Academic Department Introduction

Geoscience is the study of the Earth and all its systems. Interactions between the solid Earth, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere continually reshape the planet. Geoscientists investigate these interactions using interdisciplinary approaches to address questions related to how the Earth formed, how it evolved over geologic time, and how its continued evolution affects the environment in which we live.

Our curriculum emphasizes field- and research-based learning. We offer field trips at all levels, allowing geoscience students to discover the geologic histories of rock exposures and the processes that shape our landscape. Through in-class group projects, independent studies, and summer research, students gain experience in operation and application of a variety of geologic sampling and analytical techniques. Students can participate in research on a range of topics. Examples include the legacy metals in soils at EPA Superfund sites, the geologic record of earthquakes, the dynamics of Antarctic glaciers, and the formation of rocks underlying New York City.

Learning goals

  • Develop scientific literacy.
  • Explore Earth systems in the classroom, lab, and field.
  • Understand our local landscape, sustainability, and planetary limits.
  • Collect, curate, and model data to reconstruct geological histories.

Programs of study

Geosciences major and minor

Students will experience the geosciences curriculum through inquiry-based research projects, field work, analogue modeling, and engagement with Earth materials and scientific data.

Course Highlights

  • The geologic record, covering 4.6 billion years, provides us with a long-term perspective of the Earth system and how it operates over time scales much longer than human history. Using Wellesley’s extensive rock and fossil collection, geologic data sets and journal articles, we will reconstruct and interpret Earth's eventful past, including periods of mountain building, dramatic climate changes, and the evolution and extinction of life on our planet. This class should give students an understanding about deep time and that we live on an ever changing planet.  The lab component of this class will be entirely in the field. We will visit key geologic outcrops that represent a large part of Earth history. We will explore the regional geology in New England and Upstate New York during three weekends throughout the semester (one half day, one full day and one 2-day trip). The class will conclude with a 5-day field trip to the southwestern United States in mid-May.
  • Problems in environmental, health, and sustainability sciences are inherently transdisciplinary and require a diverse skill set to frame, analyze, and solve. This course will focus on developing a toolbox of skills including systems level thinking, field and analytical methods, biogeochemical analysis (natural waters, soils, and other environmental materials), and modeling with a goal of building a science-based foundation for the analysis of complex issues at the interface between humans and the environment. Students will conduct semester-long research projects and will present their results in a final poster session.

Research highlights


  • Sara F. Langer Award for Research in Geosciences

    The award funds summer research in geology on or off campus, under the supervision of a faculty member at Wellesley or another institution. It is expected that the work will culminate in individual research or a senior thesis in the following academic year.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Our graduates engage in a variety of careers, including work within state and federal agencies, education, environmental research, and advocacy. Many earn graduate degrees. Recent employers include the National Park Service, the Watson Foundation, and the Center for Rural Affairs.

Department of Geosciences

Whitin Observatory
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Katrin Monecke
Department Chair
Carol Gagosian
Academic Administrator