Sustainability-Related Courses in the Geology Department

All environmental problems have their roots in geologic systems, so understanding of these systems is essential to anyone hoping to develop long-term solutions.

Introductory and General Education Courses with Sustainability Content

GES 1101 - Introduction to Physical Geology. In order to predict the effects of future climate change we must understanding past climate change, which is preserved in the rock and fossil record.  This course teaches students how to read the rock record to detect signals of changing climate, in addition to predicting where one would look for conventional fossil fuels and unconventional green tech materials.  The future effects of climate change on global geochemical cycles (CO2, H2O, CH4, etc.) are also discussed.

GES 1102 - Introduction to Historical Geology. What constitutes "the environment" has never been stable over geologic time scales.  Just as mechanics fix cars based on their past experience, humans must understand the past history of environmental and climate change in order to plan for the future.  Additionally, the vast majority of our energy resources are obvtained using advanced versions of the techniques students learn for deciphering earth history in GLY1102.

Students in 1104 classGES 1103 - Environmental Change, Hazards, and Resources. A study of natural hazards, resources, pollution, and climate, as they relate to human activities. The life cycles of both fossil fuel energy and alternative energy are covered including how they work, the pros and cons of conventional fuels, and environmental impacts of fossil fuel use and extraction.  The mechanisms and processes involved in climate change are thoroughly discussed, including the various greenhouse gases, permafrost melting, changes in thermohaline circulation, etc.  

GES 1104 - Water: Mountains to Sea. A study of the hydrologic cycle in the context of geologic and climate influences. In this course, we begin with background information on geologic processes before spending the bulk of the course studying the hydrologic cycle in the context of geologic and climate influences. Our hydrologic study looks not only at hydrologic processes at short time scales, such as stream channel evolution, but also processes that operate at much longer time scales, such as sea-level change. The influences on water resource availability of global climate variation and anthropogenic modifications to the natural environment are a recurring theme throughout the course.

GES 1105 - Oceanography. A study of physical, chemical, biological, and geological oceanography and their interrelationships.

students in GLY2301 - The History of Coal from the Pennsylvanian to the PresentGES 2301 - Energy Extraction in Appalachia - Past, Present, Future.  This interdisciplinary course covers the environmental, geological, historical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of energy extraction and production (coal, natural gas, and emerging energy technologies) in the Appalachians. Major emphasis will be on making connections between these disparate topics, with a focus on how the geologic history of the Appalachians impacts policy, politics, and other current events.  (Cross-listed with Appalachian Studies A_S 2301)

Courses with Sustainability Content

open to Geology Majors and Minors, Environmental Science Majors, and students who wish to have a more rigorous understanding of the Geosciences

GES 2250 - Evolution of the Earth.  Students are introduced to the concept of “Earth as a System” from Day 1 in this course.  Specifically, the students investigate how Earth began, how it changed through time, and how it inherited the look it has today.  Proxies for interpreting past environments and past climates are introduced in order to explain how we know what we think we know about the evolution of Earth’s climate through time and how it has influenced the evolution of life. 

GES/PHY3160 - Introduction to Geophysics. Environmental contaminants often infiltrate into the subsurface where they cannot be directly seen, making remediation difficult. One of the major focuses of geophysics is imaging the subsurface including the tracking of contaminants in four-dimensions. This course provides students with an introduction to geophysical principles and widely used subsurface imagaing techniques such as: seismic refraction, seismic reflection, Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR), and direct current electrical resistivity surveying. These surveying techniques provide a cutting-edge, non-destructive, and practical tool set for the modern Earth and environmental scientist. 

student in Boone CreekGES 3310 - Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Students will explore the structure and chemical composition of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere through the lens of fundamental chemical principles. The course will focus on the thermodynamics, kinetics, and redox chemistry that governs the transformation of major elements within environmental compartments and the complex transport processes that link these compartments, Course material will include the environmental impacts of anthropogenic chemicals, and chemical processes used to mitigate environmental impacts. In addition to discussing natural biogeochemical cycles, we will discuss the chemistry underlying environmental issues of both local and global relevance including air quality, pollution of water and soil, and toxic persistent organic pollutants. The laboratory portion of the course will combine laboratory and field measurements with computer modeling exercises to further develop concepts discussed in lecture.

