COSAM » Departments » Geosciences » About the Department

The Department of Geosciences

The department is small, with 15 faculty and 4 staff members. Students currently number approximately 80 undergraduates and ~20 Master of Science candidates. The student/faculty ratio of ~6:1 makes for informal class settings and a great deal of individualized attention.

In our department, we divide the geosciences into two degree programs, although faculty and students interact in both teaching and research.

GEOLOGY is the study of the Earth, including its materials, processes, and history. Basic materials studied are rocks, minerals, and fossils. Also included are resources such as metals, gemstones, fossil fuels, and groundwater. Processes are those found deep within the Earth where temperatures and pressures are high, as well as those that take place under low-temperature, low-pressure conditions at the Earth's surface, where organic as well as inorganic processes are found. The history of the planet is recorded in rock and mineral products and in the record of life as preserved by fossils.

Because of the wide range of materials and processes studied, geology is very interdisciplinary. For example, those geologists interested in chemical processes and products are known as geochemists, researchers who apply physics to answer geological problems are geophysicists, paleobiologists employ a more biologic background to study the fossil record, etc. Furthermore, the Earth is currently viewed as a system made up, not only rocks and fossils, but the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere as well. Today, geologists are applying the results of research on planet Earth to other heavenly bodies. This is the area known as planetary geology or astrogeology.

Throughout the history of geology, research findings have been applied to the economic needs of our society. Geology graduates find employment in the oil and gas industry, in mining, in Earth-surface and subsurface water (hydrology), and in environmental concerns such as pollution and remediation of environmental hazards.

GEOGRAPHY is the science dealing with the areal differentiation of the earth's surface, as shown in the character, arrangement, and interrelations over the world of such diverse elements as climate, soil, vegetation, population, land use, culture, industries, states, and of the unit areas formed by the complex of these individual elements. (noun). Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

Geography is the study of the distribution of phenomena over the surface of the earth. The study of geography has three main disciplinary focuses: people, place and identity; earth, and environment; and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Although geography encompasses many fields, the basic goal of geography is to identify the characteristics of a place to determine how it functions (population, culture, resources, landforms, climate, etc...), and how it relates to, or compares with, other places. This may sound like a simple task, but be forewarned the world is full of complex patterns, processes, and relationships. Thus geographers are among the leaders in using GIS, Remote Sensing, qualitative and quantitative methods in our efforts to identify and explain "spatial patterns" around the world. Given the changing nature of our world, geography provides an assortment of skills and tools to help you understand your place in our complex, globalized, multicultural society and geography provides a knowledge base which will help you to take advantage of all our world has to offer. So, how do you know you want to be geographer?

  1. Are you curious about places?
    If so, geography channels this interest into a rigorous study of the makeup of places and what makes them tick.
  2. Do you like to study maps?
    The geographer's first inclination is to put information on a map in order to see how it looks spatially.
  3. Are you interested in foreign areas?
    Many geographers specialize in a particular part of the world such as Latin America, Europe, Asia, or Africa.
  4. Do you like to work outside?
    Many geographers obtain their basic data from field investigation in environments that range from wilderness areas to cities.
  5. Are you a problem solver?
    As scientists, geographers are naturally curious about how the world is arranged. They ask lots of questions about why things are located the way they are and then they try to answer those questions. If you answer yes to even one of these questions then geography just might be for you! If you are interested in learning more about geography please contact us or come by our offices on the campus of Auburn University. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you. Who knows, you may discover that you are a geographer too!

Last Updated: 07/12/2016