Geology 300 Environmental Geology Spring 2009

Geology 300 Environmental Geology Spring 2009

Geology 300 – Environmental Geology–Spring 2009

Time and Place:Tuesday-Thursday 9:30 to 10:45, Stevens Hall Room 134

Instructor:Adam Lewis, 226 Stevens Hall, 231-6197, Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30 to 2:30

Text:Geology and the Environment 5th edition, Pipkin, Trent, Hazlett and Beirman

Class overview: This class will center on the interaction of humans with the natural environment. The class will be organized into three parts. Part 1 will focus on large-scale topics that affect people worldwide. Part 2will focus on our local region with a special emphasis on soils and the Red River. For these first two parts of the class, we’ll use a combination of lectures, including several guest speakers, and in-class projects. Part 3 is reserved for student presentations of research projects(they also include a written report). You have wide latitude in choosing a topic. Make it something you’re interested in and be creative. The point of the project is give you practice putting your knowledge to use. Designing studies and presenting results are things you’ll all have to do in the future for work or as grad students. For this class there are several expected student outcomes:

  • An understanding of human interaction with the physical environment
  • An understanding of natural hazards and mitigation
  • The ability to apply the scientific method and simple mathematical models to environmental questions
  • A well-documented report on an environmental issue with results presented in both written and oral form.

Grading: Grades will be based on two lecture exams and a final exam (multiple choice, short answer, 1 paragraph essay); quizzes, in-class projects and homework; and individual research projects and presentations.

Two lecture exams40%Final exam20%Quizzes and homework 15% Research project 25%

A final letter grade will bebased on percentages of points earned: 90 to 100% = A, 80 to 89% = B, 70 to 79% = C, 60 to 69% = D, <60% = F. If the class average is significantly higher or lower than 75%, the grades will be curved. Demonstrated effort and in-class participation caninfluenceborderline grades.

Special needs: Any students with disabilities or special learning needs are invited to share their concerns with the instructor as soon as possible such that reasonable accommodation(s) can be made.

Academic responsibility and class conduct: I emphasize your adherence to North Dakota State University’s Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct (NDSU University Senate Policy section 335). You can familiarize yourself with the details of academic conduct at

Tentative Class Schedule

Week 1Introduction; numerical literacy;Thursday Jeremy Brown – Library Reading: Ch 1

Week 2Review plate tectonics; EarthquakesReading: Ch 3 and 4

Week 3Earthquakes and tsunamis; VolcanoesReading: 281-286 and Ch 5

Week 4Soil erosion, Mass movementsReading: Ch 6 (161-177), Ch7 Titles for projects due on Tuesday

Week 5Water resourcesReading: Ch 8

Week 6Exam 1; FloodingReading: Ch 9

Week 7Climate change and desertificationReading Ch 12 and 323-346

Week 8Mineral resource extractionReading: Ch 13

Week 9Energy resourcesReading: Ch 14

Week 10Spring Break

Week 11Energy resources; Waste managementReading: Ch 15 Pre-submission interview for projects this week

Week 12Exam 2; Glacial history of the Red River Valley

Week 13Soils of the Red River Valley; possible guest speaker

Week 14Soil failuresin the Red River Valley; possible guest speaker

Week 15Flood plain management in Fargo; possible guest speaker

Week 16Student presentations; finish any missed lectures Written reports due by Friday, May 1st, 5:00 PM

Week 17Student presentations

Week 18Final ExamFriday May 15, 8:00 AM

Details of the research project

A major requirement of this class is a research project (25%). Your project must include original work, which means that you personally investigate a problem. This might involve site visits, physical measurements, interviews, photographs,map or air photo interpretation. Creativity will be rewarded with higher grades. Literature reviews should only support your own research.

Examples of topics: The best topics come from your own hometowns. For example, does your hometown need a new landfill? Where should it go? Are any major construction projects going on? How are the local soil properties being dealt with? A good place to start is to scan the local newspaper to see what issues are being talked about (check past issues online). Other examples: Wind farm site selection - wind resources, environmental impacts and the power grid of ND, radon gas in your basement, flood mitigation in Fargo (dikes or a Winnipeg-style canal?), an examination of a superfund site, slumps along local rivers/stabilization of active slumps, asbestos contamination from mining in northern Minnesota, mitigating storm runoff from huge parking lots in Fargo, watershed management of some river basin like the Lac Qui Parle in SW Minnesota, or even a map and air photo-based examination of coastal hazards in Miami, Florida. Don’t bore your fellow students or me with a standard “man does bad things - bad, bad man” report; find something interesting. I emphasize that you have wide latitude in choosing a topic.


  • Titles are due with approval Tuesday, February 3rd.
  • You must complete a pre-submission interview week of March 23rd (10% of grade)
  • Scheduled individually; takes 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Bring source materials;be prepared to discuss your topic
  • Papers should be 8 to 12 pages of single-spaced text or double-spaced equivalent.
  • Illustrations should be embedded and of high quality with credit given to sources.
  • Citations must be included in the text and provided in a reference list. They must follow Geological Society of America format (see Geology or GSA Bulletin for examples). This should be your own work. If you quote, it had better be within quotation marks and properly cited.
  • Finished papers are due May 1st, 5:00 PM. 5% points come off each day late.


  • A 15-20 minute presentation to be scheduled during last 2 or 3 weeks of class
  • Summarize the main points and findings of your project.

Grading for the paper and presentation:

  • Is material presented in an orderly and coherent fashion?
  • Are the major points developed and the main questions answered?
  • Is a clear distinction made between previous work and this research?
  • Did the work provide new data/new thinking?
  • For presentation, were slides coherent and helpful?