Nov 30, 2023  
2022-2023 Undergraduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Geoscience lab

120 Pasteur Hall
Geoscience website
William Lee Beatty, Chairperson


Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Professor; BS, University of Minnesota; ScM, PhD, Brown University; 2005 -
William Lee Beatty, Professor; BS, Pennsylvania State University; PhD, University of Pittsburgh; 2008 -
Dylan Blumentritt, Associate Professor; BA, Gustavus Adolphus College; MS, PhD, University of Minnesota; 2016 - 
Candace L. Kairies-Beatty; Professor; BS, Westminster College; MS, Duquesne University; PhD, University of Pittsburgh; 2007 -

Why Study Geoscience?

If you’re one of the many Winona State University students who is curious about the world around you, the Department of Geoscience can help satisfy your curiosity and introduce you to a much broader world. Maybe you’ve traveled to a state or national park and wondered about the origin of the landscapes there or read accounts in the news of natural disasters caused by floods, earthquakes and volcanoes. Perhaps you’re concerned about the cleanliness of our air and water or how nations will respond to climate change. Or maybe the realization that energy shortages will become the norm rather than the exception stirs you to learn about how we can better manage Earth’s finite resources.

If you’re curious about the Earth, we invite you to enroll in one or more of the courses offered by the Department of Geoscience. Our faculty strive to help students understand how the Earth works, ask the right questions and seek ways to answer them. They also help majors and minors prepare for the expanding employment opportunities open to graduates in many fields of geoscience.

Geoscience graduates solve a broad range of environmental problems as consultants in both industry and government; they discover and manage our planet’s mineral and energy resources; they teach in our elementary schools, high schools and colleges; they work in museums and national parks; they practice environmental law and write for newspapers and magazines; they even explore other planets. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Geoscience is an interdisciplinary field that connects with many other disciplines in virtually unlimited ways.

Our curriculum is flexible and offers both bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degrees. It also provides an ideal liberal arts education for the 21st century: broad preparation in the natural sciences; developing and deepening observational skills, hypothesis building, idea testing and critical thinking. The Department of Geoscience is ready to help you succeed.

Departmental Equipment Available for Student Use

The Department of Geoscience boasts an impressive array of analytical and field equipment for student use in coursework and faculty-supervised student research projects. Students in our program routinely use geotechnical equipment that is typically only found in graduate-level departments and in industry. This hands-on training and experience provides our students a competitive edge in the job market and graduate school.

Throughout the curriculum, courses emphasize both traditional and cutting-edge scientific techniques. During weekly laboratories, students might gauge a stream using a SontekTM FlowTracker Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter and analyze water samples using a Hach™ SensION156 Multi-parameter meter and DR2400 Spectrophotometer. On another day, students might process a rock sample in our state-of-the-art Thin Section Preparation Lab and then investigate the crystallization history preserved in the rock using a Nikon™ petrographic microscope. In another course, students take geophysical equipment such as our 12-channel Geode™ seismic system or our AGI SuperSting Earth Resistivity Imager out into the field. Students use this equipment to characterize sub-surface rock layers and analyze environmental hazards associated with caves, sinkholes, and other groundwater-related features.

The department is also actively integrating Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology into the curriculum and student research. Students learn to solve real world problems by combining survey data collected in the field using our suite of TrimbleTM GeoExplorer XT GPS mapping units and NikonTM reflectorless pulse-laser Total Stations with analysis in our GIS computing facility. Students use GPS/GIS to solve problems ranging from tectonic reconstructions of the North American plate to water resource management in local streams. In an employment market in which GIS experience has almost become a universal job requirement, WSU Geoscience students don’t just know what GIS is - they know how to use it.

When it is too cold to be in an actual stream, students investigate river processes in the Sediment Transport and River Studies (STaRS) Flume Laboratory. The STaRS Lab, funded through a competitive grant from the National Science Foundation, houses a research flume, an Emriver Em4 river model stream table, and a number of Emriver Em2 portable stream tables. Students, from the introductory through senior-level, complete hands-on assignments and directed research that include projects such as modeling the effects of the lock and dam system on the Upper Mississippi River or testing the impact of various agricultural best-management processes on stream-bank erosion.

Students interested in paleontology have the opportunity to work in our fossil preparation laboratory, and gain hands-on experience in repairing and reconstructing specimens, micro-sorting, and working with macro- and microscopes and equipment for manual and mechanical preparation.

Students whose interests lie beyond the Earth itself can take part in night-sky fieldwork at the WSU Observatory, operated and maintained by the Department of Geoscience. Students can use a fully-automated, 12-inch Meade RCX400 reflecting telescope with photographic capabilities and two portable 8-inch Meade reflectors as part of their coursework.

