Geology and Geophysics
Geology and Geophysics
*J. M. Becker, PhD—geophysical fluid dynamics, nonlinear dynamics
Cooperating Graduate Faculty
F. S. Anderson, PhD—planetary geosciences
Affiliate Graduate Faculty
C. Blay, PhD—sedimentology, Hawaiian geology
Degrees Offered: BA in geology, BS in geology and geophysics, MS in geology and geophysics, PhD in geology and geophysics
The Academic Program
Geology and geophysics (GG) are important branches of the geosciences, which encompass the scientific study of Earth and other bodies in our solar system. Thus, the scope of the geosciences is extremely broad, and includes important ties to meteorology and oceanography. The Earth and other planets are highly dynamic; geoscientists study the internal and surface changes that occur to decipher the fundamental causes of these changes. In turn, these studies shed light on the origin and evolution of Earth processes, the other planets, and, indeed, the entire solar system. The range of interest in the Earth and planetary sciences is from submarine volcanism to understanding our environment, from coastal erosion and sea level change to past oceanic, biotic, and climatic changes, from the origins of life to monitoring the earthquakes of active volcanoes, and from the composition of meteorites and Mars to the distribution of petroleum and water resources. The geosciences offer a richness in variety and unrivaled opportunity for multidisciplinary research on problems of great intellectual and practical importance.
Geology and geophysics have much to offer students curious about humankind’s place in nature. Undergraduate majors can look forward to expanding opportunities in the private and public sectors (e.g., the environment, hydrogeology). Such jobs offer incredible variety, the opportunity to work outdoors, and many opportunities for travel. Prospective undergraduates are strongly encouraged to build communication skills and a solid background of understanding in chemistry, physics, and mathematics as these disciplines are essential for solving the basic question about how Earth and other planets work. Students with graduate degrees (both MS and PhD) can look forward to interesting research careers in industry, government, or in colleges and universities. The intellectual rewards of basic geosciences research are comparable to such other exciting fields as biomedical research, particle physics, and cosmology. Geosciences have many exciting frontiers and challenges for the future including learning to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, discovering the history of Mars, understanding the forces that move the surface plates of Earth, and unraveling the history of Earth’s surficial processes both on land and in its oceans.
At UH Manoa, the department offers outstanding programs of study at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The faculty is large (about 29 teaching and research faculty and about 36 additional graduate faculty) and diverse, so there are strong programs in all major subdisciplines. The geographic location in the midst of the Pacific Ocean and the rich geologic setting provide a natural focus for research programs in seismology, volcanology, marine geology and geophysics, planetary science, sedimentology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, paleoceanography, meteorites, and many other fields. The quality of the school’s research vessels, submersibles, and analytical and computing facilities reflects its commitment to the excellence in field studies, and well as in theoretical and modeling studies. The quality of the faculty, research facilities, and opportunities is difficult to match.
Students contemplating a major or minor in geology and geophysics should visit an undergraduate adviser at the earliest opportunity. Inquire at the department’s student services office, POST 713A.
BA in Geology
The BA degree in geology is appropriate for students interested in the study of the Earth but who do not necessarily intend to pursue graduate work or employment in traditional geology fields. It is more flexible than the BS program and is suitable for students who are considering, for example, a double major, teaching, or not considering employment as a professional geologist.
The BA degree requires completion of 124 credit hours of coursework, the equivalent of four years of full-time work. The BA program requires 35 credits in the geology and geophysics curriculum. This includes one introductory level GG course with a lab, seven non-introductory GG courses, and a two-credit research seminar (GG 410). A minimum of 6 credits of approved upper division science electives is also required; these courses can be in geology and geophysics or in other natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering. Students are encouraged to consider taking a mainland summer field course as an elective. Required support mathematics and science classes include physics, chemistry, biological sciences, and one semester of college calculus; these total 20 credits and should be taken as early as possible.
Geology and Geophysics Courses
BS in Geology and Geophysics
The BS degree in geology and geophysics is strongly recommended for students who intend to pursue graduate work or employment in geology or geophysics. The BS degree provides substantial grounding in computational and analytical skills needed for a practicing geologist. It places added emphasis on applications of chemistry, physics, and mathematics to studying the Earth.
