Geosciences

About Us

Geoscientists study the Earth and our relationship to it. Earth is the greatest of all outdoor laboratories. It provides opportunities to observe natural processes in action. By applying your knowledge of the forces that are constantly reshaping our planet, you can seek to reconstruct the past and anticipate the future. You can benefit society by understanding our planet and the life it sustains.

Employed in a wide spectrum of academic, industrial, and government positions, geoscientists can be found collecting samples from the moon, the ocean floor, and active lava flows. They discover new mineral or hydrocarbon resources, consult on engineering and environmental issues, conduct research, teach, write and run museums. They work outdoors, in laboratories and in offices. Their fieldwork may entail mapping and collecting samples that will later be analyzed by sophisticated instruments. Geoscientists also conduct experiments or design models to test theories about earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and flooding.

What is Geoscience?

Department & Course Information

Geoscience Careers

Our degrees lead to many exciting opportunities:


Environmental Cleanup

Natural Resources

Drone Applications

Teacher

Lab Researcher

Field Scientist

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

News & Events

EWU Geology Field Camp

Eastern Washington University runs a four-week geology field camp for 8 quarter credits (5.5-semester credits), which is a capstone course for an undergraduate degree in geology and a prerequisite for most graduate programs in geology. Due to potentially lingering pandemic restrictions field camp will be based out of Cheney, WA. Dorm rooms and dining are available for external students.  Field camp will focus on a series of professional and academic studies for community groups from mapping geology and hazards for parks, determining potential fate and transport of groundwater contamination, to drone mapping for a carbon-sequestration project.

Questions, please contact Chad Pritchard at cpritchard@ewu.edu

Why Study Geoscience 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

  • Research to better understand how humans and environments interact
  • Apply geoscience techniques to a complex problem
  • Produce materials that professionally and effectively communicate to a range of audiences
  • Use analytical skills in geosciences to prepare for the professional job market or graduate studies
EWU Geoscience encourages and supports student research that helps us understand how the Earth works.

ASBOG (Geology License)

EWU Department of Geoscience is focused on preparing graduates for the state geologist license, which is required for most states by gaining a quality education, work experience, and the national geology license test: ASBOG.

Over 80% of EWU geoscience graduates gain employment with local geologic companies, governmental agencies, or graduate programs. This is because we teach a strong foundation in applied geology. Being a licensed geologist will allow you to work on groundwater, soil, economic geology, and construction sites in WA. Geologists often work in the field to make society more sustainable and an environment and human health, therefore it is important to gain a strong foundation in geologic concepts.

Field Experience

Fish Lake Bike Trip

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

Yakima River Canyon Float

In the spring of 2019, GEOL 431 took a field trip with EPIC. On this wonderful tour of the Yakima Fold and Thrust Belt in the Tri-Cities, students floated the Yakima River Canyon. Along the way, students got a great look at the wonderful folds in Umtanum Ridge.

Watch Spotlight Video

Odessa Craters

In June 2019, GEOL 431 took a field trip to collect data. Students took measurements on the basalt orientation and thermally map craters. This data was used to help figure out how the rock was formed. For example, by sag-flow (McGee and Stradling), lava-inflation around phreatic eruptions (Keszthelyi and Jaeger), or other emplacement processes.

Watch Spotlight Video

Facilities

The Geochemistry Lab has equipment for preparing and analyzing water, soil, and rock samples for their elemental composition. We have 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
  • An ultrapure water system
  • An analytical balance
  • pH meters
  • Muffle furnace
  • Drying oven
  • Centrifuges
  • Hot plates

Geotechnical engineering represents the intersection of engineering and geology. Geotechnical engineers study the engineering properties of soil and rock as they relate to the safety and stability of human infrastructure.

The EWU Geotechnical Engineering Lab has equipment to perform a wide variety of ASTM standard tests. Tests include specific gravity, Atterberg limits (plastic and liquid limits of soil), sieve and hydrometer analysis of particle size distributions, optimal water content for compaction (both standard and modified Proctor tests), unconfined compressive strength, California bearing ratio (CBR) for soil and rock underlying roads and runways, long-term consolidation, liquefaction, and constant head and falling head permeability.

Equipment includes:

  • Multiple load frames
  • Various load cells and strainmeters
  • Consolidometer and dead-load weights
  • Standard and modified Proctor test molds and compaction hammers
  • CBR molds and equipment for standard and saturated CBR testing
  • Split molds and tampers
  • Large sieve shaker and sieves
  • Tabletop sieve shaker and sieves
  • Light-, medium-, and heavy-duty balances
  • Casagrande machines for liquid limit testing
  • Slurry mixers
  • Sample splitters
  • Drying ovens
  • Shake table for seismic analysis of soil behavior
  • Falling head permeameter
  • Constant head permeameter
  • Hydrometers and hydrometer cylinders
  • Sand cone density apparatus
  • Bucket and Edelman augers
  • Hammer corer
  • Assorted sampling and lab tools

The GIS Laboratory is available in Isle Hall and virtually, giving students access to ESRI products to start making maps and interpreting their surroundings.

