Geosciences Website


Chair, Professor DAVID P. DETHIER

Professors: DETHIER, M. JOHNSON, KARABINOS, WOBUS. Associate Professor: COX. Assistant Professor: STOLL. Lecturer: BACKUS. Research Associates: BAARLI, BRANDRISS.


The Geosciences major is designed (1) to provide an understanding of the physical and biological evolution of our planet and its interacting global systems, (2) to help us learn to live in harmony with our environment, and (3) to appreciate our place within the vastness of Earth history. Forces within the Earth are responsible for the development of mountain ranges and ocean basins. Waves, running water, and glaciers have shaped the surface of the Earth, providing the landscapes we see today. Fossils encased in sedimentary rocks supply evidence for the evolution of life and help to record the history of the Earth.

Students who graduate with a major in Geosciences from Williams can enter several different fields of geoscience or can use their background in other careers. Students who have continued in the geosciences are involved today, especially after graduate training, in environmental fields ranging from hydrology to earthquake prediction, in the petroleum and mining industries, federal and state geological surveys, geological consulting firms, and teaching and research in universities, colleges, and secondary schools. Graduates who have entered business or law have also found many applications for their geoscience background. Other graduates now in fields as diverse as art and medicine pursue their interest in the out-of-doors with a deeper appreciation for the natural world around them.

The Geosciences major sequence includes, after any 100-level course, six designated advanced courses, and two elective courses.

Sequence Courses (required of majors)

201 Geomorphology

202 Mineralogy and Geochemistry

215 Climate Changes

301 Structural Geology

302 Sedimentation

401 Stratigraphy

Elective courses may be clustered to provide concentrations in selected fields. Suggested groupings are listed below as guidelines for course selections, but other groups are possible according to the interests of the students. Departmental advisors are given for the different fields of Geosciences.

I Environmental Geoscience. For students interested in surface processes and the application of geology to environmental problems such as land use planning, resource planning, environmental impact analysis, and environmental law. Such students should also consider enrolling in the coordinate program of the Center for Environmental Studies.

103 Environmental Geology and the Earth's Surface

104 Oceanography

206 Geological Sources of Energy or

208 Water and the Environment

214 Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems

215 Climate Changes

(Students interested in Environmental Geosciences should consult with Professors Dethier or Stoll.)

II Oceanography, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation. For students interested in the study of modern and ancient sedimentary environments and the marine organisms that inhabited them.

101 Biodiversity in Geologic Time

104 Oceanography

206 Geological Sources of Energy

212 Invertebrate Paleobiology

(Students interested in Oceanography, Stratigraphy, and Sedimentation should consult with Professors M. Johnson or Cox.)

III The Solid Earth. For students interested in plate tectonics, the processes active within the Earth, the origin and deformation of rocks and minerals, and mineral exploration.

102 An Unfinished Planet

105 Geology Outdoors

303 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

(Students interested in The Solid Earth should consult with Professors Wobus or Karabinos.)

With the consent of the department, certain courses at the 200 level or higher in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Statistics, or Physics may be substituted for elective courses in the major. Credit may be granted in the Geosciences major for American Maritime Studies 211/Geosciences 210 (Oceanographic Processes) or American Maritime Studies 311/Biology 231 (Marine Ecology) taken at Mystic Seaport.

Students considering graduate work in geosciences should also take courses in the allied sciences and mathematics in addition to the requirements of the Geosciences major. The selection of outside courses will depend on the field in which a student intends to specialize. Most geoscience graduate schools require a year of Chemistry and Mathematics through 105. For those going into Environmental Geoscience, courses in computer science or statistics are recommended. For those considering Oceanography, Stratigraphy, and Sedimentation, Biology 102 and Biology 203 are suggested. For students entering Solid-Earth fields, Physics 131 and 132 are recommended.


In order to be recommended for the degree with honors, a student is expected to have completed at least two semesters and a winter study project (031) of independent research culminating in a thesis which demonstrates outstanding achievement of an original and innovative nature. The principal considerations in admitting a student to a program of independent research are mastery of fundamental material and skills, ability to pursue independent study successfully, and demonstrated student interest and motivation.

Further advice on the major can be obtained from the department chair.