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Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences



Department: Earth & Environmental Sciences (EES)

During your time in the Fresno State Geology M.S. Program, you will have multiple sources of informational, academic, and advising support.  Your primary source is your thesis advisor, who accepted you into their research group.  You must have a thesis advisor at all times in order to remain in good standing in the Geology M.S. Program.  In addition to your thesis advisor, you will be assisted in bureaucratic needs by the Geology M.S. Program Coordinator, EES Department Chair, and in special circumstances, the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) Dean(s).  These individuals have signatory approval authority over required bureaucratic paperwork at various milestones in your graduate training.  Geology M.S. Program graduate faculty constitute another source of support for your academic progress, especially those that serve on your thesis committee.  The Division of Research and Graduate Studies (DRGS) also forms an important source of extra-departmental support.

Department Chair, Dr. Mara Brady

Geology M.S. Program Coordinator, Dr. Christopher Pluhar

Geology M.S. Program Graduate Faculty

Each graduate program has a designated group of graduate faculty who are

primarily responsible for supporting that program and serving as the program's

consultative body.  Members of the graduate faculty are;

  • full-time, tenured, or tenure-track faculty
  • willing to serve and assume the responsibilities of the graduate faculty group, including serving on and/or chairing theses and projects
  • engaged in ongoing scholarly activity and possess scientific expertise within the graduate program subject area.

Geology M.S. Program graduate faculty have been recommended in accordance with the program bylaws and have the approval of the department chair and college/school dean, and meet any additional criteria the department may require.

Your department's graduate faculty and the EES Department graduate committee help interpret and adjudicate departmental policy, courses and curriculum, and other related graduate issues.

Dr. Mara Brady               Sedimentology and stratigraphy, taphonomy, quantitative stratigraphic methods, paleobiology

Dr. Robert Dundas          Paleontology, faunal analysis, paleoecology, biostratigraphy, mass extinctions, Quaternary mammals

Dr. Aric Mine                   Biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling in aquatic systems, the role of microbes in facilitating and modulating the Earth system

Dr. Christopher Pluhar    Engineering and environmental geology, tectonics, paleomagnetism, geochronology

Dr. Keith Putirka              Mantle melting and volcanic plumbing systems, mineral melt equilibria, barometery and thermometery of igneous processes.

Dr. Mathieu Richaud        Paleo-oceanography, global biogeochemical cycles, micropaleontology (foraminifera)

Dr. John Wakabayashi     Tectonics, structural geology, geomorphology, metamorphic petrology, engineering and environmental geology

Dr. Zhi (Luke) Wang         Surface and subsurface hydrology, contaminant hydrogeology, water resources and irrigation engineering, watershed modeling, GIS

Dr. Beth Weinman            Fluvial and deltaic Quaternary geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, soil formation, and optical luminescence geochronology.

College/School Support

The CSM Dean’s office provides college-level leadership, resources, and linkage to overall university administrative personnel and policy decisions. The CSM Graduate Committee, the CSM Dean’s consultative body, is composed of graduate coordinators from each program in the college and implements policies and communicates information from individual programs to the Dean and higher.  The CSM Graduate Committee also interfaces with the University Graduate committee.

Division of Research and Graduate Studies (DRGS)

The DRGS Dean’s office develops and enforces general requirements, and offers resources and guidance related to graduate studies.  They offer writing and statistics assistance, scholarships and grants, thesis templates, and a host of other resources.  The DRGS website includes comprehensive information for students on admissions, financial aid, procedures and guidelines for new and current students, deadlines, handbook, thesis, news and events, and access to forms.


Policies governing your course of graduate study are outlined in four places:

University Catalog

University catalogs for the past five years — our university’s limitation on a student’s time to degree — may be needed for consultation. This is one of the most critical of your resources.  Official policy is recorded here.  The current catalog,, and an archive of past catalogs,, are available online.  Detailed information regarding graduate policies and procedures is found in the Graduate Studies Regulations section of the online catalog (under Regulations).

