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Geology

Environmental Geology

Bachelor of Science

From studying contaminated soil and groundwater to observing the impacts of flooding and landslides, environmental geologists monitor issues, mitigate hazards and maximize benefits of natural resources. If you’re interested in hydrogeology, natural hazards, environmental consulting or informing policy with research, you’ll find a rewarding career in the field of environmental geology.

Program Overview

Geology student

Explore the dynamic relationship between humans and their geologic environment.

Environmental geology focuses on the interactions between people and the physical Earth. At Western Colorado University, you’ll have the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience conducting fieldwork in the nearby Elk, West Elk and San Juan ranges; the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gold Belt; the active tectonics of the Rio Grande Rift and more. You can also apply for scholarships and research stipends to conduct original research through the Bartleson-Prather Fund and collaborate with faculty to get your work published. A comprehensive understanding of environmental geology will prepare you for a meaningful career as a hydrologist, environmental consultant or public policy researcher.

Research in the field

Geology students have opportunities to explore the Elk, West Elk and San Juan ranges; the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gold Belt; the active tectonics of the Rio Grande Rift and more.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements

The Environmental Geology Emphasis requires a minimum of 69 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
GEOL 101Physical Geology (GT-SC2)3
or GEOL 103 Earth and Energy Systems
GEOL 105Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
GEOL 201Historical Geology (with laboratory)4
GEOL 302Geoscience Writing2
GEOL 310Stratigraphy and Sedimentation (with laboratory)4
GEOL 315Earth Materials (with laboratory)4
GEOL 320Geomorphology (with laboratory)4
GEOL 345Structural Geology (with laboratory)4
GEOL 430Hydrogeology (with laboratory)3
GEOL 450Field Geology4
Select two of the following:6
GEOL 335
Introduction to Engineering Geology
GEOL 343
Introduction to Geophysics
GEOL 362
Environmental Geochemistry
Select one of the following:3
GEOL 411
Research in Volcanology and Petrology (with laboratory)
GEOL 420
Research in Geomorphology (with laboratory)
GEOL 435
Research in Structure and Tectonics (with laboratory)
GEOL 465
Research in Basin Analysis (with laboratory)
Required Supporting Courses
CHEM 111General Chemistry I (GT-SC2)3
CHEM 112General Chemistry Laboratory I (GT-SC1)1
CHEM 113General Chemistry II3
CHEM 114General Chemistry Laboratory II1
GEOG 340INTRO GEOGRAPHIC INFO SYSTEMS3
MATH 151Calculus I (GT-MA1)4
MATH 251Calculus II4
Select one of the following pairs of courses:8
PHYS 170
PHYS 185
Principles of Physics I (GT-SC2)
and Laboratory Physics I (GT-SC1)
AND
PHYS 171
PHYS 186
Principles of Physics II (GT-SC2)
and Laboratory Physics II (GT-SC1)
OR
PHYS 190
PHYS 185
General Physics I (GT-SC2)
and Laboratory Physics I (GT-SC1)
AND
PHYS 191
PHYS 186
General Physics II (GT-SC2)
and Laboratory Physics II (GT-SC1)
Total Credits69

Capstone Course Requirement

GEOL 450 Field Geology

Graduation Requirements

Undergraduate programs require a minimum of 120 semester credits for graduation.  Of those 120 credits, 40 credits must be in upper-division courses (those marked 300 and above).  Fifteen of these 40 upper-division credits must be earned in courses that are part of the standard or comprehensive major program being pursued. 

Students are expected to review all graduation requirements, which can be found in the Western Undergraduate Catalog: Graduation Requirements

