Earth and Environment
An introduction to the ideas and approaches of earth and planetary sciences, including both the special challenges and viewpoints of these kinds of science as well as the ways in which basic physics, chemistry, and biology relate to them. In addition to a wide-ranging lecture-oriented component, there will be a required field trip component. The lectures and topics cover such issues as solid Earth structure and evolution, plate tectonics, oceans and atmospheres, climate change, and the relationship between geological and biological evolution. Not offered on a pass/fail basis. Satisfies the menu requirement of the Caltech core curriculum.
Frontiers in Geological and Planetary Sciences
The course may be taken multiple times. Weekly seminar by a member of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences or a visitor to discuss a topic of their current research at an introductory level. The course is designed to introduce students to research and research opportunities in the division and to help students find faculty sponsors for individual research projects. Graded pass/fail. Not offered 2023-24.
Introduction to Earth and Planetary Sciences: Earth as a Planet
Introduction to Earth and Planetary Sciences: Earth and the Biosphere
Systematic introduction to the origin and evolution of life and its impact on the oceans, atmosphere, and climate of Earth. Topics covered include ancient Earth surface environments and the rise of atmospheric oxygen. Microbial and molecular evolution, photosynthesis, genes as fossils. Banded iron stones, microbial mats, stromatolites, and global glaciation. Biological fractionation of stable isotopes. Numerical calibration of the geological timescale, the Cambrian explosion, mass extinctions, and human evolution. The course usually includes one major field trip and laboratory studies of rocks, fossils, and geological processes. Although Ge 11 abcd is designed as a sequence, any one term may be taken as a standalone course. Biologists are particularly welcome.
Introduction to Earth and Planetary Sciences: Planetary Sciences
A broad introduction to the present state and early history of the solar system, including terrestrial planets, giant planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and rings. Earth-based observations, observations by planetary spacecraft, study of meteorites, and observations of extrasolar planets are used to constrain models of the dynamical and chemical processes of planetary systems. Although Ge 11 abcd is designed as a sequence, any one term may be taken as a standalone course. Physicists and astronomers are particularly welcome.
Introduction to Earth and Planetary Sciences: Geophysics
An introduction to the geophysics of the solid earth; formation of planets; structure and composition of Earth; interactions between crust, mantle, and core; surface and internal dynamics; mantle convection; imaging of the interior; seismic tomography. Although Ge 11 abcd is designed as a sequence, any one term can be taken as a standalone course.
First-year Seminar: Earthquakes
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions constitute some of the world's major natural hazards. What is the science behind prediction and/or rapid response to these events? We will review the current understanding of the science, the efforts that have been made in earthquake and volcano forecasting, and real-time response to these events. We will learn about advances in earthquake preparation in Southern California, and volcanic eruption forecasting and hazard mitigation elsewhere. There is a required field trip to visit faults and volcanoes somewhere in southern California. First-year (undergraduates) only; limited enrollment.
First-Year Seminar: The Unseen Microbial World in Plain Sight
To paraphrase a Caltech engineering colleague: "In terms of Earth and the Environment, our species had been nothing more than the hood ornament on a really interesting car. We should be studying what's under the hood, the microbial world, if we want to understand the engine". We will spend the term examining striking examples of microbes and microbial activities in the environment. First-year (undergraduates) only; limited enrollment.
First-Year Seminar: Life in the Universe
Special Problems for Undergraduates
This course provides a mechanism for undergraduates to undertake honors-type work in the geologic sciences. By arrangement with individual members of the staff. Graded pass/fail.
Undergraduate Research and Bachelor's Thesis
Guidance in seeking research opportunities and in formulating a research plan leading to preparation of a bachelor's thesis is available from the GPS option representatives. Graded pass/fail.
Introduction to Geology and Geochemistry
A broad, high-level survey of geology and geochemistry with emphasis on quantitative understanding. Historical deduction in the geological and planetary sciences. Plate tectonics as a unifying theory of geology. Igneous and metamorphic processes, structural geology and geomorphology; weathering and sedimentary processes. Nucleosynthesis and chemical history of the solar system; distribution of the elements in the earth; isotopic systems as tracers and clocks; evolution of the biosphere; global geochemical and biogeochemical cycles; geochemical constraints on deep Earth structure. One mandatory overnight field trip, selected laboratory exercises, and problem sets.
