Official UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences (GEL) class home pages are available on Canvas; access to the class sites may be restricted.
[ Academic Calendar ] [ UC Davis General Catalog ] [ UC Davis General Catalog Geology section ] [ Search UC Davis Courses ]

The information below is provided for your convenience. Course schedules are subject to change. Official course information is published in the UC Davis General Catalog.

Geology (GEL) Upper Division Electives
Marine and Coastal Science (MCS) Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate GEL Courses

NOTE:  Courses are subject to change.

Fall Quarter begins Monday, September 20, 2021.

  • Fall 2021 | Undergraduate
  • last updated 7/20/2021

    GEL 001—The Earth (4)
    Lecture—3 hour(s); Discussion—1 hour(s). Introduction to the study of the Earth. Earth's physical and chemical structure; internal and surface processes that mold the Earth; geological hazards and resources. Not open for credit to students who have taken GEL 050; only 2 credits for students who have taken GEL 002. GE credit: SE, SL. Effective: 2019 Winter Quarter.

    Lecture—2 hour(s); Discussion—1 hour(s). Introduction to biological evolution. Emphasis on historical development, major lines of evidence and causes of evolution; relationships between evolution and Earth history; the impact of evolutionary thought on other disciplines. GE credit: SE, SL, WE. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 010—Modern and Ancient Global Environmental Change (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Fundamental scientific concepts underlying issues such as global warming, pollution, and the future of nonsustainable resources presented in the context of anthropogenic processes as well as natural forcing of paleoenvironmental change throughout Earth's history. GE credit: SE, SL, VL. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 012—Evolution and Paleobiology of Dinosaurs (2)
    Lecture—2 hour(s). Introduction to evolutionary biology, paleobiology, ecology and paleoecology, using dinosaurs as case studies. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 016—The Oceans (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Introductory survey of the marine environment. Oceanic physical phenomena, chemical constituents and chemistry of water, geological history, the seas biota and human utilization of marine resources Not open for credit to students who have taken GEL 116. GE credit: SE, SL. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 017—Earthquakes and Other Earth Hazards (2)
    Lecture—2 hour(s). Impact of earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, landslides, and floods on humans, structures, and the environment. Discussion of the causes and effects of disasters and catastrophes, and on prediction, preparation, and mitigation of natural hazards. GE credit: SE, SL. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 025—Geology of National Parks (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Appreciation of the geologic framework underlying the inherent beauty of U.S. National Parks. Relationship of individual parks to geologic processes such as mountain building, volcanism, stream erosion, glacial action and landscape evolution. GE credit: SE, SL, VL. Effective: 2014 Winter Quarter.

    GEL 050—Physical Geology (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): High school physics and chemistry. The Earth, its materials, its internal and external processes, its development through time by sea-floor spreading and global plate tectonics. Students with credit for GEL 001 or the equivalent may receive only 2 units for GEL 050. GE credit: SE, SL. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 050L—Physical Geology Laboratory (2)
    Laboratory—6 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): GEL 050 (can be concurrent). Introduction to classification and recognition of minerals and rocks and to interpretation of topographic and geologic maps and aerial photographs. Students with credit for GEL 001L or the equivalent may receive only 1 unit for GEL 050L. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 055—Introduction to Geochemistry (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): (GEL 001 or GEL 002 or GEL 050); (CHE 002A or CHE 002AH); (CHE 002B or CHE 002BH). Introduction to key geochemical principles in Earth & Planetary Sciences; chemical bonding, geochemical affinity of elements, redox & acid base equilibria in geological systems, radioactive decay, isotopic fractionation and paleoclimate records. GE credit: QL, SE, VL. Effective: 2020 Winter Quarter.

    GEL 056—Introduction to Geophysics (4)
    Lecture/Discussion—3 hour(s); Laboratory—2 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): (GEL 001 or GEL 050); (PHY 007B or PHY 009B). Introduction to geophysical topics essential to all aspects of Earth and planetary sciences: theory of plate tectonics, gravitational field of planets, diffusion, rheology, seismology, and earthquakes. GE credit: QL, SE, VL. Effective: 2019 Spring Quarter.

