Kurt Hollocher


Geosciences Department
Union College
Schnectady, NY  12308-2311
Phone: 518-388-6518
Fax: 518-388-6417
Email: hollochk@union.edu

Old news, my book!

A Pictorial Guide to Metamorphic Rocks in the Field. CRC Press, London, 310 p.


I have been in the Union College Geosciences Department since 1985, having been hired at the time the department was restarted after a 1967-1985 hiatus. I did a two-plus year stint as chairman almost immediately, was four years Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Union College, and then did another 6 year stint as Chair. Though trained principally in metamorphic petrology and igneous geochemistry, my work has diversified somewhat in this small college, liberal arts setting. Additional research interests have included the geochemistry of natural waters and dinosaur coprolites. I also enjoy making illustrations. I will be retiring at the end of August, 2023, and so I am reducing content on these pages so most things don’t go out of date too quickly. I plan on continuing to maintain course and instrument web pages as in the past.


At various intervals I have taught the four courses listed below. I like teaching geologic science, the nature of science, the value of science in public policy, and general science literacy.

Geochemistry: Not a standard overview, but emphasizing practical practice and application of geochemistry to understanding particular geologic problems. The course is divided into four blocks, each of which is devoted to a limited geochemical topic: element and isotope abundances, radiometric dating, crystal/liquid trace element partitioning in magmas, and the chemistry of natural surface water. For each block, students do some combination of sample collection and preparation, analysis samples by ICP-MS, ion chromatography, and other methods, reviewing the data, writing mathematical models using spreadsheets, and reading some of the modern geochemical literature. Students get practice working with and analyzing samples, working with mathematical models, making good-quality graphs and tables, and writing.

Mineralogy: This is mostly a classic mineralogy course, covering mineral form, symmetry, internal structure, mineral identification, crystal chemistry, X-ray diffraction, and mineral optics. Weekly labs are hands-on, and include an X-ray diffraction projects and a scanning electron microscope lab. Homework exercises mostly involve basic mineral calculations including density, unit cell volume, and crystal chemistry, and special guided readings from the American Mineralogist. I hand out the lab final exam on the first day of class: a box of 65 numbered minerals that the students have to identify by the end of the term, using all methods available here.

Petrology: This course covers the mineralogy, chemistry, and origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks. It is designed to give a modern perspective of the materials, conditions, and processes that combine to produce the variety of igneous and metamorphic rocks that we see at the Earth’s surface. Homework emphasis is on basic petrologic calculations, plotting data, and reading modern petrologic papers from the journal Geology. Labs emphasize thin section and hand sample suites from a variety of igneous and metamorphic terranes. This course also has two one-day field trips to sites in northern New York and western Massachusetts.

Physical Geology: An introduction to geological materials, structures, and processes that form and shape Earth’s surface. It is an overview of what the Earth is made of and how geologic processes change the landscape, climate, and rocks, over time. The course has weekly labs that emphasize collection and interpretation of geologic data in the field, and sample identification and associated map interpretation during indoor labs. The object is to interpret the geology as professional geologists might, in the context of regional geologic history.

Other things of possible interest

Analytical equipment, see listing in menu at the top.
Field trips, see listing in menu at the top.