Geology, the study of the Earth, includes a variety of topics such as earth history, fossils, rocks and minerals, climate, ground and surface water, natural hazards and environmental science. Guilford geology students are involved in hands-on field experiences, inquiry-based laboratory work and undergraduate research. Upon graduation our students pursue many diverse career options both within the sciences and in related fields. Many go on to graduate study, either immediately after graduation or after gaining work experience. Some alumni now have successful careers as professional geologists in the environmental and oil industries, while others are employed in research labs or in academia and still others are in teaching, environmental science, environmental law, resource management and geography.
Few students have had much exposure to geology before entering college; many of our majors “discover” geology during their first or second year, often after taking one of our introductory courses as their lab science requirement. Many students choose to major in geology because they love the subject, are interested in the environment and wish to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to study geology beyond the traditional classroom.
Field Study and Research
Hands-on experience with real-world outcrops is critical to learning geology and we make work in the field a significant component of our courses from the introductory level to senior research. Students gain experience identifying and analyzing rocks and outcrops and develop skills working with field instrumentation. In addition to our core courses, we offer opportunities for students to study geology abroad in regions such as the East African Rift Valley, the Andes and the Galapagos Islands.
We also encourage students to engage in research projects with us or through internship experiences. Our students have worked with local agencies to study the use of enhanced wetlands for stormwater treatment, conducted geologic studies on the nearby Guilford Courthouse Military Park and investigated the water quality of the campus lake. Others participate in internship opportunities with other organizations; recent projects include studying fossil assemblages with researchers at the University of Florida, analyzing impacts on stream water quality with various state and federal organizations and working with the National Park Service to establish baseline geologic data in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. These learning experiences also offer the opportunity for students to present their scientific research at regional and national scientific meetings.
The Guilford geology program is inherently experiential; all students participate in outdoor field labs. Upper level courses include multi-day academic trips providing the opportunity to develop observational and analytical skills in the field. We encourage our students to study abroad and to engage in research and internship opportunities.
Geology majors have many options to study abroad. Many of our students attend programs offered by our affiliate, the School for Field Studies; they travel to locations such as Bhutan, Australia and Costa Rica. Other students opt to participate in summer and semester programs led by faculty of the Guilford geology program and other Guilford professors. These programs take place in Tanzania, Ecuador,the Galapagos Islands, Munich and Italy.
Summer Field Experience
To complete a B.S. degree in geology, all students must complete a 4 credit summer field camp at an accredited university. The summer field experience provides our students an unparalleled opportunity to hone their observational and analytical skills and to apply and integrate the knowledge they have gained in their upper level geology courses. This intensive experience is typically completed in western states such as Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. Some students opt for international field camps held in Canada or Ireland; additional opportunities to study in regions such as Argentina, Turkey and Africa are also available.
At Guilford, we work with individual students to help them identify the program that will best suit their particular interests.
Geology students are encouraged to pursue undergraduate research, either as an independent study crafted in collaboration with a professor or as a senior thesis. Recent majors have engaged in research that investigates the relationships between soil quality and the wine industry in North Carolina, others have investigated the impacts of wastewater residuals on ground and surface water quality and the impacts of storm water runoff on our campus lake and stream.
Our students regularly participate in the prestigious National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates, which include opportunities throughout the country and can vary from fossil research in Florida to fluvial studies in Colorado. Students pursuing research on and off campus can present their work on campus at the annual Guilford Undergraduate Symposium, as well as at regional and national professional meetings.
Many geology students engage in internship opportunities which can be developed in partnership with the department and completed as an elective for the major. For example, a recent graduate completed an internship with the United States Geological Survey to conduct fundamental geologic research in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Several students have landed positions with the National Park Service to study invasive species, while others have conducted water quality research for state transportation agencies or state parks. Students also have opportunities for internships in the private sector, including consulting and engineering firms.