GES 3455 - Quantitative Data Analysis for Earth and Environmental Scientists.  21st century Earth sciences are all about data. With the rise of environmental satellite data and automated data collection devices, the modern Earth and environmental scientist must be able to efficiently process and effectively visualize millions of data points. Furthermore, climate, environmental, geophysical, and hydrologic models cannot be built without computational and mathematical skills.  This course provides an overview of how to automate data analysis and visualization using quantitative methods used in modeling a variety of earth science systems.

GES 3110 – Environmental Regulation & Enforcement. Upon graduation, many of our majors and students from related environmental disciplines go on to work in regulated industries, labs or government. This course introduces students to the regulatory landscape of those fields. Sustainability is a theme throughout the course and students must consider how regulators balance the need to protect the environment and human health with economic needs and find solutions that are equitable and just for all citizens. 

GES 3703 - Issues in Environmental Geology. For humans to thrive in a sustainable way on this planet, we must learn from our mistakes and successes.  This course investigates case studies of human interaction with the environment.   We look at deforestation and the loss of topsoil around the world, attempts to control the flow of our rivers, the overuse of our water resources in arid environments, as well as climate change and the effect on more than just the global temperature.  Throughout the course we will debate different sides to interactions between humans and the environmental while backing up those discussion with the science behind the issue.  

GES 3715 - Petrology and Petrography. One of the most promising methods of carbon capture and sequestration is through mineral carbonation of ultramafic and mafic rock sequences.  Where do we find these sequences?  Does their geologic history and geochemistry make them appropriate injection locations for mineral carbonation projects?  The magnets in wind turbines, the diodes in LEDs, the wires for SmartGrid technology, and the materials used in solar panels all require mined mineral resources.  Where do we find these resources?  How can we determine the quality of these resources?  This course explores the science of the raw materials used in green technology and CO2 emission mitigation, which are often ignored in sustainability discussions but are of vital importance to the green tech, high tech, and energy industries. Laboratory exercises and lecture material involve analysis of geochemical, isotopic, and mineralogical signatures to predict ore deposit and rare earth element enrichment locations.

Students in Sed-Strat in the fieldGES 3800 - Sedimentology and Stratigraphy.  Much of this course focuses on modern processes that transport and deposit sediment, including debris flows, landslides, and floods (especially in coastal environments and barrier island systems like the Outer Banks of North Carolina).  As the climate warms, the frequency of storm events will increase along the intensity of these storms, leading to an increased risk of landslides, debris flows, and flooding.  Major hurricanes like Hurricane Florence will continue to reshape our coastlines.  In the US, 39% of the population lives in counties immediately on a shoreline (NOAA), and globally nearly 634 million people live in low lying coastal regions (<30 feet above sea level)(  As more and more construction places humans in the path of storms and flooding both inland and along the shore, knowing how sedimentary environments react to climate change is critical to risk assessment and hazard planning.  Additionally, this course discusses the sedimentological, stratigraphical, and geochemical data that indicates past climates (e.g., ancient depositional environments) and focuses on how those environments can migrate and change through time.

GES 4630 - Hydrogeology. This course is essential to anyone wanting to get a job in the environmental industry. More than 98% of the non-frozen freshwater on Earth lies in the groundwater reservoir. In North Carolina, 50% of the population gets its water from this reservoir, while in other states it may top 90%. Despite its prevalence in the hydrologic cycle, groundwater is difficult to study because it must be observed remotely. We approach the study of the groundwater reservoir with theoretical concepts of groundwater flow and solute transport in addition to field methods, taught in the ASU Educational and Research Wellfield, that are utilized on a daily basis in environmental research or consulting.

GES 4705 - Engineering Geology. Sustainable urban living requires understanding of civil structures and their interactions with the environment. This course brings a geoscience approach to problem solving, and trains geologists with an awareness of engineering principles and practice. A key learning outcome is to understand the mechanics of rocks, soils, and fluids and how they affect stability of engineered structures.  This course thus prepares students for career in the applied environmental and geotechnical engineering industries.