Introduction to Geophysics
An introduction to the physics of the earth. The present internal structure and dynamics of the earth are considered in light of constraints from the gravitational and magnetic fields, seismology, and mineral physics. The fundamentals of wave propagation in earth materials are developed and applied to inferring Earth structure. The earthquake source is described in terms of seismic and geodetic signals. The following are also considered: the contributions that heat-flow, gravity, paleomagnetic, and earthquake mechanism data have made to our understanding of plate tectonics, the driving mechanism of plate tectonics, and the energy sources of mantle convection and the geodynamo.
Introduction to the Solar System
Formation and evolution of the solar system. Interiors, surfaces, and atmospheres. Orbital dynamics, chaos, and tidal friction. Cratering. Comets and asteroids. Extrasolar planetary systems.
Introduction to Geobiology
Lectures about the interaction and coevolution of life and Earth surface environments. We will cover essential concepts and major outstanding questions in the field of geobiology, and introduce common approaches to solving these problems. Topics will include biological fractionation of stable isotopes; history and operation of the carbon and sulfur cycles; evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis; biomineralization; mass extinctions; analyzing biodiversity data; constructing simple mathematical models constrained by isotope mass balance; working with public databases of genetic information; phlyogenetic techniques; microbial and molecular evolution.
The theory of evolution is arguably biology’s greatest idea and serves as the overarching framework for thinking about the diversity and relationships between organisms. This course will present a broad picture of evolution starting with discussions of the insights of the great naturalists, the study of the genetic basis of variation, and an introduction to the key driving forces of evolution. Following these foundations, we will then focus on a number of case studies including the following: evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, origin of eukaryotes, multicellularity, influence of symbiosis, the emergence of life from the water (i.e. fins to limbs), the return of life to the water (i.e. limbs to fins), diversity following major extinction events, the discovery of Archaea, insights into evolution that have emerged from sequence analysis, and finally human evolution and the impact of humans on evolution (including examples such as antibiotic resistance). A specific focus for considering these issues will be the island biogeography of the Galapagos. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Introduction to Structural Geology
Description and origin of main classes of deformational structures. Introduction to continuum mechanics and its application to rock deformation. Interpretation of the record of deformation of the earth's crust and upper mantle on microscopic, mesoscopic, and megascopic scales. Introduction to the tectonics of mountain belts.
Introduction to Astronomical Observation
Applications of Physics to the Earth Sciences
An intermediate course in the application of the basic principles of classical physics to the earth sciences. Topics will be selected from: mechanics of rotating bodies, the two-body problem, tidal theory, oscillations and normal modes, diffusion and heat transfer, wave propagation, electro- and magneto-statics, Maxwell's equations, and elements of statistical and fluid mechanics.
Practice in the effective organization and the delivery of oral presentation of scientific results before groups. Units and scheduling are done by the individual options. Graded pass/fail.
Applied Geophysics Seminar and Field Course
An introduction to the theory and application of basic geophysical field techniques consisting of a comprehensive survey of a particular field area using a variety of methods (e.g., gravity, magnetic, electrical, GPS, seismic studies, and satellite remote sensing). The course will consist of a seminar that will discuss the scientific background for the chosen field area, along with the theoretical basis and implementation of the various measurement techniques. The 4-5-day field component will be held in spring break, and the data analysis component is covered in Ge 111 b. May be repeated for credit with an instructor’s permission.
Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
Systematic analysis of transport and deposition in sedimentary environments and the resulting composition, texture, and structure of both clastic and chemical sedimentary rocks. The nature and genesis of sequence architecture of sedimentary basins and cyclic aspects of sedimentary accumulation will be introduced. Covers the formal and practical principles of definition of stratigraphic units, correlation, and the construction of a geologic timescale. Field trip and laboratory exercises. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Laboratory work involving the examination, characterization and identification of important minerals by their physical properties.
Petrology and Petrography: Igneous Petrology
Study of the origin, occurrence, tectonic significance and evolution of igneous rocks with emphasis on use of phase equilibria and geochemistry. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Petrology and Petrography: Metamorphic Petrology
The mineralogic and chemical composition, occurrence, and classification of metamorphic rocks; interpretation of mineral assemblages in the light of chemical equilibrium and experimental studies. Discussion centers on the use of metamorphic assemblages to understand tectonic, petrologic, and geochemical problems associated with convergent plate boundaries and intrusion of magmas into the continental crust. May be taken before Ge 115 a. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Laboratory exercises dealing with examination of igneous and metamorphic rocks and minerals in hand-sample and with the petrographic microscope and other mineral identification methods.
