Department of Geological Sciences



Larry K. Benninger, Low-Temperature Geochemistry

Joseph G. Carter, Paleoecology, Invertebrate Paleontology

Allen F. Glazner, Igneous Petrology, Tectonics

Jonathan M. Lees, Seismology, Volcanology

Jose A. Rial, Geophysics, Climatology

Associate Professors

Louis R. Bartek, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Marine Geology

Drew S. Coleman, Isotope Geochemistry, Geochronology

Kevin G. Stewart, Structural Geology

Donna M. Surge, Paleoclimate, Paleoecology, Low-Temperature Geochemistry

Lara S. Wagner, Seismology, Tectonics

Assistant Professors

Tamlin M. Pavelsky, Global Hydrology

Laura J. Moore, Coastal Geology

Benjamin B. Mirus, Hydrology

Associated Faculty

John M. Bane Jr., Physical Oceanography

Christopher S. Martens, Chemical Oceanography

Adjunct Appointments

Alan E. Boudreau, Petrology, Geochemistry

Antonio Rodriguez, Coastal Geology, Sedimentology

Professors Emeriti

John M. Dennison

A. Conrad Neumann

John J. W. Rogers

Joseph St. Jean Jr.

Daniel A. Textoris

The Department of Geological Sciences offers programs leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences. A broad background is offered in most major areas of geoscience, with particular emphasis on hydrology, coastal processes, isotope geochemistry, geochronology, seismology, volcanology, igneous petrology, marine geology, low-temperature geochemistry, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, paleontology, paleoecology, sequence stratigraphy, structural geology, earth surface processes, and tectonics.

Admission and General Degree Requirements

Students admitted to pursue a graduate degree in the Department of Geological Sciences normally are expected to have an undergraduate degree in traditional geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, or other related interdisciplinary fields. All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). All foreign students whose native language is not English also must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination.

Course requirements for incoming students will be determined by individual graduate committees, often in consultation with the director of graduate studies. Specific requirements are varied to meet the needs and career objectives of the individual.

Master of Science

Requirements for the Master of Science degree are 30 semester hours (including a minimum of three hours, but no more than six hours of GEOL 993), a thesis, and a final oral examination in defense of the thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy

Many students have completed a master's degree before being admitted to the doctoral program, but some students enter the Ph.D. program having completed only an undergraduate degree. Students admitted to the M.S. program who elect pursue a Ph.D. instead may be permitted to bypass the master's degree after one semester of residence upon demonstration of superior scholastic performance and research potential. Recommendation by the student's graduate committee and approval by the geological sciences faculty is required in this case.

Admission to the Ph.D. program after completing the M.S. degree in the Department of Geological Sciences requires faculty approval.

Requirements for the Ph.D. degree are a minimum of 48 semester hours of graduate credit (which may include 30 hours from the M.S. degree) plus a minimum of six hours and preferably no more than 12 hours of GEOL 994, a written comprehensive examination and an oral comprehensive examination, a dissertation, and a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

Facilities and Research Interests

The Department of Geological Sciences occupies the 50,000 square feet of floor space in Elisha Mitchell Hall. Research equipment and facilities include two thermal ionization mass spectrometers with associated Class 100 clean labs; high-resolution laser ablation ICPMS; quadrupole ICPMS; a sediment analysis laboratory including refrigerated core storage, an X-ray fluorescence core scanner and a laser-size particle analyzer; X-ray fluorescence spectrometer; X-ray diffractometer; field-emission electron microprobe (at Fayetteville State University; remotely operable); scanning electron microscope with X-ray analysis and cathodoluminescence; counting laboratory (alpha-, beta-, and gamma-emitting radionuclides); experimental petrology laboratory; gas chromatograph- isotope ratio mass spectrometer (in Marine Sciences); chirp sonar and side-scan sonar imaging systems; seismic reflection system; microsampling system with epifluorescence capabilities. The Department excels in advanced computational methods and numerous high-end workstation facilities are available, including GPU enhanced parallel processors. Campus-wide supercomputer clusters are available through the North Carolina Supercomputing Center.

Financial Aid

Approximately 11 teaching assistantships with stipends of $14,700–$15,700 per academic year (2013–2014 stipends) are available to graduate students. In addition, all graduate students are eligible to apply for departmental summer fellowships, research funds, and conference funds ($1000 - $7,000 per award in 2013–2014) from a departmental endowment.

