Geology is the study of the Earth and includes a variety of topics:
- Plate tectonics
- Rocks, minerals, fossils
- History of the Earth
- Earth hazards (e.g. earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides)
- Water (surface and ground water) – as a resource and related hazards
- Maps and cross sections – topographic, geologic
- Structures – folds, faults
- Landforms and their development
Courses cover the physical (GEOL 111) and historical aspects (GEOL 242) of the Earth. In addition a focus is given to the geologic aspects of our environment and their potential impact on humanity (GEOL 225). Nonrenewable resources (GEOL 230) are surveyed to better understand the slow geologic processes under which they form, the impact on our planet of the extraction, processing, use, and disposal of these resources, and our reliance on these resources in our daily lives.
The geology program currently has the unique opportunity to excavate a mammoth found on campus and to prepare the bones in the lab. A course (180) is offered in which students participate in this project and learn about mammoths and the ice age in which they lived.
All courses include field trips, key to understanding geology. Principia is situated in an area rich with geology – on limestone bluffs that are covered with silt and other deposits from the ice age and that overlook the channels and shared floodplain of two major drainage ways in North America; just downriver from a well exposed structural feature; a couple of hours from another major structural feature that exposes igneous rocks and related minerals at the surface.
Although only some basic courses in geology are currently offered at Principia, a student who wishes to pursue geology at the graduate level, can well prepare herself/himself by taking a year of calculus, a year of chemistry, and a year of physics, all of which are offered at Principia and required at the graduate level along with proficiency in a second language.