Analytical Techniques Laboratory
Methods of quantitative laboratory analysis of rocks, minerals, and fluids in geological and planetary sciences. Consists of five intensive two-week modules covering scanning electron microscopy (imaging, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, electron backscatter diffraction); the electron microprobe (wavelength-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy); X-ray powder diffraction; optical, infrared, and Raman spectroscopy; and plasma source mass spectrometry for elemental and radiogenic isotope analysis. Satisfies the Institute core requirement for an additional introductory laboratory course.
Bayesian Statistics and Data Analysis
In modern fields of planetary science and astronomy, vast quantities of data are often available to researchers. The challenge is converting this information into meaningful knowledge about the universe. The primary focus of this course is the development of a broad and general tool set that can be applied to the student's own research. We will use case studies from the astrophysical and planetary science literature as our guide as we learn about common pitfalls, explore strategies for data analysis, understand how to select the best model for the task at hand, and learn the importance of properly quantifying and reporting the level of confidence in one's conclusions.
Geology of the American Southwest
This course is a lecture-based course on the geologic history of the American Southwest (broadly defined as the southern parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado as well as Arizona and New Mexico). Lectures will cover the geologic history in chronologic order and will highlight the important scientific studies that deciphered the geologic record of the region.
Introduction to Field Geology
Field Geology: Summer Field Camp
Advanced Field Geology
Field Geology Seminar
Each term, a different field topic will be examined in both seminar and field format. Relevant readings will be discussed in a weekly class meeting. During the 3-day weekend field trip we will examine field localities relevant to the topic, to permit detailed discussion of the observations. Topic varies every year. Graded pass/fail. Topic: Anza-Borrego State Park. Ge 122b offered 2023-24 (second term only).
Continental Crust Seminar
A seminar course focusing on a topic related to the continental crust, which will be decided depending on the interest of participating students. Potential topics include arc magmatism, the evolution of the composition of continental crust through time, formation of granites, or specific localities/regions that help shape our understanding of continental crust generation. The course will comprise weekly student-lead discussion of scientific journal articles.
Paleomagnetism and Magnetostratigraphy
Application of paleomagnetism to the solution of problems in stratigraphic correlation and to the construction of a high-precision geological timescale. A field trip to the southwest United States or Mexico to study the physical stratigraphy and magnetic zonation, followed by lab analysis. Not offered 2023-24.
Paleomagnetism and Magnetostratigraphy
The principles of rock magnetism and physical stratigraphy; emphasis on the detailed application of paleomagnetic techniques to the determination of the history of the geomagnetic field. Not offered 2023-24.
A quantitative examination of landforms, runoff generation, river hydraulics, sediment transport, erosion and deposition, hillslope creep, landslides and debris flows, glacial processes, and submarine and Martian landscapes. Field and laboratory exercises are designed to facilitate quantitative measurements and analyses of geomorphic processes. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Topics in Earth Surface Processes
A seminar-style course focusing on a specific theme within geomorphology and sedimentology depending on student interest. Potential themes could include river response to climate change, bedrock erosion in tectonically active mountain belts, or delta evolution on Earth and Mars. The course will consist of student-led discussions centered on readings from peer-reviewed literature.
A survey course in the properties of nuclei, and in atomic phenomena associated with nuclear-particle detection. Topics include rates of production and decay of radioactive nuclei; interaction of radiation with matter; nuclear masses, shapes, spins, and moments; modes of radioactive decay; nuclear fission and energy generation. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Examination of the chemistry of the interstellar medium, of protostellar nebulae, and of primitive solar-system objects with a view toward establishing the relationship of the chemical evolution of atoms in the interstellar radiation field to complex molecules and aggregates in the early solar system that may contribute to habitability. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the physical conditions in various objects, timescales for physical and chemical change, chemical processes leading to change, observational constraints, and various models that attempt to describe the chemical state and history of cosmological objects in general and the early solar system in particular. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Planetary Structure and Evolution
A critical assessment of the physical and chemical processes that influence the initial condition, evolution, and current state of planets, including our planet and planetary satellites. Topics to be covered include a short survey of condensed-matter physics as it applies to planetary interiors, remote sensing of planetary interiors, planetary modeling, core formation, physics of ongoing differentiation, the role of mantle convection in thermal evolution, and generation of planetary magnetic fields.
