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This section contains an overview of the college's history, the academic program, the campus and student body; information on admission, fees and financial aid; graduate programs; and a key for deciphering course listings. Select a section from the dropdown menu to start.

This catalog contains policies and program descriptions and should be used solely as an informational guide. The General Information section is accurate as of July. All announcements herein are subject to revision. Students are responsible for informing themselves of current policies and meeting all relevant requirements.

This section details instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and course offerings for the year (the data is updated annually). The Search for Courses tab enables you to search for courses based on interests and criteria. This tab will enable you to identify if a course can count toward a major, minor, concentration or a certificate.

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John B. Brady, Ph.D. †1
Robert Morgan Newton, Ph.D.
Bosiljka Glumac, Ph.D., Chair **2
Amy Larson Rhodes, Ph.D.

Associate Professors
Sara B. Pruss, Ph.D.
John Loveless, Ph.D.

Senior Lecturer
Mark Elliott Brandriss, Ph.D.

The Major

Advisers: For the class of 2018, Amy Rhodes; for the class of 2019, Robert Newton; for the class of 2020, Bosiljka Glumac; for the class of 2021, John Loveless.

Adviser for Study Abroad: Bosiljka Glumac, 2017–18

Basis: 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, or GEO 102 in conjunction with any other 100-level geoscience course.

Requirements: Beyond this basis, the requirements for individual tracks within the major include:

Geoscience Track

  • Six intermediate-level geoscience courses (30 credits): 221, 222, 231, 232, 241 and 251.
  • Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (at least 8 credits total); a 4–6 credit summer geology field camp may substitute for one.

Environmental Geoscience Track
  • Two chemistry courses. No more than one at the 100 level. Aqueous Geochemistry (GEO 301) may count for one.
  • One ecology course: Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation and Lab (BIO 154, 155), Marine Ecology and Lab (BIO 268, 269) (prereq BIO 154 or GEO 108), Principles of Ecology and Lab (BIO 266, 267) (prereq BIO 154 and a course in statistics) or Plant Ecology and Lab (BIO 364, 365) (prereq course in plant biology or ecology or environmental science).
  • One environmental policy or social science course approved by the major advisor. Examples (many of which have prerequisites) include: Natural Resource Management and Environmental Justice (ENV 220), Climate and Energy Policy (ENV 323), Environmental Economics (ECO 224), The Economics of Climate Change (ECO 271), Population and Environment in Africa (ANT 230), Economy, Ecology and Society (ANT 236), Anthropology of Development (ANT 241), International Politics (GOV 241), International Political Economy (GOV 242), Colloquium: Politics of the Global Environment (GOV 254), Seminar in American Government: Politics and the Environment (GOV 306), Environmental Ethics (PHI 238), The Human Side of Climate Change (PSY 268), World Population (SOC 232), Environment and Society (SOC 233), Seminar in Environmental Sociology (SOC 332).
  • Four intermediate-level geoscience courses: 221, 222, 231, 232, 241 or 251.
  • Two 300- or 400-level geoscience courses (at least 8 credits total); a 4–6 credit summer geology field camp may substitute for one. Aqueous Geochemistry (GEO 301) counts either for the chemistry requirement or this elective requirement.

Educational Geoscience Track
  • Three education courses (*recommended): *The American Middle School and High School (EDC 232), *Introduction to the Learning Sciences (EDC 238), *Growing up American: Adolescents and their Educational Institutions (EDC 342), Individual Differences Among Learners (EDC 347), Methods of Instruction (EDC 352), or *Teaching Science, Engineering and Technology (EDC 390).
  • Six additional geoscience courses above the 100-level. One of these must be at the 300-level or be a 4- to 6-credit summer geology field camp course.
(Note: This 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, 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). 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.

The Minor

Advisers: Same as for the major

Unlike the major where some courses outside the department can be counted towards the major, all courses counting towards the minor must come from the geosciences.

Students contemplating a minor in geosciences should see a departmental adviser as early as possible to develop a minor course program. This program must be submitted to the department for approval no later than the beginning of the senior year.

Requirements: Completion of the basis plus other courses for a total of 24 credits in geosciences, with no more than 14 credited at the 100-level.


