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M.S. & PhD


The Department of Geosciences confers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Grad students undertake fundamental research over the wide range of disciplines within the geosciences represented by our faculty. We’re organized roughly into three themes (with lots of interaction among them):

Surface Processes, Water, and Climate

We are interested in the part of the Earth where we all live—the surface. At this interface, water, air, rock, soil, and living things all interact in complicated cycles. These determine the distribution and quality of resources upon which all life depends, and better understanding of the cycles means better stewardship of them. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how large rivers respond to dam removal, how the Greenland icecap is responding to climate change, how contaminants are transported in groundwater, and how ground and surface water resources can be efficiently used. See these faculty pages for more detail:

Deep Time and Earth History

We are interested in the large-scale evolution of the earth, including the chemical and physical changes of earth materials over time. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how ancient continental cratons evolve chemically, how metamorphic core complexes evolve, how western North America was assembled, how the biosphere and the tectosphere interact, and how economic resources are distributed in space and time. See these faculty pages for more detail:

Active Lithosphere

We are interested in the dynamics of the Earth’s outermost solid layer, the lithosphere. This layer is not static, but hosts earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, ocean basins, and a host of other features related to change. Understanding the underlying physics of these phenomena helps us to both mitigate risk and understand the fundamental arrangement of the landscape. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how active faulting is distributed in Central Asia and Tibet, how Western North America was assembled, how earthquakes are distributed in the Northern Rockies, and why the Rockies are in our own backyard in the first place. See these faculty pages for more detail:


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