Department of Geological Sciences
HomeUndergraduateGraduateCoursesResearchPeopleNews & EventsResources
 
 

Rock formationProfessor teaching classes

Field TripProfessor with students outside


Course Descriptions

The 100-Level Courses and the 200-Level Courses are primarily for freshmen and sophomores, while the 300-Level Courses are primarily for juniors and seniors. Students choosing a major or minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences generally take 201, 202, and 203, and four or five 300-level courses, as well as courses in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. The 400-Level Courses and 500-Level Courses are primarily for graduate students and seniors.

  • 100-Level Courses

  • 200-Level Courses

  • 300-Level Courses

  • 400-Level Courses

  • 500-Level Courses

    102-6 - Death of The Dinosaurs (Freshman Seminar)
    The death of the dinosaurs as well as theories and evidence for other catastrophic extinctions will be examined. Geologic time and the history of life on Earth; plate tectonics; dinosaur classification and behavior, periodicities, and the search for Nemesis, the "Death Star", will be included in the seminar. Fall 2010 Syllabus. Jurdy
  • 102-6 - The Future of Renewable Energy (Freshman Seminar)
    Sometime during the next few years the rate of global oil production is expected to decline. Fossil fuels in the Earth required many millions of years to form, but the consumption of oil will ultimately be a brief episode in human history. The energy economy will change entirely during the lifetime of students taking this seminar. What does the future of energy look like? After traditional hydrocarbons become economically unaffordable, planet Earth will remain central to human sustenance because renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and tides are similarly linked to natural sources from the sun and Earth. Technology will also play an important role in improving nuclear and photovoltaic arrays, as well as energy carriers such as hydrogen. Here, we meet at the crossroads of economics and science. Jacobsen

    102-6 - Earthquakes and Other Earth-Shaking Events (Freshman Seminar)
    Earthquakes occur each hour, day, week, month, etc. Many go barely noticed while others turn catastrophic. Recall the December 26, 2004 Sumatra earthquake, tsunami, and aftershocks. Learn about causes and consequences of earthquakes and why we can't yet predict them. Learn about non-earthquake events that send tremors through our planet and alter its evolution, locating and classifying earthquakes, plate tectonics, and using earthquakes to CAT-scan the Earth. Van der Lee

    102-6 - Global Warming: The Scientific Evidence (Freshman Seminar)
    Global warming is more than a media catch-phrase. It represents a massive global experiment with unknown consequences. In this course we will discuss the scientific evidence for modern-day global warming including melting ice sheets, long-term temperature records from ice cores and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. Current trends and the role of human activities will be examined in the context of the geologic record of natural climate variability and the feedbacks inherent in the climate system. Anticipated future impacts include sea level rise, spread of infectious diseases, drinking water shortages, habitat loss and extinctions. Given these forecasts, strategies for managing the effects of global warming will be assessed. McInerney, Axford

    102-6 - Voyages of Discovery (Freshman Seminar)
    This course focuses on a selection of scientific expeditions. We will strive to understand the expedition goals, environmental challenges, navigation techniques, and the valuable knowledge provided with the risk, if not the sacrifice, of lives. In the first half of the course, we will focus on great historical explorers who have revealed the unknown continents, the world’s extreme poles, and the highest mountains. The age of discovery continues today. The second half of the course will focus on modern exploration to the deepest ocean, bottomless caves, and the search for habitable planets. It is the specific aim of this freshman seminar to foster the spirit of adventure and desire to explore the natural world. Beddows

    103-0 - Geologic Hazards
    An examination of the principal sources of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes ...) in the framework of modern geological theories. Okal

    105-0 - Climate Catastrophes in Earth History
    The objective of this course is to introduce students to the fundamental components of the Earth system--the atmosphere, hydrosphere and solid Earth--and more importantly, examine how these components interact in response to internal and external influences to control climate. Within this Earth systems context, we will explore how climate is changing today, how it has changed (sometimes catastrophically) in the geologic past, and how it may change in the future. Hurtgen

    106-0 - The Ocean, The Atmosphere and Our Climate

    The course presents basic concepts of the Earth System that control and regulate the planetary climate. The uniqueness of planet Earth is discussed in the context of its oceans, land, atmosphere, organisms, and climate. Specific questions addressed are: What are the essential factors that determined the climate of a planet? How do living organisms affect the atmosphere, land, ocean, and climate? How is the Earth's climate controlled by the greenhouse effect, solar radiation, orbital parameters, and other factors? How has the growing human population affected the Earth's atmospheric composition and hence climate? What has human society done to deal with the potential of global warming of the planet?  Blair, Lerman

