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Earth Science B.S., George Mason University

Information for this profile was provided by Randy McBride and Julia Nord-Cooper in 2009. Information is also available on the program website.

George Mason University is a university with graduate programs, including doctoral programs .

Overview and Context

Illustration of the George Mason University BS in Earth Science curriculum (top) and its 5 concentrations (bottom), constructed by Monica Bruckner, based on information provided by Randy McBride and Julia Nord-Cooper. Click on the image to see a larger version.
This degree is intended for students interested in studying the earth (geology, oceanography, and atmospheric science) and its environment. Students select a specialty concentration among a choice of five:

  1. Geology
  2. Oceanography & Estuarine Science
  3. Earth Surface Processes
  4. Environmental Science
  5. Earth Science Education

A sixth concentration in Atmospheric Science is planned for Fall 2009.

The Earth Science B.S. is one of two curricula available for undergraduates interested in Earth Science at George Mason University. The other one is a Geology B.A.

Program Design

Over the past five to seven years, the curriculum of the Earth Science B.S. has been dynamic and experienced expansion, whereas the curriculum of the Geology B.A. has been much more constant. The Earth Science B.S. has experienced modifications by increasing the amount of choice offered to students so that students are now able to select among five different concentrations in order to pursue specific areas of interest. Instead of developing new and separate degrees in oceanography, environmental science, and earth surface processes, it was much more timely and efficient administratively to offer new concentrations within the Earth Science B.S. A sixth concentration in atmospheric science will be added in fall 2009 as a result of the creation of the new Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences (AOES) that merged geology and climate dynamics faculties.

Goals and Assessment

The GMU geology program aims to provide students with both high-quality conceptual knowledge and hands-on training in geology and the earth sciences, in preparation for careers within the earth-science field or for graduate school. Our program has a long tradition of undergraduate geology education providing basic, rigorous and integrated curricula for majors pursuing Bachelor's degrees in Geology (BA) and Earth Sciences (BS). The geology program teaches the higher-level critical thinking and skills essential to address earth-science problems, which often require the student to synthesize knowledge from geology and other disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. We offer geology courses at all levels of undergraduate education, from introductory, general-education courses to advanced courses, as well as opportunities for independent undergraduate research. We strive to educate all students taking our courses about the relevance of the earth sciences to contemporary societal issues such as natural resources, global change, planetary geology, and natural hazards (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, flooding and hurricane impacts).

Until recently, we typically did not assess goals other than tracking the number of majors and minors over the years and then we examined trends. This past year, we started the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) reaccreditation process to assess goals. Our primary goals are found below:

GOALS FOR GEOLOGY CONCENTRATION ONLY:
  1. Assessment of Learning Outcome 1: "Comprehend important concepts that reflect the complexity of the integrated Earth system."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place at the beginning and end of the GEOL 101 Physical Geology and GEOL 102 Historical Geology courses.
  2. Assessment of Learning Outcome 2: "Demonstrate competence in identifying common rocks and minerals, and earth materials.
    The assessment of this outcome will occur at the following points in the program: GEOL 302 Mineralogy, 304 Sedimentary Geology, and 308 Igneous & Metamorphic Petrology
  3. Assessment of Learning Outcome 3: "Conceptualize in 3-dimensions by reading and interpreting topographic maps, geologic maps, and aerial photographs, as well as understanding geologic structures."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place at the following points in the program: GEOL 304 Sedimentary Geology, 317 Geomorphology, 401 Structural Geology, and 404 Advanced Geologic Field Techniques
  4. Assessment of Learning Outcome 4: "Ability to formulate and to test relevant hypotheses using methods, techniques and technologies that are appropriate for the specific field of study."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of the junior level courses, in Geol 303 Field Mapping Techniques
  5. Assessment of Learning Outcome 5: "Analyze and synthesize acquired knowledge, evaluate the relevance of these ideas and materials, and appropriately apply knowledge learned to new earth- science problems."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of GEOL 317 and/or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy
  6. Assessment of Learning Outcome 6: "Ability to effectively communicate scientific ideas and findings both in oral presentations and in writing".
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of GEOL 317 and / or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy.

ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE FOR GEOLOGY CONCENTRATION ONLY:
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 101 Physical Geology and GEOL 102 Historical Geology will be carried out by a multiple-choice questionnaire given at the beginning and the end of the semester.
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 302 Mineralogy, 304 Sedimentary Geology, 308 Igneous & Metamorphic Petrology, 401 Structural Geology, and 404 Advanced Geologic Field Techniques will be carried out in the laboratory, graded on a rubric designed by a committee of three geology faculty
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 317 Geomorphology and/or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy will be carried out through a writing-intensive paper and oral presentations. A committee of geology faculty will design a rubric to grade/evaluate both the paper and the oral presentation.

