Jul 20, 2024  
College Catalog 2024-2025 
College Catalog 2024-2025


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Full Time Faculty: Alan Chapman (Chair), Kristina Curry Rogers, Emily First, Kelly MacGregor, Ray Rogers

Lab Supervisor: Jeff Thole

The geology department welcomes students with an interest in the Earth and its 4.54 billion year history. Our courses address current topics in earth science and provide an appreciation of scientific principles and techniques used to explore the dynamic Earth. A broad selection of introductory-level courses serves the general college community. A diversity of upper-level courses enables students to pursue specialized interests within the geosciences. Ultimately, the program strives to provide skills and experiences that foster critical thinking and a lifelong curiosity in the natural world.

Students planning a career in the earth sciences should complete the departmental major. Students who wish to incorporate an interdisciplinary specialization into their major should consult department faculty for advice on appropriate courses. Areas of specialization could include geophysics, environmental geology, sedimentology, glaciology, geochemistry, hydrogeology, remote sensing, and paleobiology, among others.

Graduate study is a prerequisite for some professional work in the earth sciences. Our major program is designed to provide a broad and thorough background that prepares students for advanced work in any of the many fields of earth science. Completing a major in geology also provides a foundation for other potential careers. For example, some of our recent graduates have entered law or medical school, while others have used their geologic education as a stepping-stone to the business world.

Geology participates in the environmental studies program. Students may choose to double major in geology and environmental studies, and to this end the department offers several courses that address natural processes and the effects of human activities on terrestrial and marine systems (e.g., Environmental Geology, Geomorphology, Surface and Groundwater Hydrology).

The department houses an excellent teaching collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils. In addition, the department is home to the Henry Lepp Museum, which is located on the first floor of the Olin-Rice Science Hall. Exhibits include skeletal mounts of Herrerasaurus and Eoraptor, which are among the oldest known dinosaurs, a forelimb of Apatosaurus, a huge sauropod dinosaur, a wing of Quetzlcoatlus, the largest-known pterosaur, and the skulls of Majungasaurus and Rapetosaurus, dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar.

Several research laboratories are well equipped for a diversity of student research interests. Laboratory equipment is available for rock cutting, polishing and grinding in preparation for optical microscopy. The mineral separation facility is equipped with a rock crusher, pulverizer, water tablets, a Frantz magnetic separator, heavy liquids and a microscope. A new histology lab is available for thin sectioning fossil bone for microscopic analysis. In addition, the computer lab is equipped with numerous current multi-platform iMacs (Windows-enabled) loaded with a variety of analytical, multimedia, and graphic design software titles.

Students have access to modern instrumentation within the Science Division’s Keck Laboratory. Many laboratory exercises incorporate the variety of available instruments, which include a scanning electron microscope with energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer, an X-ray diffractometer, and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. Students also have the opportunity to incorporate this extensive array of analytical tools into faculty-student research projects and honors theses.

Many majors gain practical experience through Macalester’s internship program, through honors projects, and through special research projects conducted with the guidance of faculty members. Recent projects include: (1) the geochemistry of dinosaur teeth and bones from Montana, (2) the analysis of the effects of dams on sediment transport and ecology in the St. Croix River, Minnesota-Wisconsin, (3) the detrital zircon geochronology and thermochronology of various rocks from the western margin of North America, (4) the analysis of ancient terrestrial sedimentary environments in Madagascar and Montana, (5) the study of dinosaur growth and pathology using fossil bone tissue, and (6) the reconstruction of past climate and erosion rates using sediment cores from glacial lakes in Montana.

General Distribution Requirement

All courses in the geology department count toward the general distribution requirement in natural science and mathematics.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements  section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The geology department participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the department are available from either the department office or the Academic Programs and Advising Office.

Further Preparation

A geological field course is sometimes a requirement for admission to graduate programs in geology. Consult with members of the department for recommended field courses. Students interested in continuing on to graduate school in Geology are strongly encouraged to take additional coursework in Chemistry, Physics, and Math.

Topics Courses

GEOL 194 , GEOL 294 , GEOL 394 , GEOL 494  

One or more topics courses are normally offered. Depending upon student interest these may be courses designed for geology majors requiring some prerequisites, or they may be non-prerequisite courses on some topic in the earth sciences not covered in regular courses. Recent offerings include Vertebrate Paleobiology and Evolution, Global Tectonics, Paleoclimate, and Field Methods. To be announced at registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of tutorials, independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum  section of the catalog.


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