Atomic and Molecular Processes in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences
Fundamental aspects of atomic and molecular spectra that enable one to infer physical conditions in astronomical, planetary, and terrestrial environments. Topics will include the structure and spectra of atoms, molecules, and solids; transition probabilities; photoionization and recombination; collisional processes; gas-phase chemical reactions; and isotopic fractionation. Each topic will be illustrated with applications in astronomy and planetary sciences, ranging from planetary atmospheres and dense interstellar clouds to the early universe. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems
Review current theoretical ideas and observations pertaining to the formation and evolution of planetary systems. Topics to be covered include low-mass star formation, the protoplanetary disk, accretion and condensation in the solar nebula, the formation of gas giants, meteorites, the outer solar system, giant impacts, extrasolar planetary systems.
Regional Field Geology of the Southwestern United States
Includes approximately three days of weekend field trips into areas displaying highly varied geology. Each student is assigned the major responsibility of being the resident expert on a pertinent subject for each trip. Graded pass/fail.
A quantitative review of dynamical processes that characterize long-term evolution of planetary systems. An understanding of orbit-orbit resonances, spin-orbit resonances, secular exchange of angular momentum and the onset of chaos will be developed within the framework of Hamiltonian perturbation theory. Additionally, dissipative effects associated with tidal and planet-disk interactions will be considered.
Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation
The basic physics of absorption and scattering of light by molecules, aerosols, and clouds. Theory of radiative transfer. Band models, correlated-k distributions and other approximate methods. Solar insolation, thermal emission, heating rates and radiances. Applications to Earth, Planets and Exoplanets. Not offered 2023-24.
Stable Isotope Geochemistry
An introduction to the principles and applications of stable isotope systems to earth science, emphasizing the physical, chemical and biological processes responsible for isotopic fractionation, and their underlying chemical-physics principles. Topics include the kinetic theory of gases and related isotopic fractionations, relevant subjects in quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics, equations of motion of charged particles in electrical and magnetic fields (the basis of mass spectrometry), the photochemistry of isotopic species, and applications to the earth, environmental and planetary sciences. Taught in odd years; alternates with Ge 140 b.
Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry
An introduction to the principles and applications of radiogenic isotope systems in earth science, with emphasis on the applications of these systems, from dating to forensic. Topics to be covered include nucleosynthesis, radioactive decay phenomena, geochronology, geochronometry, isotopes as tracers of solar system and planetary evolution, extinct radioactivities, cosmogenic isotopes and forensic geochemistry. Taught in even years; alternates with Ge 140 a. Offered 2023-24.
Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry
An introduction to the use of stable isotopes in biogeochemistry, intended to give interested students the necessary background to understand applications in a variety of fields, from modern carbon cycling to microbial ecology to records of Ancient Earth. Topics include the principles of isotope distribution in reaction networks; isotope effects in enzyme-mediated reactions, and in metabolism and biosynthesis; characteristic fractionations accompanying carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycling; and applications of stable isotopes in the biogeosciences. Offered 2023-24.
An introduction to the study of the origin, abundances and distribution of the elements and their isotopes in the Universe, with emphasis on the isotopic constraints into the conditions, events and processes that shaped our Solar System. Topics to be covered include: cosmology and the age of the Universe, the age of the Milky Way and the duration of nucleosynthesis, the fundamentals of isotopic fractionations, the key roles of isotopic anomalies in understanding Solar System dynamics, early Solar System chronology from short- and long-lived nuclei, chondritic meteorite components as clues to solar nebula and asteroid evolution, as well as planetary formation and chronology (e.g., Moon, Mars, Earth).
Aquatic Chemistry of Natural Waters
Inorganic chemistry of natural waters with an emphasis on equilibrium solutions to problems in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Topics will include, acid-base chemistry, precipitation, complexation, redox reactions, and surface chemistry. Examples will largely be drawn from geochemistry and geobiology. Selected topics in kinetics will be covered based on interest and time.
Main topics include the analysis, properties, sources, and cycling of natural organic materials in the environment, from their production in living organisms to burial and decomposition in sediments and preservation in the rock record. Specific topics include analytical methods for organic geochemistry, lipid structure and biochemistry, composition of organic matter, factors controlling organic preservation, organic climate and CO2 proxies, diagenesis and catagenesis, and biomarkers for ancient life. A laboratory component (three evening labs) teaches the extraction and analysis of modern and ancient organic biomarkers by GC/MS. Class includes a mandatory one-day (weekend) field trip to observe the Monterey Formation.
