May 29, 2020  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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F. Zeb Page, Associate Professor of Geology, Department Chair
Rachel K. Eveleth, Assistant Professor of Geology
Dennis K. Hubbard,  Professor of Geology
Karla Parsons-Hubbard, Professor of Geology
Amanda Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Geology
Steven F. Wojtal, Professor of Geology

The Geology Department offers a broad selection of courses aimed at both majors and non-majors. These courses reflect the diversity of modern earth science, covering subjects that range from the nature of our planet at the dawn of it’s history to human effects on today’s earth, and from tiny crystals to gigantic tectonic plates. Many of our courses address the changing relationship between humans and the world in which they live. We offer a major program that prepares students for graduate school or a career in earth sciences but is also intended for students who seek a broad understanding of earth systems through scientific study en route to careers in teaching, environmental fields, or other related areas. Many students incorporate geology into a double major following procedures outlined elsewhere in this catalog.

Advanced Placement

Students may count Advanced Placement credit earned in biology, calculus, chemistry, or physics toward a Geology major following guidelines.  However, credit is granted only for AP courses that these departments accept toward their major; and is subject to College limits. Students seeking to place out of introductory Geology courses on the basis of secondary-school courses in geology need to pass a placement examination administered by the department. See the major description below for details.

Course Sequence Suggestions

The department offers a variety of introductory courses in the earth sciences. Earth’s Environments (GEOL 120) has no prerequisite, provides a broad overview of earth science that includes field trips to local sites, and is a good first course for students who see geology as a potential major. This course, offered in both the spring and fall semesters, is also suitable for students who are interested in related fields such as environmental studies, oceanography, and evolutionary biology and are seeking hands-on experience with maps and earth materials. The department also offers topical Courses of General Interest intended for non-specialists or non-scientists and with no prerequisites.

A substantial number of non-majors also enroll in upper-level geology courses. Students can enroll in any 200-level class after taking Earth’s Environments (GEOL 120). In order to enroll in 300-level geology courses, students must complete at least one 200-level course. Students can progress from any of the 200-level courses into any of the 300-level courses with the exception of GEOL 361 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology), which has a prerequisite of GEOL 201 (Mineralogy). 


The requirements for a geology major are:

  • GEOL 120 which should be taken in a student’s first or second year.
  • Four intermediate-level geology courses as follows:
    • Mineralogy (GEOL 201)
    • Evolution of the Earth (GEOL 204)
    • Earth’s Interior (GEOL 206)
    • Earth Surface Processes (GEOL 212)
  • Three additional elective geology courses (or equivalent half courses) selected via some combination of the following:

a.    A FULL course in Geology at the 200 or 300 level
b.    Two HALF courses in Geology at the 200 or 300 level (each counts as HALF an elective)
c.   Two FULL Introductory courses in Geology at the 100 level (each counts as HALF an elective); note: students are permitted to count a MAXIMUM of two FULL 100-level geology courses toward the elective requirement

  • The following additional courses in cognate Natural Sciences and Mathematics:

a.    Introductory Chemistry, either CHEM 101 and CHEM 102 or the equivalent (e.g. CHEM 103), and

b.    One additional FULL course (or equivalent) at the introductory or advanced level selected from courses that count toward the Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, or Physics majors, or the following list: CHEM 201, MATH 131, MATH 132, PHYS 103, PHYS 104 or PHYS 151, STAT 113, STAT 114

Prospective geology majors should discuss their major program with a member of the Geology Department as early as possible in order to identify the courses that best serve their needs. Advanced electives (400-level courses) and independent research in geology are also available, but such courses are neither required nor count toward the Geology major. After completing  GEOL 120 (Earth’s Environments), a student can complete a Geology major in four semesters, although a less compact schedule is preferable.