Academic Policy Manual (APM 235)

This regularly-updated manual defines roles such as that of the University Graduate Committee and contains official procedural statements on such matters as plagiarism, grievance, etc. Available online at:

Geology Graduate Student Handbook and EES Graduate Committee e-mail directives

Some policies specific to the Geology M.S. Program may not yet have been entered into the University Catalog.  These are communicated to Geology M.S. students in writing via this manual and via e-mail.

DRGS Website

Graduate-student-related forms can be found here:

Most of the forms describe the policies that underlie them, but other policies can be found in the Graduate Coordinators Handbook: or: 2017 - Fall 2017.pdf


Graduate Student Success Center

Dissertation/Thesis Office

The Graduate Division’s Dissertation/Thesis Office  provides guidance and deadlines for thesis preparation and submission.  Start looking at this page BEFORE you start writing your thesis.

Guidelines for Thesis Preparation

The Graduate Division publishes Guidelines for Thesis Preparation Guidelines01_17.pdf, which details the process and requirements for thesis submission.

Chart Your Course

Chart Your Course,,  is a guidebook is designed for use by students. It explains the three basic steps; admission to graduate standing, advancement to candidacy, and awarding of the graduate degree, and provides other information supplemental to the graduate degree experience.


Types of Graduate Student Standing

Conditionally Classified

The applicant granted conditionally classified graduate standing has been:

  • Admitted to the University,
  • Has not yet satisfied all program admission requirements. Program applicants from non-geosciences disciplines are welcome and encouraged to apply, but if accepted, will typically need to take about 6 of the geology major core courses (to be decided with the Geology M.S. Program Coordinator and your advisor).


The applicant granted classified graduate standing has been:

  • Admitted to the University,
  • Fulfilled all program admissions requirements.

Thus, the classified graduate student is one who has been fully admitted to the program.

Special Admission

This process is reserved for those applicants who have not met grade point average eligibility requirements for admission to the University.


Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy procedure provides the student with a program of study, i.e., a list of courses they will take before graduating.  These courses will have been officially reviewed and approved by the student's advisor, the Geology M.S. Program Coordinator, and the DRGS Dean. Students are eligible to advance to candidacy when they have achieved classified standing and fulfilled the graduate writing requirement (EES 201), while maintaining a ≥3.0 GPA.  Students who have advanced to candidacy have official permission to proceed toward qualifying for the degree, e.g. they may apply to graduate and may take EES 299.  Teaching associates (teaching assistants) who have advanced to candidacy receive a small pay raise.  A "Petition of Advancement to Candidacy" form specific to the Geology M.S. Program can be downloaded from the DRGS Web site,

Continuous Enrollment

University policy requires graduate students to be continuously enrolled at the university every fall and spring semester until the awarding of the degree. If students have applied for graduation during the summer, they must maintain continuous enrollment in that term as well. Students who have been granted an official leave of absence are temporarily exempted from this policy during the leave duration. If the student has completed their course of study (their 30 units listed on their Petition of Advancement to Candidacy), s/he must maintain the required enrollment by enrolling in EES 299C “Thesis Continuation”.  This may be done up to two times with departmental approval.  Additional 299C’s are not encouraged and require DRGS Dean approval.  One exception appears to be that students may “stop out” (not enroll) for one semester but their student privileges, such as library borrowing, will be suspended.  Students not enrolled for two consecutive semesters will be automatically excused from the Geology M.S. Program, and would have to re-apply to the University if they wished to continue.  Any discontinuous enrollment could have substantial consequences for financial aid and student loan repayment deferment, so such a step should not be taken lightly.


