The San Gabriel Mountains and North Claremont
Geologists are interdisciplinary scientists, dedicated to understanding Earth’s formation and evolution over time, as well as the interplay of active processes that continue to shape our planet. A host of fundamental questions drives our science forward. For instance, how can we reduce the risk to human populations from volcanic eruptions, earthquake activity and other hazardous geological events? What is the connection between the Earth’s interior dynamics and the global network of mobile tectonic plates at its surface, and within our solar system why is Earth’s plate tectonic regime unique? How did life originate, evolve and modify Earth’s environment over billions of years? Geologists also play an important role in addressing many applied questions of relevance to society. How can we resolve the mismatch between population growth and a dwindling supply of energy, mineral resources and clean water? How does evidence of past climate variations, observed in the geological record, help us understand the near-future trajectory and consequences of anthropogenic climate change? The geosciences are an essential part of the scientific framework needed to address questions like these and many of the other pressing challenges facing humankind.
Given the complex questions driving geoscience in the 21st
century, it is critical that Pomona Geology students strive to (1) investigate problems over a wide range of spatial scales, from microscopic to interplanetary, (2) utilize data reflecting timescales that vary from microseconds to periods spanning billions of years, and (3) integrate diverse approaches, such as fieldwork, laboratory analysis and computational modeling. The Geology Department curriculum offers excellent opportunities for students to acquire these capabilities, in no small part because Pomona College is ideally placed to allow firsthand student exploration of a spectacular and active geologic setting. Starting with their introductory classes and continuing throughout subsequent course work, students investigate geologic problems at locations in the San Gabriel and Sierra Nevada Mountains, including Sequoia National Park, at points along the Pacific Coast and San Andreas Fault, and within the Mojave Desert at sites such as Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, among many other destinations. Students also have exciting opportunities to broaden their geological horizons through Study Abroad in other spectacular locations like New Zealand, Scotland, and South Africa.
Whether it occurs at home or abroad, however, students’ exploration of the natural world frequently involves collaborative research projects both within and outside of the classroom. Research experiences with faculty are placed at key intervals throughout the Geology curriculum, allowing students to address many different questions using varied approaches prior to the capstone exercise: a year-long senior thesis research project. Such opportunities are enriched by access to cutting edge lab facilities, examples of which include full sample preparation and wet chemistry laboratories, X-ray Diffraction and X-ray Fluorescence instruments, access to a shared scanning electron microscopy facility equipped with microanalytical capacity, paleomagnetic instrumentation, and a 15-seat computing laboratory. Pursuit of external research opportunities within the US and at other locations around the world is also encouraged, for instance through the Department’s affiliation with 17 other colleges in the Keck Geology Consortium
. Such opportunities have allowed students in recent summers to conduct research in the Aleutian Islands, Panama, Iceland, and Mongolia, among many other exciting destinations.