Tag Archives: Geology

Department Details: Geology

5 Feb


Geology at W&L ROCKS!

Geology at W&L ROCKS!

Washington and Lee University has offered courses in geology for more than two hundred years and was one of the first institutions in the United States to offer formal programs in the study of the Earth. The department currently offers a broad range of programs that include most of the important disciplines of the earth sciences. A number of alumni have made significant contributions as academic geologists, as geoscientists in the energy industry, and as environmental scientists.

Lexington is surrounded by some of the most interesting and classical geology of the entire Appalachian Mountain system. Our programs take advantage of our location. The campus lies right in the middle of the Great Valley of Virginia within easy reach of the Blue Ridge Province and the Allegheny Mountains. During the fall and winter terms, many of our courses run field trips for “hands-on” study of this superb geology. In the spring term, we offer more intense field experiences. Some of these spring courses emphasize the geology of the local area and provide familiarity with modern methods of field mapping. Other courses deal with the geology of a specific region and/or the study of the environment. Recent extended field trips have been run to such diverse areas as the Great Smoky Mountains, New England, the Colorado Plateau, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Pyrenees, the Pacific Northwest, and coastal Virginia.

Our faculty are active in a variety of research areas in which students play a central role. Current faculty research includes long-term plateau incision by escarpment breaching and capture, the modeling and growth of fault-related folds, Holocene climate variation as recorded in coral growth, weathering and water chemistry, and the growth and erosion of mountain belts.

The Geology Department is also a member of the Keck Geology Consortium, which includes 18 of the best undergraduate geology departments in the country.  This program allows our students to join undergraduates and faculty from other consortium institutions in summer research projects in such diverse locations as the Apennines of Italy, the Bahamas, the Cascades, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, and Cyprus.

For more information on the Geology department, click here.


4 Nov

I spent this summer in Kauaii, Hawaii. I was in heaven. The beach filled with surfers, paddle boarders, snorkelers, of course tourists. After the initial shock of the immense possibilities of this tiny island, I remembered, I’m getting paid to be here by the university. I’m a geology and Spanish major and a geology professor has been doing research on this island and was looking for a student to help her and hopefully inspire thesis work. It’s a win-win situation all the way. I happily jumped on this opportunity to explore a part of the country I had only dreamt about and grab some data on a subject nobody had explored yet.
Our goal was to get our samples while enjoying the island. Part two of the mission was a piece of cake to complete, but getting the samples proved to be challenging. We never had a routine because you couldn’t possibly plan the adventures we ended up having. We had to tackle some major projects on our own, like camping in the Waimea Canyon. We found the campsite, just below the local boar roasting pit. Another phenomenal trip was our hike to Hanakapiai on the third day. As you are tromping through mud, slipping every which way, only a slight concern when you are walking on the side of the mountain, you catch glimpses through the lush tropical tress of the aqua, turquoise, and deep penetrating blue water 4,000 ft below you. One day we finished up early and headed to the Western most beach, Polihale beach to watch the sunset.
After about the fourth day I was trying to figure out how I could come back and live there. I have a few options in mind, but we will see how this turns out. Either way it was an incredible experience that I couldn’t have done without the help of the geology department. The opportunities available to geology students are immense and well varied. I can say that this is not the only department with great options for students to get a little taste of the experience outside the classroom. So who’s up for round two Kauaii? I know I am.

The Caving Adventure

30 Nov

This morning my Geology class ventured 45 minutes outside of Lexington to the Island Ford Caves for our weekly lab. I am still in disbelief that this non-outdoorsy girl lived to tell the tale of this caving experience. I had never stepped foot inside a cave before today, so I had no idea what I was in for. After strapping on our helmets and headlamps, our class headed inside the cave, ready to take on the dirt and darkness. Let’s just say that I have never climbed over such slippery rocks, crawled army-style through a creek, or have had so much mud on my clothes and face. But you know what? It rocked! (please note the pun) Even though I must admit that I am sore from hoisting my body over, under, and in between slippery and sharp rocks, I could not be prouder of myself (and my classmates!) for enduring through the hour-long caving adventure. Can’t wait for next week’s lab trip to Natural Bridge!