School of Arts and Sciences

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Geoscience is the study of the earth and oceans and the interactions of natural environments with one another and with society. The Minor in Geoscience offered through the geology department at Utica College is, with careful advising, flexible enough to allow students to meet their own needs. It provides opportunities to obtain competence in geology and other earth sciences which may enhance the career possibilities of primary and secondary school teachers. For science majors (biology, chemistry and physics) with specific research or employment interests, the Geoscience Minor may be structured to meet their particular needs.

Special Opportunities

Courses in physical and historical geology are required within the Geoscience minor and electives may include oceanography, environmental issues, and advanced courses offered through the geoscience department. Electives may also include such courses as astronomy and environmental chemistry offered through the departments of physics and chemistry, respectively.

The goals of the Geoscience minor are achieved through a variety of means, including lectures, discussions, laboratories, field studies, seminars, and guest speakers. Students may engage in research both within the course structure and independently under the guidance of a faculty member. Past students have reconstructed climate change from sediment characteristics and microfossils within Adirondack lakes, assessed the origin of fine-grained sediments in the South Atlantic Ocean and their implications for past climate and ocean circulation, tested for the presence of PCBs and lead within sediments of the local Utica Marsh, measured microfossils within Lake Erie sediments to assess impacts of sewage discharge and agricultural runoff, and constructed a small-scale fulme to model how the invasive plant purple loosestrife may have affected water flow and movement of contaminants in the local Utica Marsh. Opportunities also exist to investigate the structural geology of the Adirondack Mountains.

In addition to research and formal coursework in geoscience, discussions are currently underway to form a geology club that will provide an opportunity to expand and enrich the educational experience of students interested in the physical sciences through a variety of activities including seminars, colloquia, social events, and the planned publication of an alumni newsletter.


The geoscience faculty and affiliated faculty in the departments of physics and chemistry have diverse teaching and research interests and are noted for the quality of their teaching and for the extent of their scholarship. Research conducted by faculty members, which offers the potential for students to earn research credit, has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Ocean Drilling Program and the Geological Society of America. Members of the geoscience faculty and their research interests are:

Sharon Kanfoush, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair; global climate change, marine geology and paleoceanography, paleolimnology

Adam Schoonmaker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor; structural geology, tectonics, geochronology, mineralogy and petrology

Herman Muskatt, Ph.D.
Emeritus; field geology, stratigraphy and petrology

Vincent Grieco, C.A.S.
Adjunct Instructor; environmental geology, geoscience education


Flanked by the Adirondacks and the Catskills, the Mohawk Valley and its surroundings bear a long and rich record of geologic time. Local fossil-rich rock outcrops provide opportunities for study of life history. The proximity of the Great Lakes have facilitated environmental research by the Geoscience faculty on the deterioration and subsequent recovery of the lakes following European settlement of the region.

Housed in UC's Gordon Science Center, the Geology Department equipment includes: sieves, a Ro-Tap shaker, hydrometers, a current meter, and microscopes for sedimentological analysis; rock cutting and thin-sectioning equipment and microscopes for petrographic analysis; a gravimeter and a collection of local- to continental-scale topographic and geologic maps and aerial photographs for structural geologic studies. The Department maintains extensive fossil and mineral collections that include numerous specimens from the local area and the Adirondack Mountains. The College maintains photographic capabilities.

In 2003 UC was awarded a $1.7 million grant from NASA to update and expand the college's science teaching and research resources. From this the geology department added instrumentation to support coursework and faculty and student research in paleolimnology, paleoceanography and paleoclimatology; including sediment coring equipment and a small inflatable raft for lake and wetland sampling and monitoring, a YSI in-situ multisensor water quality probe, an integrated suspended sediment sampler and bottom sediment grab sampler, a Malvern automated sediment grain size analyzer, Bartington whole-core and discrete-sample magnetic susceptibility meter, Ortec gamma detection system for radiometric dating of sediment cores, and ArcView geographic information systems (GIS) software.

Career Opportunities

By adding breadth to the science education of majors in biology, chemistry, or physics, the Geoscience Minor may broaden students' scope of post-graduate employment opportunities, particularly for those students interested in careers within environmental science. Paired with the major in liberal studies, which offers a high degree of course flexibility, the minor in geoscience could be used to approximate a formal major in geoscience.

The Education Track of the Geoscience Minor will enable students within the education program to acquire some of the coursework required to attain dual teaching certification in Earth Science in addition to certification within their major discipline.

The Geoscience Minor is also appropriate for majors in economics, politics, anthropology/sociology who anticipate careers in government or industry that will involve issues of public policy concerning the environment.