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Geology/Environmental Science- GY 140/EV 128 (SW 128): Physical Geology/Introduction to Global Climate Change

Block 1 - GY140: Physical Geology, Christine Siddoway

Block 2 - EV128: Introduction to Global Climate Change, Eric Leonard 

This two-block course fulfills one unit of the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World (Field) credit in Block 1, one additional Scientific Investigation credit in Block 2, and the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement in Block 2.

Our FYE pairs two courses usually taught independently at Colorado College: Introduction to Physical Geology (GY140) and Introduction to Global Climate Change (EV128). Together, the two courses provide a substantial overview and introduction to issues of biophysical changes in the environment and the human role and impact in more recent changes.

Introductory GeologyGY140 EV128

The course in Introductory Geology (GY140) makes full use of local Rocky Mountain settings as a natural laboratory where we investigate the record of Earth history preserved in the rocks and the dynamic earth processes in effect in the mountain environment. A vast span of geological time from 1.8 billion years to the present is almost completely represented in the Colorado Front Range, allowing interpretation of the succession of ancient environments, supporting both marine and terrestrial organisms, that existed in Colorado. The structural architecture and the sedimentary record exposed in the mountains of Colorado and surrounding regions offer a context for investigation of several cycles of mountain building activity related to plate tectonic events.

The course devotes time to learning the language of geology and to recognition of earth materials as the basis for field investigation and scientific questioning in the domain of earth science. Applied field and laboratory exercises will develop skills in use of topographic maps and compass, rock & mineral identification and interpretation, rock origins and plate tectonic processes, and the quantitative analysis of data. The course will involve a considerable amount of time in the field, including local afternoon trips and multi-day excursions.

Introduction to Global Climate Change

Introduction to Global Climate Change (EV128/SW128) will provide you with an overview of the contemporary Earth climate system that focuses on the roles of the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, and land surfaces in addition to an overview of how this system has changed in the past and is predicted to change in the future. GCC will focus on the science of climate change but include discussion political, economic, and ethical issues related to climate change. We pick up where GY140 leaves off, looking at the deep, historical bridge of environmental change but at a higher resolution and with emphasis on the last 10,000 years of Earth history (The Holocene). To illustrate some of these complex climate issues, we’ll give special attention to the region of the Greater Southwest (southwest U.S. and northern Mexico).

Weather willing we will take a three-day field trip late in the block to examine climate change and water-related issues in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Our on-campus afternoon lab sessions will focus on analysis of climate data and on the use of Geographical Information System (GIS) software as a tool to analyze climate, climate change, and climate-change impacts. 

A set of linked, one-block courses that must be taken together, with one instructor in each block; separate grades will be assigned for each block.


  • This course serves as a gateway to the Geology, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Policy majors.
  • Block 1 fulfills major prerequisites in Geology (1) and Environmental Sciences (1).
  • Block 2 fulfills major prerequisites in Environmental Sciences (1) and Environmental Policy (1).
  • There will be lab and/or field-based projects most afternoons
  • No prerequisites, although any high school background in earth sciences, physics, or chemistry would be advantageous
  • There will be numerous half-day and full-day trips and at least one multiday trip during Block 1; one three-day trip and likely one or more half day trips during Block 2.