Geology — M.S.

Program director
Kevin E. Nick

The Department of Earth and Biological Sciences offers the Master of Science in geology degree. Research and coursework emphasize field and laboratory studies in sedimentology, paleontology, igneous petrology, and environmental geology. Research in paleontology may also be pursued through the M.S. and Ph.D. degree curricula in biology, and through the Ph.D. degree curriculum in earth science.

Program objectives

The Geology Program focuses on field-oriented geology. The integrated core course sequence provides students with the tools to conduct research in the subdisciplines of sedimentology, paleontology, igneous petrology, or environmental geology. Fieldwork is emphasized and provides a first-hand experience with geological phenomena that cannot be satisfactorily grasped or understood solely from classroom or laboratory study. Throughout the geology curriculum, students are encouraged to develop an open-minded and investigative approach to the application of the scientific method to the resolution of geologic problems.

The Geology Program aims to instill in students the values of honesty, scientific integrity, careful research, and independent critical thinking; provide the tools and intellectual environment in which geologists can attain their highest potential in scholarship and research; and challenge graduate students to consider the relationships among science, faith, and societal responsibility.

Program learning outcomes

By the end of this program, the graduate should be able to:

  1. Pass a standardized national exam in earth science practice;
  2. Analyze and synthesize published data and interpretations;
  3. Plan and carry out independent research;
  4. Apply effective written and oral communication and technological tools to professional practice;
  5. Demonstrate professional aptitude and attitude;
  6. Demonstrate critical evaluation skills in relation to faith, science, and public interest issues.

Financial aid

Research and teaching assistantships are available at the Department of Earth and Biological Sciences on a competitive basis. Further information can be obtained by contacting the department at <ebs@llu.edu>. Qualified students are also encouraged to seek fellowships and grants from federal and private agencies with the help of their advisors.

Overview of program requirements

Two-year track—for students with an undergraduate degree in geology

A minimum of 56 quarter units, including 44 at or above the 500 level, constitutes the curriculum for the Master of Science degree in geology.

Three-year track—for students without an undergraduate degree in geology

Students with a variety of majors (including science and some nonscience majors) are encouraged to enter the M.S. degree in geology program. The three-year track courses are indicated in the table of program requirements and include: 22 units of undergraduate geology courses that are not part of the M.S. curriculum as well as M.S. degree curriculum courses in geology with a minimum of 56 quarter units, including 44 at or above the 500 level. Total for the three-year track is 78 quarter units. Advanced standing may be granted toward cognate requirements.

In addition to Loma Linda University admission requirements, the applicant must also complete the following requirements:

  • An undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited institution
  • G.P.A. of at least 3.0
  • Achieve an acceptable score on the general GRE examination
  • Completion of the following courses:
    • General chemistry—full year with laboratory (12 units)
    • Physics—full year with laboratory (12 units)
    • Mathematics, including calculus
    • Statistics
  • Organismal or ecological biology biology courses such as zoology, botany, ecology or general biology are recommended, but are not required

Some of the above courses may be taken as corequisites during residence at Loma Linda University, with approval of admission committee.

Applicants should complete their applications by January 31 of the calendar year being considered for admission, for priority consideration. Review of applications begins in February for Autumn Quarter admission. Research assistantships are competitively awarded.

It is recommended that applicants contact the department early in the application process at <ebs@llu.edu>.

Three-year Track additional requirements

Corequisites
The following courses are required of all students who have not completed a bachelor's degree in geology. Courses do not apply toward graduate credit.
GEOL 204Physical Geology4
GEOL 316Mineralogy4
GEOL 317Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology4
GEOL 416Sedimentology and Stratigraphy6
GEOL 424Structural Geology4
Total Units22

