Marine Geology and Geophysics

Studies in Marine Geology and Geophysics focus on understanding how our earth works by investigating...

  • The structure of the earth beneath the oceans
  • The processes that shape the seafloor
  • The history of ocean circulation patterns and climate change preserved in seafloor sediments
  • The interactions between geological and biological systems

Approach to the challenge

Marine geologists approach these problems through studies of oceanic rocks and sediments. Marine geophysicists are primarily concerned with the application of gravity, magnetics, heat flow, and seismic methods to study the structure of the earth beneath the oceans.Within the Joint Program, there are geologists, geochemists, and geophysicists who conduct research on a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Dynamics of convection in the mantle that drives the motion of tectonic plates
  • Tectonic, volcanic, and hydrothermal activity at mid-ocean ridges, and the structure of the oceanic crust
  • Coastal processes and the structure of continental margins
  • Past ocean circulation patterns and climates
  • Interactions of continental and oceanic geologic processes

Interdisciplinary work

Investigators from different disciplines also often work together with the goal of understanding the interactions between earth's processes, the oceans, and ecosystems. Geological processes influence the chemistry of the oceans and impact the distribution of organisms. Similarly, biological processes affect the chemistry of the oceans and sediments, and can even alter the composition of oceanic crust.

Research tools and techniques

To explore the seafloor, marine geologists and geophysicists use a wide range of research tools and techniques, including field work, laboratory analyses, and numerical modeling. Many go to sea on research vessels to collect data and samples, either remotely using geophysical tools, rock dredging, sediment coring, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), or directly using a submersible. Cruises are often followed by extensive data and/or sample analysis in the laboratory, and then interpretation and modeling of the results.

Unique opportunity

In the Joint Program, graduate students have a unique opportunity for training and research in fields including geophysics, paleoceanography, petrology and geochemistry, and coastal processes.