    107-0 - Our Dynamic Planet
    Plate tectonics is the primary process that controls our planet's evolution, shapes its surface, allows it to support human life, but also endangers society via natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The course explains how plate tectonics works and how plate motions control the history of the continents and ocean basins, build mountains, cause earthquakes and volcanoes, provide natural resources and affect our climate. Jurdy, Stein

    108-0 - Geological Impacts on Civilization
    Geological processes and materials have had a profound impact upon the development of civilizations on Earth. By examination of the geological, archaeological, and historical records, we will explore societal responses to factors such as natural disasters, environmental changes, and the distribution of natural resources. We will focus largely upon the ancient world, with reference to modern analogues. (For example, we may discuss sediment transport by rivers, the effects of sedimentation upon ancient Roman harbors at Ostia and Ephesus, and the role of sedimentation in the modern Mississippi delta.) Bina

    110-0 - Exploration of the Solar System
    Examination of the earth from a planetary perspective: how the Earth and the planets formed; what the other planets tell us about the Earth; and how the Earth continues to evolve through continental drift, earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building. Emphasis on large-scale processes and features including the implication of meteorite impacts, nature of the deep interior, formation of the oceans and atmosphere, and origin and evolution of life. Jurdy - Course Website

    111-0 - Human Dimensions of Global Change
    Natural and human causes of global change. Growth of human populations-- historical patterns and future trends. Make-up of the environment in the past and present. The major environmental reservoirs: atmosphere, waters, land, biosphere. Lerman

    114-0 - Evolution and the Scientific Method
    The underlying philosophy, practical approaches, and impact of the scientific method are examined using the history of evolutionary theory as subject matter. This history provides an excellent example of the application of scientific method to a problem that spans the disciplines of biology, geology, physics, and chemistry. Furthermore, it chronicles a major paradigm shift within the scientific establishment that has had (and continues to have) a profound impact on society. This topic is uniquely well-suited for relating the nature of science to non-science majors. It does so conceptually through readings from the excellent compendium on evolutionary thought by Philip Appleman (Darwin, The Norton Critical Edition) and practically through tutorials with scientists at Northwestern and the Field Museum of Natural History who are working in disciplines relevant to evolution. EARTH 114 is part of the SERTS program. Sageman

    Back to Top

    201-0 - Surface Processes
    Introduction to Physical Geology: the study of materials and processes that determine the nature and dynamics of our planet. Topics include minerals; sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks; nature of the solid Earth, oceans, and atmosphere; solid Earth processes such as volcanism, seismicity, and plate tectonics and their interactions with the atmosphere and hydrosphere to drive fluid Earth processes such as climate, weathering, and glaciation; geologic time; global change. Course includes mandatory field trip to Baraboo, WI. Jacobson


    202-0 - Earth's Interior
    Size, mass, & density of the earth, seismic waves; earth structure from seismology; minerals and rocks; composition of mantle and core; heat and temperature in the earth, radiometric age dating; origin of the elements, formation of the solar system; meteorites, formation of the planets; continents and oceans, paleomagnetism, continental drift; earthquake focal mechanisms, plate boundaries and kinematics, mechanics of plate tectonics. Prerequisites: Math 224, Chemistry 101, Physics 135-1; or consent of instructor. Stein

    203-0 - Earth System History
    Evolution of the Earth System and its record through geological time. Interactions among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, sediments, and life on Earth. Prerequisite: EARTH 201, or equivalent. Klapper, Hurtgen

    Back to Top


    300-0 - Earth and Planetary Materials
    Mineralogy of the earth and planets from atomic to continental scales, focusing on structure, composition, identification, and physical properties of minerals as they pertain to geological and societal applications. Prerequisites: EARTH 201, Chemistry 103; Math 220, and Physics 135-1. Jacobsen

    301-0 - Petrology: Evolution of Crustal and Mantle Rocks
    Origin, composition, and classification of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Application of laboratory characterization and basic thermodynamics to interpreting observed rock textures and mineral assemblages in terms of geological processes. Prerequisite: 300 or consent of instructor. Jacobsen or Bina

    302-0 - Physics and Thermochemistry of the Earth's InteriorFinite strain theory, solid solution thermodynamics, phase transitions, subduction zone processes, seismic velocity structures, mineral equations of state. Prerequisite: 301 or consent of instructor. Bina

    310-0 - Introductory (Aqueous) Geochemistry
    The geochemistry of rivers, groundwater, lakes, and seawater.
    Topics include thermodynamics, kinetics, acids and bases,
    pH and alkalinity, carbonate equilibria, redox chemistry,
    chemical weathering, and numerical modeling. Prerequisites:
    201 and CHEM 103; or consent of instructor.