M.S. degree requirements for all students—both two-year and three-year tracks

Cognates
The following courses are usually taken during the undergraduate program. However, they may be completed during the graduate program and may apply toward the M.S. degree. Advanced standing may be granted toward these requirements.
GEOL 436Low Temperature Geochemistry4
GEOL 443Historical Geology4
GEOL 456Field Methods of Geologic Mapping4
Core
GEOL 510Orientation to Graduate Geology1
GEOL 556Paleoenvironments3
GEOL 557Paleoenvironments Field Trip1
GEOL 558Philosophy of Science 14
or GEOL 559 Philosophy of Science and Origins
GEOL 566Clastic Sedimentary Geology4
GEOL 567Stratigraphy and Basin Analysis4
GEOL 607Seminar in Geology 24
GEOL 617Proposal Writing and Grantsmanship2
GEOL 664Science Communication Outreach 41
Select one of the following:4
Invertebrate Paleontology
Vertebrate Paleontology
Paleobotany
Taphonomy
Religion
REL_5__Graduate-level Religion3
Electives
All GEOL graduate level courses not counted towards core requirements may be counted towards elective requirement.9
Research
GEOL 698Thesis Research (1-8) 34
Total Units56

Seminar attendance requirements

All graduate students in residence must register for and attend seminars (GEOL 607 Seminar in Geology) each quarter studying at this University.

Varied course offerings

In addition to the primary offerings of the department, the student, with committee approval, may take courses in other departments as part of the graduate work,  according to special interests and needs.

Noncourse requirements

Advancement to candidacy

Students are urged to select a research project early in their program, in consultation with a faculty member approved by the department. Students should apply for advancement to candidacy and develop an approved, comprehensive plan for completion of the degree by the end of the third quarter of study. Advancement to candidacy is petitioned by completing Form A, which requires:

  1. Selecting an advisor and research committee.
  2. Showing progress in the program while maintaining a satisfactory G.P.A.
  3. Receiving approval of the written research proposal.
  4. Passing the oral defense of the research proposal.
  5. Being recommended by the program faculty.

Research Presentation

Presentation of research findings at a scientific meeting is required.

Thesis

The written thesis must demonstrate significant conclusions based on analysis of original data generated by the student. Chapters must be written in the style of an appropriate scientific journal.

Defense of thesis

An oral presentation and defense of the thesis to the research committee is required. The written thesis and oral defense must both be approved by the students committee. This includes final oral examination on student's field of study.

Grade requirement for graduation

An overall G.P.A. of 3.0 is required for graduation.

Normal time to complete the program

27-month track — 2.33 years (seven [7] academic quarters) — based on full-time enrollment; part time permitted

36-month track — three (3) years (nine [9] academic quarters) — based on full-time enrollment; part time permitted

Courses

GEOL 204. Physical Geology. 4 Units.

Introductory geology course that provides the student with a broad picture of geological processes operating on and within the earth. Introduction to minerals, sedimentary and igneous rocks, and fossils. Weathering, earthquakes, volcanism, erosion and sedimentation, and plate tectonics. Three class hours, one three-hour laboratory or field trip per week.

GEOL 316. Mineralogy. 4 Units.

Study minerals and their occurrences including crystallography and crystal chemistry, phase diagrams, and systematic classification. Mineral identification based on hand sample, optical, and other analytical techniques. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory or field trip per week.

GEOL 317. Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. 4 Units.

Introduction to classification and origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks.Study phase diagrams and processes controlling magma crystallization. Examine relationship of plate tectonics to the genesis and distribution of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory or field trip per week.

GEOL 416. Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. 6 Units.

Focus on the sedimentary rock record through a study of rock types, depositional processes, and models. Stratigraphic nomenclature and approaches to correlation on local, regional, and global scales. Laboratory analysis of primary and diagenetic mineralogy, textures, and sedimentary structures in clastic and carbonate rocks. Field descriptions of sedimentary rocks, structures, and sequences; and field experience in interpreting depositional processes and stratigraphic relationships.

GEOL 424. Structural Geology. 4 Units.

Theory of stress and strain and examination of rock deformation in a framework of plate tectonics. Examples presented in field settings.

GEOL 426. Invertebrate Paleontology. 4 Units.

Structure, classification, ecology, and distribution of selected fossil invertebrate groups. Principles and methods involved in the study and analysis of invertebrate fossils. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory per week.

GEOL 427. Vertebrate Paleontology. 4 Units.

Systematics, biology, and biogeography of ancient fossil vertebrates, with emphasis on the origins of major groups.

GEOL 434. Introduction to GIS for the Natural Sciences (2). 2 Units.

Principles and practice of GIS data acquisition, data editing, map making, and geodatabase management. Recommended for students beginning a research project.

GEOL 435. GIS Spatial Analysis for the Natural Sciences (3). 3 Units.

