Physical Geology

GEOL 1403

Updated August 26, 2012

  • State Approval Code: 4006015103
  • Semester Credit Hours: 4
  • Lecture Hours per Week: 3
  • Contact Hours per Semester: 96

Catalog Description

Designed for both science and non-science majors. An introduction to the study
of rocks and minerals and of the processes which shape and modify the earth’s surface features.Volcanism, earthquakes, mineral and water resources, and other practical aspects of geology are discussed. Lecture hours = 3, Lab hours = 3

Course Curriculum

Basic Intellectual Compentencies in the Core Curriculum

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Critical thinking

Perspectives in the Core Curriculum

  • Develop a capacity to use knowledge of how technology and science affect their lives.
  • Use logical reasoning in problem solving.

Core Components and Related Exemplary Educational Objectives

Natural Sciences

  • To understand and apply method and appropriate technology to the study of natural sciences.
  • To recognize scientific and quantitative methods and the differences between these approaches and other methods of inquiry and to communicate findings, analyses, and interpretation both orally and in writing.
  • To identify and recognize the differences among competing scientific theories.
  • To demonstrate knowledge of the major issues and problems facing modern science, including issues that touch upon ethics, values, and public policies.
  • To demonstrate knowledge of the interdependence of science and technology and their influence on, and contribution to, modern culture.

Instructional Goals and Purposes

Panola College's instructional goals include 1) creating an academic atmosphere in which students may develop their intellects and skills and 2) providing courses so students may receive a certificate/an associate degree or transfer to a senior institution that offers baccalaureate degrees.

General Course Objectives

1. To apply the geological principles to explain various observed natural phenomena that occur on the earth's surface as well as in the interior of the earth.
2. To develop their observation skills to be able to recognize the various geological features and materials the earth is constructed from.
3. To develop the skills of inquiry by use of the scientific method to experience, evaluate, and synthesize data as applied to various geological problems.

Specific Course Objectives

1. To identify common rocks and minerals.
2. To describe the origin of the three rock types.
3. To identity the different types of volcanoes, explain the processes that form them, and the hazards they present.
4. To describe the theory of Plate Tectonics and relate this theory to geologic processes and structures.
5. To describe the properties of earthquakes and their causes.
6. To explain the structure of the Earth's Interior.
7. To describe the different types of geologic structures and how they are formed.
8. To describe the basic features of the Ocean Basins and their origins