    311-0 - Sedimentary Geochemistry
    Geochemical differentiation of the Earth's surface. Primordial volatiles and the beginnings of sediment formation. Sedimentary environment on the prebiotic Earth. Control of Earth's climate by sediment-water interactions. Oceanic carbon system: inorganic and biological sedimentation. Sedimentary history from the isotope records. Burial and diagenesis of carbonate and silicate sediments. Prerequisites: 201, 330,and CHEM 103; or consent of instructor. Lerman

    312-0 - Stable Isotope Geochemistry
    We will examine both the traditional stable isotopes (carbon, oxygen, etc.) and some of the more novel ones (lithium, boron, transition elements, etc.). The aim is to understand the principles governing these isotopic systems and apply these isotopic tools to important problems in Earth Sciences. Emphasis will be on the Earth surface processes and climate change. Prerequisites: 201 and 310; or consent of instructor. Hurtgen

    313-0 - Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry
    The central theme of this course will be the use of chemical and isotopic abundances of elements in understanding the processes and fluxes that govern the chemical evolution of the Earth and the Solar System. Topics will include nucleosynthesis, radioactive decay, fractionations between elements, and the use of radiogenic isotopic systems as geochronologic and process tracer tools. Prerequisites: 201 and CHEM 103;or consent of instructor. Jacobson

    314-0 - Organic Geochemistry
    The origin, modification and preservation of organic matter in the sedimentary record; how it relates to global carbon cycle and climate in the geologic past; implications for future greenhouse warming.  Prerequisites:  One quarter of earth or environmental science and one quarter of chemistry. McInerney, Blair

    315-0 - Geochemistry of Global Environments
    The major geochemical processes that shape the Earth's surface environment, its outer shell from -150 to +30 km from the surface. Chemical and isotopic evidence from the geological past and present. Mineral-water-gas reactions near the Earth's surface. Oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Biogeochemical cycles behind the global environmental change. Prerequisites: EARTH 201 or consent of instructor. Lerman

    316-0 - Earth's Changing Climate
    This course deals with (1) the principles of operation and variability of Earth's physical climate system at different spatial and temporal scales, (2) climate’s interactions with the biogeochemical cycles of the land, ocean, and biosphere. The course also provides a critical appraisal and discussion of some major paleoclimatic and ocean/atmosphere issues, as studied by observations and modeling, including history of atmospheric chemistry and seawater, physical and biotic feedbacks to global warming, and the Pleistocene glaciations. Prerequisites: EARTH 201or consent of instructor. Lerman

    317-0 - Biogeochemistry
    The cycling of biogenic elements (C,N,S, Fe, Mn) in surficial environments. Emphasis on microbial processes and isotopic signatures.Prerequisites: 1 quarter of chemistry plus 1 quarter of
    geoscience, environmental science, or biology. Taught
    with CIV ENV 447; students may not earn credit for
    both courses.Blair

    320-0 - Global Tectonics
    The fundamental bases of Plate Tectonics, presented as a unifying paradigm, and how we have come to establish the theory. Nature and identification of the lithospheric plates. Mid-ocean ridge processes. The Transform Fault system. Magnetic anomalies and the age of the oceanic crust. The aging of the oceanic plates. Subduction zones and processes. Hotspots. Kinematic principles and models of plate motions. The state of stress inside plates. Dynamic models of plate motions. Convection in the Earths interior. Mantle tomography. Mantle dynamics. Imperfections in plate tectonics. Collisions; mountain orogenies. Ophiolites. Prerequisites:202, MATH 240, and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of
    instructor. Okal

    321-0 - Reflection Seismology

    Theory of seismic reflection technique. Acquisition, data processing and interpretation of seismic reflection data, seismic stratigraphy. Applications to hydrocarbon prospecting, structural geology, tectonics, stratigraphy, and deep continental structure. Prerequisites: Prerequisites: 202, MATH 230,and PHYSICS 135-1; or consent of instructor. Jurdy

    323-0 - Seismology and Earth Structure
    Elastic theory, seismic waves, seismometers, ray paths, travel times; internal structure of the Earth; earthquakes: location, characteristics, origin, mechanism and relation to plate motions. Prerequisites: 202, MATH 250, and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor. Stein, Van der Lee

