GEOL 117 - PHYSICAL GEOLOGY COURSE
SYLLABUS - Spring 2018
Harmon D. Maher Jr. ©
Remember that you are also signed up for
the lab portion of the course.
How to contact me?
- Office: Durham Science Center, Dept. of Geography &
Geology Room 266 (I am in my office a lot, and if you are nearby feel free to stop by).
- Phone number: 402 -554-2662.
- Office hours M,W,F 9-10 AM and T,Th 8:45 to 9:45 AM, or by appointment
(best to contact me by email).
- email: email@example.com .
Exams and grades: Grades will be posted on Blackboard.
- The grading scale is the classic one, although I reserve the right to curve it in your favor:
- 100-96.66 A+, 96.66-93.33 A, 93.33-90 A-, 90-86.66 B+, 86.66-83.33 B, 83.33-80 B-, and so on.
- Positive consideration will be given if the first exam result is anomalously
low and consistent improvement is shown as the course progresses.
- Your grade will be based on:
- 3 exams each at 20% each, 60% total. Exams are a combination
of matching, short answer and diagrammatic question. Copies of
old exams are available.
- Your lab grade is worth 25%
of your total grade.
- 15 % is participation (unannounced in-class labs, discussion contributions, and in field trips).
Points will be awarded for each participation element, with 15 points considered a full complement (100% for the particiption part of your grade). There will be 17 or more points worth of opportunities for participation.
- The penalty for cheating
is failure of the course.
If you have any questions about what is permissible please ask.
Policy on make-ups: If you must miss an exam, and if
you contact me by at least 24 hours before the test, then
arrangements can usually be made for you to take
the exam early (at my discretion). If you miss an exam without
making arrangements beforehand, then you must take a make-up that
will be given during finals week. The make-up will be essay in
form. It is to your advantage not to miss the exams. You will
be given at least a two week notice in class of the exact date
exams will be given. They will be spaced roughly at even intervals
during the semester.
I am happy to work with those of you with designated accommodations. Please coordinate implementation of those accommodations with me at least two days prior to a test or assignment where an accommodation is provided.
Text: This web site is the equivalent of your text book. Reviewing the material before the
lectures can significantly increase efficiency of learning. With discipline you can
spend less time overall and get more out of the course material.
If you have any questions please ask!
Link to lecture outlines.
Introduction: brief course description
& discussion of course mechanics; the philosophy of science
and 2 revolutions in the development of geology as a science;
some common themes in geology.
The stuff the earth is made of - levels of structure and
- Common crustal elements and minerals; the structure
of silicate minerals; the concept of solid-substitution series
- Igneous rocks - the crystallization process, sialic
versus mafic rocks and their significance; Bowen's reaction series,
volcanic and plutonic igneous bodies, and modes of occurrence.
- Sedimentary rocks and assemblages - mineral components
of sedimentary rocks and their origin; sedimentary structures
as clues to depositional environment; shifting depositional environments
and the record they leave.
- Metamorphic rocks and assemblages - pressure &
temperature space in the earth's crust; other important parameters
in metamorphism; metamorphic rock types; intensity of metamorphism.
- Recapitulation of the above fundamentals, the grey zones,
the rock cycle concept, and open and closed systems.
Historical Geology - rates of geologic processes and interpreting
- Time in geology - how it is determined and relative versus
absolute dating; the geologic timescale.
- Rates in geology - Uniformitarianism & gradualism vs.
catastrophism, the pace of geologic activity.
- History of life - evolution as an explanatory tool; gradualism
versus punctuated equilibrium as two different views; mass extinctions
or where did the dinosaurs go?
Geomorphology - the ever-changing surface of the Earth.
- Rivers and shorelines - factors in the development of rivers
and associated forms; deltas, the interface between fluvial and
marine systems; the dynamics of shorelines and the shifting forms.
- Mass wasting - landslides, mudflows, and other forms of down-slope
movement; the forces involved.
- Glaciers as rivers of ice - features seen in glaciated areas;
mechanisms of movement; the recent Ice Ages, and older examples.
- Karst, desert landscapes, and other terrains of note.
The structure and architecture of the Earth - big to small.
- The large-scale structure, nested shells - the core, mantle,
and crust and the lithosphere and asthenosphere; and geophysics
as our eyes into the Earth.
- Plate tectonics - the definition of and historical development
of the basic tenets; types of plate boundaries, a kinematic view.
- Rifting and seafloor spreading - the birthplace of oceanic
- Subduction zones and arcs - the sink for oceanic crust.
- Orogenic zones (mountain belts) and transcurrent boundaries,
e.g. San Andreas.
- Deformation of rocks - stress and strain; brittle versus
ductile rock behavior and the importance of time and scale; folds,
faults, foliation, lineation and other structures.
Humanity and geology.
- Environmental geology - groundwater; geologic storage sites
for radioactive and other wastes.
- Economic geology - formation of deposits; mining and processing
of ores and the effects; distribution and politics of mineral
- Global climate change - the geologic record and drivers and mechanisms of climate change.
Third and Final Exam - during finals
Field Trip: Without a doubt the best place to learn
geology is out in the field, and so we will take a Saturday morning
field trip (usually to a local quarry). Good fossil collecting! This will be worth participation points - details
UNO students on a 2016 geology field trip to Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado.
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material in this site. Students are free to use or copy any material
within for their individual educational purposes.