As an environmental studies major, concentrating in geology provides the literal and figurative foundation for understanding all environmental issues. And since the earth exists outside the four walls of a classroom, a lot of geology learning happens outdoors for a truly hands-on educational experience. Using state-of-the-art field equipment and accessing a variety of outdoor environments, including RMC’s field research station at Martin Marietta Quarry, you will explore and experience the richness of earth’s history and study the amazing geological processes happening every day on the planet we call home. 

up close
In and Beyond the Classroom

Geology faculty member and student conducting field research

Hands-on Learning

Geology is experiential and hands-on by definition. At RMC, students apply the scientific method in a variety of outdoor environments including rivers and coasts, and ancient environments as recorded in the stories of rock formations. Observe, evaluate and analyze many phenomena in the field, including measuring streamflow; assessing the quantity and quality of water in groundwater aquifers; and measuring the weathering rates of tombstones to determine the impact of acid rain on our human environment. Map and dig for fossils in local quarries that contain some of the best whale and shark fossils on the U.S. east coast. Using state-of-the-art field equipment to sample and measure phenomena, geology students get their hands dirty in the best possible way. 


As an RMC environmental studies major, you will have access to the school’s field research station at Martin Marietta Quarry, a 66-acre quarry, just 8 miles from the RMC campus. The quarry contains a variety of bottom-land and up-land habitats including a mature beech/maple forest and a dense stand of young pine.

Environmental studies students conduct research using state-of-the-art equipment including

  • 22 ft research boat, jon boats with outboard motors, and kayaks
  • Side scan sonar
  • Seismic reflection profiling system
  • ADCP acoustic doppler current meter
  • Water quality testing equipment including sondes
  • Surveying equipment
  • Field sampling devices

High-Impact Internships

Geology students have a variety of opportunities to work directly in the field and learn sampling techniques and other important skills for future careers. Recently, environmental studies majors completed geology internships at

  • Science Museum of Virginia
  • NASA, Wallops Island Flight Facility
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
  • Virginia Department of Energy
RMC geology students conducting field research as part of the geology of Hawaii travel course

global education

Geology of Hawaii (GEOL 151/251) students traveled to the islands of Hawaii and Kauai to learn about the processes that build up and wear down the Earth’s surface. Through hands-on field work, students studied volcanism, earthquakes (seismicity), the Theory of Plate Tectonics, mineralogy and petrology, human interactions with the environment and more.


The mentorship of RMC’s resident geologist Dr. Michael Fenster ensures environmental studies majors pursue their interest in geology with both expert advice and the opportunity to pursue original research. Students recently co-authored published papers and presented at conferences on geology with Dr. Fenster on topics including:

  • A survey of global mixed-energy and wave-dominated barrier island distribution and development 
  • Non-linear shoreline change modeling and coastal storm impacts along the Virginia Barrier Islands. 
  • Sea-level change in the U.S. mid-Atlantic during the last glacial cycle: New insights from the stratigraphy of the Delmarva Peninsula 

RMC geology faculty member works together with student sitting at a table while looking at a laptop screen
  • 18
    volcanoes in the United States have the potential to erupt
  • 20%
    of the world’s available freshwater is contained in the Great Lakes
  • 200M
    years from now, Asia and America will collide to form a supercontinent centered around the North Pole
RMC students fand faculty studying a rock fragment in geology classroom

Geology in full Courses You Won’t Want to Miss

(A very small sample)

GEOL 115

Beaches, Coasts and Oceans

Learn about the processes at work in our global oceans and coastal environments, and examine landscapes produced by sea-level changes over millions of years (including the Atlantic Coastal Plain). Enjoy day-long and overnight field work in pristine barrier islands, beach resort towns, and 65 million year old beaches.

GEOL 201

Watershed Hydrology and Water Resources

Learn the physical and chemical aspects of the science of hydrology. Analyze hydrologic processes, study water motion as a continuum through interconnected systems, and apply these concepts to water resource issues. Using state-of-the-art technology, conduct aquifer slug and pump tests, quantitative analyses, modeling, water sample tests, field mapping, sediment/soil textural analyses, stream flow measurements, and water budget data collection and analysis. 

GEOL 312

Coastal Geology

Examine the impact of humans on sedimentary beaches, rocky headlands, and estuaries. Learn to detect and predict coastal hazards and analyze the effectiveness of methods used to mitigate coastal erosion and to protect coastal development from the impact of storms, storm surge and sea-level rise. Fly over the Chesapeake Bay and the eastern shore of Virginia, in a high-winged aircraft, to view the coastal environments you visited by boat and learned about in class.

Opportunities Worth Grabbing

Popular activities and programs among geology majors
Geology students hiking through Iceland

STudents for environmental action

Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

From Here To What you can do with a Geology concentration degree from RMC

Tony Christhilf '00

TONY Christhilf ’00

Founder & Chief Operations Officer
JETCO USA, Inc., a full service environmental contracting company

“RMC and in particular the Environmental Studies Department along with Professor Brian Moores, and Professor Michael Fenster were able to bridge the gap between learning in a classroom and being able to apply our skills in the work environment. We spent many hours in the field learning skills for projects, base skills I apply on JETCO USA projects everyday. What I remember most as a student was the willingness of the professors to give us direct one on one time with us and to show us “hands-on” learning. They really took time out of their schedule for guidance.”

Jenny Templeton ’06

District Conservationist
US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Stephanie Golembeski ’97

Business Development Director
Froehling & Robertson, Inc. 

Claire Hudson Bailey ’05

Middle School Science Teacher
The Steward School

Get Ready Discover Geology at RMC.