Geology

About Us

In the Geology Department, we explore the science of Earth. We study the planet using elements of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics. We get hands-on experience in labs and in the field. Our degrees prepare students for careers in research, education, museums, engineering consulting and more.

Why Study Geology at Eastern?

Our program provides a broad introduction to geology while preparing students for graduate school, a career in geology or a career as an Earth Sciences teacher.


Collaboration

You will work with state, federal and industry professionals to solve geological and environmental problems in the region.

Research

Work one-on-one with faculty to plan, carry out, and present research at local, regional and national conferences including the Geological Society of America.

Exploration

Experience geology outside the classroom with a variety of field-oriented courses and hands-on learning opportunities.


What You Will Learn

  • Geological principles and processes
  • How to conduct geological research
  • How to use geological tools and equipment
  • Scientific communication skills
EWU Geology department encourages and supports student research that helps us understand how the Earth works.
Student presentations at conferences in the past 5 years

159

Graduates who have been accepted to graduate programs in the past 5 years

14

Graduates who have jobs in the field within a year of graduation

93%

Median pay for geoscience-related occupations

84k

Field Experience

Eastern Washington University runs a four-week geology field camp for 10 quarter credits (6-semester credits) on the campus of University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. Geology field camp is a capstone course for an undergraduate degree in geology and a prerequisite for most graduate programs in geology. Students describe rock units and make geologic maps in a rugged landscape dominated by the Tobacco Root, Pioneer, and the Beaverhead Mountains. Field instruction includes a detailed description of rock units, GPS skills, and geologic mapping using topographic maps and air photos. Students undertake a variety of group and individual exercises.

Students must have a junior or senior standing in a geology program. Apply early as Field Camp often fills before the application deadline. A signed consent form is required as well.

For more information, contact Field Camp Director Richard Orndorff at rorndorff@ewu.edu.

Watch Spotlight Video

Getting field experience doesn’t just have to happen on foot. During Fall 2019, we got our students out in the field on bike! Just outside of Cheney near Fish Lake and the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, there are plenty of geologic formations to check out, study and learn about.

Watch Spotlight Video

Picture: Students examining geology on the Fish Lake Trail

Facilities

The Biostratigraphy Research Lab is divided into two areas—the research office and the preparation laboratory. The research office contains two desks, a research table with a binocular Leica Wild M8 microscope, a map cabinet, a research library, and a Gateway 2000 computer. The preparation laboratory is equipped with a large (six-foot) fume hood, a sample preparation oven, a diamond blade trim saw, two rock splitters, a binocular microscope, three student preparation stations, a sink, and a large sample storage facility. In addition, a Polaroid MP4 copy stand camera and a darkroom are available.

Ongoing faculty and student research has centered on the Cambrian System (540-490 million years ago), although research topics ranging from the upper Proterozoic to Devonian (700-360 million years ago) have been completed. Current research is focusing on the Lower to Middle Cambrian mass extinction and the faunal recovery interval in the southern Great Basin. Research covers all aspects of this interval, including sedimentology/stratigraphy and taxonomic description of the trilobite faunas, in addition to isotopic studies being carried on by Isabel Montanez and her students at UC Davis.

The Geochemistry Lab has the equipment for preparing and analyzing water, soil, and rock samples for their elemental composition. The major instruments in the lab are an inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES) and a UV/VIS spectrophotometer. The lab also has several fume hoods, a laminar flow hood, ultrapure water system, analytical balance, pH meters, muffle furnace, drying oven, centrifuges and hot plates.

The Invertebrate Paleontology Lab is equipped to make thin sections and acetate peels, produce photomicrographs of fossil specimens, and perform quantitative measurements of various morphological features. Diamond saws, diamond grinding wheels, and polishing machines are used to produce polished specimens of fossils for thin sections and peels. Several microscopes and cameras are available to study and photograph both thin sections and peels. A digitizer board and measuring instrument simplify the quantitative aspects of working with fossils.

The primary group of fossil studies in the paleontology lab at Eastern are colonial marine organisms called bryozoans. Most of the morphological structures present in these organisms require microscopic studies to identify the various species of bryozoans. Presently, in this laboratory, we are studying Permian bryozoans from Washington state, New Zealand, Russia, Pakistan, Nevada, and China.