    GEL 060—Earth Materials: Introduction (4)
    Lecture—3 hour(s); Laboratory—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): CHE 002A; (MAT 016A or MAT 017A or MAT 021A); (GEL 001 or GEL 050, GEL 050L). Physical and chemical properties of rocks, minerals and other earth materials; structure and composition of rock-forming minerals; formation of minerals by precipitation from silicate liquids and aqueous fluids and by solid state transformations. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 081—Learning in Science and Mathematics (2)
    Lecture/Discussion—2 hour(s); Fieldwork—2 hour(s). Limited to 26 students per section. Exploration of how students learn and develop understanding in science and mathematics classrooms. Introduction to case studies and interview techniques and their use in K-6 classrooms to illuminate factors that affect student learning. (Same course as EDU 081.) (P/NP grading only.) GE credit: SS, VL, WE. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 107—Earth History: Paleobiology (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): GEL 003 or BIS 002A or BIS 010. Evolution and ecological structure of the biosphere from the origin of life to the present. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 107L—Earth History: Paleobiology Laboratory (2)
    Laboratory—6 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): (GEL 003, GEL 003L) or BIS 002B; GEL 107 (can be concurrent). Exercises in determining the ecological functions and evolution of individuals, populations, and communities of fossil organisms in field and laboratory. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 109—Earth History: Sediments & Strata (3)
    Lecture—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): (GEL 001 or GEL 050); GEL 050L. Sediment formation, transport, and deposition. Interpretations of sedimentary processes across landscapes and through time in the context of environmental and geological problems. Reconstruction of ancient environmental change from sedimentary rocks. GE credit: SE. Effective: 2019 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 109L—Earth History: Sediments & Strata Laboratory (2)
    Laboratory—6 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): GEL 109 (can be concurrent). Methods of stratigraphic and sedimentologic analysis of modern and ancient sediments. Identification of major sediment and sedimentary rock types. Outcrop and subsurface analysis of sedimentary basins. GE credit with concurrent enrollment in GEL 109. Includes four one-day field trips. GE credit: SE, WE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    Lecture—3 hour(s). Risk, prediction, prevention and response for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, storms, fires, impacts, global warming. GE credit: SE, SL. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.
    GEL 140Introduction to Process Geomorphology (4)
    Lecture—3 hour(s); Laboratory—3 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): (GEL 001 or GEL 050); (MAT 016B or MAT 017B or MAT 021B). Quantitative description and interpretation of landscapes with emphasis on the relationships between physical processes, mass conservation, and landform evolution. Topics covered include physical & chemical weathering, hillslopes, debris flows, fluvial systems, alluvial fans, pedogenesis, eolian transport, glaciation and Quaternary geochronology. Effective: 2020 Winter Quarter.

    GEL 181—Teaching in Science and Mathematics (2)
    Lecture/Discussion—2 hour(s); Fieldwork—2 hour(s). Prerequisite(s): Consent of Instructor. Major in mathematics, science, or engineering; or completion of a one-year sequence of science or calculus. Class size limited to 40 students per section. Exploration of effective teaching practices based on examination of how middle school students learn math and science. Selected readings, discussion and field experience in middle school classrooms. (Same course as EDU 181.) (P/NP grading only.) GE credit: SS, WE. Effective: 2013 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 183—Teaching High School Mathematics and Science (3)
    Lecture/Discussion—2 hour(s); Fieldwork. Prerequisite(s): Major in mathematics, science, or engineering; or completion of a one-year sequence of science or calculus and consent of the instructor. Limited to 40 students per section. Exploration and creation of effective teaching practices based on examination of how high school students learn mathematics and science. Field experience in high school classrooms. (Same course as EDU 183.) GE credit: OL, SS, WE. Effective: 2018 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 186—Facilitating Learning in STEM Classrooms (1)
    Lecture/Discussion—1 hour(s). STEM Learning Assistant Seminar. Theoretical and practical issues of effective teaching in discussion/labs: student-centered, active, cooperative learning environments, responsive teaching, and differentiated classroom instruction. GE credit: SS. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

    GEL 190—Seminar in Geology (1)
    Discussion—1 hour(s); Seminar—1 hour(s). Presentation and discussion of current topics in geology by visiting lecturers, staff, and students. Written abstracts. May be repeated for credit. (P/NP grading only.) GE credit: SE. Effective: 2016 Fall Quarter.

