Geosciences

College of Science and Engineering
Dean: Sheldon Axler

Department of Geosciences
509 Thornton Hall
415 338-2061
Fax: 415-338-7705
Chair: Oswaldo Garcia

Graduate Coordinators: Grove (Geology) and Monteverdi (Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences)

Credential Adviser: Caskey

Faculty

Professors—Dempsey, Garcia, Garfield, Grove, Monteverdi, Mustart, Pestrong, White

Associate Professors—Caskey

Assistant Professors—Dekens, Leech, Sklar

Adjunct Faculty—Abrams, Blier, Campbell, Knox, Null, Roopnarine, Roush, Tang

Programs

B.A. in Earth Sciences
B.S. in Geology
B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences: Concentration in Meteorology
B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences: Concentration in Oceanography
Minor in Earth Sciences
M.S. in Geosciences


Affiliations

The Department of Geosciences is a UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) Affiliate.

Program Scope

The Department of Geosciences offers three undergraduate degree programs and a minor program spanning the geosciences (that is, earth sciences), including geology, atmospheric sciences (including meteorology), and oceanography. It also offers a graduate program leading to a Master of Science in Geosciences.

The B.S. in Geology provides rigorous professional education and training in geology with a strong emphasis on investigations in the field (that is, outdoors). It also provides excellent preparation for graduate work in geology. The B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences includes a Concentration in Meteorology that provides modern professional education and training in meteorology, including weather forecasting, and preparation for graduate work in atmospheric sciences. A Concentration in Oceanography provides analogous preparation in oceanography. The B.A. in Earth Sciences provides a broad, flexible, integrated background in the earth sciences. The Minor in Earth Sciences does the same on a smaller scale and can complement a variety of other majors. The M.S. in Geosciences provides education and training in research in the geosciences in close collaboration with a faculty advisor, with emphasis on applied problems in the San Francisco Bay region.

Career Outlook

Geoscience investigations lead to new discoveries of useful earth materials, solutions to environmental problems, and insights into earth processes that affect people’s lives. Geoscientists contribute basic information to society for analyzing and solving problems and establishing policy for managing resources, protecting the environment, and assessing natural hazards. Dwindling energy, mineral, and water resources, and increasing environmental concern about issues such as global warming and its impacts, present challenges that create a demand for geoscientific expertise.

Graduates in geology, meteorology, and oceanography may pursue a wide range of careers in the earth sciences and related fields. Geologists currently find the greatest opportunities in the broad areas of environmental/engineering geology, including such specializations as surface and groundwater hydrogeology, geotechnical studies aimed at locating and remediating toxic sites, earthquake and landslide hazard assessment, and site evaluation for urban planning or construction. There also continue to be positions available in petroleum geology and minerals exploration. A shortage of certified high school and middle school science teachers has placed qualified teachers in high demand. Meteorologists will find opportunities in short- and long-range weather forecasting, air pollution assessment, wind energy assessment, global climate change research, and broadcast meteorology. For most types of jobs, the strongest candidates will have a master's degree, several years of field experience, and an interdisciplinary background with strong chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer skills. Geologists and meteorologists are employed by a large number of government agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Division of Mines and Geology, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Forest Service. Many geologists and some meteorologists in the San Francisco Bay Area work for environmental consulting firms, and some meteorologists become broadcast meteorologists working for local television and radio stations. In addition to preparing students for advanced work as professional geologists, meteorologists, and oceanographers, the M.S. in Geosciences qualifies students to teach at community colleges and prepares others to continue their graduate education in doctoral programs leading to careers in university teaching and research.

Every course counted toward major requirements must be completed with a letter grade (CR/NC is not acceptable.) Course work used to satisfy major requirements must be completed with an overall point average of 2.0 or higher.

UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS IN GEOSCIENCES

The B.A. in Earth Sciences, B.S. in Geology, B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Minor in Earth Sciences are described and their requirements summarized below.

Advising The Department of Geosciences requires that declared majors consult with an advisor every semester, and prospective majors should consult with an advisor as early as possible, particularly about selecting courses in the General Education program that best fit the major program. Students will also be advised about completing basic science requirements before taking upper division courses in geosciences, and about the order in which required courses should best be taken. Students interested in preparing to teach high school or middle school earth sciences and integrated science should consult the credential adviser in the Department of Geosciences because specific courses beyond the Department’s degree programs are required.