    324-0 - Earthquakes and Tectonics
    Earthquakes: location, characteristics, origin, mechanism, and relation to plate motions; seismic hazard. Prerequisites: 202,
    MATH 250, and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor. Stein, Van der Lee

    325-0 - Tectonophysics
    On short time scales, the Earth is a hard solid (kick it and see), but we know that on the scale of geologic time, the Earth flows like a viscous fluid. How can this be? We will examine some aspects of the answer to this paradox in this course by outlining solid Earth geodynamics in some detail, including: elasticity and flexure of the lithosphere; heat production, heat transfer, and the Earth's thermal budget; fluid mechanics and flow of the Earth's mantle; rock rheology; and Earth rotation, gravity, and moment of inertia. Prerequisites: Prerequisites: MATH 250 and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor. Stein

    326-0 - Data Analysis for Earth and Planetary Sciences
    Types and characteristics of earth science data, development and applications of model types, observational and systematic sources of uncertainties and their characterization, spatial and temporal predictions.  Stein

    327-0 - Geophysical Time Series Analysis and Inverse Problems Introduction to analysis techniques applied to seismic and other geophysical data. Sampling, windowing, discrete and fast Fourier transforms, deconvolution, filtering, and inverse methods. Prerequisites: 202 and MATH 250; or consent of instructor. Stein

    328-0 - Tectonics and Structural Geology
    Deformation of rock masses: strain, fracture, slip, stress, and rheologic regimes; rock structures; folds, faults, foliations; seismic parameters in tectonic studies; orogenic belts and their tectonic evolution. Lectures and lab. Prerequisites: 201,MATH 240, and PHYSICS 135-1; or consent of instructor. Faculty

    330-0 - Sedimentary Geology
    Review of description and classification of sedimentary rocks; principles of stratigraphy and sedimentology; methods of local, regional and global correlation; interpretation of ancient depositional systems (facies analysis); cyclostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy in the context of tectonic, eustatic, and climatic controls on deposition; tectonics and basin analysis. Prerequisite: EARTH 201 or consent of instructor. Sageman, Hurtgen

    331-0 - Field Problems in Sedimentary Geology
    Field methods in stratigraphy and sedimentology; interpretation of depositional systems and paleoenvironments; methods of observations, data recording and analysis, and presentation of geological information (maps, cross sections). Course involves 2.5-week field trip to Colorado/Utah in late August - mid September (returning to Evanston in time for regular classes) and meets through the Fall quarter. Prerequisite: EARTH 330. Sageman, Hurtgen

    340-0 - Paleobiology
    Review of major fossil groups and major events in the history of life: origin and early evolution of life, speciation and mass extinction, evolution of communities and ecosystems through geologic time. Application of paleobiologic methods to geologic problem solving and paleoenvironmental reconstruction (e.g., biostratigraphy, functional morphology, community paleoecology). Prerequisites:
    105, 106, 201, or 203; or consent of instructor. McInerney, Sageman

    341-0 Quaternary Climate Change: From the Ice Age
    to the Age of Oil

    Methods for reconstructing and dating past environmental changes, causes of natural climate change, and major climate events of the Quaternary through the present. Their relevance for understanding current climate change. Prerequesite: Earth 201 or concent of instructor. Axford

    342-0 Topics in Contemporary Energy and Climate Change
    The increasing worldwide demand for energy presents a number of complex interdisciplinary challenges, from oil depletion to climate change. This class will challenge students to answer the question, How shall we power the world in the 21st century? We will examine the history and geography of energy use; links between energy and climate change; and technological, economic and environmental benefits and drawbacks of various energy sources. Prerequisites: Open to graduate students from all disciplines, senior undergraduates majoring in natural sciences or engineering, and other interested undergraduates by instructor consent. Axford

    350-0 - Physics of the Earth for ISP
    Introduction to geophysics for students with strong mathematics and physics backgrounds. Basic ideas in seismic wave propagation, plate tectonics, geomagnetism, geothermics, and gravity. Study of the earth's surface and the deep interior. Prerequisites: Second-year standing in ISP, or equivalent background in physics and mathematics. Bina, Okal

    351-0 - Forming a Habitable Planet
    An exploration of the conditions under which the formation and evolution of a planet develops and supports intelligent life--using our solar system and Earth as our model--with consideration given to the global geophysical and geochemical processes that have been critical in our planet's development. The rapidly expanding database of exoplanets - those around other stars - already identified, and specifically the discoveries by NASA's Kepler mission will be analyzed in the context of habitability for sentient beings. Prerequisites:202 or ISP 350 or PHYSICS 101 or BIOL SCI 103 or 210 or CHEM 101. Jurdy, Stein -Course Website

