The department’s mission is to develop new knowledge regarding Earth’s history, its environment and resources, to engage our students in the process, and share that knowledge broadly.
Curriculum and Faculty
We are concentrating our curriculum and resources in three areas: 1) Exploration, Development and Sustainability of Energy Resources; 2) Water Resources Sustainability and Changing Climate; 3) Revealing the Foundations of Geologic Processes, Earth History and Evolution of Life. When we attempt to sort our faculty into only one of these focus areas, we find it difficult as we strongly encourage and promote interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to geosciences. We have a group of four faculty that easily group into the energy area, five faculty into the water and climate area, and four faculty into the geologic processes, earth history, and evolution group. However, many of us contribute to more than one focus area.
Our undergraduate curriculum reflects the belief that a strong foundation in the geologic sciences is needed to become a geoscientist and requires course work in physical geology, earth history and earth materials. We have also developed the first international degree program in geosciences in the country, a program that requires international study and brings foreign students to our department. As a science program we require 30 credits of allied sciences in addition to meeting the course work required for one of five areas of concentration: B.S. Interdisciplinary Geosciences, B. S. Geosciences (two areas of concentration – Earth History, Evolution and Earth Resources, and Water, Climate, and Environment), B.S. International Field Geosciences Dual Degree with University College Cork (Ireland), B.S. International Field Geosciences Dual Degree with Potsdam University (Germany), and B. S. Earth Science Education.
Our graduate program focuses studies and research within the three areas listed above: 1) Exploration, Development and Sustainability of Energy Resources; 2) Water Resources Sustainability and Changing Climate; 3) Revealing the Foundations of Geologic Processes, Earth History and Evolution of Life. We typically have 40 percent of our graduate students in the Water Resources Sustainability and Changing Climate area and the remainder split between the two other groups. The success of our graduate program is based on intradepartmental cooperation and collaboration as well as having an excellent group of faculty outside of our department who are actively conducting research in related areas (such as College of Forestry and Conservation, Division of Biological Sciences, Math, Chemistry, Geography, and Environmental Studies). Our research support comes principally as a result of the high performance level of our faculty who successfully compete for national grants.
The Department of Geosciences’ faculty and students are conducting transforming research. We conduct research on all continents except Antarctica. We also focus many research efforts in the western United States. Our faculty and their students publish their results in top tier scientific journals such as Science, Geology, Journal of Geophysical Research, Water Resources Research, Ground Water, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and the Journal of the America Association of Petroleum Geologists to name a few. Our faculty averages two to three publications annually and has one to five active grants. Our faculty and their students travel to Alaska to study how mountain glaciers move, set out high precision survey equipment that telemeters data by satellites in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India to assess stress build up and the potential for catastrophic earthquakes. They delve into the boiling waters of Yellowstone to suggest how life may have formed on Mars, monitor and model how hundreds of thousands of tons of sediments trapped behind dams are transported downstream after dams are removed, unravel the ancient history of coral reef development and effects of climate driven ocean pH changes on modern corals, and tease out signals of climate change from stream flow records of mountain headwater streams. Sponsored research support is obtained from NSF, EPA, NASA, DOE, state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private industries.
Though we have always viewed our role as one of scientific knowledge through basic research, we also recognize the need to develop an applied approach to address immediate and future societal issues. We have an active education and research program in both basic and applied Geosciences. We anticipate expanding our role as a leading department in the physical sciences at The University of Montana and regionally by deepening our expertise in the three focus areas previously listed: energy, water and climate, and earth history and evolution.