General Description of Each Lecture or Discussion

Students in lecture will be required to do the following:
1. An Introduction to Geology
• Briefly define geology as a science.
• Explain the relationship between geology, people, and the environment.
• Discuss the history of geology, including the concepts of uniformitarianism and catastrophism.
• Briefly explain relative dating of geologic events and the geologic time scale.
• Understand the magnitude and importance of the concept of geologic time.
• Briefly discuss the nature of scientific inquiry and scientific methods.
• Define and briefly discuss the major “spheres” of the Earth.
• Discuss the Earth as a system.
• Discuss the major features of the continents and ocean basins.
• Briefly discuss the origin and early evolution of Earth.
• Compare and contrast the layers of Earth that are defined by composition with those defined by physical properties.
• Explain the concept of the rock cycle.
2. Plate Tectonics
• Briefly discuss the evidence used by Alfred Wegener to support his theory of continental drift.
• Explain why continental drift was not accepted by most scientists when the theory was originally proposed.
• Explain the theory of polar wandering and how it helped to renew interest in the idea of continental drift.
• Discuss geomagnetic reversals and seafloor spreading; and how each contributed to the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s.
• Briefly explain the theory of plate tectonics.
• Compare and contrast the distribution and geologic characteristics of tectonic plate boundaries, including divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries.
• Discuss the evidence used to test the plate tectonics model including ocean drilling and hot
• Briefly explain how plate motions are measured.
• Discuss mantle convection and the various mechanisms proposed to explain plate motion.
• Briefly discuss the importance of plate tectonics in providing a unified explanation of Earth’s surface features and major processes.
3. Matter and Minerals
• List the definitive characteristics that qualify certain Earth materials as minerals.
• Explain the difference between a mineral and a rock.
• Discuss the basic concepts of atomic structure as it relates to minerals.
• Compare and contrast the different types of chemical bonding.
• Explain what an isotope is and how it relates to radioactive decay.
• Discuss the internal structures of minerals.
• List and discuss in some detail the various physical properties of minerals.
• Explain the structure and importance of silicate minerals.
• List the common rock-forming silicate minerals and briefly discuss their physical properties.
• List other minerals groups and give an example of the important nonsilicate minerals.
4. Igneous Rocks
• Discuss the physical and chemical characteristics of magma.
• Explain the process of crystallization and how it relates to the formation of igneous rocks.
• List the various igneous textures and explain their origins.
• Compare and contrast the various igneous compositions.
• Discuss silica content and how it relates to the chemical composition of igneous systems.
• Explain the classification system used for igneous rocks.
• List and discuss the various names for felsic, intermediate, mafic, and pyroclastic igneous rocks.
• Explain Bowen’s Reaction Series and how it relates to the composition of igneous rocks.
• Discuss the evolution of magmatic systems.
• Briefly explain the concept of partial melting and how it relates to magma formation.
• Discuss the origin of magma from solid rock.
5. Volcanoes
• Discuss the differences between explosive and relatively mild volcanic activity.
• Discuss viscosity, silica content, volatiles, and temperature as each relates to magma composition.
• List the various materials erupted from volcanoes.
• Compare and contrast shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, and cinder cones.
• List examples of the three types of volcanoes from around the world.
• Discuss the hazards and features associated with explosive volcanic eruptions.
• Explain the origin of other landforms including calderas, necks, lava domes, and lava plateaus.
• List and describe the various types of plutonic igneous bodies.
• Discuss the characteristics, origin, and emplacement of batholiths.
• Explain the relationship between igneous activity and plate tectonics.
• Discuss igneous activity at divergent margins, subduction zones, and intraplate regions.
• Briefly explain the relationship between volcanic activity and climatic change.
6. Weathering and Soil
• Explain the difference between the Earth’s external and internal processes.
• Discuss the various processes involved in physical weathering.
• Discuss the various processes involved in chemical weathering.
• List and briefly explain those factors which control rates of weathering.
• Define soil and explain the difference between soil and regolith.
• Discuss soil formation, including those factors that control soil formation.
• Explain the concept of the soil profile and how it relates to soil formation.
• Discuss the characteristics of the soil horizons in a typical soil profile.
• Briefly explain soil classification.
• Briefly discuss soil erosion.
7. Sedimentary Rocks
• Discuss the physical and chemical processes involved in diagenesis.
• List the common minerals found in detrital sedimentary rocks.
• Explain how detrital sedimentary rocks are formed.
• List and briefly define the major types of detrital sedimentary rocks.
• Explain how chemical sedimentary rocks are formed.
• List and briefly define the major types of chemical sedimentary rocks.
• Discuss the classification of sedimentary rocks.
• List and briefly discuss the major sedimentary depositional environments.
• Explain the concept of sedimentary facies.
• List and discuss the importance of sedimentary structures.
8. Metamorphic Rocks
• Briefly discuss the concept of metamorphism and metamorphic rocks.
• List and discuss the agents of metamorphism including heat, pressure, and chemical fluids.
• Explain the importance of parent rocks in metamorphism.
• Briefly discuss the importance and origin of metamorphic textures.
• Compare and contrast the various types of foliated metamorphic textures.
• Briefly discuss other nonfoliated metamorphic textures.
• List and briefly define the common metamorphic rocks, both foliated and nonfoliated.
• Briefly discuss the various metamorphic environments found on Earth.
• Explain the concept of metamorphic zones including index minerals and metamorphic grade.
• Explain the relationship of metamorphism to plate tectonics in both modern and ancient settings.
9. Geologic Time
• Explain the difference between relative and absolute dating of earth materials.
• Discuss the Principle of Original Horizontality and how it relates to the Law of Superposition.
• Briefly explain other principles used in relative age dating.
