Students sit above a gorge


Study the planet’s past, better understand its future.

Geology connects you to the very planet you live on.

Geologists look deep into the ground—and thus deep into the past—searching for clues about how the world became the way it is. Our field is about way more than looking at rocks: we seek to understand how mountains form, how life evolves, how glaciers move, and how entire oceans expand and contract. As a geology major, you’ll learn about the interconnectedness of the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere; you’ll study the evolution of life on this planet over millions of years; you’ll ponder how processes deep inside the planet impact the Earth’s surface and climate; and you’ll consider how, in the age of humans and climate change, the world might evolve next.

A geology degree will teach you:

  • How the natural world around you has evolved, and continues to evolve, over time
  • How study of the past can inform our understanding of climate change today
  • How coveted natural resources are formed, distributed, and depleted, from the water you drink to the metals in your cell phone
  • How life on our planet has evolved in conjunction with earth processes

Why major in Geology at Macalester? Research

It’s tough to beat Macalester’s urban location, which offers numerous research and internship opportunities through our connections to local museums and research labs. The state (and surrounding region) also contains an abundance of interesting geological features—many resulting from the ancient oceans and glaciers that once covered the area—including an abundance of interesting rocks and fossils just down the road at the Mississippi River. Finally, our faculty love working side-by-side with Macalester students, and invite many of them to collaborate on research as we explore and discover.

Our research-active faculty offer students the chance to:

  • Analyze glacial lakes in Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, Madagascar, and other locales
  • Collect samples from earth’s crust in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Mexico, and other destinations
  • Reconstruct ancient environments and ancient climates way out West and right here in Minnesota

Current home of the Keck Geology Consortium

In the 1980s, several of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges joined forces to create the Keck Geology Consortium, which organizes and sponsors research projects for the next generation of geoscientists. Today, Macalester is proud to not only be a member school, but to also serve as the co-organizer for the consortium. Our professors also frequently lead students from Macalester and the other Keck schools on research trips around the country, including one to sample glacial lake cores in Glacier National Park, another to study reefs in Belize, and yet another to dig up dinosaurs in Montana.

Life after Macalester

After leaving Macalester, geology majors go on to a wide variety of careers. We’ve placed students in many of the most prestigious geology PhD programs around the country, where they’ve studied methods for precisely dating rocks, the effects of forest fires on soil erosion, the formation of mountains, and the quality of the fossil record (among many other things). Plenty of our graduates complete their graduate studies and stay in academia for their careers, and many others find fulfilling careers as environmental consultants, teachers, science communicators, organic farmers, and lawyers and doctors, to name a few.

Join our community

We don’t typically rely on anecdotal evidence, but from what we’ve heard, geology majors just might be the happiest students on campus. We hypothesize that could be for one of several reasons:

  • Regular opportunities to travel and go on field trips, researching and camping with professors and peers
  • Weekly GeoClub meetings to hear speakers and gather with friends
  • Weekly tea times when geology majors and professors get together (with our friends in Physics and Astronomy)
  • Awesome department swag (recycled flannels) sporting our geology logo that every new major can proudly display
Geology students sitting around a campfire while on a field research trip.

Celebrating 2023 Graduating Seniors!

Celebrate our previous years’ grads too:

Celebrating 2022 Graduating Seniors!

Celebrating 2021 Graduating Seniors!


Department happenings

Emily First’s Fall 2023 Mineralogy class participated in a departmental Mineral Cup, inspired by the public contest of the same name on X. Each student chose a mineral to learn about and represent, which meant summarizing peer-reviewed scientific articles about their mineral, completing a detailed mineral information sheet, and giving a 3-minute lightning talk. At the end of the talks, we voted bracket-style to crown the semester’s champion mineral. Congratulations to runner-up olivine, represented by junior Marisa Luft (right), and to champion apatite, represented by junior Lily Zugschwert.

After a multi-year wait, we are finally able to hear Ray’s Dewitt Wallace Professor of Geology lecture that took place on 14 September 2023! Once again, congratulations!

Congratulations to Professor Ray Rogers, named an endowed chair and Macalester’s latest Dewitt Wallace Professor of Geology! (11 February 2020) This is an honor bestowed on a small group of faculty members who are doing amazing work on all fronts – teaching, scholarship, and service to the college and their community. Ray will be giving an inaugural lecture sometime in the future to celebrate the appointment.

More department news