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Bachelor of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences

The major consists of five interrelated components:

  1. Earth Sciences Fundamentals—Students must complete a set of core courses that introduce the properties of Earth materials, the processes that change the Earth, and the timescales over which those processes act. These courses provide a broad foundational knowledge that can lead to specialization in many different disciplines of the geological and environmental sciences.
  2. Quantitative and Analytical Skills—Students must complete adequate course work in mathematics, chemistry, and physics or biology. In addition, they learn analytical techniques specific to the Earth sciences through the laboratory component of courses.
  3. Advanced Course Work and Research—Students gain breadth and depth in upper-level electives and are encouraged to apply these skills and knowledge to problems in the Earth sciences through directed research.
  4. Field Research Skills—Most GES courses include field trips and/or field-based projects. In addition, students must complete at least six weeks of field research through departmental offerings or through a faculty-directed field research project that involves learning and application of field techniques, field mapping, and the preparation of a written report.
  5. Communication Skills—To fulfill the Writing in the Major requirement, students take a writing-intensive senior seminar (GES 150), in which they give both oral and written presentations that address current research in the earth sciences.

The major requires at least 77 units; letter grades are required in all courses if available. Students interested in the GES major should consult with the undergraduate program coordinator for information about options within the curriculum.

COURSE SEQUENCE (77-101 UNITS TOTAL)

CORE REQUIREMENT

Students are required to take all of the following (28-30 units):

Subject and Catalog Number

Units

GES 1A, 1B,or 1C.. Introduction to Geology

4-5

GES 4. Evolution and Extinction: Introduction to Historical Geology

4

GES 90. Introduction to Geochemistry

3-4

GES 102. Earth Materials: Introduction to Mineralogy

3

GES 102L. Introductory Mineralogy Laboratory

1

GES 103. Earth Materials: Rocks in Thin Section

3

GES 104. Earth Materials: Introduction to Petrology

3

GES 104L. Introductory Petrology Laboratory

1

GES 105. Introduction to Field Methods

3

GES 150. Senior Seminar: Issues in the Earth Sciences (WIM)

3

GES 190, other field course, or field research (see below for more information)

6

BREADTH IN THE DISCIPLINE REQUIREMENT

To gain understanding of the breadth of subject areas within the geological and environmental sciences, students are required to take one course from each of the following six groups (19-25 units).

Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are offered in alternate years.

Environmental geology and surface processes

The chemical and physical properties of the solid, aqueous, and gaseous phases comprising Earth's surface environment, their natural compositional variations and biogeochemical interactions, and the processes that affect their distribution and stability.

EESS 155. Science of Soils

4

GES 130. Soil Physics and Hydrology

3

GES 131. Hydrologically-Driven Landscape Evolution

3

GES 170. Environmental Geochemistry

4

Structural geology and tectonics

The nature, description, and modeling of deformation of earth materials in response to tectonic forces. Processes of plate tectonics, mountain building, and sedimentary basin formation. The origin and evolution of geologic structures including folds, faults, fabrics, and fractures.

GES 110. Structural Geology and Tectonics

5

GES 111A. Fundamentals of Structural Geology

3

Earth materials and geochemistry

The materials that comprise the Earth and how they can be used to deduce geological processes over time. The fundamental chemical and geologic processes responsible for the abundance and distribution of elements and their isotopes.

GES 163. Introduction to Isotope Geochemistry

3

*GES 180. Igneous Processes

4

*GES 185. Volcanology

3-4

GES 107. Journey to the Center of the Earth

3

Sedimentary systems

The processes of weathering, erosion, transportation, and deposition, interpretation of depositional environments, the formation and evolution of sediments and sedimentary basins, and the evolution of sedimentary systems over geologic time.

GES 151.Sedimentary Geology and Petrology

4

Biogeosciences

The origin and evolution of life on Earth, the influence of biological processes on Earth's surface environments, and the role of geological processes in shaping large-scale evolutionary patterns.

*GES 123. Paleobiology

3

Geospatial statistics and computer science

Statistical techniques specific to the geosciences that facilitate analysis of three- and four-dimensional data; computer programming and modeling.

CS 106A. Programming Methodology

3-5

EESS 160. Statistical Methods for Earth and Environmental Sciences: General Introduction

3

EESS 161. Statistical Methods for Earth and Environmental Sciences: Geostatistics

3-4

EESS 164. Fundamentals of Geographic Information Science (GIS)

4

ENERGY 125. Modeling and Simulation for Geoscientists and Engineers

3

ENERGY 211. Computer Programming in C++ for Earth Scientists and Engineers

4

GEOPHYS 112. Exploring Geosciences with MATLAB

3

*GEOPHYS 140. Introduction to Remote Sensing

3

DEPTH IN THE DISCIPLINE REQUIREMENT (10 UNITS)

To allow students to go into greater depth in the major, students must complete at least 10 units of electives drawn primarily from the list above and other upper-level courses in GES (including graduate-level courses). Additional courses in Geophysics, EESS, and ERE may be counted towards the elective units if they allow a student to pursue a topic in depth; these options should be discussed with an adviser. A maximum of 3 elective units may be fulfilled by GES 192, 197, 198, or advanced seminars. Honors research (GES 199) may fulfill up to 4 elective units.

