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Earth Science

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Katherine Adelsberger

Chair & Professor of Environmental Studies; The Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair in Earth Science

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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The prairie at Green Oaks Biological Field Station.


How We Work

  1. We know the tools of the trade. Geologists need to be experts at identification, so our earth science students get straight field work to learn mapping skills, sample collection, and the measurement of rock orientations with wood. And thanks to our small class sizes, professors can set up multiple labs to look at rocks and answer questions for as long as students want.
  2. Our curriculum is locally sourced. From looking at erosion in Hope Cemetery to spoil banks at Green Oaks Biological Field Station, our students have all the resources they need to learn about soils and hydrology first hand. Faculty make full use of our location in the midwestern prairie, and Green Oaks Term offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in forest, grassland, and aquatic environments by living and studying at Green Oaks for the entirety of the term.
  3. Our research takes us around the world. For several years, the department has taken students on a six week summer trip to Jordan, through Petra and Jerash and drained wetlands in the desert. Students rotate through locations while researching different methodologies and learning the resource challenges of the country.
  4. Our inquiries go down to the atom. Visiting geological sites is only half of the journey: students work on projects like extracting elements from soil and then measuring them in our nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. Even as undergraduates, our students are able to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, and we're happy to share our work: just ask Alexis Stephen '18, who presented at the Geological Society of America in Baltimore with the results of her analyses of prairie soils.
  5. We're prepared for the future. A minor in earth science allows students to study earth science the way they want—whether that be through the lens of chemistry, statistics, environmental science, or some other field, our students are prepared to enter graduate programs in geology.

The Program

The earth science minor requires five credits of coursework. Environmental Geology introduces the study of geology and examines the geologic hazards humans are most likely to face. Chemistry introduces 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 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.

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A student on a rope swing in the forest at Green Oaks.
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Printed on Wednesday, April 24, 2024