Isotope-Ratio Mass Spectrometry
This class provides a hands-on introduction to the construction and operating principles of instrumentation used for isotope-ratio mass spectrometry. The class is structured as a 1-hour lecture plus 4-hour lab each week examining the major subsystems of an IRMS, including vacuum systems, ionization source, mass analyzer, and detector. Laboratories involve hands-on deconstruction and re-assembly of a retired IRMS instrument to examine its components. Course is limited to 6 students at the discretion of the instructor, with preference given to graduate students using this instrumentation in their research. Taught in odd years; offered 2023-24.
Computational Methods for Flow in Porous Media
This course covers physical, mathematical and simulation aspects of single and two-phase flow and transport through porous media. Conservation equations for multiphase, multicomponent flow. Modeling of fluid mechanical instabilities such as viscous fingering, gravity fingering and gravity-driven convection. Coupling fluid flow with chemical reactions. Coupling single phase flow with poromechanics. Numerical methods for elliptic equations: finite volume methods, two-point flux approximations, finite difference, spectral method. Numerical methods for hyperbolic equations: high-order explicit methods, implicit method. Applications in hydrology, geological CO2 sequestration and induced seismicity, among others will be demonstrated.
Challenges and Opportunities in Quantitative Ecology
Ecosystems are defined by dynamical interactions between groups of organisms, the communities they constitute, and the physical and chemical conditions and processes occurring in the environment. These dynamics are complex and multiscale across both length and time. This course will explore quantitative approaches that observe, measure, model, and monitor ecosystems and the services that they provide society-and the emerging opportunities that could employ these approaches to improve and strengthen global sustainability when it comes to our own ecology. This course will feature lectures each week from different members of the Caltech faculty working on ecological problems from different angles in order to illustrate how fresh insights can emerge by drawing on diverse ways-of-knowing. Given in alternate years; not offered 2022-23.
Introduction to chemical oceanography and sediment geochemistry. We will address the question "Why is the ocean salty?" by examining the processes that determine the major, minor, and trace element distributions of seawater and ocean sediments. Topics include river and estuarine chemistry, air/sea exchange, nutrient uptake by the biota, radioactive tracers, redox processes in the water column and sediments, carbonate chemistry, and ventilation. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
A broad survey of the formation, evolution, and present-day properties of planetary atmospheres, drawing examples from both the solar system and extrasolar planet literature. We will cover topics including energy balance, radiative transfer, chemistry, cloud formation, dynamics, and escape. The goal of this class is to provide an overview of key concepts relevant to planetary atmospheres that can serve as a foundation for future coursework or research in this area.
We will review the mechanisms responsible for the formation and modification of the surfaces of solar system bodies, studying both composition and physical processes. Topics include exogenous processes (impact cratering, space weathering) and endogenous processes (tectonic, volcanic, weathering, fluvial, aeolian, and periglacial) that shape the surfaces of planets. Lectures, occasional labs, and one required field trip.
Readings in Paleoclimate
Lectures and readings in areas of current interest in paleoceanography and paleoclimate.
Evaluation of the data and models that make up our current understanding of past climates. Emphasis will be placed on a historical introduction to the study of the past ten thousand to a few hundred thousand years, with some consideration of longer timescales. Evidence from marine and terrestrial sediments, ice cores, corals, and speleothems will be used to address the mechanisms behind natural climate variability. Models of this variability will be evaluated in light of the data. Topics will include sea level and ice volume, surface temperature evolution, atmospheric composition, deep ocean circulation, tropical climate, ENSO variability, and terrestrial/ocean linkages. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Topics in Planetary Surfaces
Offered by announcement only. Reading about and discussion of current understanding of the surface of a selected terrestrial planet, major satellite, or asteroid. Important "classic" papers will be reviewed, relative to the data that are being returned from recent and current missions. May be repeated for credit.
Remote Sensing for Environmental and Geological Applications
Analysis of electromagnetic radiation at visible, infrared, and radio wavelengths for interpretation of the physical and chemical characteristics of the surfaces of Earth and other planets. Topics: interaction of light with materials, spectroscopy of minerals and vegetation, atmospheric removal, image analysis, classification, and multi-temporal studies. This course does not require but is complementary to EE 157 ab with emphasis on applications for geological and environmental problems, using data acquired from airborne and orbiting remote sensing platforms. Students will work with digital remote sensing datasets in the laboratory and there will be one field trip.
We approach the age-old questions "Why are we here?" and "Are we alone?" by covering topics in cosmology, the origins of life, planetary habitability, the detection of biosignatures, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and humanity's future in space. Specific topics include: the emergence of life at hydrothermal vents; the habitable zone and the Gaia hypothesis; the search for ancient habitable environments on Mars; icy satellites like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan as astrobiological prospects; and the hunt for atmospheric biosignatures on exoplanets.
