Graduate Program and Courses

The Department of Geosciences offers a Masters of Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Completion of a graduate degree is excellent preparation for a career in governmental agencies, private industry, teaching, or research. The strong placement record and extensive alumni network attest to the high quality of our graduate program.

Each graduate student follows a custom-tailored program of coursework and research developed with their advisor and graduate committee. Strengths of the department include diverse field-driven scientific specializations; an interdisciplinary approach to addressing earth resource education and professional preparation; global research interests; cutting edge analytical, field, and computational facilities; and close student/faculty working relationships.

Photo of students in the field opening a core drilling sample.

Areas of Study in Geosciences

The CSU Geosciences Program is internationally recognized for its strong emphasis on field-oriented studies in non-renewable resources and surficial processes. Faculty and students in the Department of Geosciences have been involved in research projects on all seven continents. Areas of specialization include:

  • Applied Geophysics
  • Economic Geology
  • Environmental Geology & Aqueous Geochemistry
  • Geochemistry
  • Geochronology
  • Petroleum Geology
  • Geodynamics.
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrogeology, Hydrogeophysics
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology & Geochemistry
  • Sedimentology
  • Tectonics
  • Sedimentary Petrology and Geochemistry
  • Seismology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Structural Geology

Please Note: The Department of Geosciences offers a Ph.D. program in Geosciences.  A Ph.D in Watershed Science is now offered solely through the Department of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability. Please see their the Department of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability Graduate Program in Watershed sciences for more details.

Graduate Course Offerings

GEOL 530 Advanced Petrology – (3 credits)
Igneous and metamorphic processes and products explored through thermodynamics, phase equilibria, and textural analysis. Prerequisite: GEOL 364. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 540 Petrophysics and Well Logging – (3 credits)
Petrophysics and well log interpretation as it relates to hydrocarbon exploration and production. Wireline logs, calculating rock and fluid properties from log measurements, and recognizing zones of potential hydrocarbons. Prerequisite: GEOL 344; PH 142.


GEOL 543 Carbonate Sedimentology – (2 credits)
Recognition of carbonate grains, cement types, and carbonate depositional environments, and their response to sea-level changes. Prerequisite: GEOL 344.

545 Shale Sedimentology – (2 credits)
Recognize and interpret mud and mudstone facies and their depositional environments, as well as reconstructing their diagenetic history. Observe stacking patterns and reconstruct sea-level fluctuations from mudstone/shale successions and their impact on the 3D distribution of mudstones/shales. Prerequisite: GEOL 344.

546 Sedimentary Basin Analysis – (4 credits)
Sedimentologic data base, correlation, mapping, facies models, classification, and evolution of sedimentary basins. Applications to petroleum exploration. Prerequisite: GEOL 343. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 547 Ore Deposit Geochemistry – (3 credits)
Geochemical techniques applied to the geology, exploration, and environmental analysis of ore deposits. Prerequisite: GEOL 447.


GEOL 551 Groundwater Modeling – (3 credits)
Groundwater modeling from a geologic perspective. Conceptual models and computer modeling of groundwater flow and solute transport. Prerequisite: GEOL 452 or CIVE 423.


GEOL 552 Advanced topics in Hydrogeology – (2-3 credits)
Current literature, new techniques, legislative and political developments in hydrogeology, and appropriate case histories. Prerequisite: GEOL 452.


GEOL 553 Tracer Hydrogeology – (3 credits)
Use of environmental and applied tracers in hydrogeology to understand groundwater flow and transport properties. Environmental tracers are used to determine groundwater age and recharge rates, ground/water surface water interactions and to estimate the average temperature when the groundwater was recharged. Applied tracers are used to determine flow and transport processes in porous media to understand controls on solute transport, especially related to contaminant movement. Prerequisite: CIVE 423 or GEOL 452.


GEOL 562 Statisical Data Analysis in Earth Resources – (3 credits)
Statistical parameters, sequential data, map analysis, and multivariate data. Prerequisite: STAT 340; STAT 350.


GEOL 565 Petroleum Geoschemistry and Geology – (3 credits)
Geochemistry and geology of hydrocarbon generation, migration, and accumulation. Applications to hydrocarbon exploration. Prerequisite: GEOL 366; GEOL 372.


GEOL 567 Sedimentary Geochemistry – (3 credits)
Geochemical processes affecting sedimentary rocks and other surficial materials. Prerequisite: GEOL 366.


GEOL 570 Plate Tectonics – (3 credits)
Examination of the historical development of plate tectonic theory and its application to understanding geological processes. Prerequisite: GEOL 364; GEOL 372; PH 142.


