The Earth Sciences faculty is actively involved in research in a number of fields. Many faculty research projects involve student participation through the Senior Thesis course and class projects. This promotes a close working relationship between students and faculty and gives students invaluable experience working on real-life problems in the Geosciences.
TTU's location is conducive to a number of different geologic research topics. The Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee is a world class karst area, and Cookeville itself sits on a well developed fluviokarst plain. This makes TTU an ideal place to study cave features, and faculty and students in the department have contributed extensively to karst research over the years. The thick Paleozoic limestone section that gives this area its numerous cave systems lends itself to numerous projects in carbonate sedimentology and invertebrate paleontology. The nearby escarpments of the Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau provide excellent places to study hillslope evolution and drainage evolution. In addition to the local geology, Cookeville is within a few hours drive of everything from the high-grade metamorphics of the Blue Ridge to the costal plain sediments of West Tennessee.
The Earth Sciences Department's research is not limited to geology. Cookeville is a rapidly growing small city, and this growth requires careful planning and research into the environmental impacts of urbanization. Earth Sciences students and faculty have worked on numerous projects relating to urbanization, from urban planning to crime analysis to urban growth's impact on watersheds. The extensive cave systems beneath the city require careful mapping, where possible, to mitigate impacts both on the caves themselves and the structures above. In addition to this, many of the geologic projects involve extensive use of a GIS to analyze spatial data.
Facilities and equipment include a sample preparation lab, a photographic lab, a cathode luminoscope, a computer-assisted X-ray diffractometer, a Leitz petrographic scope with attached TV monitor, structural modeling devices, Leica differential GPS unit, automatic Onset river stage recorders and rain gauges, a PC lab with printers, plotters, scanners, a digitizing tablet, and wide array of geologic and GIS software.
Geoscience majors work closely with faculty on research projects, both for the senior thesis class and on other class projects and independent study classes. Results of this research is regularly presented by students at the local, regional, and national level.