Jul 17, 2024  
2019-2020 Catalog 
2019-2020 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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The natural setting of Western Washington University adjacent to the Cascade Mountains and Salish Sea provides an ideal situation for study of a wide variety of geologic problems.


Currently, the department consists of 14 faculty members who have a broad range of backgrounds covering the entire field of geology. There are about 180 undergraduate students declaring geology majors and approximately 30 graduate students in the department.

BERNARD A. HOUSEN (1997) Chair and Professor. BS, University of Washington; MS, PhD, University of Michigan.
COLIN B. AMOS (2012) Associate Professor. BS, University of California - Davis; PhD, University of California - Santa Barbara
JACQUELINE CAPLAN-AUERBACH (2006) Professor. BA, Yale University; PhD, University of Hawaii-Manoa.
DOUGLAS H. CLARK (1998) Associate Professor. BS, MS, Stanford University; PhD, University of Washington.
ROBYN M. DAHL (2017) Assistant Professor. BA, Oberlin College; MS, PhD, University of California –Riverside.
SUSAN M. DEBARI (1998) Professor. BA, Cornell University; PhD, Stanford University.
BRADY Z. FOREMAN (2014) Assistant Professor. BA, Macalester College; MS University of Michigan; PhD University of Wyoming.
EDWARD E. GEARY (2013) Professor. BS, Stanford University; MS, PhD, Cornell University.
SCOTT R. LINNEMAN (2000) Professor. BA, Carleton College; PhD, University of Wyoming.
ROBERT J. MITCHELL (1996) Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin-River Falls; MS, Michigan Technological University; PhD, Michigan Technological University.
SEAN R. MULCAHY (2015) Assistant Professor. BS, Virginia Tech; PhD, University of California, Davis.
ALLISON PFEIFFER (2019) Assistant Professor. PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz.
CAMILO PONTON (2018) Assistant Professor. BS, MS, Florida International University; PhD, MIT-WHOI Joint Program.  
MELISSA R. RICE (2014) Assistant Professor. BA, Wellesley College; MS, PhD, Cornell University.
ELIZABETH R. SCHERMER (1990) Professor. BS, Stanford University; PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
PETE STELLING (2011) Associate Professor. BA, Western State College, Colorado; PhD, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Research Associates

RUSSELL F. BURMESTER (1978). BS, Stanford University; MA, University of Texas-Austin; PhD, Princeton University.
SEAN CROSBY (2017) BA, BS, University of California, Santa Cruz; MS, PhD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
ERIC E. GROSSMAN (2011) BA, University of California, Berkeley, MS, PhD, University of Hawaii.
MICHAEL KRAFT (2017) BS, SUNY Buffalo; PhD, Arizona State University.
GEORGE MUSTOE (2014) BS, MS, Western Washington University.
RYAN NIEMEYER (2017) BA, BS, Whitworth University; MS, PhD, University of Idaho.
JOHN OLDOW (2017) BS, University of Washington; PhD, Northwestern University. 
BRIAN RUSK (2011) BS, James Madison University, PhD, University of Oregon.
DAVID TUCKER (2006) BS, MS, Western Washington University.

Adjunct Faculty

PAUL THOMAS (2000) Senior Instructor. BA, University of Washington; BS, MS, Western Washington University.

Emeritus Faculty

Babcock, R.S., geochemistry, petrology.
Beck, Myrl E., Jr., geophysics, paleomagnetism.
Brown, E.H., metamorphic petrology, geochemistry.
Easterbrook, Don, geomorphology, glacial geology.
Engebretson, D.C., PhD, tectonics, paleomagnetism.
Hansen, Thor, PhD, paleontology
Talbot, James L., structural geology, tectonics.


Objectives of the department are varied, including preparation of undergraduate and graduate students for graduate school and careers as professional geoscientists and preparation of earth science teachers at the primary and secondary levels.

A wide variety of geologic phenomena in the adjacent Cascade Range and the marine environment of Salish Sea provide a broad spectrum of geologic features for study.
The department offers BA, BAE Earth Science – Elementary, Secondary, and Earth Science/General Science Secondary, BS Geology, BS Geophysics and MS degrees plus specialized courses in the following subjects: economic geology; environmental geology; geochemistry; geomorphology; geophysics; glacial geology; hydrology; paleomagnetism; paleontology; petrology; planetary geology; sedimentation; seismology; stratigraphy; and structure and tectonics.

Declaration of Major

Students may declare a Geology major anytime as long as they are in good academic standing.  

Information on declaring each of the specific majors (BA Geology, BS Geology, BS Geophysics, BAE Earth Science) is described within each program below.  

All 300-400 level courses are major restricted and 400-level courses are restricted to Phase II majors, so it is important to declare a major as early as possible.

Please see the Geology website for more information: cse.wwu.edu/geology.

Geologist License Education Requirements

A professional license is required by law to practice geology in Washington State. The first step toward licensure is passing the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) Fundamentals of Geology exam. To qualify to take ASBOG’s Fundamentals of Geology exam you must satisfy certain educational requirements. If you obtain a B.S. degree in geology from WWU your educational requirements are met. If you choose a B.A. in geology or a B.S. in geophysics degree you must have a minimum of 36 credits in specific content areas, so please see your departmental advisor for planning if you take one of these degrees and wish to pursue a professional license.

Most licensed geologists work in the areas of hydrogeology and engineering geology. To best prepare for these professions choose your geology electives from the following GEOL courses: 314, 412, 413, 430, 440, 470, 472, 473, and 474.    

Departmental Honors and Distinctions

BA or BS students and students in the University Honors program who have completed at least 4 credits of GEOL 490 and have a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or higher meet the requirements for departmental honors. Those students who have completed at least 4 credits of GEOL 490 and have a cumulative GPA higher than 3.20 meet the requirements for departmental distinction.

Other Departmental Information

Facilities and Equipment

Geology is a science that studies the earth, including its surface, interior and history and the processes that have altered it through time. It embraces investigation of the natural environment both in the field and in the laboratory. The Geology Department occupies laboratories, classrooms and offices constructed in 1976 in the Environmental Studies Center. Geology laboratory facilities and equipment are available for Geographic Information System and computational geology, X-ray diffraction, atomic absorption, sedimentation, air photo interpretation, flume and wave tank studies, paleomagnetic analysis, near-surface geophysics, seismology, geochemistry, and petrography, x-ray fluoresence, laser ablation-ICP-MS. Additional equipment and facilities are available through the Geology Department’s affiliation with the Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC).

Student Involvement in Research

The faculty in the Geology Department are active in a wide variety of ongoing research projects that frequently involve undergraduate and graduate students in special projects and thesis projects or provide employment. Some of this research is funded or partially supported from grants to individual faculty members from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, National Parks Commission, Office of Ecology and geological-related companies. Many of these projects are in the Western Washington region, others include investigations in other parts of the United States, Canada, overseas, or at sea as part of larger oceanographic projects.

Writing Proficiency Course Guidelines

The geology department has a multi-tiered system for upper division writing proficiency courses. Courses are assigned writing proficiency points based on the percentage of the course grade that is determined by writing assignments. A minimum of three writing proficiency points in approved upper-division writing proficiency courses at WWU with a minimum grade of C- is required.


    Undergraduate MajorUndergraduate Combined MajorUndergraduate MinorGraduate



      Courses numbered X37; X97; 300, 400, 500 are described in the University Academic Policies  section of this catalog.

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