Students pursuing a professional career in earth science usually take more than the minimum number of courses required for the Geology major. In particular, many Geology graduate programs require two semesters of college-level mathematics and introductory Physics; employers often find computer skills attractive. We also urge majors to take a summer course in field geology or to get field experience by other means. Students with interests in environmental policy and/or resource development who are considering geology as part of a pre-law program should consult with both the Geology department chair and with a member of the Pre-law Advisory Committee.

Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major. For courses in cognate Natural Sciences and Mathematics, students must earn the minimum grade required by the home department. For example, if the Department of Physics and Astronomy will accept a course in which a student earns any passing grade to fulfill their major requirements, the Department of Geology will accept that course to fulfill the geology-major requirements


Students may obtain a minor in Geology by completing at least four FULL geology courses that include an introductory laboratory course (GEOL 120) and a minimum of three FULL courses at the 200 and 300 levels. Students interested in minoring should consult with the chair of Geology, as departmental approval is required to minor in Geology.


Outstanding students may participate in the Honors Program in Geology. Honors students carry out a program of independent geological research under the supervision of an individual faculty member during their senior year. Any student interested in doing Honors research should discuss this with a member of the department in her or his junior year. In order to be accepted into the Honors Program, a student must have a GPA of 3.10 or higher in their geology course work and submit a written proposal to the department. Other guidelines for the Honors Program are set forth elsewhere in this catalog.

Research Opportunities.

The Geology Department offers several avenues for independent research in addition to Honors. Majors are encouraged to contact faculty about opportunities to participate in their summer field projects. Research can also be conducted for credit through Independent Study in Geology (GEOL 199) and Research in Geology (GEOL 501). Of special note, the Department is a member of the Keck Geology Consortium, which provides students with summer research opportunities that are continued during semester-long or year-long Research in Geology (GEOL 501) or Honors (GEOL 503). These courses do not provide major credit.

Related Programs

The Department of Geology encourages students who are interested in fields not covered in depth in Oberlin courses to attend off-campus programs. We especially recommend participation in programs where students get the opportunity to study different types of geological processes in the field. Many excellent institutions offer semester and summer programs in geology; information is available in the department office and in the Office of Study Away. The Geology Department also maintains special relationships with particular programs and information can be obtained from the department Chair.  Integrating a semester of off-campus study into a Geology major requires advanced planning, so students considering this possibility should consult with a Department member as early as possible.

Transfer of Credit

Students can substitute non-Oberlin courses for those that count toward the major but are taught outside the department (e.g., CHEM 101, 102, 103, cognate courses). However, each course must be certified by the chair of the appropriate on-campus department as being identical to the replaced course. In addition, up to two non-Oberlin geology courses can be used to satisfy the “four intermediate-level geology courses” and/or  “additional elective geology courses” described under “Major” above. Substitutes for “intermediate-level courses” must be substantially similar to those being replaced. More latitude is possible for elective geology courses. Non-Oberlin courses cannot be applied toward the Minor requirements.

Permission to substitute a course taken away from Oberlin for the major should be obtained in advance - prior to enrolling in the course. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure proper transfer-of-credit forms are completed and placed on file in the Office of the Registrar. All College rules concerning the maximum number of allowable transfer credits will apply.

Winter Term

The Geology faculty who are tentatively available to sponsor individual Winter Term projects in 2019 and their primary areas of expertise are as follows:  Mr. Hubbard: Sedimentary environments and stratigraphy, environmental geology; coastal and marine geology. Ms. Hubbard: General geology, paleontology, evolution, and marine science. Mr. Page:  Metamorphic and igneous rocks, minerals; geochemistry, electron microscopy, X-ray spectrometry; gems; volcanoes.  Ms. Schmidt:  Geomorphology; fluvial processes; soils and other Earth surface processes.  Mr. Wojtal: Mountain building and tectonics, continuum mechanics, environmental applications of GPS and other mapping technologies; geophysics, meteorology, glaciology, climate change and paleoclimatology.

Courses of General Interest (for Non-Majors)

Introductory Courses (for Non-Majors and Prospective Majors)

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