Historical Geology


Historical Geology is offered each semester at NAU. Several faculty teach the course so the syllabus below only applies to sections that I teach. Included below are (1) some graphics that I use in the course, and (2) a copy of my syllabus minus certain specifics such as dates .


Geologic History of Western US

Selected North American Orogenies



Professor: Dr. Ronald Blakey

Text: Dott and Prothero, Evolution of the Earth, Fifth Edition

Office: GLG 219; 523-2740; E-Mail: RCB@Vishnu.glg.nau.edu.

Office hours: (varies by semester), or by appt.

Course Philosophy and Requirements:

This course challenges you to apply the principles and knowledge of Physical Geology (Physical Geology is required pre-requsite) to the long and varied history of our planet. The evidence of past geologic events can be observed in rock structures, textures, composition, and fossils of the crust. As geologists, we search the Earth's surface, drill into it, analyze its chemistry and physical properties, and do whatever else we can to gather together pieces of this cryptic puzzle of events. In this class, you will learn not only about earth history, but how we go about piecing together the puzzle of the earth and its history.

The Department of Geology feels strongly that this course should stress geologic concepts and reasoning processes, rather than rote memorization. You will need to memorize many things: the geologic time scale, major groups of plants and animals, and the ages of many extremely important events in earth history. Our goal, however, is to teach you to ask questions about the earth's history, and to gather the tools with which those questions can be answered. At the beginning of each lecture I will present the objectives for the day, often as questions that we are trying to solve, and you will find that your answers to those questions will be a very effective way to study for exams. For best results, read the assigned chapter before coming to class, and again before the exam. Attendance is mandatory.

Computer use in the classroom: This semester much of the class material will be presented via computer. During lecture time, much of the presentation will be on the computer. I will try to make the computer as invisible as possible to allow a smooth and enjoyable format for learning. I will appreciate your comments and feedback on this presentation system as the class progresses. There will always be a back-up system (my notes in front of me) should MurphyÕs Law prevail! The material presented in class will be accessible to you on the computers in the Geology computer lab (Glg 104) and the College of Arts and Sciences computer lab (second floor Science Building). The Lab for this course will also feature some hands-on computer time and details will be covered in your 1st lab meeting..

Concurrent enrollment in GLG 104 (lab) is required. GLG 102 (lecture) and GLG 104 (lab) are corequisites and are designed to enhance each other. Material will be covered in lab that is not discussed in lecture, and you will be responsible for it. Lab exercises demonstrate methods for interpreting Earth's history from various kinds of evidence and will emphasize the fossil record. Field trips are designed to give you a hands-on experience in interpreting the Earth's history from examining the rock record.

Lecture Grading:

  • NOTE: varies by semester... see current syllabus
  • Lecture exams (3) 300 pts.
  • Final exam 100 pts.
  • Take home problems, reports, etc. 100 pts.

    Lecture exams cover all material since the previous exam; the final exam will be approximately 75% comprehensive and 25% material since Exam 3. I will adhere to the syllabus schedule as closely as possible, but exams may not exactly conform to the schedule listed. Make-up exams will be given only by arrangement prior to the day of the exam. Exams will generally be returned within one week. Take home problems will be due on a given Thursday. They will be accepted, without penalty, through the following Tuesday class period. They will not be accepted after that time. They will generally be returned and graded the following Thursday.

    Ground Rules: You are encouraged to work together on projects and assignments and to share thoughts, ideas, and criticisms; however, assignments will be turned in individually and must be prepared solely by you, even though the data may have been gathered and discussed as a group. Tests, of course, are absolutely to be done on your own! Any cheating including copying the work of others or plagiarism will result in failure for the assignment, test, or project involved and possible failure of the course. Any disregard of instructions associated with the smooth and safe running of the class, especially on field trips, may result in expulsion from class, failure, or both. The Department of Geology and the College of Arts and Sciences adhere strictly and absolutely to the University drop policy. Drops after the deadline to drop with a ÒWÓ (MARCH 8) will not be granted except as allowed for in the policy. Poor attendance or performance does not constitute a valid reason for issuing a late drop!!! Your final course grade will be based on the points you earn on the items covered above. Grades will be determined on your final point total, then converted to % where 90-100% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 55-69% = D. However, grade boundaries may be adjusted downwards (curved) but not upwards. In other words, 90% will be at least an A no matter what, but based on total class performance, AÕs may range below 90%, and so forth. The burden of getting assignments in on time and being at the exams on time rests with you. If you see a problem developing, see me ASAP. I will deal with any problems on an individual basis. ItÕs your course and your money so use your time and resources wisely. IÕm here to help but I canÕt help without knowledge of a given problem or need.

    Tentative assignments (NOTE: varies by semester... see current syllabus):

  • Tectonic (Wilson) Cycle (20 pts): Sept 9, DUE Sept 19)
  • Field Trip Fri Sept 20, Sedona area, 7:30 - 5:00; assignment (15pts) due Sept 26)
  • Tectonic History of a Continent (20 pts): Oct 10, DUE Oct 24
  • History of Paleozoic or Mesozoic Period (20 pts): Oct 31, DUE Nov 14
  • Field Trip to Glen Canyon: Nov 8-10; assignment (25pts) due Nov 14 SYLLABUS (subject to minor modification; first number refers to computer presentation; number in parentheses is text chapter)

  • 1 Introduction: Time & Change (text chapt 1)
  • 2 Principles, Time, and Interpreting the Rock Record (2,4)
  • 3 Mountain Building, Crustal Structure, and Plate Tectonics (7)
  • 4 Plate Models (7)
  • 5 1st_ Order Global Plates (7)
  • 6 Evolution: Decent with Change (3)
  • 7 Patterns of Life and Fossils (3,9)
  • 8 Stratigraphic Nomenclature and Correlation (4)
  • 9 Depositional Systems Analysis (4)
  • 10 Absolute Time
  • 11 Origin of Earth (6)
  • 12 Origin of Biosphere, Atmosphere, and Hydrosphere (6)
  • 13 Archean Geologic History (8)
  • 14 Proterozoic Geologic History (8)
  • 15 Major Paleozoic Events (10-13)
  • 16Marine Depositional Settings (10-13)
  • 17 Mesozoic Events (14)
  • 18 Continental Deposition (10-13)
  • 19 Cretaceous Cycles, Mountains, and Sequences (14)
  • 20 Tertiary Events, Tectonics, and Sedimentation (15)
  • 21 Pleistocene Glaciation (16)
  • Retrospect (17)
  • Note: A separate lab syllabus will be provided on the first day of lab.

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