The department nominates three students to be considered by The Graduate School for nonservice fellowships; no additional application is necessary. Faculty research grants support some research assistantships. Out-of-state students are recommended for remission of out-of-state tuition costs; all students are recommended for an in-state tuition award. Most students are eligible for both, and therefore are responsible only for the payment of student fees.

Courses for Graduate and Advanced Undergraduate Students


401 Structural Geology (4). Prerequisite, GEOL 101, 105, 109, or 110. Introduction to the mechanical behavior and dynamic evolution of the earth's crust through the study of deformed rocks. Includes weekend field trip to western North Carolina.

402 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (4). Prerequisites, GEOL 101 or 110, and GEOL 301. Introduction of principles involved in description and classification of sedimentary rocks and stratigraphic units as well as stratigraphic correlation. Students will be introduced to relationships of processes, depositional environments, and sedimentary facies.

403 Oceanography (BIOL 350, ENVR 417, MASC 401) (3). See MASC 401 for description.

404 Petrology and Plate Tectonics (4). Prerequisite, GEOL 301. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Studies of the origin and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks, including microscopic, X-ray, and field methods; volcanology; plate-tectonic interpretation of rock sequences. Three lecture and three laboratory hours a week.

410 Earth Processes in Environmental Systems (ENEC 410, MASC 410) (4). See ENEC 410 for description.

411 Oceanic Processes in Environmental Systems (ENEC 411, MASC 411) (4). See ENEC 411 for description.

412 Principles and Methods of Teaching Earth Science (4). Prerequisites, GEOL 101/101L, 103, 105/101L, 109/101L, or 110; and at least two of the four geology core courses: GEOL 301, 401, 402, and 404. This course develops the knowledge and skills teachers need to implement inquiry-based earth science instruction: conceptual knowledge of earth sciences and mastery of inquiry instructional methods. Students study inquiry in cognitive science and learning theory. This course is a requirement for the UNC–BEST program in geological sciences.

413 Field Paleontology (4). Prerequisites, GEOL 101, 109, 110, or 159; and 402 or 478. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Field-oriented course on larger Ordovician through Pliocene fossil invertebrates in the central and eastern United States. Students develop a reference collection of over 250 genera and species, with data of stratigraphy and biostratigraphy. Three lecture and two laboratory hours a week.

415 Environmental Systems Modeling (ENEC 415, MASC 415) (3). See ENEC 415 for description.

417 Geomorphology (ENEC 417) (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 101 or 110, and MATH 231. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Introduction to process geomorphology with emphasis on quantitative interpretation of weathering, hill slope, fluvial, glacial, and eolian processes from topography and landscapes.

417L Geomorphology Laboratory (1). Pre- or corequisite, GEOL 417. Two laboratory hours per week.

421 Archaeological Geology (ANTH 421) (3). Permission of the instructor. The application of geological principles and techniques to the solution of archaeological problems. Studies geological processes and deposits pertinent to archaeological sites, geologic framework of archaeology in the southeastern United States, and techniques of archaeological geology. Field trips to three or more sites; written reports required.

422 Physics of the Earth's Interior (PHYS 422) (3). See PHYS 422 for description.

430 Coastal Sedimentary Environments (MASC 430) (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. Introduction to modern shallow-water clastic environments and their sediments, emphasizing barrier islands, deltas, estuaries, wetlands, and tidal flats. Includes local field trips and discussion/application of data-collecting techniques.

431 Micropaleontology (MASC 431) (4). Prerequisite, GEOL 478 or MASC 440. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. An in-depth study of the biostratigraphy, paleoecology, and taxonomy of various microfossil groups (i.e., foraminifera, ostracodes, conodonts, coccoliths, radiolaria, diatoms, acritarchs, dinoflagellates, etc.) dependent upon individual student objectives. Three lecture and three laboratory hours a week.

432 Paleoclimatology (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Introduction to mechanisms that drive climate. Examination of past climate reconstructions using ecological and geochemical proxies. Utility of computer models to reconstruct past climates and predict future climate change. Emphasis placed on late Quaternary.

433 Paleoceanography (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402 or 503. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Origin and distribution of pelagic sediments. Review of the major Mesozoic and Cenozoic events in the world oceans. Glacial/interglacial changes in the ocean/atmosphere system.