• List and briefly explain the three types of unconformities.
• Briefly discuss fossilization, including the origin and types of fossils.
• Discuss the correlation of rock layers using physical criteria and fossils.
• Briefly explain radioactivity and how it relates to absolute age dating.
• Discuss the procedure of radiometric dating and explain how it is used to obtain absolute ages.
• List the isotopes commonly used in the radiometric dating of earth materials.
• List and briefly discuss the major subdivisions of the geologic time scale.
• Briefly explain the significance of the Precambrian division of the geologic time scale.
10. Crustal Deformation
• Briefly discuss the significance and role of structural geology in understanding the Earth.
• Explain the concept of deformation, including force, stress, and strain.
• Compare and contrast the various types of stress.
• Discuss how temperature, confining pressure, rock type, and time all affect rock deformation.
• Distinguish between brittle and ductile deformation.
• Explain the concept of strike and dip and how it relates to the mapping of geologic structures.
• Discuss the folding of rocks, including the origin, characteristics, and some geographic examples of folding
• Discuss the faulting of rocks, including the origin and stresses responsible for faults.
• Compare and contrast the two major categories of faults, including the terminology and movements used to define the various types of faults and some geographic examples where faulting occurs.
• Briefly discuss the origin and significance of joints.
11. Earthquakes
• Explain the origin of earthquakes, including their relationship to faults.
• Briefly discuss elastic rebound and the accumulation of strain in rocks.
• Discuss seismology, including the characteristics and recording of earthquake waves.
• Explain how to locate the source of an earthquake.
• Compare and contrast shallow- versus deep-focus earthquakes.
• Discuss the measurement of earthquake intensity and magnitude.
• Explain the use and limitations of the modified Mercalli Intensity scale.
• Compare and contrast earthquake magnitude measurements using the Richter scale with the newer concept of moment magnitude.
• Discuss the various aspects of earthquake destruction, including some of the factors that determine the extent of damage produced by a given earthquake.
• Explain earthquake prediction in terms of both short-range and long-range forecasting.
• Understand the occurrence of earthquakes in relation to tectonic plate boundaries.
12. Earth's Interior
• Understand and briefly explain the nature of seismic waves.
• Explain the importance of seismic waves in determining Earth’s structure.
• List and briefly explain the layers of the Earth defined by composition.
• List and briefly explain the layers of the Earth defined by physical properties.
• Compare and contrast the mechanical behavior of the lithosphere and asthenosphere.
• Briefly discuss Earth’s major boundaries, including the Moho and the crust-mantle boundary.
• Discuss the properties and characteristics of Earth’s crust, mantle, and core.
• Explain the commonly accepted origin of the Earth’s magnetic field.
• Briefly discuss internal heat in the Earth, including heat flow in the crust and mantle convection.
13. Ocean Basins
• Briefly explain the technology utilized in mapping the ocean floor.
• Discuss the geologic characteristics and features associated with passive and active continental margins.
• Briefly discuss features of the deep-ocean basins, including deep-ocean trenches, abyssal plains, and seamounts.
• Understand the origin of oceanic lithosphere including the role of oceanic ridges and the mechanism of seafloor spreading.
• Discuss the structure and geologic characteristics of oceanic crust.
• Briefly discuss continental rifting and evolution of ocean basins.
• Discuss subduction and the destruction of oceanic lithosphere.
• Explain the supercontinent cycle.
14. The Continental Crust
• Briefly explain orogenesis and the concept of mountain building.
• Explain the features and dynamics of a subduction zone.
• Discuss mountain building associated with subducting plate boundaries, including a comparison of island arcs and Andean-type mountain building.
• Explain mountain building associated with continent-continent collisions.
• Briefly discuss the relationship of terranes to mountain building.
• Discuss vertical movements of Earth’s crust, including isostatic adjustment and mantle convection.
• Discuss the origin and early evolution of continental crust on Earth.
• Explain the gradual evolution of continents through time.
15. Mass Wasting
• Discuss the relationship between mass wasting and landform development.
• List and briefly explain those factors which control and trigger mass movements.
• Compare and contrast the various categories of mass movements.
• List examples and briefly discuss mass movements based on the type of motion involved.
• Discuss the different rates of movement involved in mass wasting.
• List specific geographic examples of mass wasting including falls, slides, and flows.
• Discuss the characteristics of slower mass movements including creep and solifluction.
• Discuss observable phenomena that indicate mass wasting has occurred in a given area.
• Briefly explain the occurrence and origin of submarine landslides.
16. Running Water
• Discuss and explain the hydrologic cycle on Earth.
• Briefly discuss the concept of streamflow including discharge and gradient.
• Explain the changes that occur from the head to the mouth of a stream.
• Briefly explain the concept of base level and graded streams.
• Compare and contrast the various mechanisms by which streams transport sediment.
• Distinguish between the competence and capacity of a stream.
• List and briefly describe the various types of stream deposits.
• Compare and contrast the characteristics of narrow and wide stream valleys.
• Briefly discuss the significance of incised meanders.
• List and briefly describe the various types of drainage patterns.
• Explain the concept of headward erosion and how it relates to stream piracy.
• Briefly discuss flooding and flood control.
17. Groundwater
• Briefly discuss the importance of groundwater.
• Explain the distribution of underground water including the concept of the water table.
• Understand the interaction between groundwater and surface streams.
• List and briefly discuss those factors influencing the storage and movement of groundwater.
• Understand the basic mathematics involved in measuring the movement of groundwater.
• Compare and contrast springs, hot springs, and geysers.
• Discuss the basic details of a well and an artesian well.
• List and discuss in some detail the major problems associated with groundwater withdrawal.
• Give geographic examples in the United States where groundwater withdrawal problems have occurred.
• Briefly discuss groundwater contamination.
• Explain briefly the geologic work accomplished by groundwater.
• Discuss the main features associated with karst development
18. Glaciers and Glaciation
• Compare and contrast the various types of glaciers.
• Briefly discuss the formation of glacial ice.
• Explain how glaciers move, including the concept of the budget of a glacier.
• Discuss the processes involved in glacial erosion.
• Compare and contrast those landforms produced by glacial erosion.
• Discuss the processes associated with glacial deposition.
• Compare and contrast those landforms produced by glacial deposition.
• Briefly explain the glacial theory and the development of ice ages.
• Discuss some of the indirect effects of Pleistocene glaciation.
• List and briefly explain some of the proposed causes of glaciation.
19. Deserts and Wind
• Explain the distribution and origin of dry regions on Earth.
• Briefly discuss the major geologic processes operating in arid climates.
• Discuss the evolution and features of the Basin and Range Province.
• Briefly explain the mechanisms of transporting sediment by wind.
• Discuss the processes involved in wind erosion.
• Compare and contrast the features produced by wind erosion.
• Discuss the processes and characteristics of sediments deposited by wind.
• Compare and contrast the various types of sand dunes.
• Explain why various types of sand dunes form in a given area.
• Discuss the origin and geologic occurrence of loess.
20. Shorelines
• List the various areas of the coastal zone.
• Explain the formation and characteristics of waves.
• List and briefly define the various types of waves.
• Briefly discuss the mechanism of wave erosion.
• Explain wave refraction and how it relates to longshore transport.
• Compare and contrast shoreline features, including their origin and occurrence.
• List and briefly discuss those factors that affect shoreline erosion.
• Discuss the various measures used to reduce or lessen the impacts of shoreline erosion.
• Compare and contrast the characteristics of the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States.
• Briefly discuss the formation of emergent and submergent coastlines.
• Understand the origin and characteristics of tides.
• Briefly explain tidal currents and their relationship to the Earth’s rotation
21. Energy and Mineral Resources
• Distinguish between renewable and nonrenewable natural resources.
• Briefly discuss the various types of energy resources, including coal, oil, and natural gas.
• List and explain some of the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels.
• Discuss the potential of tar sands and oil shale as possible energy resources in the future.
• Briefly discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks to various alternate energy sources, including nuclear, solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal energy.
• Explain the difference between mineral resources, mineral reserves, and mineral deposits.
• Briefly discuss the origin of mineral resources related to igneous processes.
• Explain the origin of mineral deposits unrelated to igneous processes, including metamorphic processes, weathering, and placer deposits.
• Discuss nonmetallic mineral resources, both building materials and industrial minerals.
22. Planetary Geology
• Describe the general characteristics of the two groups of planets in the solar system.
• Describe the major features of the lunar surface and discuss the Moon's history.
• List the distinguishing features of each planet in the solar system.
• List and describe the minor members of the solar system.
Students in lab will be required to do the following:
• Identify common mineral samples based on mineral identification tables and important physical properties.
• Distinguish between rocks and minerals.
• Recognize crystal form.
• Distinguish between cleavage and fracture, and recognize cleavage types.
• Determine the luster, streak, approximate density, diaphaneity, and tenacity of common mineral samples.
• Determine the hardness of common mineral samples using reference minerals (Mohs
scale) or relative to a glass plate.
• Recognize other physical properties that are important in the identification of some minerals.
a. Taste
b. Reaction to Hydrochloric Acid
c. Striations
d. Magnetism
e. Double refraction
f. Feel
g. Odor
• Know the important uses for common minerals studied in lab.
• Know the compositional groups for common minerals studied in lab.
a. Carbonates
b. Halides
c. Native elements
d. Oxides
e. Silicates (Ferromagnesian and Non-ferromagnesian)
f. Sulfates
g. Sulfides
• Identify common igneous rock samples based on rock identification tables.
• Recognize the origin of igneous rocks (intrusive or extrusive).
• Recognize the textures of igneous rocks.
• Understand how the rate of cooling of a magma affects the texture of the resultant igneous rock.
• Understand Bowen's Reaction Series and be able to identify the mineral constituents of common igneous rocks.
• Understand the relationships between magma composition (Ultramafic, Mafic, Intermediate, Felsic) and mineral composition of common igneous rocks.
• Identify common sedimentary rock samples based on rock identification tables.
• Recognize types of sedimentary rocks (detrital, chemical precipitate/organic).
• Recognize the textures of common sedimentary rocks.
• Identify the primary constituents of common sedimentary rocks (clay, quartz, calcite, rock fragments, other).
• Identify common metamorphic rock samples based on rock identification tables.
• Recognize types of changes that occur during metamorphism (recrystallization, recombination, rotation).
• Recognize types of metamorphism (regional, contact).
• Distinguish between foliated textures and non-foliated textures in common metamorphic rocks.
• Recognize the various types of foliation of common metamorphic rock samples.
• Understand the relationship between the intensity of metamorphism and the type of foliation formed.
• Know the parent rocks for the common metamorphic rock samples.
• Identify mineral constituents found in common metamorphic rocks samples.
• Understand what the map scale is and how to measure distances on a map.
• Understand and apply common methods of locating points on a topographic map.
a. In relation to prominent features
b. By Longitude and Latitude
c. By Township and Range
• Understand the organization of topographic maps and how contour lines are used to show changes in elevation of the Earth's surface.
• Understand the commonly accepted rules and practices for interpreting contour maps
• Recognize standard colors and symbols used on topographic maps.
• Construct a topographic profile along a given line on a topographic map and calculate vertical exaggeration.
• Understand the effects of natural geologic processes by observing topographic maps of areas in which those natural processes are at work.

