About the Department

The Geology Department at Puget Sound consists of five faculty members and roughly 40 majors. Our size enables us to offer a broad spectrum of classes while at the same time maintaining a close-knit and collegial learning environment. All of our courses include a field component and these range from day or weekend trips to semester-long projects that integrate field and laboratory analysis. We also believe strongly in the importance of training our students to use analytical instrumentation and are very well-equipped in this regard. By the time they graduate our majors are scientists, trained to collect and interpret their own data, think creatively, and answer real-world questions.

All members of the Geology faculty are actively engaged in research that involves our students. Our research interests span a broad range of topics including the environmental geochemistry of water and sediment from local water bodies, the glacial history of the Puget Sound area, paleomagnetic studies of variations in the earth’s magnetic field and past plate motions, the igneous and structural history of the Olympic Peninsula, stable isotope studies of past and present food webs, and the magmatic and tectonic evolution of the Pacific Northwest. Many of our projects are based here in the Pacific Northwest, but we have also taken students to more distant research locations including Alaska, the American Southwest, Ascension Island, New Zealand, and Africa.

In both teaching and research we take advantage of outstanding facilities and equipment available in the department. Our resources include:

  • A Hitachi 3400 scanning electron microscope equipped with x-ray analysis and cathodoluminescence capabilities.
  • An Agilent 5100 ICP-capable of measuring elemental abundances at ppm levels and below in a wide variety of materials including rocks, water, and sediment.
  • A Phillips x-ray diffractometer for mineral analysis.
  • A Costech elemental analyzer for measuring C-H-N-S in soil, sediment, and organic matter.
  • A completely equipped sample prep lab with facilities for cutting, crushing, and pulverizing rocks, making thin sections, and preparing mineral separates.
  • Separate, fully equipped labs for preparation and analysis of samples for paleomagnetism, sedimentology, and geochemistry.
  • A wide array of field equipment including two boats, water, soil and sediment sampling gear, and GPS units.
  • A broad range of geophysical instruments including a gravimeter, magnetometer, electrical resistivity meter, and hammer seismograph.
  • Extensive collections of rocks, minerals, fossils, maps and other teaching materials.

Students who major in geology learn to observe and interpret the natural world. To that end, and to supplement our coursework and research opportunities, we take a departmental trip lasting 10-14 days to an exciting location in alternate years. Our Summer 2019 tour was to Hawaii; past trips have been to New Zealand, Tanzania, Ecuador, and Iceland.

Our majors develop the skills to formulate hypotheses, collect and interpret data, synthesize results, and present findings at professional conferences. All Geology majors have the option to complete a senior thesis. Upon graduation our students are ready to apply their knowledge and skills not only to academic topics, but also to important societal issues such as natural disaster planning, waste disposal, climate change, resource utilization, and water policy.

Our graduates have gone on to a wide range of careers, the most popular in recent years being graduate school, environmental consulting, and teaching. However, we have graduates in 32 states and four foreign countries and their occupations include not only geologic fields (e.g., mineral exploration, hydrology, academia) but also other sciences and related professions (e.g., medicine, environmental law).