcript by taking courses in chemistry, physics, math, statistics and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Students majoring in geosciences can also add to their credentials by participating in undergraduate research, which is highly desirable and further demonstrates interest in a science-based career.

Careers

The geosciences department at Smith has been a leader in interdisciplinary initiatives, enjoying close ties with programs in archeology, public policy, environmental science, marine science and engineering. These connections enable us to advise students about opportunities for careers in a wide range of fields that interconnect well with a geological background.

The American Geosciences Institute offers a number of career resources, and GeoCorps America lists a variety of positions.

A sampling of careers supported by a geosciences major include environmental consultant or lawyer, environmental health specialist, hydrogeologist, laboratory or research technician, land use planner, landscape/environmental geoscientist, oceanographer, professor, soil scientist, seismologist and volcanologist.

A group of high school students on the beach in Turks & Caicos with Smith geology professors and students.

Not Your Typical Beach Day

In January 2024, Dwight W. Morrow Professor of Geosciences Bosiljka Glumac and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Geology H. Allen Curran, along with several Smith students and Professor David Griffing of Hartwick College, traveled to Turks and Caicos to conduct field research on carbonate rocks.

While there, the cohort invited students from local high schools with them for a day in the field, which included exploring sediment on modern beach and dune depositional environments. The students practiced identifying different types of coral from fragments washed by waves onto the shore and observed waves breaking on the crest of a living coral reef in the shallow water just a short distance offshore.

Learn About Smith’s Impact

Geosciences in Action

Contact Department of Geosciences

Burton Hall 115
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3805

Administrative Assistant: Erin Mahar

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