BACHELOR OF ARTS IN EARTH SCIENCES

The Bachelor of Arts in Earth Sciences builds a solid conceptual foundation of basic physical sciences, mathematics, and earth sciences (that is, geology, meteorology, and oceanography). It then helps students to integrate knowledge of these separate disciplines in ways needed to understand and help solve important interdisciplinary problems, such as slowing and adapting to climate change and managing conflicting demands that humans make on the natural environment. It also helps prepare students to advise and educate others about issues requiring knowledge of how the earth works.

Beyond the basic foundation, students have great flexibility to adapt the program to satisfy many possible interests in the earth sciences and prepare for any of a variety of careers where a background in the earth sciences would be beneficial. Some career possibilities include:

Prospective majors are encouraged to consult with an advisor in the Department of Geosciences to learn about graduation requirements and to plan a program adapted to their particular interests.

Students interested in preparing to teach high school or middle school earth sciences and integrated science should consult the teaching credential adviser in the Department of Geosciences, because the Department’s http://tornado.sfsu.edu/Geosciences/Geosciences_Docs/UndergradPrograms/SingleSubjectCred.html single-subject subject-matter teacher preparation program in geosciences requires several courses in addition to those required for the B.A. in Earth Sciences.

On-line course descriptions are available. Courses are 3 units unless indicated otherwise.

Basic Science and Math Foundation Units
GEOL 125 or
MATH 226
Quantitative Geology (4)
Calculus I (4)
 
PHYS 111/112 or
PHYS 220/222
General Physics I/Laboratory (3/1)
General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (3/1)
CHEM 115 General Chemistry I: Essential Concepts of Chemistry (5)
Chemistry, physics, or mathematics elective (may not be a course intended primarily to satisfy a General Education requirement) 3
Basic Science and Math Foundation Total 16
Earth Sciences Foundation
OCN 100/101 Introduction to Oceanography/Laboratory (3/1)  
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)
GEOL 115 Earth and Life through Time (4)
GEOL 120 Introduction to Geologic Techniques (2)
METR/OCN 200 Physical Processes in the Atmosphere and Ocean
METR 201 Physical Processes in the Atmosphere
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
Earth Sciences Foundation Total 24
Earth Sciences Electives
    1. Select at least 12 units of geology, meteorology, and/or oceanography courses numbered 400 or higher
    2. Selected courses must be organized around a coherent theme approved by an advisor
Earth Sciences Electives Total 12
Total for the major 52

 

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN GEOLOGY

The Bachelor of Science in Geology is designed for students intending to prepare for graduate school in geology or for direct entry into a career as a professional geologist in industry or government. The Geology major provides students with a fundamental background in the physical sciences and many areas of geology necessary for an in-depth comprehension of the subject. Entry to the major presupposes prior course work comprising the high school equivalents of two years of algebra, one year of plane geometry, one-half year of trigonometry, and one year of physics and/or chemistry.

On-line course descriptions are available. Courses are 3 units unless indicated otherwise.

Basic Science and Mathematics Units
CHEM 115 General Chemistry I: Essential Concepts of Chemistry (3/2)  
CHEM 215/216 General Chemistry II: Quantitative Applications of Chemistry Concepts/Laboratory (3/2)
MATH 226 Calculus I (4)
GEOL 125 or
MATH 227
Quantitative Geology (4)
Calculus II (4)
PHYS 111/112 or
PHYS 220/222
General Physics I/Laboratory (3/1)
General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (3/1)
PHYS 121/122 or
PHYS 240/242
General Physics II/ Laboratory (3/1)
General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (3/1)
Total basic science and mathematics requirements 26
Basic Geology Core
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
GEOL 115 Earth and Life through Time
GEOL 120 Introduction to Geologic Techniques (2)
GEOL 420 Mineralogy and Petrology I (4)
GEOL 430 Structural Geology (4)
GEOL 460 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (4)
GEOL 695 Field Methods in Geology (2)
Total basic geology core requirements 24
Advanced Geology Core
    1. Complete at least 7 units
    2. Select at least one quantitative course**
GEOL 426 Mineralogy and Petrology II (4)  
GEOL 450 Geomorphology** (4)
GEOL 452 Costal Processes
GEOL 475 Hydrogeology** (4)
GEOL 467 Marine Geology
GEOL 480 Geochemistry** (4)
Total advanced geology core requirements 7
Capstone (complete at least 4 units from the courses below)
A field geology course from another university (4-6 units)
(see http://tornado.sfsu.edu/Geosciences/fieldgeology.html for examples)
 
