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Geology 441


Catalog Entry
GEOL 441. Geologic Field Methods. Two hours lecture; four hours laboratory (4).
Prerequisite: GEOL 440.

Introduction to techniques and basic concepts of geologic field methods.  Emphasis is placed on data collection and mapping in a variety of field situations and in the reporting, interpretation, and presentation of field data in paper and electronic form.


Detailed Description of Content of Course
This course is designed to take a practical, hands-on approach to geologic note taking, data collecting, report writing, and map-making in a variety of geologic settings and styles. Topics include:
1. Use of the Brunton Compass for orientation measurements and general map-making;  2. The pace and compass method to create a simple traverse map;  3. Sketching and describing in detail outcrops and lithologies, and the use of the Jacob's Staff to measure layer thicknesses;  4. How to take notes in the field;  5. Use of roadside geology to draw a reconnaissance-style map of a macroscopic fold, and the use of a stereonet in fold analysis;  6. Measurement and sketching of mesoscopic scale folds, foliations and lineations in metamorphic terranes; and the analysis of large quantities of planar and linear data using equal-area stereonets;  7. How to read, draw, and plot data on geologic maps;  8. How to read topographic maps in the field and their use as base maps for plotting geologic data;  9. Geologic report writing, including writing style and format;  10. Synthesis of geologic data in order to draw conclusions about geologic history; 11. Use of technology such as GPS as an aid to field mapping; 12. Use of air photos to interpret geology and as an aid to field mapping; 13. Use of computer software such as GIS, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop to present and organize data for maps and other field data and to enhance project reports.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
This course takes advantage of the excellent rock exposures and complex geology of the Radford area to teach students the basics of geologic mapping and data collection. A typical class spends the lecture hour reviewing previous exercises and describing how to do the up-coming exercise. Then the class travels to the field site of study and proceeds with the new exercise. Each week's class is built upon knowledge gained during the previous week. In the second half of the course, the class is divided up into groups of two or three students. Each group is responsible for making a field map of a geologically complex area near Radford. From the data collected during this project, each student is required to write a complete geologic report including: general geologic background, complete lithologic descriptions of the formations present, a geologic map and cross-section, a discussion of the geologic structures present, and a geologic history. Individualized instruction is emphasized during the course. During the mapping part of the course, the instructor divides time among the various mapping groups, allowing for close student-faculty interaction in "real life" circumstances. The course will also meet at a separate lecture hour each week for instruction and hands-on activities in map interpretation, computer-based techniques.  These activities will be generally related to that week’s field activities, allowing for digital versions of field data and reports.  The course is designed to be taken during the student's final semester at Radford, thus tying in information learned in all previous geology courses in a field situation.


Goals and Objectives of Course
1. Students will demonstrate field mapping and data collection skills including: rock identification, map reading, use of the Brunton compass to measure structural data, and geologic sketching and note taking.  2. Students will apply knowledge gained in previous course work in a field setting. 3. Students will analyze the data collected in the field and synthesize it into a coherent geologic history of the area that they mapped. 4. Students will present their data and findings in a geologic report in a format recommended by the Geological Society of America. 5. Students will develop field expertise that will prepare them for subsequent study in graduate school, geologic field camp, and industry. 6. Develop effective communication skills with other scientists. 7. Demonstrate the use of computer techniques in geologic applications.


Assessment Measures
Assessment is based on: graded exercises on map sketching, reconnaissance mapping, compass maps; geologic map interpretation, field . An essay-style midterm exam will have students think through the steps of setting up and implementing a hypothetical mapping exercise, and a final practical exam will have students demonstrate geologic data collecting skills at a real outcrop.  Each student will submit a final report based on their mapping project in which the student will have to present their data, summarize their findings, and write their interpretation of the geologic history of their mapping area.  Grading rubrics will be used that will include: data collection and accuracy, quality of maps and diagrams, reasoning and logic, writing style and conclusions.  Most weekly exercises and the final report will be electronic, incorporating computer based techniques learned during the course..


Other Course Information
GEOL 441 is a required course for students majoring in Geology.


Review and Approval

March, 2010