GEOL 572 Advanced Structural Geology – (4 credits)
Rheology, deformation mechanisms, structural associations and advanced methods of structural analysis. Prerequisite: GEOL 436. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 574 Geodynamics – (3 credits)
Mechanics of deformation of the crust and the mantle, and heatflow and gravity as they pertain to deep Earth problems. Prerequisite: GEOL 250; MATH 261; PH 141.


GEOL 575 Subsurface Geophysical Mapping – (4 credits)
Advanced techniques for creating subsurface geological maps based on seismic reflection and well log data. Prerequisite: GEOL 344; GEOL 372; MATH 161; PH 142. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 576 Exploration Seismology – (3 credits)
Seismic exploration methods, including theory, data acquisition, and data processing. Prerequisite: GEOL 344; GEOL 372; MATH 161; PH 142.


GEOL 578 Global Seismology – (4 credits)
Quantitative introduction to seismology; basics of seismic data analysis; fundamentals of wave propagation; earthquakes; structure of the Earth. Prerequisite: MATH 261; PH 142.


GEOL 579 Solid Earth Inverse Methods and Practices – (3 credits)
Inverse and parameter estimation theory and applications in the earth sciences in the context of Frequentist and Bayesian approaches to estimating and interpreting data-driven models. Review of linear algebra, statistical, and other mathematical underpinnings, and of basic MATLAB programming. Linear and nonlinear inverse problems. Nonuniqueness, ill-posedness, rank-deficiency. Regularization methods for geophysical problems. Prerequisite: MATH 161 or MATH 255; MATH 229; STAT 301 or STAT 315.


GEOL 580A7 Reservoir Geomechanics – (3 credits)
Structural theory and analysis applied to rock properties and reservoir scale deformation structures required for developing geomechanical models. Prerequisite: GEOL 372.


GEOL 580A8 Sandstone Petrology – (2 credits)
Sandstone petrology, including characterization of mineralogy, fabric and texture, and chemical composition. Relationship of sandstone characteristics to environment of deposition, tectonic setting, paleoclimate, burial conditions, and Earth evolution. Sandstones as hosts of resources, including water, petroleum, and metals. Prerequisite: GEOL 366; STAT 301 or STAT 315. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 581A5 Geostatistics for Subsurface Applications – (2 credits)
Geostatistics for subsurface modeling applications. Aquifer and reservoir heterogeneity, spatial data analysis, variogram modeling, spatial estimation, kriging, geostatistical simulation. Prerequisite: MATH 255 or MATH 261; STAT 301.


GEOL 581A6 Petroleum Geology – (3 credits)
Comprehensive treatment of the petroleum system with a focus on hydrocarbon exploration and production methods. Weekly homework includes basin- to reservoir-scale exercises using industry datasets and software to provide ‘real-world’ experience to apply theory presented in lecture. Prerequisite: GEOL 344; GEOL 372.


GEOL 581A7 Reservoir Characterization and Modeling – (4 credits)
Geological heterogeneity (stratigraphic, sedimentological and structural) impacts subsurface hydrocarbon distribution, flow and recovery. Evaluate subsurface reservoir heterogeneity in various depositional environments (e.g., fluvial, deep-water, etc.) and structural settings using geological, geophysical, and engineering subsurface data for interpretation and modeling methodologies. Prerequisite: GEOL 344; GEOL 372. Must register for lecture and lab


GEOL 581A8 Geophysical Data Analysis – (3 credits)
Linear analysis of geophysical time series and spatial data in solid earth sciences. Review and development of linear systems theory, sampling, spectral analysis, filtering, instrument response and partial deconvolution, random processes and statistical aspects of geophysical data processing. Prerequisite: MATH 161 or MATH 255; MATH 229; STAT 301 or STAT 315.


GEOL 581B1 Tectonic Geomorphology – (3 credits)
Interactions between tectonic, climatic and earth surface processes that give rise to mountainous landscapes. Topics range from landscape response to single earthquake events to geochronological tools used to constrain rates of landscape change to orogen-scale interactions and feedbacks between tectonics and climate through lectures, in-class activities, data analysis, modeling, and reading assignments. Prerequisite: GEOL 372; GEOL 454 or concurrent registration; MATH 160.


GEOL 601 Professional Development for Geoscientists – (1 credit)
Core concepts of scientific approaches, local geology of Colorado, and preparation of geoscience thesis proposals. Prerequisite: none.


GEOL 652 Fluvial Geomorphology – (3 credits)
Geomorphology of channels, slopes, and drainage systems. Prerequisite: GEOL 120.