GEOL 697 Undergraduate Research (2)
GEOL 698 Senior Research and Thesis (2)
Total capstone requirement 4
Electives (On advisement, complete at least 8 units of courses numbered 400 or higher in geology [or a closely related field], such as courses listed below or not already selected from the advanced geology core or capstone.)  
GEOL 400 Physical Geology in the Field (1)
GEOL 402 Coastal Geology in the Field (1)
GEOL/METR/
OCN 405
Planetary Climate Change (4)
GEOL 410 Volcanology
GEOL 415 Computer Techniques in Geology (2)
GEOL 440 Paleontology
GEOL 454 Quaternary Climate and Soils
GEOL 462 Geology of Hydrocarbons
GEOL 470 Neotectonics
GEOL 474 Engineering Geology
GEOL 476 Groundwater Contamination
GEOL 485 Ore Deposits (4)
GEOL 590 Seminar in Geosciences (2)
GEOL 642 Watershed Assessment and Restoration (4)
GEOL 699 Special Study (1-3)
OCN 420 Physical Oceanography
METR 415 Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Total advanced geology core requirements 8
Total for the major 69

 

Recommended Emphases
(Students who elect to complete an emphasis should select courses upon advisement from the advanced geology core and from electives to create a coherent emphasis. We recommend one of the examples below.)
Sedimentary and Coastal Processes
GEOL 426 Mineralogy and Petrology II (4)
GEOL 450 Geomorphology (4)
GEOL 452 Coastal Processes
GEOL 467 Marine Geology
GEOL 475 Hydrogeology (4)
GEOL 480 Geochemistry (4)
OCN 420 Physical Oceanography
Petrology and Tectonics
GEOL 410 Volcanology
GEOL 426 Mineralogy and Petrology II (4)
GEOL 470 Neotectonics
GEOL 480 Geochemistry (4)
GEOL 485 Ore Deposits (4)
Surficial and Environmental Geology
GEOL 450 Geomorphology (4)
GEOL 454 Quaternary Climate and Soils
GEOL 470 Neotectonics
GEOL 474 Engineering Geology
GEOL 475 Hydrogeology (4)
GEOL 476 Groundwater Contamination
GEOL 480 Geochemistry (4)
Climate Change
GEOL 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
GEOL 450 Geomorphology (4)
GEOL 452 Coastal Processes
GEOL 454 Quaternary Climate and Soils
GEOL 467 Marine Geology
GEOL 480 Geochemistry (4)
Energy and Natural Resources
GEOL 426 Mineralogy and Petrology II (4)
GEOL 462 Geology of Hydrocarbons
GEOL 476 Marine Geology
GEOL 480 Geochemistry (4)
GEOL 485 Ore Deposits (4)

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN ATMOSPHERIC AND OCEANIC SCIENCES

The Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences includes a Concentration in Meteorology and a Concentration in Oceanography, which share a common, interdisciplinary core built on principles of mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, as well as fundamental concepts in meteorology and oceanography. The Meteorology Concentration adheres to guidelines for B.S. programs in Meteorology issued by the American Meteorological Society. It prepares students for graduate education in meteorology and for a variety of careers, including weather forecasting for the National Weather Service or private industry, broadcast meteorology, and environmental analysis and consulting across a broad range of applications such as air quality, wind power, forensic meteorology, natural hazards, and climate change. Similarly, the Oceanography Concentration prepares students for graduate education in oceanography and for a variety of careers in oceanography.

For students interested in becoming a broadcast meteorologist, the B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Concentration in Meteorology satisfies one requirement of the American Meteorological Society’s Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM) program. (See http://www.ametsoc.org/amscert/ for more information about the CBM program.)

The Concentration in Meteorology covers core topics including the thermodynamics of air, cloud physics, atmospheric radiation, dynamic meteorology, the analysis and forecasting of weather, climate change, and weather instruments, as well as elective topics such as forecasting weather for the public, severe storms, numerical weather prediction, air-sea interactions such as the El Niño phenomenon, and advanced analysis and forecasting of weather, particularly on the West Coast. The Concentration in Oceanography covers core topics including physical oceanography, air-sea interactions, marine geology, and chemical oceanography, as well as elective topics in biological oceanography, meteorology, coastal processes, etc.

We encourage students to seek internship opportunities, for which credit is granted through METR 694 (“Cooperative Education in Meteorology”). We also recommend that students interested in preparing for graduate school complete 1-3 units of METR/OCN 697 (“Senior Project”) or METR/OCN 699 (“Special Study”) during the senior year, under the direction of a faculty advisor. (METR 694, METR/OCN 697 and METR/OCN 699 do not count toward degree requirements.)

Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Courses are 3 units unless otherwise indicated. On-line course descriptions are available.

