Strong Geoscience Departments > Degree Programs > Course Profiles > Geodynamics, University of Minnesota

Course profile: Geodynamics I & II

University of Minnesota

Entry level earth science course sequence, 16-30 students

Information for this profile was provided by Martin Saar and Donna Whitney in 2007.

Jump down to Overview and Context * Course Content * Connecting to the Future of Science * Goals and Assessment * References and Resources * Additional Materials

Overview and Context

These two courses (required for majors) introduce quantitative aspects of the geosciences – both solid and fluid Earth dynamics. These are a linked set of intermediate-level courses for geology, geophysics, and geo-engineering students. They have chemistry, math, and physics prerequisites, but Geodynamics I does not have a geology prerequisite.

Course Content

Fluids and fluid motion play major roles in numerous geologic processes on Earth's surface and interior. This course provides a quantitative introduction to the geologic fluids that shape our dynamic planet. Emphasis will be placed on mastering basic concepts in fluid mechanics and applying these concepts to a wide range of geologic problems. Goals include: (i) exploring important fluid systems of the Earth, such as atmosphere, rivers, groundwater, glaciers and magmas; (ii) providing an introduction to basic concepts in fluid mechanics, such as laminar versus turbulent flow, viscosity and convection; (iii) illustrating application of basic ideas, such as derivatives and integrals in mathematics to earth science problems; and (iv) developing the habit of thinking analytically and quantitatively. Students will be tested on both key vocabulary and applications of the material covered in lecture to geologic problems. The latter will involve both clear, qualitative explanations of the mechanics involved as well as mathematical, quantitative analyses and calculations.

Connecting to the Future of Science

The courses teach quantitative skills, and emphasize a wide range of processes at different spatial and temporal scales. It gives students a solid basis for seeing the links between various Earth processes and materials – from the surface to the core, from water to melt.

Goals and Assessment


  • Students should be able to obtain data, analyze the data, and interpret the results (in lab exercises)
  • Students should be able to apply what they learn in one course to the other (Geodynamics I, II) as well as to other geoscience courses.


Assessment is accomplished via midterm and final exams, lab assignments, problem sets, and in-class participation.

References and Resources

Geodynamics I: advanced introductory level physical geology text (e.g., Press & Siever)
Geodynamics II: "Earth Surface Processes" by P.A. Allen, "Groundwater in Geologic Processes" by S.E.Ingebritsen, W.E. Sanford, & C.E. Neizil

Additional Materials

Download the course syllabus. (Acrobat (PDF) 31kB Mar23 07)