GOALS FOR ALL OTHER CONCENTRATIONS EXCEPT GEOLOGY CONCENTRATION:
  1. Assessment of Learning Outcome 1: "Comprehend important concepts that reflect the complexity of the integrated Earth system"
    The assessment of this outcome will take place at the beginning and end of GEOL 101 Physical Geology and GEOL 102 Historical Geology.
  2. Assessment of Learning Outcome 2: "Demonstrate comprehension of the integrated Earth System: lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place at the following points in the program: GEOL 309 Oceanography, Geol 420 Earth Science & Policy
  3. Assessment of Learning Outcome 3: "Demonstrate comprehension in contemporary societal issues relevant to the earth Sciences; energy resources; natural resource management (minerals, water, air and soils); natural disaster impacts (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and hurricanes.) "
    The assessment of this outcome will take place at the following points in the program: GEOL 305 Environmental Geology, Geol 420 Earth Science & Policy
  4. Assessment of Learning Outcome 4: "Ability to formulate and to test relevant hypotheses using methods, techniques and technologies that are appropriate for the specific field of study."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of the junior level course Geol 303 Field Mapping Techniques
  5. Assessment of Learning Outcome 5: "Analyze and synthesize acquired knowledge, evaluate the relevance of these ideas and materials, and appropriately apply knowledge learned to new earth- science problems."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of GEOL 317 Geomorphology and/or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy
  6. Assessment of Learning Outcome 6: "Ability to effectively communicate scientific ideas and findings both in oral presentations and in writing."
    The assessment of this outcome will take place upon completion of GEOL 317 Geomorphology and/or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy.
ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE FOR ALL CONCENTRATIONS EXCEPT GEOLOGY CONCENTRATION:
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 101 Physical Geology and GEOL 102 Historical Geology will be carried out by a multiple-choice questionnaire given at the beginning and the end of the semester.
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 303 Field Mapping Techniques, 305 Environmental Geology will be carried out in the laboratory, graded on a rubric designed by a committee of three geology faculty
  • Assessment of learning outcomes in GEOL 317 Geomorphology and/or GEOL 420 Earth Science & Policy will be carried out through a writing-intensive paper and oral presentations. A committee of geology faculty will design a rubric to grade/evaluate both the paper and the oral presentation

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

  • Physical Geology
  • Historical Geology
  • Ecosphere 1 & 2
  • Introductory Biology 1 & 2
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • College Physics
  • Calculus 1

Core courses

  • Physical Geology
  • Introductory Oceanography (Physical Geology and Introductory Biology)
  • Earth Science & Policy (completion of 18 hours in major or minor)
  • Meteorology & Climatology (Physical Geology or Physical Geography)

Electives

Students are required to take electives, the number of which depends on the concentration selected and the specific courses taken, but it typically ranges from 9 to 12 credits (3 to 4 courses). The elective choices are provided by concentration in the following list:
  1. GEOLOGY CONCENTRATION:
    • Historical Geology
    • Mineralogy
    • Sedimentary Geology
    • Igneous & Metamorphic Petrology
    • Invertebrate Paleontology
    • Geomorphology
    • Structural Geology
  2. OCEANOGRAPHY & ESTUARINE SCIENCE CONCENTRATION
    • Introductory Biology 1 & 2 or Cell Structure & Function & Animal Biology or Ecosphere 1 & 2
    • Historical Geology
    • Physical Oceanography
    • Chemical Oceanography
    • Marine Geology and Marine Ecology (Open Ocean option), OR Coastal Morphology & Processes and Estuarine & Coastal Ecology plus Lab (Coastal option)
    • Electives (Select three of the following courses or their equivalents [9+ credits]:
      • Marine Mammal Biology & Conservation
      • Coral Reef Ecology
      • Freshwater Ecosystems
      • Exploring Underwater Archaeology
      • Marine Ecology
      • Estuarine & Coastal Ecology
      • Estuarine & Coastal Ecology Lab
      • Underwater Ecological Research Techniques
      • Fisheries Management
      • Ichthyology
      • Applied Ecology
      • Mineralogy
      • Sedimentary Geology
      • Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
      • Invertebrate Paleontology
      • Coastal Morphology and Processes
      • Marine Geology
      • An approved marine biological, oceanographic or estuarine field course
      • Any course from the subconcentration not taken
  3. EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES CONCENTRATION
    • Historical Geology or Ecosphere 1
    • Mineralogy
    • Field Mapping Techniques
    • Soil Science
    • Geomorphology
    • Introduction to Computer Programming
    • Electives (select 4 of the following courses):
      • Sedimentary Geology
      • Environmental Geology
      • Hydrogeology
      • Special Topics in Geology
      • Coastal Morphology & Processes
      • Geochemistry
      • Introduction to GIS
      • Aerial Photo Interpretation
      • Satellite Image Analysis
  4. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE CONCENTRATION
    • Ecology
    • Ecosphere 1 & 2
    • Human Dimensions of the Environment
    • Applied Ecology
    • Field Mapping Techniques
    • Environmental Geology
    • Soil Science
    • Electives (two of the following courses):
      • Plant Communities
      • Marine Ecology
      • Freshwater Ecosystems
      • Coastal Morphology & Processes
  5. EARTH SCIENCE EDUCATION CONCENTRATION
    • Introductory Astronomy: The Solar System
    • Introductory Astronomy Lab: The Solar System
    • Teaching Science in the Secondary School
    • Foundations of Secondary Education
    • Historical Geology
    • Mineralogy
    • Field Mapping Techniques
    • Practicum for Geology Laboratories
    • Electives (Select three of the following courses):
      • The Ecosphere: An Introduction to Environmental Science I
      • Sedimentary Geology
      • Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
      • Invertebrate Paleontology
      • Geomorphology
      • Coastal Morphology and Processes
      • Structural Geology
    • Optional teacher licensure component:
      • Advanced Methods of Teaching Science in Secondary School
      • Internship in Education
      • Human Development and Learning: Secondary Education
      • Literacy

Other required courses

  • General Chemistry 1 & 2
  • Calculus 1 & 2
  • Physics 1 & lab
  • Physics 2 & lab
  • Introductory Statistics 1

Capstone

  • Earth Science & Policy

Additional Comments

In order to better reflect specific interests of students, majors are able to select among five different concentrations as follows:

  1. Geology
  2. Oceanography & Estuarine Science
  3. Earth Surface Processes
  4. Environmental Science
  5. Earth Science Education


Additional Materials




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