Graduate GEL Courses

Geology Graduate Courses by Academic Year (pdfs)
2021-2022 | 2020-2021 | 2019-2020 | 2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017

Academic Year 2021-2022

NOTE: Courses are subject to change. Last updated May 2021

  • Fall 2021 | Graduate
  • GEL 206: Stratigraphic Analysis | Sumner
    Graduate course breadth area: #2 or 4
    This course will provide students the opportunity to learn and apply sedimentary geology, regional stratigraphy, and sedimentary basin analysis to tectonically active basins. It will be divided into three components: 1) specific techniques (tailored to student prior experience level); 2) a 3-day field trip (likely to the Ridge Basin, Southern California) and application of analysis techniques to those data; and 3) small group projects on topics of interest. Small group projects can focus on Martian stratigraphy for students interested in planetary science.

    GEL 240: Foundations of Geophysics | Rudolph
    Graduate course breadth area: #6
    This course presents foundational concepts in geophysics at a level accessible to all graduate students in the EPS department. Topics to be covered include the geophysical constraints on the large-scale structure and dynamics of Earth and planetary interiors such as seismology, gravity, heat flow, magnetic field, and geodesy. We will explore the physics of the processes that shape planetary surfaces and interiors including impact events, differentiation, mantle convection, and tectonics. The course will include a computer laboratory with hands-on programming activities in Python that reinforce the concepts covered in lecture. Format: Lectures, weekly problem sets/labs, midterm, final
    Note: This course is one of several regular 'core classes' being developed to strengthen our graduate curriculum.

    GEL 294: Structure-Tectonics-Geophysics seminar | Roeske
    This on-going discussion group meets once/week to discuss a paper selected by participants in the group. The theme of the articles varies each quarter; the seminar's goal is to emphasize breadth and we read and discuss a range of articles that cover the diverse interests of members of the group. As an example, we have recently read articles on subduction zone processes, ranging from UHP metamorphism and exhumation, to response of the upper plate to degree of coupling in the subduction zone. If schedules allow, we plan a multi-day field trip to examine rocks that may show some of the processes of interest to the group and focus the reading around the field trip.

    GEL 298: Planet Formation | Stewart
    Graduate course breadth area: #7; Course Registration Number (CRN): 35500
    This course presents foundational concepts in the physics and chemistry of planet formation, focusing on the early stages of growing planets and incorporating recent observations from exoplanets. Course provides foundational material related to protoplanetary disk physics, the solar nebula chemical condensation sequence, meteorite components and chemistry, chondrules and planetesimal formation, accretion of terrestrial planets, accretion of giant planets, current grand challenges in planet formation. The material is targeted at beginning graduate students and accessible to upper-level undergraduates.
  • Winter 2022 | Graduate
  • GEL 216: Tectonics | Cowgill
    Graduate course breadth area: #3
    Tectonic processes provide the fundamental mechanisms by which the exosphere (atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere) and the deep interior of Earth interact. This course seeks to understand tectonic systems by examining processes of mass and energy flux at modern and ancient plate boundaries. Our approach will be fundamentally geological in nature, in the sense that we will strive to link the rock record of processes with observations from modern settings. The course will involve readings/lectures based on Global Tectonics (Keary, Klepeis, Vine) and the primary literature, problem sets, and a research project and presentation. Planned topics: 1. Basics of Plate Motion on Sphere; 2. Basics of Isostacy & Flexure; 3. Divergent Boundaries & Passive Margins (e.g., Red Sea, Atlantic); 4. Transform Boundaries (e.g., San Andreas, Alpine, North Anatolian faults); 5. Convergent Boundaries (e.g., Andes); 6. Collision & Orogeny (e.g., Alpine-Himalayan Belt & Demise of NeoTethys); 7. Tectonics, Climate & Ocean Chemistry; 8. Tectonics and Life. Simultaneous enrollment in GEL253 is strongly encouraged.

    GEL 260: Paleontology | Vermeij
    Graduate course breadth area: #1
    This course will explore a broad topic of interest (still to be decided). We will read and discuss relevant papers and there will be a short final presentation and paper.

    GEL 298: Microbial Photosynthesis | Grettenberger
    Graduate course breadth area: #1; Course Registration Number (CRN): 26810
    Photosynthesis is one of the most important evolutionary innovations in Earth’s history. It permanently changed Earth’s surface geochemistry, fundamentally reshaping the cycling of key elements and altered the evolutionary path of life by allowing widespread aerobic respiration. This course will explore the importance of oxygenic photosynthesis in biogeochemical cycling, its evolutionary history, and the history of it in the fossil record. The course will include classroom, field, and laboratory components. Students will participate in a quarter long hands-on project during which they will 1) collect samples from a nearby field site, 2) extract DNA and sequence it using a MinION sequencer, 3) analyze the data using common bioinformatic pipelines, and 4) present their findings in a 10 minute talk format.

