• Student in research lab.

    This Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer is an analytical instrument used by researchers in the geosciences for the detection of trace metals.

  • Students on a field visit.

    Students record field measurements with a Brunton compass while mapping the geology of some of the world’s oldest rocks in the Upper Peninsula.

  • Faculty conducting Aquoustest

    The movement of water through earth materials is demonstrated with one of our groundwater simulators.  Some of the world’s first groundwater simulators were invented by WMU's geosciences faculty.

  • A student performs an expirement in the lab.

    Geosciences undergraduate student, Jake Tholen, prepares samples to centrifuge in our Aqueous Biogeochemistry Laboratory in Haenicke Hall.

The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences is a research intensive unit within the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University. For more than 50 years, the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences faculty has been devoted to addressing pressing geologic and environmental questions through basic and applied research with a strong emphasis on hydrogeology and paleoclimate studies. For instance, our hydrogeological field course is one of the most attended nationwide. In 2011, the department became the home of the Michigan Geological Survey. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences is also the home of the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, which is a leading research facility for subsurface coring. Finally, our department is engaged in comparative planetary hydrogeology studies relating the Earth desert hydrogeological and climatic evolution to the one observed on Mars and bodies of the solar system.

Over the last five years, our department's average externally funded activity has been approximately 5 million dollars, in addition to internal-research funds provided by the university.

National research

The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences has both national and international research sites. Examples of national research that has had a direct bearing on Michigan's environment and natural resources include:

  • Subsurface exploration and delineation of oil and gas reservoirs, mineral deposits, and water resources.
  • Assessing Michigan’s subsurface rocks for geothermal energy potential, enhanced oil recovery, and carbon sequestration.
  • Investigating water resource-related issues in the context of Michigan’s unique proximity to the Great lakes.
  • Assessing the mobility of toxic elements in groundwater and aquatic environments.
  • Investigating the causes and impacts of climate change in the region.
  • Applying remote-sensing techniques and new geophysical methods to help answer questions about Earth and other planets.

International research

Examples of international research conducted by the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences include:

  • The study of fossil aquifers in the north African Sahara.
  • The study of landslides in the Arabian peninsula.
  • The study of the subsidence of the Nile Delta.
  • Monitoring algae blooms in the Persian Gulf.
  • Subsidence in Euroasia resulting from tectonic activity.
  • Monitoring ground movement in Nepal.

For more information

To learn more about the expertise of individual faculty members and related research possibilities, please visit: