Student inspecting a rock Students and faculty working outdoors Students and faculty working outdoors


Program Details

B.S. Geology

Students’ geology training will begin with an introduction to the earth’s physical processes and materials and a survey of the earth’s geologic history. Geology courses emphasize the various fields of study within the discipline, including mineralogy, petrology, sedimentology, structure, field methods and paleontology. Field geology teaches you techniques used in field mapping, such as use of a pocket transit, GPS receiver, laser transit and other specialized equipment. Upper-level courses include the study of geologic maps, earth structures and the rock and fossil record. As a geology major, students will also take courses such as introductory calculus, chemistry and physics or biology.

B.S. Geology: Paleontology Option

The paleontology option gives motivated students a chance to combine a solid foundation in geology with an exploration of its interdisciplinary connections with botany or zoology.

Real-World Experience

Many courses include field trips that last from one to four days. Our required biennial, six-week Geology Summer Field Camp in South Dakota is considered by most students to be the unifying highlight of their studies. Knowledge from the classroom is put into practice here. Students look forward to sharing the learning experience with their fellow majors in South Dakota, Yellowstone and the Tetons.

The paleontology option joins together the strong field-based approach to geological education with a specimen-based approach to paleontology. A six-week geology field camp is a required part of the degree. Students are encouraged at an early stage to begin working on their own research projects.

Student Activities

The WIU Department of Geology offers two student organizations: (1) Sigma Gamma Epsilon, a national earth science honorary organization, and (2) the Geology Club. These organizations sponsor activities such as field trips, visiting lectures, picnics and fundraising.

Special Opportunities

The department offers small classes with accessible faculty in Tillman Hall. It also offers personalized professional advising, all labs taught by faculty members and undergraduate research opportunities. All interested and motivated geology students at Western have the opportunity to conduct original research under the direction of a faculty mentor. Most students present their research at regional or national meetings, with travel expenses partly or wholly covered by the department. Recently, students have worked on a wide variety of topics in hydrology, igneous petrology and sedimentary geology.

Department Minors

  • Geology

Additional Resources

Workers in a cave

Career Opportunities

Our graduates have built a record of success, working throughout the United States and in foreign countries for companies that range from small, independent entities to corporations such as U.S. Gypsum, Conoco, ARCO, Texaco, Chevron, U.S. Steel, EOG Resources and Marathon Exxon. Some alumni are teachers in community colleges and universities. Many of our students work for state or federal agencies. Approximately 25 percent of WIU’s geology graduates go on to complete higher degrees at universities like Arizona, Indiana, The Ohio State, Purdue, Stanford, Louisiana, Utah, Texas A&M and Wyoming. In the past, careers in geology concentrated on exploration for minerals or energy resources. While such careers are still important, geologists are now finding careers in areas related to the environment, engineering projects and water resources. Some geologists are even involved in space and planetary exploration.

Since a career in geology may lead to extensive travel, office work, laboratory experiments, field work or classroom teaching, students will find it helpful to develop skills in communication, foreign languages, business, economics, art and politics.


Please refer to the undergraduate catalog for detailed program information and course requirements.

110 Introduction to the Earth. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) The study of the earth, its composition, structure, landscape development, internal processes, origin, and evolution. Laboratory includes introduction to minerals, rocks, and maps. No prerequisites. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: P1 907L.

112 History of the Earth. (4) (General Education/ Natural Sciences) Physical and biological history of the earth (North America emphasis). Origin of continents, mountains, oceans, etc.; evolution of plants and animals. No prerequisites. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab. IAI: P1 907L.

113 Energy and Earth Resources. (3) (General Education/Natural Sciences) Introduction to energy, water, soil, and mineral resources and the impact of their use on the environment. Does not count toward major or minor in Geology. No prerequisite.

115 Oceanography. (3) (General Education/Natural Sciences) History of ocean exploration, origin and nature of ocean basins, composition and circulation of ocean water, modern developments in oceanography, man and the oceans. Does not count toward major or minor in Geology. No prerequisite.

181 (Cross-listed with BIOL 181) Integrated Science I. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A laboratory course in interdisciplinary science with an emphasis on the nature and evolution of life and Earth. Topics include ecology, natural resources, formation of Earth materials, Earth processes, nutrient cycling, cell biology, genetics, and evolution. (Integrated Science II is PHYS/GEOG 182) Not open to students with credit in BIOL 181. Prerequisite: MATH 099N.

200 Mineralogy. (4) Introduction to crystallography, origin, classification, identification, and occurrence of common minerals. Prerequisite: GEOL 110 or GEOG 121. Student should have basic knowledge of high school or introductory college chemistry. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

301 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. (3) Origin, texture, mineralogy, mode of emplacement, and alteration of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Phase rule and phase diagrams. Prerequisite: GEOL 200. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

310 Geologic Field Methods. (2) Topographic and geologic mapping methods; measurement and description of stratigraphic sections; field identification of rocks and soils; use of Brunton compass, laser transit, GPS, and GIS software. Prerequisite: GEOL 110 or 112. 1 hr. lect.; 4 hrs. lab. First 10 weeks.

320 Structural Geology. (4) Physical properties of rocks, theories of flow and fracture, description of structural features, and origin of rock deformation. Geometric and stereographic diagrams. Interpretation of patterns. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Prerequisites: GEOL 110 and high school or college trigonometry; ENG 280. Possible field trip. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

330 Paleontology. (4) Survey of major groups of fossil-forming organisms, emphasizing invertebrates, their preservation, morphology, ecology, taxonomy, and methods used in their study. Prerequisite: GEOL 112 or a course in basic Biology or consent of instructor. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

340 Stratigraphy and Sedimentology. (4) Origin and identification of sedimentary rocks, depositional environments, sedimentary processes, principles of stratigraphy. Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Prerequisites: GEOL 110, GEOL 112, and ENG 280, or permission of instructor. Required field trip. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

361, 362 Summer Field Camp. (3–6 each, not repeatable) Measurement of stratigraphic and structural sections, geological field mapping, and preparation of reports. Prerequisites: GEOL 200, 301, 310, 320, 340, or consent of instructor. At field station in South Dakota.

375 Environmental Geology. (3) Application of geology to environmental problems. Land resource planning, solid and liquid waste disposal, mining, foundations structures, geologic hazards, mineral and energy resources. Prerequisite: GEOL 110.

380 Hydrogeology. (4) Study of water’s interaction with geologic materials; principles of groundwater flow; aquifer testing; groundwater flow modeling programs; water chemistry and pollutants. Many labs are conducted in the field. Prerequisite: GEOL 110 or GEOG 121. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

420 Geomorphology. (3) Advanced study of the landscape involving processes, geologic structure, and time. Map and air photo interpretation. Prerequisite: GEOL 110 or GEOG 121. Field trips. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

421 Glacial Geology. (3) Origin and classification of glacial sediments and land forms, periglacial features; Pleistocene soils; stratigraphy and sedimentology of Pleistocene deposits. Prerequisite: GEOL 110. Field trip. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

450 Geology of National Parks and Monuments. (1–3, repeatable to 3) Basic geologic processes and principles are used to explain the geological history and features of selected national parks and monuments. Lecture course supplemented with slides, maps, and specimens from areas to be studied. No prerequisite.

460 Special Problems in Geology and Geophysics. (1–5, repeatable to 5) Research problems. Does not count toward minor in Geology. Prerequisite: consent of instructor prior to registration.

461 Geologic Field Trips. (1–4, repeatable to 4) Field trips in geology or geophysics. Does not fulfill requirement for a minor in Geology. Prerequisite: GEOL 110, or GEOL 112, or concurrent registration in these courses and consent of instructor.

462 Honors Research Thesis. (2–3, repeatable to 3 to complete project) Research problems by agreement of student and advisory committee. Required: written proposal, final written report, and oral report. Prerequisites: GPA of 3.40 overall and 3.20 in Geology, completed 26 s.h. in Geology, junior or senior standing, and approval of advisory committee.

495 Geology Internship. (1–6, repeatable to 6) Credit for geologic work experience in a business, governmental, or research organization. Internship project report required. Prerequisites: 20 s.h. of Geology courses, junior or senior standing in Geology, and approval of department chairperson. Graded S/U only.

Contact Information

Department of Geology

Dr. Samuel Thompson, Chairperson
Location: Tillman Hall 312
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: (309) 298-1648

Geology Website

Geology Directory

College of Arts & Sciences (CAS)

Dr. Susan Martinelli-Fernandez, Dean
CAS Email:
Location: Morgan Hall 114
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: (309) 298-1828

CAS Website

Geology Advising

Jennifer Sandrik-Rubio
Tillman Hall 415
Phone: (309) 298-3606

Tillman Hall