Advanced analysis of GIS data; statistical analysis, geographic analysis of spatial data, and methods of displaying, editing, and modeling spatial data using ArcGIS and related GIS tools. Recommended for students who have research data in hand to analyze.

GEOL 436. Low Temperature Geochemistry. 4 Units.

Principles of the chemistry of systems that pertain to surface geological and environmental settings. Major topics include: water quality, mineral solubility, natural systems represented by chemical equations, carbonate equilibrium systems, mineral stability plots, and oxidation-reduction systems.
Prerequisite: College chemistry; consent of instructor.

GEOL 443. Historical Geology. 4 Units.

Overview of salient geological and paleontological features in the geological record, explaining the way they are interpreted in the formulation of models of Earth’s history.

GEOL 444. Paleobotany. 4 Units.

Fossil plants; their morphology, paleoecology, taphonomy, classification, and stratigraphic distribution. Analyzes floral trends in the fossil record. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory or field trip per week.

GEOL 455. Modern Carbonate Depositional Systems. 3 Units.

Examines modern and Pleistocene carbonate systems in the field, using these environments as models for understanding sediment production, facies development, and early diagenesis for many ancient carbonates. Presentations and readings on specific environments combined with field descriptions, mapping, analysis, and reports. Requires rigorous hiking and snorkeling in shallow water.

GEOL 456. Field Methods of Geologic Mapping. 4 Units.

Advanced geologic mapping of complex areas, with interpretation of their history; includes mapping of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Experience in preparation of geologic reports of each mapped locality.

GEOL 464. Science Communication Outreach. 1 Unit.

Guided immersion into science communication outreach. Presentation of principles of communication outreach and small group work. Student teams participate in project that interacts with a specific, identified community. Undergraduate students will work with graduate students in small teams and engage collaborative planning to address a community need, then present, evaluate, and reflect on the experience.
Cross-listing: ENVS 464.

GEOL 465. Hydrogeology. 4 Units.

Theory and geology of groundwater occurrence and flow, the relation of ground water to surface water, and the potential distribution of ground water by graphical and analytical methods. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory per week.

GEOL 475. Philosophy of Science and Origins. 4 Units.

Concepts in the history and philosophy of science, and application of these principles in analyzing current scientific trends.

GEOL 485. Seminar in Geology. 0.5 Units.

Presentations and discussion of selected topics featuring recent developments. Members of all geology meet together.

GEOL 486. Research and Experimental Design. 2 Units.

Concepts, methods, and tools of research—including experimental design and data analysis.

GEOL 487. Field Geology Studies. 1-6 Units.

Special field study trips lasting one or more weeks. Student involvement required, including field presentations and fieldwork assignments, such as the measurement and analysis of sedimentary sections, facies profiling, paleontologic excavation, mapping, or other geological or paleontology field activity. One unit of credit per week. May be repeated for additional credit.

GEOL 488. Topics in Geology. 1-4 Units.

A didactic course in a specified area of earth science to cover time-sensitive subjects or topics on demand. Requires an independent study title request form that describes the specific area covered in the class and course requirements.

GEOL 489. Readings in Geology and Paleontology. 1-4 Units.

Focused readings and discussion of literature with course instructor in a seminar setting. Requires an independent study title request form that describes the specific area covered in the class and course requirements.

GEOL 495. Special Projects in Geology. 1-4 Units.

Special project in the field, laboratory, museum, or library under the direction of a faculty member. Registration indicates the specific field of the project.

GEOL 497. Undergraduate Research. 1-4 Units.

Credit for supervised research activities, including activities related to completion of the senior thesis. Requires an independent study title request form that explains the research and evaluation criteria.

GEOL 510. Orientation to Graduate Geology. 1 Unit.

Provides a platform for introducing students to skills and strategies for successfully navigating through their graduate degree and for pllanning their future professional career development.

GEOL 512. Invertebrate Paleontology. 4 Units.

Structure, classification, ecology, and distribution of selected fossil invertebrate groups. Considers principles and methods involved in the study and analysis of invertebrate fossils. Per week: Class three hours, plus one three-hour laboratory. Additional work required beyond GEOL 426.

GEOL 513. Vertebrate Paleontology. 4 Units.

Fossil vertebrates, with emphasis on the origins of major groups. Systematics, biology, and biogeography of ancient vertebrates. Additional work required beyond GEOL 427.