The laboratory also contains a large library of books and articles on fossil bryozoans to aid in our research.

The Sedimentology Lab is used for both teaching and research. The lab contains equipment to perform basic sieve analyses and grain size analyses of silts and clays, heavy mineral separation and basic soil engineering tests. We have also constructed a small Plexiglass flume to demonstrate sediment transport mechanics in alluvial channels, as well as a turbidity tank to simulate turbidity flows and associated deposition.

There is a large teaching collection of sedimentary rocks, both detrital and carbonate, for use in undergraduate classes. There is also a large collection of a wide variety of sedimentary structures. In addition, there are several sets of core from sedimentary sequences in Washington and from the Colorado Plateau.

A small office and prep room are attached to the main lab space and are used by students and faculty for special projects.

The Mineralogy and Petrology Lab is used primarily for undergraduate study and research. The laboratory has a collection of museum quality specimens available for viewing and numerous teaching specimens including Ward’s 100 North American Rocks and Minerals. The Cheney-Cowles Museum donated a beautiful collection of museum quality mineral specimens which are available for teaching. Another collection was acquired for display and/or teaching from Paul and Alice Weis, both retirees from the local office of the United States Geological Survey. A hallway display of some of their specimens is updated on a regular basis for viewing by the general public.  Most recently, the department acquired a collection from Elizabeth Lynch Williams Ralls consisting of micromounts and small samples of nicely crystallized minerals that are instrumental in teaching crystallography.

The laboratory also has a collection of ball-and-stick models (14 Bravais Lattices, six Crystal Systems, and several minerals including halite, graphite, and diamond) for teaching purposes. Mineral identification by students is facilitated with hardness kits, streak plates, glass plates, and magnets.

The laboratory is equipped with ten CX31-P  Olympus student petrographic microscopes. The department also has a mobile petrographic teaching workstation consisting of a high-resolution Javelin video camera (CV-730) that mounts onto a microscope for thin section study or onto a Computar macroscopic zoom lens for viewing mineral/rock specimens on a 19″ SONY Trinitron color video monitor. This petrographic workstation aids in teaching optical mineralogy and petrology.

Students and faculty utilize the state-of-the-art Thin Section Lab for rock and mineral sample preparation including cutting, grinding and polishing of rock and mineral specimens. The facility maintains five rock saws, equipped to handle large and small samples, five variable speed grinder-polishers, an automatic vibratory polisher, two slab polishers and two thin section machines, including a Microtec semiautomatic machine capable of producing both standard and large-format thin sections.

The Weissenborn Map Library, named in memory of Al Weissenborn, a USGS geologist and longtime friend of the Department of Geology, houses an extensive collection (20,000-plus different titles) of topographic, geologic and other thematic maps encompassing the Pacific Northwest and the world beyond that are available to students and faculty for use in teaching and research.

Scholarship Opportunities

Dr. Felix Mutschler dedicated 45 years to his professional career in geology – combining classroom teaching, research and field work. Dr. Mutschler had a special interest in our introductory physical geology course, and devoted special effort to its excellence. The geology department wants to ensure that more students can have the opportunity to be inspired by geology and has created this scholarship in honor of Dr. Felix Mutschler. This scholarship is for lower-division students early in their geology academic career.

Mutschler Scholarship Flyer 2019

The Rock Rollers Club of Spokane awards scholarships to selected residents of the Inland Empire, either to help pay the fee required for Eastern’s summer field camp course, or to provide tuition assistance.

Rock Rollers Scholarship Flyer 2019

This scholarship is dedicated to the memory of Al Weissenborn, a prominent geologist who was in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey office in the Spokane area from 1946 to 1973. Donations from former EWU students, faculty, the Weissenborn family, and friends from the geologic community have made this scholarship possible for geology seniors.

Weissenborn Scholarship 2019

Careers in Geology

Earning a degree or minor in geology from Eastern Washington University leads to many career opportunities:


Consultant
Explorer
Museum Curator
Teacher
Writer