Geology at Bates

Geology is key to addressing scientific issues relating to energy, mineral, and water resources security; ecosystem and environmental stewardship; hazards risk assessment, adaptation, and mitigation; and climate variability and change.  The study of geology provides a way of thinking across vast spatial and temporal scales.

Geology students at Bates not only study the Earth, they see a lot of it firsthand — from the coast of Maine to sheltered, inland lakes, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Arctic, from Idaho to Scotland. Classes take students to the field and back to the laboratory for the kind of experience that leads to thinking like a geologist.

Given the college’s location in Maine with ready access to a wide variety of diverse geologic environments, students have excellent opportunities for experiential learning, whether in the classroom, the laboratory, or the field, and through independent research, at all levels of the curriculum.

Starting with first-year courses, students might investigate minerals at a local quarry, or study bedrock exposures on the Maine coast and in the White Mountains. They might study beach erosion, sea level rise and/or surface water and groundwater in the nearby Androscoggin River and in local aquifers.

Earth Surface Environments and Environmental Change (GEO 103), Plate Tectonics and Tectonic Hazards (GEO 104), Field Geology in Maine (GEO 107), Global Change (GEO 109), Polar Climates, Environments and Ecosystems (GE/PH 111), and Coastal Hazards (FYS 476) introduce students to areas of active research and current interest in geological and environmental sciences and are vehicles for acquiring a basic understanding of processes that have formed and continue to shape the Earth and other planets.

Short Term courses in geology offer students a unique experience. Geologic field methods, mapping techniques, and geochemical analyses are learned in a variety of spectacular settings. Past Short Term courses have taken students to Hawaii, Iceland, Scotland, the Canadian Arctic, the American Southwest and Northwest, and the lakes, mountains, and coast of Maine.


The geology department prepares students for professional careers and to be well-rounded and well-informed citizens. Students learn the founding principles of the earth sciences, including an in-depth knowledge of earth materials, geologic time, surface processes, field relationships, tectonics, cycles and cycling, and the earth as a system. These principles are used to solve problems grounded in the geologic history of Earth, climate change, natural hazards, and environmental science.

The faculty’s teaching and research are grounded in the fundamentals of field, laboratory, modeling, and experimental techniques, yet incorporate state-of-the-art tools and technologies. The students, staff, and faculty of the Department of Geology are actively engaged in the college community, in the Lewiston/Auburn and Maine communities, and in the scientific community.