About the Department
Washington and Lee University has offered courses in geology for more than two hundred years and was one of the first institutions in the United States to offer formal programs in the study of the Earth. The department currently offers a broad range of programs that include most of the important disciplines of the earth sciences. A number of alumni have made significant contributions as academic geologists, as geoscientists in the energy industry, and as environmental scientists.
Lexington is surrounded by some of the most interesting and classical geology of the entire Appalachian Mountain system. Our programs take advantage of our location. The campus lies right in the middle of the Great Valley of Virginia within easy reach of the Blue Ridge Province and the Allegheny Mountains. During the fall and winter terms, many of our courses run field trips for "hands-on" study of this superb geology. In the spring term, we offer more intense field experiences. Some of these spring courses emphasize the geology of the local area and provide familiarity with modern methods of field mapping. Other courses deal with the geology of a specific region and/or the study of the environment. Recent extended field trips have been run to such diverse areas as the Great Smoky Mountains, New England, the Colorado Plateau, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Pyrenees, the Pacific Northwest, and coastal Virginia.
Our faculty are active in a variety of research areas in which students play a central role. Current faculty research includes long-term plateau incision by escarpment breaching and capture, the modeling and growth of fault-related folds, Holocene climate variation as recorded in coral growth, weathering and water chemistry, and the growth and erosion of mountain belts.
The Geology Department is also a member of the Keck Geology Consortium, which includes 18 of the best undergraduate geology departments in the country. This program allows our students to join undergraduates and faculty from other consortium institutions in summer research projects in such diverse locations as the Apennines of Italy, the Bahamas, the Cascades, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, and Cyprus.