Continuum Mechanics of Fluids and Solids
Elements of Cartesian tensors. Configurations and motions of a body. Kinematics-study of deformations, rotations and stretches, polar decomposition. Lagrangian and Eulerian strain velocity and spin tensor fields. Irrotational motions, rigid motions. Kinetics-balance laws. Linear and angular momentum, force, traction stress. Cauchy's theorem, properties of Cauchy's stress. Equations of motion, equilibrium equations. Power theorem, nominal (Piola-Kirchoff) stress. Thermodynamics of bodies. Internal energy, heat flux, heat supply. Laws of thermodynamics, notions of entropy, absolute temperature. Entropy inequality (Clausius-Duhem). Examples of special classes of constitutive laws for materials without memory. Objective rates, corotational, convected rates. Principles of materials frame indifference. Examples: the isotropic Navier-Stokes fluid, the isotropic thermoelastic solid. Basics of finite differences, finite elements, and boundary integral methods, and their applications to continuum mechanics problems illustrating a variety of classes of constitutive laws.
Geophysical and geological observations related to plate tectonic theory. Instantaneous and finite motion of rigid plates on a sphere; marine magnetic and paleomagnetic measurements; seismicity and tectonics of plate boundaries; reference frames and absolute plate motions. Interpretations of geologic data in the context of plate tectonics; plate tectonic evolution of the ocean basins.
Review of concepts in classical seismology. Topics to be covered: basic theories of wave propagation in the earth, instrumentation, Earth's structure and tomography, theory of the seismic source, physics of earthquakes, and seismic risk. Emphasis will be placed on how quantitative mathematical and physical methods are used to understand complex natural processes, such as earthquakes.
Quantitative introduction to the dynamics of the earth, including core, mantle, lithosphere, and crust. Mechanical models are developed for each of these regions and compared to a variety of data sets. Potential theory applied to the gravitational and geomagnetic fields. Special attention is given to the dynamics of plate tectonics and the earthquake cycle.
Introduction to the mineral physics of Earth's interior. Topics covered: mineralogy and phase transitions at high pressures and temperatures; elasticity and equations of state; vibrational, electronic, and transport properties; application of mineral physics data to Earth and planetary interiors.
Geophysical Data Analysis and Seismic Imaging
Introduction to modern digital analysis: discrete Fourier transforms, filters, correlation, convolution, deconvolution and auto-regressive models. Imaging with seismic reflection and refraction data, tomography, receiver functions and surface waves. Not offered 2023-24.
Introduction to hydrology. Focus will be on how water moves on earth, including in groundwater, rivers, oceans, glaciers, and the atmosphere. Class will be based in fluid mechanics, which will be covered. Specific topics will include the Navier-Stokes equation, Darcy's law, aquifer flow, contaminant transport, turbulent flow, gravity waves, tsunami propagation, geostrophic currents, Ekman transport, glacier flow laws, and the Hadley circulation. Not offered 2023-24.
An introduction to the use of modern geodetic observations (e.g., GPS and InSAR) to constrain crustal deformation models. Secular velocity fields, coseismic and time-dependent processes; volcano deformation and seasonal loading phenomena. Basic inverse approaches for parameter estimation and basic temporal filtering algorithms. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Readings in Geophysics
Reading courses are offered to teach students to read critically the work of others and to broaden their knowledge about specific topics. Each student will be required to write a short summary of each paper that summarizes the main goals of the paper, to give an assessment of how well the author achieved those goals, and to point out related issues not discussed in the paper. Each student will be expected to lead the discussion on one or more papers. The leader will summarize the discussion on the paper(s) in writing. A list of topics offered each year will be posted on the Web. Individual terms may be taken for credit multiple times without regard to sequence.
Atmospheric Chemistry I
A detailed course about chemical transformation in Earth's atmosphere. Kinetics, spectroscopy, and thermodynamics of gas-phase chemistry of the stratosphere and troposphere; sources, sinks, and lifetimes of trace atmospheric species; stratospheric ozone chemistry; oxidation mechanisms in the troposphere; aerosol chemistry.
Atmospheric Chemistry II
A lecture and discussion course about active research in atmospheric chemistry. Potential topics include halogen chemistry of the stratosphere and troposphere; aerosol formation in remote environments; coupling of dynamics and photochemistry; development and use of modern remote-sensing and in situ instrumentation. Graded pass/fail.
