Geosciences

The following courses have been developed by and for the Department of Geosciences at Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society

Credit: Wave 2444043 by TimHill is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Has your attention recently been caught by news of coastal catastrophes such as hurricanes and tsunamis? Do you wonder why so many coastal communities in the world are vulnerable to flooding and other coastal hazards? Have you considered what coastal flood protections cities like Houston and Miami will need in the future to protect their residents? This course will provide a better understanding of these phenomena.

Course Description

We refer to Earth as the "Blue Planet" because of its abundance of liquid water; indeed, NASA's search for life on other planets starts with the search for water. While its importance for sustaining life is perhaps common knowledge, the extent to which we depend on water in every aspect of our everyday lives and activities is less obvious. Looking into the coming decades, the global need to decrease water stress and increase water quality is inescapable.

Computation and Visualization in the Earth Sciences

Credit: Earthquake locations from USGS by E Richardson © Penn State University licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Course Description

In EARTH 801, you will develop skills in a programming language designed for visual arts and visualization while exploring Earth science topics. Specifically, you'll learn and practice digital graphics capabilities in order to render Earth science concepts that are otherwise difficult to visualize due to complicated space and time scales. Here, you will interact with large, open, freely-available data sets by collecting, plotting, and analyzing them using a variety of computational methods.

two fingers touching behind a lightbulb

Credit: Home Energy by George Hodan is licensed under CC0 1.0

Course Description

Our world runs on energy - without it, things come to a screeching halt, as the recent hurricanes have shown. Ever stop to wonder what our energy future is? What are our options for energy, and what are the associated economic and climatic implications? In "Energy and the Environment" we explore these questions, which together represent one of the great challenges of our time - providing energy for high quality of life and economic growth while avoiding dangerous climate change.

Earth in the Future

Credit: Mountains 482689 by Angie Agostino is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Our planet is becoming hot. In fact, Earth may be warming faster than ever before. This warming will challenge society throughout the 21st century. How do we cope with rising seas? How will we prepare for more intense hurricanes? How will we adapt to debilitating droughts and heat waves? Scientists are striving to improve predictions of how the environment will change and how it will impact humans.

The African Continent

Credit: West Africa NASA by NASA [Public domain]

Course Description

Earthquakes are natural phenomena that can cause immense human suffering because of intense ground shaking and are consequently of great societal importance. Earthquakes are also important because the seismic waves that generate the ground shaking provide scientists with important information about Plate Tectonics and geology, in particular information about the structure and composition of our planet and how the insides of the planet are deforming.

Course Description

In this course we will explore topics from disciplines within the solid Earth sciences. In each lesson, we'll also touch on some ways the topic links to other scientific disciplines. Each unit is designed to present both the cutting-edge science as well as the background a secondary-school student (or her teacher) would need to place the research in context. Gaining an appreciation of how scientists choose the subjects they study is as fundamental to Earth science as the discovery of the facts themselves.

Controversies in the Earth Sciences

Course Description

Think science has all the answers? Think again. This course will use real, authentic data to explore and investigate modern controversies in Earth Sciences. Use tide gauge records to understand how countries around the world attempt to protect themselves from tsunami events. Process seismic data to predict earthquake recurrence in the New Madrid seismic zone, right here in the breadbasket of the US. Sort through the millions of years of the geologic timeline to shed some light on what actually did, and did not, kill the dinosaurs.

Earth Surface Processes in the Critical Zone

Credit: Blue and Gray Moon during Nighttime by Jaymantri is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Rapid changes at Earth's surface, largely in response to human activity, have led to the realization that fundamental questions remain to be answered regarding the natural functioning of the Critical Zone, the thin veneer at Earth's surface where the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere interact. EARTH 530 will introduce you to the basics necessary for understanding Earth surface processes in the Critical Zone through an integration of various scientific disciplines.

Geology of the National Parks

Credit: Geyser With Green Field Background by Damon Holle is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Geysers and grizzlies and glaciers, oh my. The national parks may be America's best idea, saving the finest parts of the nation for everyone to enjoy forever. What better way to learn about the natural world than to tour the parks with us? We'll explore how the mountains and valleys formed and why they often come with volcanoes and earthquakes. You'll see what really killed the dinosaurs and how we can help save their modern relatives in the parks. With film clips, slide shows, and our geological interpretations of classic rock songs, isn't it time for a road trip?

Pages

Course Spotlight

From Meteorology to Mitigation: Understanding Global Warming (METEO 469) - learn about the fundamentals of climate change and its impact on societal, environmental, and economic policies. Visit the course.

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Richard Alley

Dr. Richard Alley has been with us since the beginning, with one of our first OPEN courses - Geology of the National Parks. See what he has to say about the OPEN.ED effort over ten years later.