The field of geology examines the nature and properties of the Earth, from its physical and chemical characteristics to the function of its climate and hydrologic systems. At Knox, the Earth Science minor is supported by the Department of Environmental Studies, and provides an entry into the study of the Earth that is based in an understanding of physical geology, natural resources science and climatology. Students participate in hands-on learning in the majority of required courses, and are encouraged to participate in additional field activities whenever they are offered, including Environmental Field Studies excursions, summer field schools, internships, study abroad programs, or independent research.
As Earth Science minors, students graduate with a detailed understanding of the science and current issues surrounding soils and agriculture, water resources, energy, or climate change, which is essential as we face the environmental challenges of the future. Studying Earth Science along with a relevant major may also provide the background necessary to pursue such interdisciplinary fields as geomicrobiology or geochemistry, which are areas of increasingly exciting research in the sciences.
The Earth Science minor requires six credits of coursework. Environmental Geology introduces the study of geology and examines the geologic hazards humans are most likely to face. Two courses in Chemistry introduce concepts necessary for understanding soil nutrient cycling, pollution and remediation, mineral and rock formation, and water quality. The remaining credits in the minor provide opportunities for students to pursue a variety of geologic topics, from hydrology to climate change. An Earth Science minor will understand the science behind at least one natural resource, and will have had opportunities to examine a variety of geologic systems both inside the classroom and out.
The Earth Science minor makes use of the Environmental Studies Department's facilities in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center. Facilities include a geology lab equipped with rock saw, grinder, and ball mill for sample preparation, petrographic microscopes with digital microscope camera, digital cameras, and copy stand for sample documentation, and in-lab equipment for grain size as well as chemical sediment analyses. Available field equipment includes water quality and depth meters, portable colorimeter, soil pH and temperature meters, and coring tubes and augers. Students interested in mapping can make use of the department collection of Brunton transits, hand-held GPS and differential GPS units, and a Leica total station. The Geographic Information System (GIS) laboratory provides access to ArcView 10.1 GIS software as well as differential data correction. Courses and student research are supported by an extensive rock and fossil collection housed in the basement of the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center.