434 Marine Carbonate Environments (2). Permission of the instructor. Chemical and biological origins of calcium carbonate, skeletal structure, and chemo-mineralogy, preservation, sedimentation, and early diagenesis are studied in deep and shallow environmental settings to understand skeletal genesis, limestone origin, and carbonate facies variability. Field trip to Florida, Bahamas, or Bermuda. Laboratory exercises; research report.

440 Principles of Seismology (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 101, 213, 401; MATH 231. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Descriptive account of global seismology, earthquake distribution, and focal mechanics. Principles of geometrical optics and applications to imaging the earth's interior. Principles of seismic prospecting of hydrocarbon and geothermal reservoirs.

450 Biogeochemical Processes (ENEC 450, MASC 450) (4). See ENEC 450 for description.

460 Fluid Dynamics of the Environment (3). Prerequisite, MATH 232. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Principles and applications of fluid dynamics to flows of air and water in the natural environment. Conservation of momentum, mass, and energy applied to lakes, rivers, estuaries, and the coastal ocean. Dimensional analysis and scaling emphasized to promote problem-solving skills.

478 Invertebrate Paleontology (BIOL 478) (4). Prerequisite, GEOL 159 or BIOL 101. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Introduction to the principles, methods of analysis, and major controversies within paleontology. Examination of the fossil record and its application to problems in evolutionary biology, paleoecology, paleoclimatology, and general earth history.

480 Modeling of Marine and Earth Systems (ENVR 480, MASC 480) (1–3). Prerequisite, MATH 232. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Mathematical modeling of the dynamic system, linear and nonlinear. The fundamental budget equation. Case studies in modeling convective transport, biogeochemical process, population dynamics. Analytical and numerical techniques, chaos theory, fractal geometry.

483 Geologic and Oceanographic Applications of Geographical Information Systems (MASC 483) (4). Required preparation, four GEOL courses or permission of the instructor. Focus is on applying GIS concepts and techniques to mining and petroleum geology, resource assessment, hydrogeology, coastal and marine geology, physical oceanography, engineering geology, and a geologic perspective on land use. Three lecture and two laboratory hours a week.

490 Topics in Earth and Environmental Sciences (3). Key topics and resources for high school teachers preparing to teach earth and environmental sciences. Includes lithosphere, tectonic processes, hydrosphere, atmosphere, origin of solar system and life, and environmental stewardship.

501 Geological Research Techniques (2). Permission of the instructor. An introduction to methods of obtaining, analyzing, and presenting geologic and paleontologic data.

502 Earth Surface Processes (GEOG 440) (3). See GEOG 440 for description.

503 Geological Oceanography (MASC 503) (4). See MASC 503 for description.

505 Chemical Oceanography (ENVR 505, MASC 505) (4). See MASC 505 for description.

506 Physical Oceanography (MASC 506) (4). See MASC 506 for description.

507 Rhythms in Global Climate and the Stratigraphic Record (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. An overview of the mechanisms of cyclic climate forcing and a review of the geologic evidence for these climate rhythms, with a particular emphasis on the Milankovitch orbital cycles.

508 Applied Hydrology (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 101 or 110, MATH 231, PHYS 105. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. An introduction to methodologies and instrumentation for quantifying the movement of water in the earth system focusing on components of the hydrologic cycle. Emphasis is divided between analytical aspects and field procedures.

509 Groundwater (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102; GEOL 101, 105, 109, or 110; MATH 231; PHYS 104 or 114 or 116. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Introduction to physics, chemistry, and geology of groundwater.

510 Geochemistry of Natural Waters (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102; GEOL 101, 105, 109, or 110; MATH 231. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Survey of processes affecting the compositions of streams, lakes, the ocean, and shallow ground waters.

511 Stable Isotopes in the Environment (ENEC 511) (3). Prerequisite, CHEM 102. Introduction to the theory, methods, and applications of stable isotopes to environmental problems. Primary focus will be on the origin, natural abundance, and fractionation of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen isotopes.

512 Geochemistry (MASC 553) (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102; GEOL 101, 105, or 110; and MATH 231. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Introduction to the application of chemical principles to geological problems. Topics include thermodynamics, kinetics, and isotope geochemistry.

514 River Systems of East Coast North America (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 101 or 110, and 211 or 417. Junior or senior status. Analysis of 23 rivers from St. Lawrence to the Everglades, from headwaters to oceanic terminus of turbidite fan. Focus on stream processes, geologic development, hydrology, utilization history, ecology, and planning.