The BS degree requires completion of 124 credit hours of coursework, the equivalent of four years of full-time work. The BS program requires 48 credits in the geology and geophysics curriculum. This includes one introductory level GG course with a lab, ten non-introductory GG courses, a two-credit research seminar (GG 410), and nine credits of electives in GG. With advice and consent of an undergraduate adviser, courses in other natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering may be substituted as electives. Students are encouraged to consider taking a mainland summer field course as an elective. Required support mathematics and science classes include physics, chemistry, biological sciences, and two semesters of college calculus; these total between 24 and 25 credits and should be taken as early as possible.
Geology and Geophysics Courses
The minor requires GG 170, GG170L, 200, and 11 credits of non-introductory courses at the 300-level or higher. A 2.0 average is required in these courses. The minor is flexible and can provide either an introductory survey of geology or emphasize areas of particular interest to the student. A student interested in a minor in geology and geophysics should consult with an adviser from the department to tailor a plan best suited to the student’s interest.
All applicants must take the GRE General Test. All students are urged
to have completed acourse in a computer programming language before entrance.
U.S. applications are due by January 15 for admission
in the fall semester or by September 1 for the spring
semester. International applications are due January 1
and August 15, respectively.
Intended candidates will be accepted from undergraduate majors in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering, and they normally would be expected to have completed at least one year each of college mathematics, geology, physics, and chemistry. Adequacy of each applicant’s additional preparation will depend on the particular branch of geology and geophysics being pursued. At the time of application the student should state the field in which he or she intends to study.
For MS students, the graduate studies committee of the department will determine suitability of Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis) at the preliminary conference. Virtually all students are required to follow Plan A. Plan A requires a minimum of 30 credits, including 6 credits of GG 700 Thesis Research and at least 24 credits of course work (up to 6 course work credits may be in GG 699). Plan B requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of course work and a final exam.
Students wishing to bypass the MS degree and advance directly into PhD candidacy must pass a qualifying examination during the second semester in residence.
PhD candidates are accepted with either a BS or MS degree. Students without an MS must pass a qualifying examination given at the beginning of their second semester in residence. All PhD candidates must pass a comprehensive examination no later than at the end of the fourth semester of residence for students without an MS degree or at the end of the second semester of residence for students with an MS degree. The comprehensive exam includes oral and written parts that cover in-depth subjects in the student’s field of interest and also the breadth of several areas in this and other departments that bear on the field. A final examination in defense of the dissertation is required. Space and aid for the program are limited, so each student’s progress will be reviewed annually.
Areas of Interest
The four areas of interest listed below are active fields of research in the department. For each, a brief description and the required undergraduate preparation is listed. Students with backgrounds other than these may be accepted in a field if their records and recommendations are good, but advancement to candidacy may be delayed. A complete statement of the courses and other work in each field necessary for the MS or to prepare for the PhD comprehensive examination will be given to the entering student.
The department can provide further information on research opportunities and financial aid in each of the areas of interest.
Geophysics and Tectonics. Studies in geophysics and tectonics at UH are interdisciplinary and include experimental and theoretical developments, field-based observations, and computer simulations. Together, they provide students with a background that combines both geology and geophysics for technical and professional work at industrial, governmental, and academic institutions. Current research areas include:
Studies of rift propagation and plate break-up; initiation and evolution of continental margins and back-arc basins; relative and absolute motion of plates; thermo-mechanical properties of oceanic lithosphere; mantle flow and the driving forces of plate tectonics.
Seismology. Theory and analysis of seismic waves from active and passive sources; ocean-bottom geophysical instrumentation (HUGO); multichannel seismic imaging of subduction zones, accretionary prisms, and submarine volcano flanks.
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Mantle flow and plume-plate interaction; plate generation and rheology from mantle flow; ocean/shore dynamics and nonlinear waves.
Rock Fracture Mechanics. Coupled field, theoretical, and laboratory analyses of the mechanics of fault growth, rock fracture, dike propagation, landslides, and crustal deformation; these topics are relevant to plate tectonics, structural geology, and engineering geology.
Entrance may be through majors in geophysics, geology, mathematics, physics, or engineering. Students need a background in geology (which can be obtained in graduate school) together with supporting mathematics and physics.
