Geological Sciences Major, B.S.–Environmental Geoscience Concentration

Department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences

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Murray and Mitchell Halls

Eric Kirby, Chair

Brent McKee, Associate Chair

Kevin Stewart, Director of Undergraduate Studies (GEOL)

Marc Alperin, Director of Undergradaute Studies (MASC)

Violet Anderson, Student Services Manager

The study of earth’s dynamic systems is a field that has seen major advances over the last few decades. Geologists investigate diverse systems that play a large role in controlling the environment at the earth’s surface.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs 

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the geological sciences program (B.S.), students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of core geological concepts
  • Produce written synthesis of professional journal articles dealing with topics covered in advanced courses
  • Make a clear and effective oral presentation
  • Apply knowledge and skills from coursework in a significant field experience in an area of geological sciences
  • Gain admission to graduate study or obtain employment in a field that uses geological training

In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • earn a minimum final cumulative GPA of 2.000
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major core requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 in the major core requirements. Some programs may require higher standards for major or specific courses.

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
All of the following courses:
GEOL 200The Solid Earth3
GEOL 201Earth's Surface: Processes, Landforms, and History3
GEOL 324
Water in Our World: Introduction to Hydrologic Science and Environmental Problems
and Water in Our World Laboratory
13 credit hours from the following options:13
Earth Materials: Minerals
Structural Geology
Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
Petrology and Plate Tectonics
Coastal Environmental Change
and Geomorphology Laboratory
Geochemistry of Natural Waters
Introduction to Environmental Science Problem Solving
Three geology (GEOL) courses numbered above 300 and not otherwise required for the major9
Capstone requirement (one of the following combinations):6
Summer Field Course in Geology
and Summer Field Course in Geology
and Honors
Undergraduate Research in Geology 1
Science-oriented Experiential Education (EE) course. 2
Additional Requirements
CHEM 101
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
CHEM 102
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II H4
One of the following courses:3
Any COMP course numbered COMP 110 or above, except COMP 380
Data Analysis in the Earth Sciences 3
Any MATH above MATH 232
Any STOR course numbered STOR 155 or above
One of the following courses:4
General Physics I
General Physics I: For Students of the Life Sciences
Mechanics H
Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity
One of the following courses:4
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
Any CHEM course above CHEM 102
General Physics II
General Physics II: For Students of the Life Sciences
Electromagnetism and Optics H
Introductory Calculus-based Electromagnetism and Quanta
At least five science electives not otherwise required for the major (see below chart)15
Remaining General Education requirements and enough free electives to accumulate 122 academic hours42
Total Hours122

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Science Electives Not Otherwise Required for the Major

ANTH 143Human Evolution and Adaptation3
ANTH 220Principles of Archaeology3
ANTH 315Human Genetics and Evolution3
ANTH 412Paleoanthropology3
ANTH 414Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology3
ANTH 451Field School in North American Archaeology H6
ASTR ---any Astronomy course except a first-year seminar
BIOC ---any Biochemistry course except a first-year seminar, BIOC 107 and BIOC 108
BIOL ---any Biology course above BIOL 113
CHEM ---any Chemistry course above CHEM 102
COMP ---any Computer Science course COMP 110 or above, except COMP 380
ENEC ---any Environment and Ecology course above ENEC 201
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 410Modeling of Environmental Systems3
GEOG 412Synoptic Meteorology3
GEOG 414Climate Change3
GEOG 416Applied Climatology: The Impacts of Climate and Weather on Environmental and Social Systems3
GEOG 477Introduction to Remote Sensing of the Environment3
GEOG 491Introduction to GIS3
GEOG 577Advanced Remote Sensing3
GEOG 591Applied Issues in Geographic Information Systems3
GEOG 592Geographic Information Science Programming3
GEOG 594Global Positioning Systems and Applications3
GEOG 597Ecological Modeling3
GEOL ---any Geological Sciences course course
MASC ---any Marine Sciences course MASC 101 and above
MATH ---any Mathematics course above MATH 232
PHYS ---any Physics course except a first-year seminar, PHYS 101, PHYS 132, and PHYS 313
STOR ---any Statistics and Operations Research course STOR 155 and above

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Course descriptions for:

Special Opportunities in Geological Sciences

Honors in Geological Sciences

The honors program is open to undergraduates with an overall grade point average of 3.3 or better as of the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year. To participate in this program, the student chooses a research topic in consultation with his or her chosen faculty sponsor and conducts the research during the last two semesters in residence. The research project should represent the equivalent time expenditure of six hours of course credit and is taken as GEOL 691H (fall semester) and GEOL 692H (spring semester).

Upon recommendation of the faculty, students may be awarded the degree with honors or highest honors. Highest honors is reserved for students who have distinguished themselves in both coursework and independent research. In order to obtain this distinction the student must maintain a grade point average of 3.60 or higher and complete a research project that is worthy of peer-reviewed publication.

Departmental Involvement

The department encourages the active participation of undergraduates in department research, teaching, and social life. In addition to opportunities for experiential education and teaching internships described below, the department has an active Geology Honor Fraternity and Geology Club and regularly sponsors field excursions, career information sessions, and social events. Dates, times, and locations for all events are posted on the website and in the main lobby on the first floor of Mitchell Hall.

Experiential Education

Many geology courses emphasize experiential learning through field and laboratory work. Most degree tracks include a field geology course (GEOL 485 and GEOL 486 or a similar course in another department) that fulfills the experiential education General Education requirement. Additionally, all students are encouraged to contact faculty members about conducting independent research, either as an honors thesis or a senior thesis project.


The UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (UNC–BEST) Program is a collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and is designed to allow undergraduate science majors interested in teaching high school science the opportunity to earn their science degree and obtain licensure as a North Carolina high school science teacher in four years.

Core education courses
EDUC 516Introduction to the Education of Exceptional Learners3
or EDUC 689 Foundations of Special Education
EDUC 532Human Development and Learning3
EDUC 615Schools and Community Collaboration3
EDUC 593Internship/Student Teaching1-12
EDUC 601Education Workshops1-3
Teaching methods course
GEOL 412Principles and Methods of Teaching Earth Science4

 For more details on admission requirements, application deadlines, and submitting an online application, visit the School of Education Web site.

Study Abroad

Although the department has no formalized study abroad program, many students participate in a study abroad program, and some receive credit for geology coursework completed abroad. Students interested in a study abroad program should contact the director of undergraduate studies. Students must receive approval from the director of undergraduate studies prior to taking courses abroad for geology credit.

Undergraduate Awards

The Op White Prize in Geology, established in 1966, consists of a cash prize and an engraved bronze plaque displayed in the geology office. The award is given annually to the outstanding senior in geology.

Field Camp Scholarships

Several scholarships for geology field camp are awarded each year from the Grover Murray and Anadarko funds.

Undergraduate Research

The department encourages qualified undergraduate students to conduct independent research on an interesting geologic topic under the direction of a geological sciences faculty member. This research can be conducted as a one- to four-credit hour project (GEOL 395) or in conjunction with the geology honors program.