REQUIRED SUPPORTING MATHEMATICS (5-15 UNITS)

This requirement may also be fulfilled by Advanced Placement credit. Choose one of the following equivalent series:

MATH 19. Calculus

3

MATH 20. Calculus

3

MATH 21. Calculus

4

or

 

MATH 41. Calculus

5

MATH 42. Calculus

5

Choose at least one of the following (the entire series is recommended for students who plan to pursue graduate studies in the sciences or engineering):

MATH 51. Multivariate Mathematics

5

MATH 52. Multivariate Mathematics

5

MATH 53. Multivariate Mathematics

5

REQUIRED SUPPORTING COGNATE SCIENCES (15-21 UNITS)

Advanced placement credit may be accepted for these courses as determined by the relevant departments.

Chemistry

CHEM 31A,B. Chemical Principles I/II

8

or CHEM 31X. Chemical Principles

4

CHEM 135. Physical Chemical Principles

3

or CHEM 171. Physical Chemistry

3

or GES 171. Geochemical Thermodynamics

3

In addition to chemistry, students may choose between introductory sequences in biology and physics. This choice should be made after discussion with an adviser and based on a student's interests.

Physics

Choose one of the following series:

PHYSICS 21. Mechanics and Heat

3

PHYSICS 22. Mechanics and Heat Lab

1

PHYSICS 23. Electricity and Optics

3

PHYSICS 24. Electricity and Optics Lab

1

or

 

PHYSICS 41 (formerly 53). Mechanics

4

PHYSICS 45 (formerly 51). Light and Heat

4

PHYSICS 46 (formerly 52). Light and Heat Lab

1

or

 

PHYSICS 41 (formerly 53). Mechanics

4

PHYSICS 43 (formerly 55). Electricity and Magnetism

3

PHYSICS 44 (formerly 56). Electricity and Magnetism Lab

1

Biology

BIO 41. Genetics, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology

5

BIO 42. Cell Biology and Animal Physiology

5

or BIO 43. Plant Biology, Evolution, and Ecology

5

or BIO 101. Ecology

3

FIELD RESEARCH

Field research skills are a critical component of the undergraduate curriculum in GES. The conventional and most straightforward way for undergraduates to meet the field requirement is to take the two GES courses (GES 105 and GES 190) that are offered every year:

By taking GES 105 and two iterations of GES 190, GES undergraduates develop the broad experience and confidence necessary to go out and evaluate a geological or environmental geology question by collecting field-based data. The main goal is that, upon graduation, GES undergraduates will be able to plan and execute independent field research.

It is also possible to customize GES 190 or substitute non-Stanford courses to allow flexibility in fulfilling the field requirement. One or two GES 190 requirements can be satisfied through customized courses with two possible approaches:

  1. The first approach involves working on a project during the summer with a graduate student or professor. This may fulfill one GES 190 requirement. To receive credit for GES 190, a proposal must be filed at the end of Winter Quarter with the field program committee which evaluates it for suitability.
  2. A second approach is to take a modified version of an existing field-based course such as Stanford at Sea/Australia/Hawaii. This may also fulfill one GES 190 requirement.

In both cases, to receive credit for GES 190, a proposal must be filed at the end of Winter Quarter with the field program committee which evaluates it for suitability. Students subsequently enroll in GES 190 with a specific instructor or their faculty mentor who evaluates the final report from the fieldwork.

GES 190 can also be satisfied by enrolling in a single four-to-six week geology field camp offered by another institution. This externally administered experience can substitute for two GES 190 courses, subject to approval by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

COGNATE COURSES

Many courses offered within the School of Earth Sciences, as well as courses in other schools with a significant Earth sciences component, may be used in satisfaction of optional requirements for the Geological and Environmental Sciences degree. Undergraduates should discuss the options available to them with the undergraduate program coordinator; graduate students should discuss options with their advisers.

The following courses outside the School of Earth Sciences are particularly applicable:

HONORS PROGRAM

The honors program provides an opportunity for year-long independent study and research on a topic of special interest, culminating in a written thesis. Students select research topics in consultation with the faculty adviser of their choosing. Research undertaken for the honors program may be of a theoretical, field, or experimental nature, or a combination of these approaches. The honors program is open to students with a GPA of at least 3.5 in GES courses and 3.0 in all University course work. Modest financial support is available from several sources to help defray laboratory and field expenses incurred in conjunction with honors research. Interested students must submit an application, including a research proposal, to the department by the end of their junior year.

Upon approval of the research proposal and entrance to the program, course credit for the honors research project and thesis preparation is assigned by the student's faculty adviser within the framework of GES 199; the student must complete a total of 9 units over the course of the senior year. Up to 4 units of GES 199 may be counted towards the elective requirement, but cannot be used as a substitute for regularly required courses.

Both a written and oral presentation of research results are required. The thesis must be read, approved, and signed by the student's faculty adviser and a second member of the faculty. In addition, honors students must participate in the GES Honors Symposium in which they present their research to the broader community. Honors students in GES are also eligible for the Firestone medal, awarded by Undergraduate Advising and Research for exceptional theses.

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