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
FallCredits
CHEM 111 General Chemistry I (GT-SC2) 3
CHEM 112 General Chemistry Laboratory I (GT-SC1) 1
GEOL 101 Physical Geology (GT-SC2) 3
GEOL 105 Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
MATH 140 College Algebra (GT-MA1) (or higher, depending on MATH placement) 1 3
Gen Ed General Education Courses 3
 Credits15
Spring
CHEM 113 General Chemistry II 3
CHEM 114 General Chemistry Laboratory II 1
ENG 102 Writing and Rhetoric I (GT-CO1) 3
GEOL 201 Historical Geology (with laboratory) 4
MATH 141 Precalculus (GT-MA1) (or higher, depending on MATH placement) 1 4
 Credits15
Year Two
Fall
GEOL 302 Geoscience Writing 2
GEOL 310 Stratigraphy and Sedimentation (with laboratory) 4
PHYS 170
or PHYS 190
Principles of Physics I (GT-SC2)
or General Physics I (GT-SC2)
3
PHYS 185 Laboratory Physics I (GT-SC1) 1
MATH 151 Calculus I (GT-MA1) 4
 Credits14
Spring
ENG 103 Writing and Rhetoric II (GT-CO2) 3
GEOL 315 Earth Materials (with laboratory) 4
PHYS 171
or PHYS 191
Principles of Physics II (GT-SC2)
or General Physics II (GT-SC2)
3
PHYS 186 Laboratory Physics II (GT-SC1) 1
MATH 251 Calculus II 4
 Credits15
Year Three
Fall
GEOL 320 Geomorphology (with laboratory) 4
GEOL 345 Structural Geology (with laboratory) 4
Elective Elective 3
Gen Ed General Education Courses 6
 Credits17
Spring
GEOG 340 INTRO GEOGRAPHIC INFO SYSTEMS 3
GEOL 362 Environmental Geochemistry 3
GEOL 495
or GEOL 401
Geology Seminar
or Career Pathways in Geology
1
Gen Ed General Education Courses 3
Elective Elective 3
 Credits13
Summer
GEOL 450 Field Geology 4
 Credits4
Year Four
Fall
GEOL 335
or GEOL 343
Introduction to Engineering Geology
or Introduction to Geophysics
3
GEOL 411
or GEOL 420
or GEOL 435
or GEOL 465
Research in Volcanology and Petrology (with laboratory)
or Research in Geomorphology (with laboratory)
or Research in Structure and Tectonics (with laboratory)
or Research in Basin Analysis (with laboratory)
3
Gen Ed General Education Courses 3
Elective Elective 6
 Credits15
Spring
GEOL 430 Hydrogeology (with laboratory) 3
Elective Electives 10
 Credits13
 Total Credits121
1

Geology requires completion of mathematics through Calculus II.  Additional mathematics courses may be required and would fill Elective courses as needed.

Careers


Top Skills

  • Attention to Detail
  • Communication
  • Data Collection
  • Lab Testing
  • Problem Solving
  • Research



Career Pathways

  • Atmospheric or Space Scientist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Geographic Information Systems Technician
  • Geoscientist
  • Hydrologist
  • Natural Sciences Manager

Take the first steps toward your academic and personal growth.

Fostering your intellectual development is the primary focus of every academic program at Western. Our professors and Office of Career Services will help you identify your strengths, hone your skills, define your goals, and prepare for a fulfilling and enriched life after graduation. Wondering how you can apply your program of choice to your intellectual and personal journey? Check out our “What Can I Do With This Major?” tool to explore the diverse opportunities and pathways within any degree program.

Scholarships

Western’s Scholarship Application portal allows you to search for, apply to and manage your scholarship opportunities. This platform houses over 300+ departmental and privately funded scholarship opportunities available to both new and returning students. Through the scholarship portal, students may identify scholarship opportunities based on academic program, campus involvement, academic standing, specific keywords and more. Students may click below to begin learning about what scholarship opportunities are available to them.

Please check individual scholarship opportunity start dates and deadlines as there are exceptions.

Find your scholarships!

Western’s Scholarship Application portal allows you to search for, apply to and manage your scholarship opportunities. This platform houses over 300+ departmental and privately funded scholarship opportunities available to both new and returning students. Through the scholarship portal, students may identify scholarship opportunities based on academic program, campus involvement, academic standing, specific keywords and more. Students may click below to begin learning about what scholarship opportunities are available to them.

Please check individual scholarship opportunity start dates and deadlines as there are exceptions.

Find your scholarships!

Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 30 for 2024. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Council, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.

Apply

Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming first-year student or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found below. Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.

Apply

Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Geology class

Make your education a life changing experience.

A college education is so much more than just taking classes. Expand your community and network, while gaining hands-on experience in your field.

  • Fieldwork: Students explore the Elk, West Elk and San Juan ranges; the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gold Belt; the active tectonics of the Rio Grande Rift and more.
  • Geology Club: The Geology Club is active in fundraising for student experiences, including field trips and attending professional conferences.
  • Geology Scholarships and Awards: Four annual scholarships, from generous geology alumni donations, are awarded to geology students to help offset educational costs.
  • Research Funding: The Bartleson-Prather Fund provides students with scholarships and research stipends.

A strong foundation

Geology students study topics such as minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and the origin of landscapes by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and nearshore processes.

News & Research

Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

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Geology professors research desert archives

Geology Professors Break New Ground with Desert Paleoclimate Archives

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Western professor publishes book focused on sustainability in business

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Western Faculty Preserves Nature and Protects Public Lands

Western Faculty Preserves Nature and Protects Public Lands

Read More about Western Faculty Preserves Nature and Protects Public Lands
Western’s MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Western’s MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Read More about Western’s MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Department Chairperson

Anne W. Ryter, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry

Administrative Assistant

Lori Clement

NES Administrative Assistant

Contact Information

970.943.2015

rbingham@western.edu

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Hurst Hall 128
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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