Geology 361

GEOL 361


Catalog Entry
Geology 361. Geology of Virginia (4)
Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory.
Prerequisite: GEOL 105 and either GEOL 100 or GEOL 106.

Survey of geologic features of Virginia, emphasizing minerals, rocks, fossils and physiographic/geologic provinces; development of Virginia through geologic time; mineral wealth, and environmental issues in Virginia.


Detailed Description of Content of Course
The purpose of this course is to provide students with an overview of the geology of Virginia, one of the most geologically diverse states in the eastern United States. Virginia's mineral production is explored in some detail, particularly as it relates to the history and economic development of the state. Certain environmental issues related to geology - for example, groundwater pollution in the limestone terrain of western Virginia - are treated. The specific areas of the geology of Virginia treated in the course are as follows:
1.     Minerals and fossils found in Virginia
2.     Physiography and geology of the major provinces: Coastal Plain, Piedmont and Mesozoic Basins, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and Plateau
3.     Geologic history of Virginia
4.     Mineral resources of Virginia
5.     Environmental geology of Virginia
6.     Earthquakes and seismic hazards in Virginia
7.     Geologic time and radiometric dating
8.    Plate tectonic theory as applied to Virginia
9.    The rocks of Virginia and how to interpret their history

The lab portion of the course is designed to supplement the lecture material and to provide field study and collection of the rocks, minerals, and fossils of Virginia. The content of the lab portion of the course is as follows:
1.     Labs 1 - 3: indoor study of minerals, rocks, and fossils of Virginia
2.     Labs 4 - 5: indoor analysis of geologic maps of regional extent as well as selected local areas within Virginia
3.     Labs 6 - 12: outdoor field trips to (1) various mineral, rock, and fossil localities; (2) areas of structural and stratigraphic interest; and (3) sites of environmental interest (for example, landslides and landfills).

The diversity of the geologic provinces in western Virginia - the Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and Plateau are emphasized. In some years, excursions into the Piedmont and Coastal Plain are included.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
The lecture portion of the course begins with a broad overview of Virginia’s physiography and how this has affected the human development of the state. The course then reviews basic geologic principles and concepts of geologic time and how geologists determine ages of rocks.  There is a review of rocks emphasizing those found in Virginia and how they are used to interpret the geologic history with a tie-in to plate tectonic theory.  The course then begins the story of how the first rocks of Virginia were formed and follows geologic history in chronological order, first in first the Blue Ridge, then the Piedmont, Valley and Ridge, Appalachian Plateau, Mesozoic Basins, and Coastal Plain provinces, ending with the present day landforms and processes.  Special note is made during the discussion of the geologic provinces of the economic geology and environmental problems in the various regions of the state.

The lab portion of the course involves some discussion from the professor to provide background information; however, lab is primarily hands-on student activities such as identification of rocks, minerals, and fossils found in Virginia, analysis of geologic maps, conducting investigative exercises of field localities, and collection of rock, mineral, and fossil samples from the field.  Approximately half of the lab time is spent outdoors studying the outstanding local rock exposures and land features.  
Students complete a term project in which they study the land, rocks, and geologic history of selected regions of Virginia.  Their projects are presented orally to the class.


Goals and Objectives of Course
1.    Students will demonstrate operational skills in:
-    identification of rocks, minerals, and fossils found in Virginia
-    reading and interpretation of maps depicting the geology of the state and region
-    field data recording in a geologic notebook
2.    Students will display an understanding of:
-    the location and nature of the physiographic and geologic provinces of Virginia
-    the geologic history of the state
-    the problems of an environmental nature associated with mineral production as well as natural geologic processes
3.    Students will learn how geoscientists gather data and use these data to think analytically and to solve problems of a geologic nature in Virginia.
4.    Students will demonstrate proficiency in reading and interpreting geologic maps of Virginia.


Assessment Measures
Assessment is based on:
-    graded laboratory exercises on mineral, rock, and fossil identification and geologic map reading and interpretation
-    participation in a number of geologic field trips
-    lecture exams using objective and essay questions to measure student understanding and synthesis of the lecture material


 Other Course Information
1.    GEOL 361 may be taken for partial fulfillment of the B.S. degree in Geology in all concentrations.
2.    Curriculum objective: to provide additional elective hours in laboratory science for non-geology majors who may wish to minor in geology or learn more about the geology of Virginia and for geology majors who wish to supplement their required course background with additional information concerning the geology of Virginia.

Review and Approval

March, 2010