Mechanics of Rocks
Basic principles of deformation, strength, and stressing of rocks. Elastic behavior, plasticity, viscoelasticity, viscoplasticity, creep, damage, friction, failure mechanisms, shear localization, and interaction of deformation processes with fluids. Engineering and geological applications.
Introduction to techniques for identifying and quantifying active tectonic processes. Geomorphology, stratigraphy, structural geology, and geodesy applied to the study of active faults and folds in a variety of tectonic settings. Relation of seismicity and geodetic measurements to geologic structure and active tectonics processes. Review of case studies of selected earthquakes. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Structural, phylogenetic, and metabolic diversity of microorganisms in nature. The course explores microbial interactions, relationships between diversity and physiology in modern and ancient environments, and influence of microbial community structure on biogeochemical cycles. Introduction to ecological principles and molecular approaches used in microbial ecology and geobiological investigations. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Computational Tools for Decoding Microbial Ecosystems
The Nature and Evolution of the Earth
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in the earth sciences. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in Geochemistry
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in geochemistry. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in the Geological Sciences
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in the geological sciences. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in Geophysics
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in geophysics. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in Planetary Sciences
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in planetary sciences. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in Field Geology
Field experiences in different geological settings. Supporting lectures will usually occur before and during the field experience. This course will be scheduled only when special opportunities arise. Class may be taken more than once.
Special Topics in Atmospheres and Oceans
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in atmospheric and ocean sciences.
Special Topics in Geobiology
Advanced-level discussions of problems of current interest in geobiological sciences. Students may enroll for any or all terms of this course without regard to sequence.
Special Topics in the Planetary Sciences
Topic for 2023-24 is Extrasolar Planets. Thousands of planets have been identified in orbit around other stars. Astronomers are now embarking on understanding the statistics of extrasolar planet populations and characterizing individual systems in detail, namely star-planet, planet-planet and planet-disk dynamical interactions, physical parameters of planets and their composition, weather phenomena, etc. Direct and indirect detection techniques are now completing the big picture of extra-solar planetary systems in all of their natural diversity. The seminar-style course will review the state of the art in exoplanet science, take up case studies, detail current and future instrument needs, and anticipate findings.
Applied Geophysics II
Intensive geophysical field experience in either marine or continental settings. Marine option will include participation in a student training cruise, with several weeks aboard a geophysical research vessel, conducting geophysical measurements (multibeam bathymetry, gravity, magnetics, and/or seismics), and processing and interpreting the data. Supporting lectures and problem sets on the theoretical basis of the relevant geophysical techniques and the tectonic background of the survey area will occur before and during the training cruise. The course might be offered in a similar format in other isolated situations. The course will be scheduled only when opportunities arise and this usually means that only six months' notice can be given. Auditing not permitted. Class may be taken more than once. Not offered 2023-24.
Thermodynamics of Geological Systems
Chemical thermodynamics as applied to geological and geochemical problems. Classical thermodynamics, including stability criteria, homogeneous and heterogeneous equilibria, equilibria subject to generalized constraints, equations of state, ideal and non-ideal solutions, redox systems, and electrolyte conventions. Brief discussion of statistical foundations and an introduction to the thermodynamics of irreversible processes. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Spectroscopy of Minerals
An overview of the interaction of minerals with electromagnetic radiation from gamma rays to microwaves. Particular emphasis is placed on visible, infrared, Raman, and Mössbauer spectroscopies as applied to mineralogical problems such as phase identification, chemical analysis, site populations, and origin of color and pleochroism. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Topics in Advanced Petrology
Lectures, readings, seminars, and/or laboratory studies in igneous or metamorphic petrology, paragenesis, and petrogenesis. The course may cover experimental, computational, or analytical methods. Format and content are flexible according to the needs of the students. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Radiogenic Isotopes Seminar
The course deals with advanced topics in radiogenic isotope geochemistry and builds on Ge 140 b, addressing unconventional applications of radioisotopes as well as treating several conventional radiogenic systems in more detail. Topics to be covered will be guided by class interests. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Stable Isotopes Seminar
The course deals with advanced topics in stable isotope geochemistry and builds on Ge 140. The course will explore in depth the theory and applications of a subject in stable isotope geochemistry, selected by consensus of the enrolled students at or before the beginning of term. Example subjects could include: stable isotope thermometry; paleoclimate studies; paleoaltimetry; the early solar system; terrestrial weathering; photochemistry; or biosynthetic fractionations. The class will read and discuss classic papers in that subject area, supplemented with instructor lectures and broader background reading. All participants will lead discussions of papers and present one lecture on a relevant subject. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Non-traditional Isotopes Seminar
The course deals with advanced topics in stable and radiogenic isotope geo-/cosmochemistry and builds on Ge 140 a and b, with emphasis on non-traditional isotope systems (Mg, Fe, Ti, Mo, U, etc.). Starting with close examination of seminal papers, each topic will build up to a discussion of the remaining outstanding questions. Topics to be covered will be guided by class interests. Example subjects could include: the early solar system, nucleosynthetic anomalies, the early Earth, planetary differentiation, paleoredox reconstructions, medical use of stable isotopes. All participants will lead discussions of papers and present a lecture on a relevant subject. Grades will include participation, a review/proposal paper, and oral examination(s).
