Chair’s Message

Welcome to the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University.

Our programs use scientific principles and methods to understand Earth, the environment, and life on a regional and planetary scale. In so doing, faculty and students tackle issues of pressing importance to society, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, climate change, evolution and the fossil record, atmospheric carbon remediation, and the sustainability of mineral and energy resources. This breadth leads to collaborative interactions with many other departments on campus, such as Astronomy, Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Physics.

Our research efforts build on the distinguished history of scientific study at Yale. Numerous “firsts” include Benjamin Silliman’s analysis of the Weston meteorite, the first documented fall of a meteorite (1807) in the Americas; James Dwight Dana’s System of Mineralogy, still in use today; the appointment of Othniel C. Marsh, the first Professor of Paleontology in the United States; Bertram B. Boltwood’s revolutionary use of the U/Pb method to date uranium-bearing minerals; Elias Loomis’ weather maps, the first to depict high and low pressure air masses and enable forecasting; Joseph Barrell’s groundbreaking concepts of the lithosphere, asthenosphere, and isostatic adjustment; and Josiah Willard Gibbs’ fundamental treatment of heterogeneous phase equilibrium, including the phase rule.

Providing students with diverse opportunities to experience the joy of learning and the excitement of discovery has been an essential mission of the faculty since Silliman’s day. Undergraduate B.A. or B.S. degrees center on four tracks in Earth and climate sciences: Atmosphere, ocean, and climate; Environmental and energy geoscience; Paleontology and geobiology; and Solid Earth geology and geophysics. Graduate students pursue Ph.D. research in any area of specialization represented by the faculty. Moreover, interdisciplinary study among research groups as well as with other departments at Yale is common and encouraged.

Undergraduate and graduate students from our department have gone on to myriad careers, occupying leadership positions in industry, government, and academia. In academia, alumni are represented on the faculty of numerous universities and liberal arts colleges including Boston University, Brown, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Smith, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech. In other fields of endeavor, alumni have forged careers at the American Museum of Natural History, the Gemological Institute of America, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, and numerous environmental consulting, natural resources, and energy companies throughout the world.

Today, it is clear that our future depends on the sustainable use of Earth’s resources. The challenge of sustainability becomes more formidable each day as Earth’s population grows, placing ever-increasing demands on global water, mineral, and energy supplies. Meeting this challenge is a fundamental goal of our teaching and research programs in sustainability science. Ultimately, progress at the national and international levels will require the integrated efforts of scientists and policy makers. These interactions are made possible by a wide spectrum of institutes and schools on campus, including the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS), and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES). Furthermore, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History’s specimens preserve an invaluable record of evolution during global change, and the Center for Earth Observation (CEO) leads in satellite imagery of our ever-changing planet.

Jay J. Ague