Science and Mathematics Foundation Units
Chemistry
CHEM 115 General Chemistry I: Essential Concepts of Chemistry (3/2)  
Computer Science
METR/OCN 460 Use of Computers in Meteorology and Oceanography (2)  
Mathematics
MATH 226 Calculus I (4)  
MATH 227 Calculus II (4)
MATH 228 Calculus III (4)
MATH 245 Elementary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
MATH 324 Probability and Statistics with Computing
Physics
PHYS 220/222 General Physics with Calculus I/Laboratory (3/1)  
PHYS 230/232
or
PHYS 240/242
General Physics with Calculus II/Laboratory (3/1)
 
General Physics with Calculus III/Laboratory (3/1)
Total science and mathematics foundation requirements 33
Meteorology and Oceanography Core
METR/OCN 200 Physical Processes in the Atmosphere and Ocean  
METR/OCN 201 Introduction to Dynamic and Synoptic Meteorology
METR/OCN 470 Meteorological and Oceanographic Observing Techniques and Systems (2)
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
METR/OCN 465 Computer Programming with Applications in Meteorology and Oceanography
METR 415/715 Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Ocean
Total meteorology and oceanography core requirements 18

 

B. S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences:
Concentration in Meteorology

Meteorology Required Courses
METR 400 Weather Chart Analysis and Discussion (1)  
METR 410 Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Cloud Physics (4)
METR 420 Atmospheric Dynamics I (4)
METR 430 Weather Analysis and Forecasting I (4)
METR 520 Atmospheric Dynamics II (2)
METR 595 Professional Writing in Meteorology (1)
Total meteorology requirements 16
Meteorology Electives (select at least 3 units)
METR/OCN 450 Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions  
OCN 420 Physical Oceanography
METR 590 Consulting Meteorology
METR 530 Weather Analysis and Forecasting II (2)
METR 540 Numerical Weather Prediction (2)
METR 535 Analysis and Prediction of Severe Storms
METR 698 Public Weather Forecasting (1-3)
Total meteorology electives 3
Total for Meteorology Concentration 19
Total for Science and Mathematics Foundation (from above) 33
Total for Meteorology and Oceanography Core (from above) 18
Total for major 70

 

B. S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences:
Concentration in Oceanography

Oceanography Required Courses Units
METR/OCN 450 Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions  
OCN 420 Physical Oceanography
Select one of the following two options:
Option 1:
3
or

7
CHEM 680 Chemical Oceanography
Option 2:
GEOL 110 
and
GEOL 467
Physical Geology (4)
 
Marine Geology
Total oceanography requirements 9-13
Oceanography Electives (select from the course(s) not selected from the options above and/or from the list below, upon advisement, so that elective and required oceanography courses total at least 18 units)
BIOL 230 Introductory Biology I (5)  
BIOL 240 Introductory Biology II (5)
BIOL 582 Biological Oceanography (4)
BIOL 535 Remote Sensing of Wetlands and Coastal Zones (4)
ENVS 450 Environmental Law and Policy (3)
GEOL 452 Coastal Processes (3)
GEOL 402 Coastal Geology in the Field (1)
METR 410 Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Cloud Physics (4)
METR 420 Atmospheric Dynamics I (4)
METR 540 Numerical Weather Prediction (2)
PHYS 495 Introduction to Apparatus Fabrication (1)
Total oceanography electives 5-9
Total for Oceanography Concentration 18
Total for Science and Mathematics Foundation (from above) 33
Total for Meteorology and Oceanography Core (from above) 18
Total for major 69

 

MINOR IN EARTH SCIENCES

The minor comprises 20 units, including GEOL 110 (Physical Geology), GEOL/METR/OCN 405 (Planetary Climate Change), and 12 units of geosciences electives. (See program requirements below for restrictions.) Students may complete one of the recommended focus areas listed below or create a coherent alternative designed to complement their major program (such as Anthropology, Art, Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Environmental Studies, Geography, or Physics). All students must meet with a Department of Geosciences faculty advisor to plan a course sequence and subsequently meet with an advisor each semester.

Courses are 3 units unless otherwise indicated. On-line course descriptions are available.