In recent years, support for graduate students at our university has totaled millions of dollars. This includes government loans, assistantships, scholarships and grants, fee waivers, and veteran's benefits. There are also many opportunities for working an internship or assistantship to help you acquire some marketable skills, while you make some money. The following summarizes some of the main features of the opportunities for Fresno State geology graduate students.  Treat this information circumspectly.  For example, the final word on all financial aid matters lies with the Financial Aid Office and the aid-granting entity.  Thus, use the proceeding text as a guide, but double-check your facts with the granting entity.

Financial Aid and Scholarships Through the University

Prospective students should consult the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships,, for the most accurate information. Some of that information is summarized here.

Application and Eligibility

Application varies with the type and source of financial aid. Students may be directed to the university's Financial Aid Office Web site, for specific information. The all-purpose Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is available online and must be filed electronically  A FAFSA worksheet is available on the web to use as a guide prior to going online to file the FAFSA application.  Search “FAFSA worksheet” and the year for which you are applying.

Prospective students living in the USA without legal citizenship status are barred from FAFSA, but may instead apply for aid through the California Dream Act Application

Financial Aid and Scholarship Deadlines

FAFSA, California Dream Act, and Fresno State Scholarship application period opens around October 1 and closes around March 1, for the following year. 

Check the university financial aid page,, for current deadlines.


The Scholarship Office awards over a thousand scholarships that range from $100 to almost $8000. These awards provide recognition and financial assistance to graduate and undergraduate students. All awards are dedicated to students enrolled at California State University, Fresno.  Some go unawarded because eligible candidates do not come forward. Do not pass up free money due to your inattention.


State University Grants (SUG)

Graduate students with a low economic means, as demonstrated on FAFSA, will likely receive a SUG at some point during their graduate years.

Perkins Loan

The Perkins Loan is a low-interest (5%) loan, awarding graduate students up to $6000 per year to a maximum of $40,000, to be repaid beginning nine months after the student ceases attending school at least half time.

Stafford Loans/Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)

Federal Stafford Loans are the Financial Aid Office's major form of self-help aid. They are available through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). Other loan types are also available. Terms and conditions of loans are similar with major differences being the source of the loan funds, some aspects of the application process, and repayment plans. Regardless of loan program, the process begins when a student files a FAFSA.

For more information, go to

Teaching Associate (i.e. Teaching Assistant) Tuition Waiver

For the first time, during Academic year 2022-23 DRGS awarded full in-state tuition waivers (Note: tuition does not include fees) to teaching assistants (TAs) who: 1) did not have some other tuition waiver already, 2) were enrolled in 6+ units, and 3) were TAing two or more lab sections during the waiver period.  In-state tuition is the tuition that a student would pay if they established California residency, as recognized by Fresno State.  Out-of-state-residency students pay additional tuition that is not cov ered by the TA waiver.  DRGS currently anticipates that TA waivers will be available in future years.

Out-of-State Tuition Waiver

In recent years, DRGS distributed 30 out-of-state tuition waivers to graduate students.  This waiver covers the difference in cost between a CA resident’s tuition and that of a citizen of another state or country who has moved to the area to attend Fresno State.  Criteria, such as enrollment in a minimum of 7 units, must be met for eligibility, and students are nominated by their program faculty. 

Emergency Loan Fund

The University operates an Emergency Loan Fund to assist students who need up to a maximum of $600 for unanticipated educational expenses. These loans have to be repaid by the date specified on the contract. Information regarding this program may be found here:

College/School Tuition Waiver (Dean's Scholarship) for International Students

Each college/school receives an annual tuition waiver of 30 credit hours for the recruitment of new international students. Faculty members nominate candidates on the basis of academic promise and financial need. Awards can be given to one student or split among several students during the academic year.

Financial Assistance through the Division of Research Graduate Studies

A variety of aid is available from DRGS:

Outside Scholarships and Grants (alphabetical and not exhaustive)

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Grants in Aid Program

These grants can help fund your research from $500-$3000.  Applications are usually due near the end of November each year.

Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) Awards and Scholarships

Scholarships and awards worth from $250 to $2000.

Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) Scholarships and Grants

A wide variety of grants and scholarships from $500 to $3500 are available through AEG national and sometimes through local AEG chapters. You might have to become a member to apply, but guess what: membership is free to students.

Deadlines are usually near the end of January each year.

Fresno Gem and Mineral Society

FGMS awards both scholarships and grants. Awards for each are about $500 and awarded competitively. Usually these are due in early spring, e.g. March 1.  Here is a list of recent recipients:

Geological Society of America

Travel and research grants worth several hundred to several thousand dollars.  Deadlines vary with conference travel grants usually due months before the conference and research grants usually due around January 1

Northern California Geological Society Scholarships

Usually $1000 with application due in early December for work near northern California.


A LARGE number of internships are available in the local area, with:

  • The Bureau of Reclamation
  • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control
  • The California Department of Water Resources
  • The California State Water Resources Control Board
  • The USDA Forest Service
  • Local consulting companies
  • Local environmental or geotechnical laboratories


This description of milestones can be used as a roadmap for students progressing through their geology M.S.  It is highly advisable that students reach the milestones below in the order presented.

Prospective students contact potential advisors

Prospective students should consult the Fresno State EES Department website or otherwise identify potential advisors and make contact, e.g. e-mail, to determine whether the advisor-advisee relationship would be a productive one and whether the advisor and advisee can agree upon a mutually interesting research project.  This should be done six months to a year before the intended matriculation date.  The EES Department webpage provides tips on making contact

Apply for Federal Student Aid

Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible!  Your student aid will be directly related to the date that you submit it.  January is a good time, for the following autumn.

Apply to the Geology M.S. program

The deadline is typically November 1st for spring matriculation and April 15th for fall matriculation.  See these guidelines and suggestions:

Receive notification of program acceptance, conditions, and determine support

Prospective students will typically be notified of admission to the program on a rolling basis, and usually no later than 3 weeks after the application is complete (including letters and transcripts).  Offers of teaching assistant support or tuition waivers will come from the EES department, while research support will derive directly from conversations with the student’s prospective advisor.  If an accepted applicant is conditionally accepted, the conditions will be articulated at this time.  Conditions, such as pre-requisite courses, should be cleared at the earliest possible time, and until they are cleared, other progress towards degree are limited.  See Academic Policies.

Register for classes

Each semester, students should register for classes as early as they are able.  This ensures that low-enrollment classes do not get cancelled.

Take EES 200

Take EES 200 during autumn of the student’s first year in Geology M.S. Program.

Take EES 201

For students with classified standing, take EES 201 during the spring of the student’s first year in Geology M.S. Program, but only after taking EES 200.  In this class, each student formally formulates their master’s thesis proposal and defends it in front of the EES department.  Oral thesis proposal defenses will be evaluated using the Thesis Proposal rubric and results will be shared with the student.  Conditionally classified students should probably wait until they have satisfied most of their conditions before taking EES 201.

Advance to candidacy

Once a student has passed EES 201, they should advance to candidacy.  This can be done as early as the summer after the student passed EES 201.  For teaching associates (teaching assistants), advancement to candidacy affords them a small raise.  At the latest, advancement must be completed in the semester before thesis completion/defense/submission.  The advancement form enumerates all of the classes that the student will take to satisfy the 30-unit program requirement.  It must total 30+ units, include EES 200 (3 units), 201 (3 units), and 299 (6 units) and include no more than 9 units of upper division (100-level) EES courses.  Courses listed can be those already taken and those planned for the future.  Some courses outside of the EES department may be acceptable for the 30-unit requirement per approval of all signatories to the advancement to candidacy form, i.e., advisor, Geology M.S. Program Coordinator, and DRGS Dean.

