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Geology 461

GEOL 461

Catalog Entry

Geology 461. Regional Geology of the United States
Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory (4).

Prerequisite: GEOL 320.

Regional survey of structural and stratigraphic framework of geologic provinces of the United States; emphasis on geologic features and evolution of Appalachian and Western Interior regions.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The purpose of the course is to provide students with an overview of the geology and physiography of the geologic provinces of the coterminous United States. The major topics treated in the course are as follows:

1. Tools of regional geology - geologic maps and cross-sections
2. Structural and tectonic concepts; sedimentary basin analysis
3. Geology and physiography of the major tectonic divisions of the United States - Coastal Plain, Appalachian Mountains, Central Stable Region, Ouachita-Marathon Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Intermontane Provinces, and Pacific Coast Region
4. Detailed geologic analysis of the Appalachian Mountains
5. Detailed geologic analysis of the Western Interior

The lab portion of the course is designed to supplement the lecture material by providing hands-on analysis of geologic maps and cross-sections representative of each of the major geologic provinces. One or more field trips are included. The content of the lab portion of the course is as follows:

1. Labs 1 - 3: Basic preparation and analysis of geologic maps, isopach maps, structure contour maps and cross-sections.
2. Labs 4 - 5: Preparation and analysis of maps showing the major tectonic divisions and structural features of the United States.
3. Labs 6 - 10: Examination using maps and cross-sections of the individual major geologic provinces of the United States.
4. Labs 11 - 13: Field trip(s) and special lab sessions using slides to view the physiography and geology of the major geologic provinces.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The lecture portion of the course will principally include lecture and demonstrations using geologic maps and cross-sections. Slides to illustrate various geologic features are used. Some analysis by the students of the maps and cross-sections is performed. Lectures stress not only the presentation of factual data but how that information is used to formulate theories concerning the evolution of the various geologic provinces. For example, the change of ideas about the history of the Appalachians from simple deformation of a pile of inplace sediments to the complex assembly of a collage of accreted terranes is discussed. Students must read a required text and a number of additional articles.

The lab portion of the course will involve some discussion from the professor to provide background information; however, lab consists primarily of student hands-on activities such as: answering questions about the geology of an area as presented on geologic maps and in cross-sections; and preparation of certain kinds of maps (isopach and structure contour) and analysis of the regional geology of certain areas using these kinds of maps. Students are required to keep a log book of the field trip stops and are tested on their field observations.


Goals and Objectives of Course

1. Students will demonstrate operational skills in:

- reading and interpretation of maps depicting the local and regional geology of selected sites within each of the geologic provinces of the United States
- field data recording in a geologic notebook.

2. Students will display an understanding of:

- the location, physiography, and geology of the major geologic provinces of the United States
- the geologic history of each province
- the kinds of geologic problems facing those who work for fuel, mineral, or environmental companies in each province.

3. Students will learn how our ideas about the geology and history of the various geologic provinces have evolved as more and newer kinds of data are gathered and newer framework paradigms (e.g., plate tectonics) become available.


Assessment Measures

Assessment is based on:

- graded laboratory exercises on geologic map reading and interpretation
- participation in a certain number of geologic field trips
- lecture exams using objective and essay questions to measure student understanding and synthesis of the lecture material and the assigned readings
- a final comprehensive exam similar to the in-term lecture exams but also requiring synthesis and articulation of the field trip observations.


Other Course Information

1. Curriculum objective: to provide additional elective hours primarily for geology majors, although well-prepared students from other disciplines can take the course.
2. GEOL 461 may be taken for partial fulfillment of the General Geology Concentration and Earth Sciences Concentration (Teaching Licensure) for a Bachelor of Science degree in geology.
3. Bibliography:

  • Bally, A. W., and Palmer, A. I. (eds.), 1989, The Geology of North America: An Overview: vol. A: Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, 619 p.
  • Hatcher, R. D., Jr., Thomas, W. A., and Viele, G. W., 1989, The Appalachian-Ouachita Orogen in the United States, vol. F-2: Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, 767 p.
  • King, P. B., 1977, The Evolution of North America: Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 197 p.
  • Palmer, A. I. (ed.), 1982, Perspectives in Regional Geological Synthesis: D-NAG Special Publications 1: Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, 176 p.
  • Stearn, C. W., Carroll, R. L., Jr., and Clark, T. H., 1979, Geological Evolution of North America: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, NY, 566 p.


Approval and Subsequent Reviews

Date Action Approved By
August 2005 Reviewed and Approved Stephen W. Lenhart, Chair