Methods of Instruction/Course Format/Delivery

Lecture: The lecture materials for this class will be delivered using Canvas. Resources provided through Canvas include:
• A calendar displaying assignments each week (please check often)
• Chapter notes , PowerPoint presentations, and other information in Adobe PDF file format
• Online exams
• Email (totally contained within Canvas)
All weekly assignments and exams will be submitted through Canvas. After the assignment has been graded, the student will be able to view his or her grade by clicking the My Grades link in the left banner. Students will have limited review of the answers to the exams, but they will always be able to view the score. Generally you will have your work graded and posted within two days following the deadline.
Students should use the Email within Canvas to communicate with the instructor. Using Canvas email gives you access to the instructor and other classmates without having to remember or type email addresses—you just select a name from the list. If you are not able to contact me using email in Canvas, you may use my Panola College email address. An attempt to respond to all email within 24 hours will be made. If you make an appointment with me through email to take an exam, for example, I will reply to
your email—if I do not reply, you should send your email to me again or call me. Please always include a subject line and your name in your email.
Lab: The Physical Geology lab is a face to face class and all students will be required to attend lab each


Lecture Assessment: The following items will be assigned during the semester and used to calculate the student’s final grade:
Weekly assignments will be given during the semester. They cover the reading material in the textbook for that week. The weekly assignments will be given online and you may use your textbook to complete them. Each assignment will have a deadline and failure to complete them by the deadline will result in a zero for that assignment. I will take the average of the 10 best weekly assignment grades and I will drop the lowest grades at the end of the semester.
Five exams will be given during the semester (four regular exams and the final). Each exam will be administered by a proctor at the Carthage, Center, or Marshall sites for Panola College students. If you are unable to take a test when it is scheduled, you must reschedule the test with the instructor prior to the testing date. An excused absence and makeup test may be granted for
sudden illness or unforeseen circumstances.
The lecture grade will be determined by using the following calculation on the indicated scores:
(Exam1 + Exam2 + Exam3 + Exam4 + Final + Avg. of 10 Best Weekly Assignments) / 6 = Lecture Avg.
Lab Assessment: The following items will be assigned during the semester and used to calculate the student’s lab grade:
• Pop Quizzes
There will also be 12 pop quizzes (of which, the lowest 2 quiz grades will be dropped). Collectively, the 10 highest pop quiz grades will count the same as a fourth exam grade.
Three Lab exams will be given (Mineral, Rock, and Final). Opportunities for make-up exams will be approved for excused absences only. Whenever it is possible, arrangements should be made before the lab time so that provisions can be made.
The lab grade will be determined by using the following calculation on the indicated scores:
(Min Exam + Rock Exam + Final Lab Exam + Pop Quiz Total) / 4 = Lab Grade
The semester grade for this course is calculated as follows:
• Lecture Grade – 75%
• Lab Grade – 25%
Letter Grade Equivalence
• 90 –100 = A
• 80 – 89 = B
• 70 – 79 = C
• 60 – 69 = D
• Below 60 = F

Text, Required Readings, Materials, and Supplies

• Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology: by Tarbuck and Lutgens, Tenth Edition, Prentice Hall,
• Lab Manual: General Geology Laboratory Manual, by SFASU Geology Dept., 2nd edition, 1996