BA Geology

Program Codes: BAGEOL
Bachelor of Arts

Students majoring in Geology will be preparing themselves to take an active role in the utilization of the earth’s resources while protecting its fragile environment. Course work involves hands-on use of modern laboratory equipment and extensive projects out in the field. The faculty combine the use of small class sizes and abundant travel opportunities with a commitment to involving students in ongoing geological projects that involve both local and far-ranging locales.

Locally the emphasis is on the ice age deposits and modern coastal processes on the shores of Lake Erie, the folded sedimentary rocks of the Appalachian Mountains, and the igneous and metamorphic rocks of nearby Canada.

Far-ranging projects include work with soils from the American southwest, igneous rocks from Nevada and Arizona, beaver pond sediments from Yellowstone National Park, describing vertebrate and invertebrate fossil remains, and planetary mapping of Mars and Venus.

Mission Statement
Geology is the science of the Earth – how it was made, what comprises it, and how it operates. These are all concepts critical to understand in order to survive on this Earth and to be responsible and successful stewards of the resources we harvest from it. In essence, geology touches on the most fundamental of concepts that are often times overlooked, but are required to know in order to be able to live in a sustainable fashion on our home planet.

Without an understanding of geology, there would be a populace who would not understand the fine line between humans and the Earth. Specifically, events such as flooding, earthquakes, and landslides (events that affect humans with negative consequences on an everyday basis) could not be addressed and mitigated without the knowledge of geology; nor could the necessary and responsible extraction and management of natural resources from the Earth happen without knowledge of how and where they occur.

Hence, the mission of the Mercyhurst University Geology Department is to educate and train students in the Earth Sciences so that they are reflectively aware of the natural environment in which they live and are globally responsible of the Earth and its resources. Central in this mission is a commitment to experiential learning through rigorous laboratory exercises, hands-on field experiences, participation in faculty-student collaborative research projects and travel courses, and the opportunity to attend and participate in professional conferences.

Learning Outcomes:
The Geology Department has identified eight broad learning outcomes that all geology majors should meet before they earn their degree. Upon completion of the Geology curriculum, a geology major should be able to:

  • Explain the paradigms that shape current geologic thought (e.g., plate tectonics).
  • Explain the concept of geologic time and detail the geologic time scale for the Earth.
  • Explain the processes that have shaped and continue to shape the Earth.
  • Identify significant geologic features on the Earth and place them into their appropriate geologic context.
  • Identify common rocks and minerals found on and inside the Earth using hand samples and thin sections.
  • Associate common rocks and minerals found on and inside the Earth with their appropriate geologic context.
  • Formulate and communicate an effective scientific argument through written and oral means.
  • Demonstrate the ability to organize and conduct geology-related field and laboratory work.

The curricula are designed with three primary objectives:

  • To prepare students for entry level employment with consulting and engineering companies that concentrate on environmental problems
  • To prepare students for entry level employment in federal, state, and municipal environmental agencies
  • To prepare students who enter graduate programs in the branch of geology of their choosing in preparation for university teaching or upper level employment with private companies or governmental agencies.

Many of our graduates have secured entry-level positions in the government and private sectors upon graduation; many other graduates from the Mercyhurst geology program have secured full-ride funding from a variety of graduate programs. Thus, we believe our curriculum prepares our students well for a geology career after Mercyhurst.

The Department of Geology also maintains special relationships with the Environmental Science program as well as the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. Students with interests in geology and either of these two programs are strongly encouraged to participate in joint activities between the programs and to discuss possible cross-over opportunities.

Geology Requirements
The Department of Geology offers courses leading to Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Geology. Students seeking a degree in Geology are required to take core Geology courses plus two additional electives. Students must also complete a senior capstone experience, which requires three courses. There are an additional 6 cognate courses in math, physics, and chemistry. The required coursework in these subjects depends on whether a student pursues a B.A. or B.S. degree. Students who expect to attend graduate school after graduation are strongly encouraged to pursue the B.S. degree.

To be recommended for graduation, students must earn at least a 2.5 GPA in their Geology courses and earn a grade of at least C in any Geology class completed to fulfill a degree requirement. Students must earn at least a grade of D in each cognate. Students have the option of completing a concentration in Geoarchaeology, Planetary Geology, Paleontology, Environmental Geology, or Earth and Space Science Education. Earth and Space Science Education is designed for students seeking an Earth and Space Science certification and M.S. in secondary Education via Mercyhurst’s 4+1 master’s program in secondary education.

The other concentrations take advantage of the specialized research strengths, facilities and course offerings available at Mercyhurst. These concentrations typically require four to five courses in addition to the regular geology major curriculum and are designed to provide the student with a more in-depth understanding of a specific aspect of geology. Although an area of concentration is not required as part of the geology major, the concentrations do provide students an avenue to become more specialized in an area of geology, which could make them more competitive for graduate school and/or future employment in that area.

Geology Minor
Geology Major Core Courses:
GEOL 100/102 Physical Geology & Lab 4 credits
Four additional geology courses with at least three numbered 200 or higher are required. SCI 225 Oceanography may count towards the geology minor.

Geology Major Core Courses:

Two additional geology elective courses numbered 200 or above are required.  Students considering graduate school are strongly recommended to pursue the B.S. degree.

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Geology Major Capstone Courses

Before registering for Capstone courses students must complete GEOL 100 and GEOL 102 and get permission of the instructor.


Geology Major Elective Courses:

Subject to department chair approval, one course numbered 200 or above in mathematics/computer systems or the natural sciences may count as one geology elective course. 

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B.A. Cognate Courses:

One additional math course and either PHYS 102/106 or an additional course in mathematics/computer systems or the natural sciences is required. For the B.A. degree in geology, an additional course in the natural sciences or computer systems may be substituted for CHEM 131/132. Subject to department chair approval.

Degrees & Certificates
Course Descriptions