515 Introduction to Geophysics (3). Prerequisites, PHYS 116 or 118, and 117 or 119. Introduction to the fundamentals of global geophysics: gravity, seismology, magnetism, heat, and plate tectonics. Both shallow and deep processes are considered. Emphasis is aimed at problem solving by applying concepts.

517 Sequence and Seismic Stratigraphy (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. Examination of lithostratigraphic principles and the sequence stratigraphic paradigm. Students will study use of variation of well log signature reflection attributes and reflection termination patterns to identify and correlate sequences and systems and to interpret the lithology and depositional history of subsurface stratigraphic units.

518 Geodynamics (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102; GEOL 101 or 110; MATH 232; and PHYS 104 and 105, or 114 and 115. Interior of the earth deduced from seismology, gravity, heat flow, magnetism; geophysics of continents and ocean basins; age of earth.

520 Data Analysis in the Earth Sciences (3). Prerequisites, MATH 231 and 232. Required preparation, an introductory geology course numbered below 202, except first-year seminar, or permission of the instructor. Introduction to quantitative analysis in earth sciences: solid earth, atmospheres, oceans, geochemistry, and paleontology. Topics covered: univariate and multivariate statistics, testing, nonparametric methods, time series, spatial and cluster analysis, shapes.

521 Clastic Depositional Systems: Processes and Products (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. Examination of the use of lateral and vertical changes in sedimentary facies to identify depositional processes and environments of deposition within the terrestrial, marginal marine, shelf, and deep sea clastic depositional systems. These systems will be examined in a sequence stratigraphic framework.

522 Physical Volcanology (3). Required preparation, introductory courses in geology and physics. Course is aimed at understanding the physical properties and processes controlling volcanism and magma transport. Topics covered include volcanic processes from the formation of magma in the upper mantle to violent eruption at the surface. Emphasizes dynamic processes and underlying mechanisms.

523 Petroleum Geoscience (4). Prerequisites, GEOL 101, 301, 401, and 402. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Students study the origin, migration, and entrapment of hydrocarbons in sedimentary basins and learn how several areas of the geosciences are integrated to locate and produce hydrocarbons. Students learn about these topics while analyzing a real subsurface data set.

525 Inverse Theory: Advanced Data Analysis and Geophysical Modeling (3). The course deals with earth science problems related to extracting model parameters from data and field observations. Details of mathematical concepts, real world examples, and practical applications associated with noisy or incomplete data are covered. Key concepts include multivariate regression, model discretization, Tikhonov regularization, and Bayesian methods.

550 Biogeochemical Cycling (MASC 550) (3). See MASC 550 for description.

552 Organic Geochemistry (ENVR 552, MASC 552) (3). See MASC 552 for description.

555 Paleobotany (BIOL 555) (4). See BIOL 555 for description.

560 Fluid Dynamics (ENVR 452, MASC 560, PHYS 660) (3). See MASC 560 for description.

563 Descriptive Physical Oceanography (MASC 563) (3). See MASC 563 for description.

590 Special Topics in Earth Sciences (1–4). Discussion or lab-based consideration of topical issues in earth sciences.

601 Summer Field Course in Geology (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 301, 401, 402, and 404. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Three-week field camp conducted in the western United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and/or Utah). Learn proper use of geology field tools and how to make a geologic map. Field interpretation of rocks and their deformation.

602 Summer Field Course in Geology (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 301, 401, 402, and 404. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Three-week field camp conducted in the western United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and/or Utah). Learn advanced mapping skills necessary to interpret geologic history of complexly deformed rocks.

608 Continuum Mechanics in the Earth Sciences (ENEC 608) (3). Prerequisites, MATH 231; PHYS 104 or 116. Required preparation, introductory geology course numbered below GEOL 202, except first-year seminar, or permission of the instructor. Applications of continuum mechanics in the earth sciences, including stress, strain, elasticity, and viscous flow. Numerical solutions to problems in heterogeneous finite strain including finite element analysis.

655 Physical Geochemistry (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102 and MATH 232. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. An introduction to physical geochemistry and chemical thermodynamics with special emphasis on geological applications. Three lecture hours a week.

690 Topics in Petrology (4). Prerequisite, GEOL 404. Origin of magmas and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks, combined with petrographic study of selected sites and individual examples. Two lecture and six laboratory hours a week.

695 Advanced Field Seminar in Geology (1–4). Prerequisites, GEOL 601 and 602. A field course that emphasizes advanced field methods. Emphasis is placed on large-scale, detailed field work in complex structural terrains and on independent mapping that will lead to thesis/dissertation and/or publication.

