Environmental Geophysics

Lawrence L. Malinconico

Lafayette College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


The students are exposed to the geophysical methods that geologists and civil engineers use to examine a number of different geological and environmental problems. While it will be important to understand the theory behind the methods, the course focuses on real applications of the various geophysical methods discussed in class. As a result, a great deal of the learning in this course goes on outside of the walls of the classroom. When the course is completed the student should be able to conduct geophysical field projects and understand the science behind the techniques.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-level course in a geology program. It is required for students in or environmental track and an elective in the traditional geology track. It is also cross-listed with Civil Engineering and typically up to 50% of the students in the class are engineers. It is designed to be a practical applications course, so while there are lectures, much of the learning goes on from students completing a series of field projects.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to:
  • understand the fundamental concepts that result in the variation of gravity magnetism, seismic velocities and earth resistivity at or near the surface of the earth
  • to use various geophysical instruments including gravimeters, magnetometers, engineering seismometers (primarily for refraction surveys) and resistivity meters
  • design, conduct and complete a total field project involving these methodologies
  • be able to relate the interpretation of the geophysical information to local geology and structure.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

As mentioned previously, this is primarily an "applications" course. Through a sequence of laboratory exercises in conjunction with intensive field projects the students learn by doing. Besides learning the methodologies, the projects teach the students how to work in groups, both for data collection and analysis and interpretation and reporting. While there are tests, these are entirely "take home" requiring the students to work through processing and interpretation problems. These are designed to provide a foundation for the processing and interpretation of the information collected from the field projects.

Skills Goals

  • team work
  • project design, implementation and completion
  • critical analysis of their own work - both field and lab

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The primary way that the skills goals are achieved is through the completion of the various field projects.


Assessment is done through laboratory work which is preparatory for the field projects. The field projects are designed to assess methodological competence as well as critical thinking, analysis and writing skills. I keep an ongoing portfolio of the projects from year to year and often make comparisons to see what skills/knowledge I might not have been as successful sharing with the students each year.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 31kB Jun20 07)