GEOL 514. Paleobotany. 4 Units.

Fossil plants, their morphology, paleoecology, taphonomy, classification, and stratigraphic distribution. Analyzes floral trends in the fossil record. Per week: three class hours and one three-hour laboratory or field trip. Additional work required beyond GEOL 444.

GEOL 516. Sedimentology and Stratigraphy. 6 Units.

Rock types, depositional processes, and models. Stratigraphic nomenclature and approaches to correlation on local, regional, and global scales. Laboratory analysis of primary and diagenetic mineralogy, textures, and sedimentary structures in clastic and carbonate rocks. Field descriptions of sedimentary rocks, structures, and sequences; and field experience in interpreting depositional processes and stratigraphic relationships. Requires additional laboratory and field activities over GEOL 416.

GEOL 517. Modern Carbonate Depositional Systems. 3 Units.

Examines modern and Pleistocene carbonate systems in the field, using these environments as models for understanding sediment production, facies development, and early diagenesis for many ancient carbonates. Presentations and readings on specific environments combines with field descriptions, mapping, analysis, and reports. Requires rigorous hiking and snorkeling in shallow water. Additional work required beyond GEOL 455.

GEOL 518. Earth Structure, Process, and History. 4 Units.

Study of geological processes and the resulting geological record. Introduces minerals and rocks, sedimentary and igneous processes, fossils, plate tectonics, geological history, and models of earth history. Student prepares a teaching module on the topic. Open only to students in the M.S. degree program in natural sciences. Per week: class three class hours, one three-hour laboratory or field trip.

GEOL 526. Introduction to GIS for the Natural Sciences. 2 Units.

Principles and practice of GIS data acquisition, data editing, map making, and geodatabase management. Recommended for students beginning a research project.

GEOL 535. GIS Spatial Analysis for the Natural Sciences. 3 Units.

Advanced analysis of GIS data; statistical analysis, geographic analysis of spatial data, and methods of displaying, editing, and modeling spatial data using ArcGIS and related GIS tools. Recommended for students who have research data in hand to analyze.

GEOL 545. Taphonomy. 4 Units.

Processes that affect an organism from death until its final burial and fossilization, and utilization of this information in reconstructing ancient assemblages of organisms. Three class hours per week. One laboratory per week to study, describe, and interpret fossil assemblages of vertebrates, invertebrates, and microfossils.

GEOL 554. Limnogeology. 4 Units.

Ancient lake deposits, including their sedimentologic, paleontologic, mineralogic, geochemical, and stratigraphic characteristics. Investigates as analogs the depositional processes occurring in modern lakes. Laboratory and several extended field trips.

GEOL 555. Carbonate and Evaporite Geology. 4 Units.

Advanced course on the geology of carbonate and evaporite rocks, including: petrography, depositional systems, diagenesis, and overview of current topics of research. Includes weekly laboratory experience in the analysis of carbonate and evaporite samples and a field trip to ancient carbonate sequences.

GEOL 556. Paleoenvironments. 3 Units.

Venue to learn skills to distinguish and reconstruct ancient depositional environments. Applies paleontologic, sedimentologic, and geochemical data and methods to interpretation of paleoenvironments, with emphasis on organism-sediment relationships. Investigates as analogs processes, sediments, and organisms in modern depositional environments.

GEOL 557. Paleoenvironments Field Trip. 1 Unit.

Field-based geology that integrates with GEOL 556, Paleoenvironments. Ten days spent visiting a variety of ancient and modern depositional environments. Published observations reviewed and relived to develop a regional context and collect primary field data.

GEOL 558. Philosophy of Science. 4 Units.

Selected topics in the history and philosophy of science, and application of these principles in analyzing contemporary scientific trends.

GEOL 559. Philosophy of Science and Origins. 1 Unit.

Studies selected topics in the history and philosophy of science, and applies these principles in analyzing current scientific trends. Provides an advanced update in the topic for students who have had a similar course at the undergraduate level.

GEOL 565. Analysis of Sedimentary Rocks. 4 Units.

Provides exposure to range of analytical tools used for assessment in sedimentary geology. Tools covered include: saws and grinders, photography through microscope, point counting with optical microscope, x-ray diffraction of bulk and clays, scanning electron microscopy with EDS, magnetic susceptibility, grain size analysis, acid insoluble residues, making thin sections, MP-AES, GPS, image analysis, and error analysis. Participants will use case studies to develop skill in project design.