Geosciences Requirements Units
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
Geosciences Electives
  1. Complete 12 units of selected geology, meteorology, and/or oceanography courses in consultation with a Department of Geosciences faculty advisor.
  2. At least 6 of the 12 units must be upper division, and no more than 3 of the 6 upper division units may be courses designed primarily for General Education.
  3. At least 3 of the 12 units must be for courses numbered 400 or higher.
12
Total units required for the minor 20

 

Recommended Focus Areas

Geology Focus Units
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
GEOL 115 Earth and Life Through Time (4)
GEOL 120 Introduction to Geologic Techniques (2)
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
Electives Upper division geosciences courses (minimum 3 units at 400 level or higher; no more than 3 units may be courses designed primarily for General Education.) 6
Total units Geology Focus 20

 

Environmental Geology Focus Units
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
GEOL 270 Environmental Geology (4)
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
GEOL 450 Geomorphology
GEOL 475 Hydrogeology (4)
Total units Environmental Geology Focus 20

 

Ocean Science Focus Units
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
OCN 100 Introduction to Oceanography
OCN 101 Introduction to Oceanography Laboratory (1)
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
GEOL 452 Coastal Processes
GEOL 467 Marine Geology
Electives Upper division geosciences coursework (2)
Total units Ocean Science Focus 20

 

Weather and Climate Focus Units
GEOL 110 Physical Geology (4)  
METR/OCN 200 Physical Processes in the Atmosphere and Ocean
METR 201 Physical Processes in the Atmosphere
METR 356 California Weather Events
GEOL/METR/OCN 405 Planetary Climate Change (4)
GEOL 454 Quaternary Climate and Soils
Total units Weather and Climate Focus 20

 

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN GEOSCIENCES

The Master of Science in Geosciences is an advanced, postgraduate degree that prepares students for careers in private industry, government, or teaching in community colleges, or for continuing postgraduate studies leading to a doctoral degree at another university. The graduate program also provides an opportunity for practicing geoscientists to update and upgrade their disciplinary knowledge and skills. There are no formal concentrations within the program, but students choose an area of research from within the fields of the geologic, atmospheric, or oceanographic sciences. During the application process, students must select a course of study, in consultation with the graduate coordinator.

The Geosciences Department includes faculty with expertise in geology, meteorology, and oceanography—fields that are critical to understanding many environmental problems, such as air and water contamination, coastal erosion, and climate change. A major focus of the graduate program is study of the environment of the San Francisco Bay area. Courses are offered in sedimentology and stratigraphy, landscape evolution, active tectonics, quaternary geology, hydrogeology, groundwater contamination, engineering geology, coastal oceanography, and applied meteorology with a coastal emphasis. The program requires that all students complete three core courses. One of these (GEOL/METR 700) is a multidisciplinary seminar that exposes students to current geoscientific research and literature. The other two core courses (GEOL/METR 701 and 702) provide students with skills for thesis research and writing. The program emphasizes a rigorous grounding in the sciences and, particularly in geology, extensive laboratory and field work.

Admission to the Program

To be considered for admission to the master's program as a classified graduate student, applicants must:

Letters of recommendation and statement of purpose should be submitted directly to the appropriate graduate coordinator in the Department of Geosciences. Other materials should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Division of the university. Materials should be submitted by March 1 for admission the following fall semester and by October 1 for the following spring semester.

Applicants lacking the appropriate background (i.e., a degree in one of the geosciences) may be admitted as conditionally classified graduate students. These students must complete additional course work that will not be counted toward the graduate requirements. Conditionally admitted students may take courses but cannot file a Graduate Approved Program until any deficiencies have been satisfied.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Each graduate student is required to demonstrate an acceptable level of written English proficiency on two levels:

Level One: satisfied by obtaining a score better than 3.5 on the analytical writing component of the GRE, If the score is 3.5 or less, students will be required to take SCI 614 (Graduate Writing Skills) during their first semester of graduate studies. Level Two: satisfied by completion of a written thesis (GEOL or METR 898).

Advancement to Candidacy or Graduate Approved Program

To be advanced to candidacy, each student must:

Courses are 3 units unless otherwise indicated. On-line course descriptions are available.

Courses Units
GEOL/METR 700 Seminar in Geosciences (1)  
GEOL/METR 701 Research Methods in Geosciences
GEOL/METR 702 Quantitative Methods in Geosciences
GEOL 897 
   or
METR/OCN 897
Research Project (6)

Research Project (6)
GEOL 898
   or
METR/OCN 898
Master's Thesis

Master's Thesis
Upper division or graduate elective courses on advisement 14
Minimum total 30

All students must present an oral thesis defense

Elective units are chosen from courses offered by the Department of Geosciences or other university departments, and must be selected by students in consultation with their faculty advisers. At least 6 of these units must be courses numbered 700 or higher, and at least six must be courses offered in the Geosciences Department.

Some students may choose, with their thesis advisers' approval, to complete thesis research under the auspices of a local governmental agency or geoscientific or environmental firm. Those who choose this option must still complete all the requirements for a thesis, but do so in the context of an internship relationship with an outside agency.

Students can receive their graduate degree when they complete all course requirements and the thesis committee approves the written thesis and oral thesis defense.



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