    GEL 298: Geodynamic Modeling | Rudolph
    Graduate course breadth area: #6; Course Registration Number (CRN): 26818
    We will cover the design and implementation of numerical geodynamic models. We will address problems involving advection of material properties, advection and diffusion of heat, viscous flow, and visco-elasto-plastic deformation. Students will produce a 2D geodynamic modeling code that can be used to model the deformation of the lithosphere and mantle. The coursework will involve programming in a language of the student's choice.

  • Spring 2022 | Graduate
  • GEL 219: Fracture and Flow of Rocks | Billen
    Graduate course breadth area: #3 or 6
    This revised course is designed to provide students with diverse undergraduate backgrounds with a strong foundation in brittle, ductile and viscous behavior of rocks. Compared to how the class was taught previously there is a shift to more time spent on brittle/ductile behavior of the lithosphere, including the rheologies used to model earthquake rupture, and less time spent on the viscous behavior of the mantle (but this is still covered). For each topic, I will present the experimental data, the equations used to describe the behavior and a discussion of the microscopic origin of the observed behavior. Targeted paper discussions will occur at key junctures in the course to help synthesize the topics and learn how to critically read papers establishing or applying rheological concepts. Each student will also complete a literature review-based term project on a specific type of rheology of relevance to their own research. Please also see detailed syllabus.

    GEL 230: Geomorphology and River Management | Pinter
    Graduate course breadth area: #5
    The course is a multidisciplinary study of the ecology, geomorphology and management of rivers of the US West, and one river (TBD) in particular. The field of watershed science, including the study of rivers and streams, is inherently multidisciplinary, involving a broad array of physical, biological, and social sciences. Traditional education programs emphasize in-depth study within a specific discipline, whereas most careers in waterrelated science and management rarely are limited to a single discipline. The ability to work collaboratively with professionals from different backgrounds is fundamental to success in watershed science and management, and indeed in most applied-science fields. Comprised of upper division undergraduate students and first-year graduate students, this course will bring together students from a range of biological and physical sciences to address the geology, ecology, and management of a targeted river and watershed. The course will be followed by an optional, private rafting and research expedition on the study river. Trip participants will be expected to help organize logistics for the field trip, including food, gear, transportation and field itineraries.

    GEL 251: Thermodynamics for Earth and Planetary Scientists | Yin
    Graduate course breadth area: #4
    If you are a geologist, or a planetary scientist, or aspired to become one in the near future, and were ever pondering on the questions such as why magma ocean crystallization proceeds from bottom up; if you ever wondered about what the heck does it mean by oxygen fugacity, and why it is a useful measure for a planetary object interior (Earth included); if you ever questioned why geochemists are so crazy about trace and ultra-trace elements in rocks and minerals, instead of (well, in addition to) major rock forming elements; or if you wanted to brush up your knowledge about how pressure and temperature of rocks, minerals and their assemblages were determined; if you were wondering what is solidus, liquidus, and what is adiabat, what is the “potential” temperature of the mantle; what is bridging oxygen and non-bridging oxygen and their roles in elemental partitioning from magma; what are the thermodynamic reasoning behind mass dependent isotope fractionation and its associated temperature dependance (another way of reading temperature record of minerals in nature)……the list could go on and on…… I know you have wondered about these questions in your mind, because I did too. If the answers to the list above were yes to most of them, I recommend you plan on taking GEL 251 in the Spring Quarter 2022 and we will learn together and build up our knowledge bases.

    GEL 253: Petrology seminar | Ratschbacher
    Graduate course breadth area: #4
    This course will focus on the formation of continental crust in subduction zone settings. Topics about magma generation, ascent, and mechanisms of differentiation will be discussed using scientific journal articles. Further topics can be decided depending on the interest of participating students. The course will comprise weekly student-lead discussion of scientific journal articles as well as short lectures by the instructor.

    GEL 294: Structure-Tectonics-Geophysics seminar | Roeske
    This on-going discussion group meets once/week to discuss a paper selected by participants in the group. The theme of the articles varies each quarter; the seminar's goal is to emphasize breadth and we read and discuss a range of articles that cover the diverse interests of members of the group. As an example, we have recently read articles on subduction zone processes, ranging from UHP metamorphism and exhumation, to response of the upper plate to degree of coupling in the subduction zone. If schedules allow, we plan a multi-day field trip to examine rocks that may show some of the processes of interest to the group and focus the reading around the field trip