Career Opportunities

Employment opportunities and compensation in the Geosciences have rapidly grown in recent years and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts continued growth during the next decade (more information available on the Geoscience website). Graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees are finding employment with consulting firms, government agencies, the petroleum and mining industries, and as educators in K-12 schools, museums and state and national parks.

Graduate School Preparation

The Department of Geoscience has an excellent record placing graduates into master’s and doctoral programs, and most graduates have received financial support for graduate study. Students who are considering graduate studies should supplement their curriculum with a minimum of a full year of chemistry, physics, and calculus. They should also complete an undergraduate research project and enroll in a geological field camp as part of their degree program.


The Geoscience Department places a premium on working closely with our students in tailoring their coursework to their individual interests and career goals. Faculty in the department regularly engage students in both formal and informal advising sessions. In addition to coursework, students are encouraged to pursue directed research, internships, summer field courses, and other experiences that enhance their career preparation.

Degree Options

Geoscience BS Major

The two BS major options - Geoscience - Geology (GEGE) - BS Major  or Geoscience - Environmental Science (GEES) - BS Major  - prepare students for a career as a professional geologist. Students completing the BS major options are also well-positioned to go onto graduate school programs in Geology, Environmental Science, Water and Natural Resources Management, and other related fields.

The BS major options provide students with a broad background in the field, laboratory, and computational skills required of professional geologists. These options also require students to take the breadth of allied science courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics that are necessary to succeed in the job and graduate school markets.

Students completing these degree programs will typically pursue careers in the petroleum industry, mining, environmental consulting, natural or water resource management, governmental agency and regulatory work, scientifically-oriented non-governmental agencies, or other related fields. A significant portion of graduates also pursue graduate training after completing their degrees at Winona State University.

Geoscience BA Major

The Geoscience - Geoscience (GSCE) - BA Major  prepares students for careers or graduate study in fields that explicitly integrate geoscience with a second discipline. Students pursuing this degree option are required to complete a minor or a second major in a field other than Geoscience (such as Political Science, Communications, Art, Recreation, Tourism and Therapeutic Recreation). In addition, students will complete a research project combining the two disciplines.

Earth Science Teaching Major

The Geoscience - Earth Science (Teaching) (ESCT) - BT Major  is designed for students who want a career teaching Earth & Space Science at a middle or secondary school (grades 5-12); the program conforms to Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) licensure standards. Students completing this program are eligible to apply for a Minnesota license in General Science for grades 5-8 and a license in Earth and Space Science for grades 9-12.

Middle Level Science Teaching Minor

The Middle Level Science (Teaching) (MLSC) - Minor  is designed for students completing a teaching major (either K-6 or 9-12) and prepares students to teach middle-school science.

Geoscience Minor

The Geoscience (GEOS) - Minor  is a flexible program that enables the student to couple their interest in geoscience with a second discipline.

Geospatial Information Science Minor

The Geoscience - Geospatial Information Science (GIS) - Minor  provides students with a background in powerful computing technology used to solve problems with mapping and spatial analytics, and the skills needed for success in this growing interdisciplinary field. Because of the varied and interdisciplinary applications of GIS, this minor will compliment many major programs of study.

Pass/No Credit (P/NC) Courses

All courses in the Department of Geoscience, except GEOS 090 - Earth Talks Speaker Series , must be taken on a grade-only basis unless it is a topics or independent study course specifically offered only as P/NC.

Departmental Requirements

Geoscience majors and minors must achieve a grade of “C” or better in all geoscience courses numbered 235 and higher. For a checklist of the University’s graduation requirements, see the Academic Policies & University Requirements  section of this catalog.

Majors in all options are urged to take a geology summer field course prior to graduation. This can satisfy the requirement for an upper-division elective.

Geoscience Capstone Experience

Geoscience majors pursuing the BA major must complete a research experience or internship that combines the Geoscience major with the minor or second major. Earth Science Teaching majors are required to complete a research project. All other majors are strongly encouraged to complete a Capstone Experience of either a research project or an internship as the experience is designed to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills that are the foundation of a successful career in the sciences.

General Education Intensive Requirements

Students may use intensive courses to satisfy both General Education Program (GEP)  and major requirements. Intensive courses will usually be in the student’s major or minor program. The following are offered as GEP intensive courses in the Geoscience Department:


Oral (◎)
Math/Critical Analysis (◆)
Writing (△) 

Intensive courses that can be used to satisfy major/minor requirements are identified in the lists of required courses and electives.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceBachelor of Science - TeachingMinor

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