The EWU Drone Research Center hosts a number of DJI drones for aerial imaging, thermal imaging and multispectral mapping, and are used in the Remote Sensing Certification.

The Invertebrate Paleontology Lab is equipped to:

  • Make thin sections and acetate peels
  • Produce photomicrographs of fossil specimens
  • Perform quantitative measurements of various morphological features

Diamond saws, diamond grinding wheels, and polishing machines can be 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. We are currently 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 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 that 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  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.

Scholarships & Grants

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 $1,940 scholarship possible.

You may apply if you are a geology senior with at least 135 credits. Please include your resume. The criteria that will be taken into consideration include overall GPA and departmental community service.

Completed applications can be submitted to geosciences@ewu.edu

The Alumni-Funded Undergraduate Research Grant was established in 2013 to support research done by undergraduate  students at Eastern Washington University.  The grant was initiated from a generous donation from a former student who graduated from EWU with a B.S. in Geology in 2003 and from Baylor University with a Ph.D. in Geology. He is currently a research geologist and technical team leader at Exxon Mobil in Houston, TX where he works with others to predict the presence of oil/gas reservoirs in remote and under-explored parts of the world.

Application Deadline: Second Friday of the fall, winter, and spring quarters.

Eligibility:

  • Applicants must be an EWU undergraduate student with a major declared in Geology (B.S. or B.A.) or Environmental Science (with an emphasis in Geology).
  • Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA in his/her geology/environmental science courses, and at least an EWU 3.0 GPA overall.
  • A professor in the Department of Geology must supervise student research.
  • All application materials must be received by the deadline.

Use of Funds:

A student in good standing may be awarded a maximum of $300 during their time at EWU. Funds may be used for:

  • field or lab supplies,
  • sample analyses, or
  • travel expenses required for fieldwork and/or sample analyses.

Funds may not be used for personal field gear (e.g., hiking boots), salary, travel expenses for a professional meeting, tuition, or textbooks.

Those who receive an award are expected to:

  • present their work at the EWU Research and Creative Works Symposium or other professional meetings and
  • submit a final report to the Geology Department immediately following the completion of the project.

The report should detail how the award was spent, a summary of the research, and a list of any publications or presentations given at the EWU Research and Creative Works Symposium or professional meetings generated by this research.

Application Procedure:

  1. Complete the application form (PDF).
  2. Submit an electronic copy and one hard copy each to the Department Secretary, the Department Chair, and your faculty advisor on the second Friday of the fall, winter, or spring quarters.
  3. Recipients will be announced by the fourth week of the quarter.

You can apply for financial support with undergraduate research from the CSTEM Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities Fund for the following:

  • Lab supplies and equipment. Describe the supplies needed and budgeted amount.
  • Fieldwork travel. Fieldwork expenses may be reimbursed and must follow university travel procedures.
  • Conference travel. Reimbursement for conference fees and travel must follow university travel procedures.

Fund Your Project

For the last few decades, EWU and the Spokane Office of the US Geological Survey have collaborated on a project, Geologic Research in Support of Mineral Resource Studies in the Inland Northwest. EWU is one of the very few universities in the nation to place paid student employees with the US Geological Survey to assist with Mineral Resource projects.

For more information, please contact Chad Pritchard, PhD at cpritchard@ewu.edu.

Felix Mutschler dedicated 45 years to his professional career in geology—combining classroom teaching, research, and fieldwork. Mutschler had a special interest in our introductory physical geology course and devoted special effort to its excellence. Wanting to ensure that more students can have the opportunity to be inspired by geology, the Geology Department has created this $2,050 scholarship in honor of Mutschler. This scholarship is for lower-division students early in their geoscience academic career.

You may apply if you are enrolled in lower-division geology courses and have an overall 3.0 GPA. Completed applications can be submitted to geosciences@ewu.edu

Newsletter Spring2003

The Rock Rollers Club of Spokane has been fundraising the EWU Geology Department since 1984; you can see rock collections from its members on display. The $1,490 Rock Rollers Field Camp Scholarship is dedicated to students residing in the Inland Empire, who will be attending the EWU summer field camp. It is a way to help pay the required expenses of attendance.

You may apply if you are enrolled in GEOL 490, Senior Capstone: Geology Field Camp. Rock Roller Scholarship Form

Submit completed application to geosciences@ewu.edu by April 17th.

Our Mission

The Department of Geosciences offers degrees in geoscience with concentrations in geology, geography, and related fields. Our faculty have strengths in geology, geography, environmental science, GIS and remote sensing. The Department of Geosciences is grounded in the natural sciences while being academically engaged with the cultural and social processes that shape and create the unique landscapes of our world. Students earning a degree in the Department of Geosciences investigate human-environment interactions, including aspects of climate change, urbanization, and natural resource management, using advanced analytical skills and the application of geoscience techniques. Through faculty-student driven research and an innovative curriculum we prepare our students for success in the professional job market or graduate studies.

Questions?

Please contact Department Chair Chad Pritchard at cpritchard@ewu.edu or email Department Administrative Assistant Melissa Knapp at geosciences@ewu.edu.

Meet Our Faculty & Staff