Director: Amy Rhodes, 2017-18 and Robert Newton, 2018–19

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: 8
Normally offered each academic year

GEO 432D Honors Project
Credits: 6
Normally offered each academic year

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

Field Experience

The department regularly sponsors an off-campus field-based course for geoscience students. This course may be entirely during interterm, such as recent courses in the Bahamas and Hawaii. Or it may be a spring semester course with a field trip during spring break or during the following summer, such as recent courses in Death Valley, Iceland and Greece. 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.

The Department of Geosciences is a member of the Keck Geology Consortium, a group of 17 colleges funded by the National Science Foundation to sponsor cooperative student/faculty summer research projects at locations throughout the United States and abroad.

Students contemplating a major in geosciences should elect 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, and see a departmental adviser as early as possible. All 100-level courses may be taken without prerequisites.

GEO 101 Introduction to Earth Processes and History
An exploration of the concepts that provide a unifying explanation for the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the formation of mountains, continents and oceans. A discussion of the origin of life on earth, the patterns of evolution and extinction in plants and animals, and the rise of humans. Students planning to major in geosciences should also take GEO 102 concurrently. {N} Credits: 4
Amy Larson Rhodes
Normally offered each fall

GEO 102 Exploring the Local Geologic Landscape
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 Geology in the Field 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. Enrollment limited to 17, with preference to students who are enrolled concurrently in GEO 101 or who have already taken a Geoscience course. {N} Credits: 2
Mark Elliott Brandriss, Raquel Bryant, Amy Larson Rhodes
Normally offered each fall

FYS 103 Geology in the Field
Clues to over 500 million years of earth history can be found in rocks and sediments near Smith College. Students in this course attempt to decipher this history by careful examination of field evidence. Class meetings take place principally outdoors at interesting geological localities around the Connecticut Valley. Participants prepare regular reports based on their observations and reading, building to a final paper on the geologic history of the area. The course normally includes a weekend field trip to Cape Cod. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. WI {N} Credits: 4
Members of the department
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

GEO 104 Global Climate Change: Exploring the Past, the Present and Options for the Future
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? Credits: 4
Ambarish V. Karmalkar
Normally offered each academic year

GEO 105 Natural Disasters: The Science Behind the Headlines
A natural disaster occurs when Earth’s natural processes violently affect society, creating newsworthy events of tragedy, loss and lessons for the future. This course focuses on the science of natural disasters: the physical processes operating within the earth that create earthquakes and volcanoes; the atmospheric processes that generate tropical storms and climate change; and the ways in which the landscape can influence the effects of natural events. The course also examines societal preparation for and response to natural disasters. Weekly exercises use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to illustrate real-world disaster management concepts. {N} Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered in alternate years

GEO 106 Extraordinary Events in the History of Earth, Life and Climate
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} Credits: 4
Bosiljka Glumac
Normally offered each spring

GEO 108 Oceanography: An Introduction to the Marine Environment
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} Credits: 4
Sara B. Pruss
Normally offered each spring

GEO 112 Archaeological Geology of Rock Art and Stone Artifacts
Same as ARC 112. What makes a mineral or a rock particularly useful as a stone tool or attractive as a sculpture? Students in this course explore this and other questions by applying geological approaches and techniques in studying various examples or rock art and stone artifacts to learn more about human behavior, ecology and cultures in the past. This exploration across traditional boundaries between archaeology and earth science include background topics of mineral and rock formation, weathering processes and age determination, as well as investigations of petroglyphs (carvings into stone surfaces), stone artifacts and other artifactual rocks (building stone and sculptures) described in the literature, displayed in museum collections, and found in the field locally. {N} Credits: 4
Bosiljka Glumac
Normally offered each spring

GEO 150 Mapping our World: An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Same as 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 local conservation organizations. Enrollment limited to 20. {N} Credits: 4
John Loveless
Normally offered each fall

GEO 221 Mineralogy
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 important geologic localities in the Adirondack Mountains. Prerequisite: 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, or 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. 102 can be taken concurrently. Recommended: CHM 111 or equivalent. {N} Credits: 5
Mark Elliott Brandriss
Normally offered each fall

GEO 222 Petrology
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. Weekend field trips to Cape Ann and Vermont are an important part of the course. Prerequisite: 221. {N} Credits: 5
Members of the department
Normally offered each spring

GEO 231 Invertebrate Paleontology and the History of Life
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: 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, or 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. 102 can be taken concurrently; open also to students who have fulfilled the basis for the BIO major. {N} Credits: 5
Sara B. Pruss
Normally offered each fall

