Structural Geology Lab 1: Reading geologic maps (20 pts.)

Lab objectives:

General motivation for the lab: Reading and compiling geologic maps is a basic skill in geoscience, and this lab is designed to start developing your geologic map reading skills.

Image to right: Geologic map of California. What can you learn about the geology of California from reading such a map? If you try to capture the explicit and implicit information in this map in words it would be a lengthy document. Maps are very efficient communication devices. Image source:

Lab lecture notes

Review of map components: map scale, topographic contour interval, magnetic declination, projection, coordinate system (latitude-longitude, UTM), legend.

What types of geologic units might be shown on a geologic map?

What types of geologic contacts might be shown on a map?

Topography, structure, and map pattern: We will learn about these relationships in much more detail in next week's lab.

Definition of and map symbol for strike and dip.

Definition of and map symbol for trend and plunge.

Map symbols for simple faults and folds.

Small part of Grand Canyon geologic map taken from It displays many of the type of map relationships described above (sub-horizontal contacts sub-vertical contacts, a major unconformity).

Some additional interesting sites related to geologic maps:


Part 1 (in class, 8 pts.) Use the provided map of a small part of Spitsbergen (Sørkapp) to answer the following questions (converse with each other, but when drafting your answers, please work on your own). The colored version of the map is available to help (link to color version of map), as is the relevant portion of the map legend (link to legend). It can be helpful to take a look at it to better understand your black and white copy. Lightly coloring in some of the units can also help you see the structure better. The contour interval is 50 m.

1) Trace with a red pencil the major unconformity shown on the map.

2) What type of unconformity is it (disconformity, angular unconformity or nonconformity)?

3) What is the approximate stratigraphic thickness of unit 13 (contour intervals are 50 meters)?

4) Trace with blue the fold axial surface of the major antiform and synform on the map.

5) What direction are the folds in the basement rocks plunging?

6) Are the normal faults steeply dipping or shallowly dipping? What is the map evidence for your answer?

7) What direction is the structural grain in this area?

8) Draw a cross section sketch through Listefjellet showing the nature of the major geologic units.

Part 2

You will each be assigned a map to work with. Please analyze it as fully as possible for the structural information it contains. Two products should be generated. You are encouraged to help each other with this.

Here are some questions that you can ponder and which may help you analyze the map. The ones in bold should be specifically addressed in your presentation, but you should also address the other questions if they are pertinent.

By answering these and similar questions you should have the understanding necessary to assemble an initial idea of the structural architecture and history of the area.

It is traditional and useful to organize your results into a history from earliest to latest events. I will be happy to discuss the maps with you and provide feedback.

Your presentation should focus on three or so major points about the geologic history that can be drawn from the map. You might put them in historical order. You also need to point out on the map the evidence for your assertions. Five min tues is not much time, and so you should definitely carefully organize and even practice your presentation. The objective of your presentation is to educate the other students about the structural geology and history of your assigned map area.