Marine and Environmental Geology. The Marine and Environmental Geology program (MEG) is focused on the dynamic physical, biological and chemical interactions that characterize earth surface environments. Our unique geographic location and diverse ethnic population provides an excellent natural laboratory to study the interaction of humans with natural environmental ecosystems to focus research on the Hawaiian Island archipelago. The program provides instructional and research opportunities in a wide range of topics. The MEG program consists of four main areas of research:
Biogeochemistry and Geobiology. Hawai‘i’s access to a variety of tropical ecosystems provides a natural laboratory to study microbial diversity and ecology. Studies in this program include research on the diversity of coral reef microorganisms, both free-living and symbiotic, and their ecosystem roles in bioerosion, succession and colonization of surfaces and nutrient recycling. Studies are also focused on the microbial diversity and ecology of tropical wetlands and marine environments and their relationship to the production and fate of greenhouse gases (CH4, N2O). These programs include study of organisms in laboratory microcosms that can be manipulated to produce past or future environments.
Coastal Geology. Hawai‘i’s beaches and reefs are world-renowned for their beauty. Understanding the processes that shape them help us to preserve their splendor; this is an important motivation for research in this field. Volcanic islands provide platforms for reef community development and a unique chronicle of past sea level changes. Studies in this program have a particular emphasis on nearshore processes, coastal sedimentation and erosion, remote sensing of reefs, geologic history of Hawaiian reefs, Pacific basin sea level history, and submarine landslides. Research also focuses on carbonate petrology and petrography to derive clues to past environmental changes as well as post-depositional geochemical changes to island limestones.
Hydrogeology of Tropical Volcanic Islands. Almost all types of hydrologic environments are found in the Hawaiian Islands, ranging from near-desert conditions with annual rainfalls of less than 25 cm to Mt. Waialeale on Kaua‘i, which is one of the wettest gauged spots on Earth with annual rainfall of over 10 m, and from sea level tropical rain forests to snow and permafrost conditions at the top of Mauna Kea at 4.2 km above sea level. Human activities related to tourism and agriculture introduce additional complexities into this delicately balanced environmental. This unique setting presents important opportunities to study groundwater transport and contaminant fate processes, groundwater modeling, and the hydrogeology of Pacific islands and atolls.
Marine Geology and Paleoceanography. Hawai‘i’s central location within the Pacific allows easy access to deep-sea environments. Studies of deep-sea sediments explore the history of changes in ocean chemistry and productivity and their relationships to tectonic movements and climate change. Research programs in MEG also capitalize on the easy access to open ocean environments to test and refine the paleoceanographic tools used to study ancient sediments. Research is focused on elemental and heavy isotope geochemistry, micropaleontology, marine mineral authigenesis and diagenesis, paleoceanography, sedimentology and stable isotope biogeochemistry.
Many research efforts in this program involve participation in several oceanographic expeditions each year. Graduate students are encouraged to participate in these voyages as a part of their career training. The program is multidisciplinary with cooperating faculty and courses from several other departments including civil engineering, geography, oceanography and soil sciences. The diverse research and teaching interests of the faculty make it possible to tailor graduate degree work to fit the needs and desires of the student.
Typically an undergraduate major in geology or one of the other natural sciences along with basic courses in physics, chemistry, and mathematics would be sufficient for entrance. The student should be prepared for additional work in whatever combination of geology, geophysics, biology, civil engineering and geochemistry is appropriate for his or her optimum development.
Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology. UH is uniquely situated to study all major aspects of volcanic systems. Active Hawaiian volcanoes are natural laboratories of intraplate volcanism and hydrothermalism; eroded fossil volcanic systems on the older islands provide windows into deeper volcanic structures; and Hawai‘i is at the center of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” Also, we study submarine volcanoes with our research vessel, and we remotely monitor volcanoes on Earth and other planets from ground-based and space-borne observatories. The Hawai‘i Center for Volcanology is housed at SOEST; it includes scientists from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at UH-Hilo, facilitating collaborative projects to monitor active volcanoes. Additionally, the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology (VGP) program has a wide range of modern, well-equipped analytical laboratories that provide data on the chemical composition and physical properties of igneous materials. Current research areas include:
Ocean Spreading Center Processes. Petrologic, geochemical and isotopic variations along and across mid-ocean ridges and back-arc basin spreading centers; geometry and dynamics of mantle flow, melt generation and magma chambers beneath spreading centers; near axis seamount genesis; hot spot-spreading center interactions; magmatic systems at propagating rifts; geochronology of submarine volcanism, elemental fluxes from erupting mid-ocean ridge volcanoes.