691H Honors (3). Permission of the department. For details, see geology degree requirements.

692H Honors (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 691H. For details, see geology degree requirements.

Courses for Graduate Students


700 Research Seminar (1). Required of all entering graduate students or permission of the department. A topical seminar in current research topics in the earth sciences. Presentations by selected faculty with an emphasis on in-depth, critical analysis of current research literature. Two hours a week.

701 Graduate Seminar (0.5–21).

703 Sedimentary Geology I (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 402. Stratigraphic, sedimentologic, geochemical, petrologic, and paleontologic principles will be summarized. Emphasis is placed on both the techniques used in sedimentary geology and on the characteristics and processes that distinguish sedimentary environments.

704 Sedimentary Geology II (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 703. Continuation of GEOL 703.

705 Advanced Petrology I (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102, GEOL 404, MATH 233, and PHYS 105. Application of thermodynamics, phase equilibria, thermobarometry, radiogenic and stable isotope geology, and geochemical modeling to the study of igneous and metamorphic rocks and crustal evolution.

706 Advanced Petrology II (3). Prerequisite, GEOL 705. Continuation of GEOL 705.

707 Stratigraphic Micropaleontology: Mesozoic Calcareous Nannofossils (4).

708 Stratigraphic Paleontology: Cenozoic Calcareous Nannofossils (4).

710 Advanced Coastal Environmental Change (3). Prerequisites, GEOL 417, 430, 502, 503. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Focuses on biological-physical couplings that shape coastal environments (i.e. coastal ‘ecomorphodynamics') and determine how these environments change with climate and land use. Environments include: barrier islands, open ocean coastlines, and tidal wetlands. Grading based on presentations, participation, and a research proposal.

711 Advanced Mineralogy (3).

712 Isotope Geochemistry (3). Prerequisites, CHEM 102, GEOL 301, 402, and 404. Survey of isotopic studies in geology; geochronology, crustal evolution, heat flow, paleotemperatures, origin of ore deposits.

804 Advanced Igneous Petrology (4).

805 Igneous Geochemistry (4).

806 Metamorphic Petrology (4).

807 Physics of Earthquakes (3). Prerequisites, MATH 524 and PHYS 211. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. The earthquake source. Description. Moment tensor. Developments in the mathematical theory of seismic sources. Radiation patterns. Earthquake mechanisms and plate tectonics. Synthetic seismograms. Seismicity and self-organized criticality.

809 Tectonophysics (3). Prerequisites, MATH 83, PHYS 201, and 211. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites. Fundamental physical processes necessary for an understanding of plate tectonics; stress and strain in solids; elasticity and flexure; heat transfer; gravity; mantle rheology and convection.

816 Principles of Climate Modeling: Applications to the Study of Climate Change (3). Required preparation, one year calculus and physics, familiarity with differential equations, and experience with Matlab and/or Mathematical/Maple. Develop explanatory and predictive models of earth's climate. Introductory course focused on modeling past climate with the hope of understanding its future. Discusses current global warming/climate change issues, including science, history, and controversy.

851 Seminar in Stratigraphy (0.5–21).

852 Seminar in Paleoclimatology (0.5–21).

853 Seminar in Paleontology (0.5–21).

854 Seminar in Continental Margins (0.5–21).

855 Seminar in Sedimentology (0.5–21).

856 Seminar in Isotope Geology (3). Introduction to the theory, methods and applications of stable isotopes to low- and high-temperature problems. Primary focus will be on the origin, natural abundance, and fractionation of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen isotopes.

857 Seminar in Geochemistry (0.5–21).

858 Seminar in Petrology (1–21).

859 Seminar in Economic Geology (0.5–21).

860 Seminar in Volcanology (3). All aspects of volcanism will be covered including seismology, geochemistry, deep structure, volcanic products, and hazards. Readings of original papers will be stressed.

861 Seminar in Geophysics (0.5–21).

862 Seminar in Seismology (1–21).

863 Seminar in Structural Geology (0.5–21).

864 Seminar in Tectonics (3). The goal of this seminar is to examine the Cretaceous to Eocene tectonics of the western United States to evaluate the putative flat slab processes responsible. Geologic research on the Laramide Orogeny predates plate tectonic theory, and the explosion of subsequent research warrants a reevaulation of existing theory.

900 Research in Geology (1–9).

993 Master's Research and Thesis (3).

994 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (3).