GEO 232 Sedimentary Geology
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. Prerequisite: 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, or 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. 102 can be taken concurrently. {N} Credits: 5
Bosiljka Glumac
Normally offered each fall

GEO 241 Structural Geology
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 before spring break involve computer-based analysis of the map patterns of geologic structures and the mechanics of their formation. After spring break, weekly field trips during the lab period connect local examples of structures to New England tectonics. Prerequisite: 101 and 102, or 108, or FYS 103, or 102 with any other GEO 100-level course. Recommended: MTH 111 or equivalent. Enrollment limit of 20. {N} Credits: 5
John Loveless
Normally offered each spring

GEO 251 Geomorphology
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: 101, or 102, or 108 or FYS 103. {N} Credits: 5
Robert Morgan Newton
Normally offered each spring

GEO 301 Aqueous Geochemistry
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. Participants prepare regular reports based on laboratory analyses, building to a final analysis of the project study area. One weekend field trip. Prerequisites: One geoscience course and CHM 108 or CHM 111. {N} Credits: 5
Amy Larson Rhodes
Normally offered each spring

GEO 302 Field Studies of the Desert Southwest
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 or permission of instructor. Enrollment limit of 10 students. {N}
Members of the department
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

GEO 309 Groundwater Geology
Same as EGR 319. 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: 101, or 102, or 108, or FYS 103 and MTH 111. Enrollment limited to 14. Credits: 5
Members of the department
Normally offered in alternate years

GEO 334 Carbonate Sedimentology
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 232 and/or 231. Enrollment limited to 8. Registration by permission only. Interested students should contact the course instructor early in the Fall semester. Students are responsible to partially cover expenses associated with the January trip. {N} Credits: 5
Members of the department
Expected to be offered in the next 3 years

GEO 361 Tectonics
A broadly-based examination of tectonics, the unifying theory of geology. We discuss 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} Credits: 4
John Loveless
Normally offered each fall

GEO 400 Advanced Work or Special Problems in Geosciences
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. Credits: 1-4
Members of the department
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

GEO 430D Honors Project
Credits: 8
Members of the department
Normally offered each academic year

GEO 432D Honors Project
{H} {S} Credits: 6
Members of the department
Normally offered each academic year

Cross-Listed Courses

AST 220 FC20 Special Topics in Astronomy
Topics course.

Astronomy and Public Policy
This seminar explores the intersection of physical science, social science, psychology, politics and the environment. How do scientists, decision makers and the public communicate with each other, and how can scientists do better at it? What should the role of scientists be in advocacy and social movements? How does scientific information influence lifestyle and behavior choices among the public at large? We focus on three topics with close ties to astronomy: (1) global climate change, which involves basic atmospheric physics; (2) light pollution, which wastes billions of dollars per year and ruins our view of the starry sky without providing the safety it promises; and (3) controversial development of mountaintop observations such as the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, HI. Prerequisite: one college science course in any field and MTH 111 or the equivalent. {N} Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered each spring

EGR 315 Seminar: Ecohydrology
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 includes a laboratory component and introduces students to the Pioneer Valley, the cloud forests of Costa Rica, African savannas and the Florida Everglades. Prerequisites: MTH 112 and MTH 220. Enrollment limit of 12. Credits: 4
Andrew John Guswa
Normally offered each academic year

EGR 340 Seminar: Geotechnical Engineering
What is quicksand and can you 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, effective stress, strength and compaction. We 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 or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limit of 12. {N} Credits: 4
Glenn William Ellis
Normally offered each academic year

For additional offerings, see Five College Course Offerings by Five College Faculty.

All majors offered at Smith (through departments and programs) have requirements and a curriculum that students must complete. However, it is also important to identify what a student will know or be able to do at the completion of the major.

Departments and programs have articulated the learning goals for their disciplines, and they are all listed on the Departmental Learning Goals page.


The information contained in the Courses of Study documents is accurate as of July. Smith College reserves the right to make changes to the Courses of Study, including changes in its course offerings, instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and degree requirements. Course information contained herein is compiled by the Office of the Provost/Dean of the Faculty from data submitted by departments and programs. All data listed are as officially and formally approved by the Office of the Provost/Dean of the Faculty, the Committee on Academic Priorities, and the faculty-at-large. Additional information may be available on the individual Web sites of departments and programs.

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General Information contains an overview of the college's history, the academic program, the campus and student body; information on admission, fees and financial aid; graduate programs; and a key for deciphering course listings.

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