Form a thesis committee

After advancement to candidacy, students should constitute a thesis committee, using a thesis committee assignment form. - anchorreadm  The committee consists of the student’s advisor, another graduate faculty member of the EES Department, and a third member who should have demonstrable expertise in the field of study.  This third member could be another EES faculty member, a professor from another institution, a USGS scientist, a professional geologist with expertise on the subject matter, etc.  The committee will provide project guidance, and should be consulted throughout the research.  Submitting a complete thesis to a committee member who has not previously been consulted invites a protracted thesis review.  At the latest, the committee should be formed in the semester before thesis completion/defense/submission.

Thesis research progress reports

After EES 201 completion, annually, geology M.S. students present 12-minute-long oral progress reports to the EES Department.  These occur during January through March.  Each attending EES faculty provides feedback on each presentation using the Oral Progress Report rubric.  Compiled feedback will be provided to each student, along with a summary of department findings.  Findings could include anything from hearty congratulations to directives for additional progress by a stated deadline, to dismissal from the program (if prior warnings had been given).  All students who have completed EES 201 must provide a progress report, except those that have already submitted an acceptable completed first thesis draft to their advisor during that semester.

Complete 30 units of coursework within 5 years

The student finishes taking the classes on the advancement to candidacy form or amends the form to reflect the classes they wish to actually count towards their degree.  Six units of EES 299 are required as part of these 30 units, and can be broken into two 3-unit sections as needed.  If possible, and not an undue financial burden on the student, the EES Department suggests giving non-advisor members of the thesis committee one unit of EES 290 to reflect the work done by committee members on thesis review.  After 5 years, credits earned towards a student’s M.S. degree expire and must either be validated, repeated, or substituted.

Thesis first draft to advisor

A student must submit a complete first draft of their thesis to their advisor by the first day of the semester in which they intend to graduate.  If the advisor agrees that it constitutes an acceptable first draft, then the student may apply to graduate.  The graduation application is done at your Student Center.

Thesis revisions and submission to full committee

The student and advisor will iteratively revise the thesis as needed, and upon approval by the advisor for said purpose, it will be provided to the whole thesis committee for review.  In order to receive full consideration, this must be done at least 4 weeks before the thesis submission deadline for that semester.

Thesis committee revisions and final thesis submission

Thesis committee members will provide feedback on the thesis draft in 4 weeks or less, but may require extensive revisions that prevent completion prior to the submission deadline.  However, typically, theses that meet the 4-week deadline will often be successfully completed in time.  Once committee members are satisfied, the thesis may be finalized, formatted according to university requirements Guidelines01_17.pdf, and submitted to DRGS.  Theses will be evaluated using the Written Thesis evaluation rubric for the purpose of judging best Geology M.S. thesis and/or other awards as well as evaluating program effectiveness.

Thesis defense

After thesis submission, the document will be shared with the EES department community.  A thesis defense will be scheduled on or before the last day of classes in the completion semester.  Thesis defenses consist of a public oral presentation lasting from 30-50 minutes depending upon the preference of the advisor, a closed-door portion during which the faculty discuss the work with the student, and a faculty-only conference to assess the performance.  The entire event usually lasts about 1.5-2 hours.  Thesis defenses are evaluated using the Oral Thesis Defense rubric.  The student is typically notified directly after the conference whether they passed and the advisor files a grade for the EES 299 based on the faculty conference.  The grade is submitted using a degree clearance form: form.pdf

Outstanding Thesis and Outstanding Graduate Student Awards

According to current EES policy, graduate students that complete the written thesis, oral thesis defense, and incorporate feedback from both into their final thesis between the end of one academic year (about May 15th) and the thesis submission deadline of the following year (usually early April) are eligible for the Outstanding Geology Thesis and Outstanding Geology Graduate Student Awards.  These students/theses are evaluated using the Outstanding Graduate Student rubric.

Hooding ceremony

If the student wishes, they may participate in the College of Science and Mathematics graduation ceremony in which they are “hooded”, i.e. they are conferred with the trappings of their degree by their advisor or some other designee.