    360-0 - Instrumentation and Field Methods
    Theory and practicum on electronic instrumentation for monitoring and measurement in earth sciences, including data loggers, hands-on design and construction of electronic sensors, signal processing, data management, and network design. Prerequisite: 201 or 202; or consent of instructor. Beddows, Van der Lee

    398-0 - Undergraduate Seminar
    Opportunity for advanced work through supervised reading, research, and discussion. Open only by invitation of the department.

    399-0 - Independent Study
    Special problems under direct supervision of one or more faculty members. Comprehensive report and examination required. Open with consent of department to juniors and seniors who have completed field of concentration in the department. Faculty

    Back to Top

    420-0 - Geodynamics of Active Plate Margins
    Structure, motions, and active processes of modern trenches, island arcs, accretionary wedges, and consuming continental margins; analysis of selected ancient orogenic belts in a modern plate tectonic context; nature of collision, obduction, subduction, sliding, and microplate evolution; plate history of North America. Faculty

    421-0 - Advanced Structural Geology and Tectonics
    Stress and strain analysis, mechanics of fracturing and faulting applied to the earths crust, kinematic models of folding and faulting, plate boundary rheology and deformation models, fabric analysis techniques. Prerequisites: EARTH 328, Math 214-3. Faculty

    436-0 - Sedimentology
    Modern and ancient depositional environments of clastic and carbonate sediments. Sedimentary structures, geometry, provenance, diagenesis, and bioturbation in facies analysis. Oceanographic and tectonic controls on sedimentary rock facies. Sageman

    **Advanced Topics courses listed below may be repeated for credit with a change of topic.

    438-0 - Advanced Topics in Geophysics
    Topics include tectonophysics and the bodily structure of the earth, dislocation theory in earth motions, glaciology, geochronology, and emerging and new areas of geophysics. Bina, Jurdy, Okal, Stein, Van der Lee

    440-0 - Advanced Topics in Geochemistry
    Topics include organic and environmental geochemistry, global cycling of elements, stable isotope geochemistry, mineral surface reactions. Jacobson, Lerman

    450-0 - Advanced Topics in the Geological Sciences
    Topics at the frontiers of research taught by visiting or departmental faculty. Faculty

    451-0 - Advanced Topics in Paleoclimate

    Methodology in paleoclimate: stable isotopes, paleoecological and other methods for reconstructing the past climate. Fundamental principles of climate change on the time scale of thousands to millions of years. Climate reconstructions from the Cretaceous to the present. Faculty

    461-0 - Advanced Topics in Plate Tectonics
    Geophysical study of plate boundary and intraplate processes; intraplate earthquakes and intraplate deformation; the subduction process; physical processes at mid-ocean ridges; history of the ocean basins; evolution of the earth's mantle/crust. Stein

    462-0 - Advanced Topics in Seismology
    Earthquake source models, normal modes of the earth, and body wave synthesis methods. Okal, Stein

    499-0 - Independent Study

    Study of special problems under the direct supervision of one or more members of the teaching staff. A comprehensive report and/or a comprehensive examination is required. Faculty

    Back to Top

    590-0 - Research
    Independent investigation of selected problems pertaining to thesis or dissertation. Faculty

    TGS 598-0 - Resident Doctoral Study
    Available to doctoral students who are receiving financial aid, have completed at least three quarters of full-time study toward the PhD degree, and who wish to pursue research, use University facilities, or maintain F-1 or J-1 visa status. Requests for more than one TGS 598 registration will be reviewed by The Graduate School. Provides full-time status but allows no accumulation of credit or residency toward the PhD degree

    TGS 599-0 - Postcandidacy Research
    Required for all students who have completed the minimum residency requirement and have been admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. Provides full-time status to students who are pursuing research, need to use University facilities, are receiving financial aid, or hold F-1 or J-1 visas. Note: No registration is required in the quarter of the scheduled thesis defense.

    TGS 503-0 - Resident Research Continuation
    Available to master's degree students on a one-year extension and to doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy, completed all residency requirements and three quarters of TGS 599 Postcandidacy Research, and need to use University facilities to complete a dissertation. Also appropriate for students receiving financial aid or on F-1 and J-1 visas. Provides full-time status.

    Back to Top

    Northwestern logo WCAS logo