GEOL 566. Clastic Sedimentary Geology. 4 Units.

Advanced course on the geology of clastic sedimentary rocks--including: petrography, depositional systems, diagenesis, and overview of current topics of research. Includes weekly laboratory experience in the analysis and description of clastic rock samples and a field trip to ancient clastic sequences.

GEOL 567. Stratigraphy and Basin Analysis. 4 Units.

Addresses vertical and lateral relationships of sedimentary units and facies in the context of the development and filling of sedimentary basins within a chronostratigraphic framework. Emphasis on the impact of tectonics, sea level variations, and autogenic processes and their expression as sequences with specific stratal geometries in different basin types. Both surface (field outcrop studies) and subsurface (well logs and seismic stratigraphy) approaches to basin analysis will be covered.

GEOL 575. Hydrogeology. 4 Units.

Theory and geology of groundwater occurrence and flow, the relation of groundwater to surface water, and the potential distribution of groundwater by graphical and analytical methods. Three class hours and one three-hour laboratory per week.

GEOL 588. Topics in Geology. 1-4 Units.

A didactic course in a specified area of earth science to cover time-sensitive subjects or topics on demand. Requires an independent study title request form that describes the specific area covered in the class and course requirements.

GEOL 594. Readings in Geology and Paleontology. 1,2 Unit.

Focused readings and discussion of the literature with the course instructor in a seminar setting. Requires an independent study title request form that describes the specific area covered in the class and course requirements.

GEOL 595. Readings in Limnogeology. 1 Unit.

Readings and analysis of current and classic scientific literature dealing with modern and ancient lake environments—including geochemistry, sedimentology, biology and paleontology, and related subjects. Activities include student presentations of papers, discussion, and research proposals and reports. One extended, multiday field trip required.

GEOL 607. Seminar in Geology. 0.5 Units.

Presentations and discussion of selected topics featuring recent developments. Members of all geology programs meet together.

GEOL 616. Research and Experimental Design. 2 Units.

Concepts, methods, and tools of research, including experimental design and data analysis.
Cross-listing: BIOL 616.

GEOL 617. Proposal Writing and Grantsmanship. 2 Units.

Develops skills in writing proposals and in acquiring funding for research. Increases understanding of the culture of research. Reviews the infrastructure of science funding and identifies individualized sources of potential funding. Presents successful proposal-writing strategies for both governmental and nongovernmental sources of funding. Emphasizes development of effective writing skills during preparation of the student's thesis or dissertation proposal.

GEOL 618. Writing for Publication. 1 Unit.

Explores the mechanics and processes of preparing, submitting, revising, and resubmitting a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Designed for students who are well along in the process of writing their first manuscript for publication. Prepares students to handle the manuscript revision process when the manuscript is returned from reviewers, as well as the final stage of resubmission to the journal.

GEOL 658. Advanced Philosophy of Science readings (2). 2 Units.

Reading and discussion of selected references in the philosophy of science, and the application of these concepts in the practice of scientific research and interpretation, including their influence on scientific study of origins. Best taken near the end of a student's graduate program. Two-hour class session per week.

GEOL 664. Science Communication Outreach. 1 Unit.

Guided immersion into science communication outreach. Principles of communication outreach and small group work presented. Student teams devise project that engages a specific, identified community. Small teams collaboratively interact with community to address a need, present findings, evaluate impact, and reflect on experience.
Cross-listing: BIOL 664.

GEOL 695. Special Projects in Geology. 1-4 Units.

Special project in the field, laboratory, museum, or library under the direction of a faculty member. Registration indicates the specific field of the project.

GEOL 697. Research. 1-8 Units.

Credit for supervised research activities. Requires an independent study title request form that explains the research and evaluation criteria.

GEOL 698. Thesis Research. 1-8 Units.

Credit for supervised research activities and for writing of the master’s thesis. Requires an independent study title request form that explains the research and evaluation criteria. Grade received does not indicate whether thesis is completed and approved.

GEOL 699. Dissertation Research. 1-8 Units.

Credit for supervised research activities and for writing the doctoral dissertation. Requires an independent study title request form that explains the research and evaluation criteria. Grade received does not indicate whether dissertation is completed and approved.