Brief Historical Overview
Geology has been taught at West Virginia University since its founding in 1867, but the Department of Geology was not established until 1877. From its inception the geology program focused on the natural resources of West Virginia: coal, oil, natural gas, water, salt, and other nonmetallic deposits. Early faculty and students of the Geology program played a key role in the development of the oil industry in the Appalachian basin, the principal hydrocarbon province of the world at that time. Key areas of early specialization were petrology, stratigraphy, structural geology, paleontology and paleobotany. Since 1970 Department growth has encompassed geophysics, geomorphology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, geological education, remote sensing, and GIS applications (the last two areas in association with the Geography program, our partner in the Department).
Employment Opportunities and More
WVU Geology has remained a scientific research center with an applied focus. The job market for WVU geologists remains strong, primarily in the petroleum industry and the environmental and hydrogeology fields. Our M.S. graduates are well prepared to deal with job-market trends, finding virtually 100% job placement in technical fields over the last 25 years. Our Ph.D. alumni teach and do research in University departments across the country. We believe that the diversity in professional fields requires a diverse geoscience education and that research problems we study in West Virginia provide valuable experience. West Virginia spans nearly the entire width of the Appalachian basin including the Appalachian fold-and-thrust belt and high plateau. The state is ideal for regional structural and stratigraphic analysis. Recent discovery of the largest gas field in the continental U.S. -- the Marcellus shale -- has created an exploration and employment boom which translates into unprecedented research and work opportunities for our students, not only in energy fields but also in water and environmental. The mountainous nature of West Virginia creates great scenic beauty, as well as spectacular geologic hazards (floods and landslides) that are fertile ground for applied environmental research. Research opportunities also abound in applied hydrogeologic and geochemical problems related to water supply, coal mining, and acid-mine drainage. West Virginia is the second largest coal producer in the country and has a wide variety of environmental problems studied by WVU geoscientists.
A Great Place to Add GIS and Geography Skills
The Geography Program (within the same department) stresses GIS applications that complement Geology research initiatives, including economic planning for resource utilization and environmental studies. Both programs rely heavily on state-of-the-art computer facilities as research tools, not only in quantitative fields such as geophysics and hydrogeology but in the more traditional disciplines as well. The WVU geoscience experience has a strong information-technology flavor.