Our mission is to develop new knowledge of Earth’s history, environment, and resources; engage our students in the process; and share that knowledge broadly.


We use scientific methods to study the physical processes that shape our planet and sustain humanity.  We have two areas of special focus: water and earth.  In both areas, we analyze cycles of energy and of earth materials such as water, minerals, sediments and rocks.  These cycles impact the global distribution of water, energy resources, soils, natural hazards, and nutrients.

Water science: We investigate water’s movement through the water cycle and its influences on landscapes and ecosystems.  We study how ice, water, sediment and contaminants move through landscapes; how energy balance and other controls affect runoff and groundwater recharge; and the application of this science to restoration, management, and sustainability.

Solid earth science: We focus on the outermost rocky layer of the planet, the lithosphere.  We study its rocks and minerals, how it has moved and rearranged itself through time, the record of erosion and deposition, the evolution of life, and present-day hazards such as earthquakes and landslides. 

We emphasize research goals and questions that simultaneously address issues of global importance and serve the people of Montana, hence our interest in water, climate, geologic resources, and natural hazards.

(link opens in a new window) Download a copy of our long-term strategic plan.


We currently have 11 tenure-track faculty, 6 staff, 30 graduate students, and approximately 160 undergraduate majors. We offer two undergraduate degrees, a B.S. in geosciences and a B.S. in International Field Geosciences. We offer two advanced degrees, a M.S. and a Ph.D., both in geosciences.  Graduate students usually pursue research within one of our primary focus areas. 

We host several major facilities, including the UM River Center, the Paleontology Center, the Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory, and the Earth Materials Instrumentation Facility.