Physical Volcanology. The rise, degassing and fragmentation of magma in conduits; transport and deposition from volcanic plumes and pyroclastic density currents; flood basalts and the eruption and emplacement of lavas; caldera volcanoes and ignimbrites; volatile degassing and retention in magma chambers; environmental impact and social consequences of eruptions; origin of dike complexes and rift zones; and volcanic processes on extraterrestrial bodies.
Intraplate Volcanism and Volcano Monitoring. Petrologic, geochemical, isotopic, and geologic evolution of Hawaiian and other oceanic islands and seamounts; petrologic, seismic, and geodetic monitoring of magmatic systems at active Hawaiian volcanoes; satellite monitoring of volcanic hazards and eruption clouds; remote-sensing observation of extraterrestrial volcanoes. Relationship of hot spots to flood basalt and oceanic plateau formation; geochemistry of active hydrothermal systems.
In addition to basic courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, the well-prepared student would have had training in mineralogy, optical mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, and, in some cases, geological field methods and remote sensing techniques.
Planetary Geoscience and Remote Sensing. The principal objective of this program is to study the geology and composition of objects (planets, asteroids, moons, and meteorites) in the Solar System in order to understand their origin and evolution. It involves research in planetary and terrestrial geology, cosmochemistry, volcanology, planetary astronomy, and scientific instrumentation. Current research areas include:
Meteoritics and Cosmochemistry. Research on extraterrestrial materials (from asteroids, the Moon, and Mars) focuses on the vast array of processes that formed and modified planets and asteroids. Central themes of our research are: (1) processes in the solar nebula (2) alteration processes in asteroids (3) the effects of shock on mineralogy, textures, and isotopic systems (4) igneous processes, and (5) planetary crustal compositions and evolution.
Inner Planets and the Moons. Several HIGP faculty are involved in a number of remote sensing and petrology projects that have as their focus deriving greater knowledge of the composition of the crust and mantle of the Moon, which is crucial to understanding lunar origin and differentiation. Mars research is focused on the study of geologic processes, and the analysis of the composition of the surface. High resolution images, compositional information and topographic data from satellites in orbit around Mars (Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey) allow us to explore volcanic processes and the mode of formation of impact craters. Data from the thermal infrared and gamma-ray spectrometers are used to study the composition of the Martian crust and the weathering history of the planet.
Terrestrial Remote Sensing. Several faculty within HIGP are involved with the analysis of volcanic thermal spacecraft (Landsat 7, EO-1, Terra, Aqua, GOES), aircraft, and ground observations. These data allow studies of the flux of magma through volcanic systems and evaluation of eruption precursors. Similar work on thermal anomalies focuses on the study of forest fires worldwide. Data from the GOES geostationary satellite are made available on the HIGP website (goes.higp.hawaii.edu) and MODIS thermal alerts for the entire world are made available at modis.higp.hawaii.edu. Radar remote sensing is also conducted within HIGP. This includes the study of volcano topography using data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), and interferometric studies of volcano deformation using ENVISAT data for understanding magma emplacement and volcano tectonics.
Instrument Development. HIGP has many years of experience in developing instruments for use in studying global and regional problems in Earth and planetary science. One group is developing hyperspectral thermal infrared imagers for use in lithologic mapping. A new instrument is also in the development stage for flight on the International Space Station, and will study coral reefs. HIGP has developed real-time, field-based methods for measuring the thermal activity and the flux of sulfur dioxide from volcanoes, and works with the US Geological Survey to monitor Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. Other groups are developing (1) a synthetic aperture sonar system, (2) an infrasonics array as part of a global monitoring system for the detection of atmospheric disturbances, and (3) lidar systems for the measurement of atmospheric aerosols and rock compositions. Another group built the HIGP Acoustic Wide Angle Imaging Instrument, Mapping Researcher 1 (HAWAII MR1).
Typically, an undergraduate major in geology, astronomy, physics, or engineering, along with basic courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, would be sufficient for entrance. The student should be prepared to commence or continue course work in whatever combination of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, planetary science, spectroscopy, radar science, or remote sensing is appropriate for optimum development in the field.
Please note: This Catalog was prepared to provide information and does not constitute a contract. The University reserves the right to change or delete, supplement or otherwise amend at any time and without prior notice the information, requirements and policies contained in this Catalog.
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