Special Topics in Solid Mechanics
Subject matter changes depending on staff and student interest. Not offered 2023-24.
Critical reviews and discussion of classic investigations and current research in paleoecology, evolution, and biogeochemistry.
Molecular Geobiology Seminar
Critical reviews and discussion of classic papers and current research in microbiology and geomicrobiology. As the topics will vary from year to year, it may be taken multiple times. Not offered 2023-24.
This seminar course will explore and discuss the unique intersection of environmental racism, environmental justice, and academia. Course material will primarily feature readings and videos on a case study-like basis and focus on bringing conversations typically had in humanities, social sciences and activism to the bio and geosciences. Topics will center around two primary approaches: an "outward-facing" component that looks at environmental racism through the lens of various activisms, and an "inward-facing" component addressing the biases/malpractices broadly employed in the biological and geosciences, as well as the apparent moral dilemmas of decisions involving multiple stakeholders. Out of class work will largely be based on assigned readings, some multimedia presentations, and occasional writings and thought exercises. This course is taught concurrently with Hum 61 and can only be taken once, as Ge/ESE/Bi 248 or Hum 61.
Continuation of Ge 162 with special emphasis on particular complex problems; includes generalizations of analytical methods to handle nonplanar structures and methods of interfacing numerical-analytical codes in two and three dimensions; construction of Earth models using tomographic methods and synthetics. Requires a class project.
Finite-difference, pseudo-spectral, finite-element, and spectral-element methods will be presented and applied to a number of geophysical problems including heat flow, deformation, and wave propagation. Students will program simple versions of methods. Given in alternate years; not offered 2023-24.
Machine Learning in Geophysics
Static and Dynamic Failure of Brittle Solids and Interfaces, from the Micro to the Mega
Linear elastic fracture mechanics of homogeneous brittle solids (e.g. geo-materials, ceramics, metallic glasses); small scale yielding concepts; experimental methods in fracture, fracture of bi-material interfaces with applications to composites as well as bonded and layered engineering and geological structures; thin-film and micro-electronic components and systems; dynamic fracture mechanics of homogeneous engineering materials; dynamic shear dominated failure of coherent and incoherent interfaces at all length scales; dynamic rupture of frictional interfaces with application to earthquake source mechanics; allowable rupture speeds regimes and connections to earthquake seismology and the generation of Tsunamis. only one term will be offered in 2023-24
Fracture and Frictional Faulting
Introduction to elastodynamics and waves in solids. Fracture theory, energy concepts, cohesive zone models. Friction laws, nucleation of frictional instabilities, rupture of frictional interfaces. Radiation from moving cracks. Thermal effects during dynamic fracture and faulting. Interaction of faulting with fluids. Applications to engineering phenomena a physics and mechanics of earthquakes. Not offered 2023-2024.
Dynamics of Seismicity
A comprehensive introduction to seismicity of the Earth. Topics covered: Empirical laws for seismicity; spatial and temporal evolution of earthquake sequences; earthquake location algorithms; seismicity in crustal fault zones, subduction zones, creeping faults, volcanoes, and intraplate regions; earthquake triggering; induced seismicity; tectonic tremor and low-frequency earthquakes. Requires a class project.
Active Tectonics Seminar
Discussion of key issues in active tectonics based on a review of the literature. The topic of the seminar is adjusted every year based on students' interest and recent literature. Given in alternate years; offered 2023-24.
Mentoring and Outreach
In consultation with a faculty advisor and the Caltech Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach, students may obtain credit for engaging in volunteer efforts to promote public understanding of science; to mentor and tutor young people and underserved populations; or to otherwise contribute to the diversity, equity, and inclusiveness of the scientific enterprise. Students may petition their option representative (graduate students) or academic advisor (undergraduate students) if they seek credits beyond the 12-unit limit.