Introduction to Geology

Geology is the science of the Earth. In its broadest sense, geology concerns itself with planetary formation and subsequent modification, with emphasis on the study of planet Earth. Geologists study Earth's internal and surficial structure and materials, the chemical and physical processes acting within and on the Earth, and utilize the principles of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology to understand our planet and its environments.

Geological Studies encompass all the physical, chemical and biological aspects of Earth. Increasingly, geologists are taking a holistic approach in the collection and interpretation of data about the Earth, which means that the wider context of the geological sciences is broad and diverse. In studying the Earth as a system, we are concerned with geology and geophysics, hydrology, oceanography and marine science, meteorology and atmospheric science, planetary science, and soil science. A major in any relevant discipline can lead to a satisfying career within the geological sciences. In general, graduate training is expected for advancement to the most rewarding positions and for academic employment.

Geologists are employed by governmental, industrial and academic organizations. Geologists work in exploration for new mineral and hydrocarbon resources, as consultants on engineering and environmental projects, as teachers and researchers in universities, and in many other challenging positions. For many, the attraction of a career in geology is the ability to divide time between work in the field, the laboratory and the office. Although the employment outlook within geology varies with the global economic climate, the long-range outlook is good. This is because our dwindling energy, mineral and water resources, along with increasing concerns about natural hazards and environmental issues, present new challenges for geologists.

The Geology Program at UM includes a broad range of undergraduate courses to accommodate both Geology majors and students within the Environmental Science and Policy Program. Within the Geology major, a requirement exists for a senior undergraduate research project to be performed under the direction of a faculty advisor. This requirement provides invaluable experience in writing proposals and reports, gathering, analyzing and evaluating data, and delivering scientific talks. In addition, a Departmental Honors Program and a combined B.S./M.S. Program are available.

At the Graduate Level, the Department offers programs leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The mission of the Graduate Program is to train students to conduct independent and original research. This is most often achieved by collaboration between students and faculty in ongoing research programs. Research in the Department is focused upon both Earth's interior and surface processes. These areas are not mutually exclusive, and students are encouraged to develop a program that suits their interests.

Our particular strengths are as follows:

  • Mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry, in particular of granites and associated mineralization;
  • hydrological processes and integration of geomorphology, hydrology and ecology to understand surface environments;
  • and isotope geochemistry, in support of the above strengths and in mantle geochemistry, meteoritics, tectonics, carbonate diagenesis, sedimentary cycling, geochronology, stratigraphy and paleoclimate studies.