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GEOL-125: Environmental Geology

Images: (left) the Three Gorges Dam, July 2003, (United Nations Environment Programme/Digital Globe);
(center) eruption of Chaitén seen from the city of Chaitén, Chile on May 5, 2008. (Alvaro Vidal/AFP/Getty Images);
(right) the Cattenom nuclear power plant in Lorraine, France (Toucanradio)

Welcome to Environmental Geology!

Nick Bader, Fall 2016

Log into CLEo for more course resources
Quick link to class project site

Nick's office: Hall of Science 150
Office hours: Tuesdays 2:30 - 4 pm (I may be in Science 176)

Wednesdays 1 - 3 pm

Lectures: Hall of Science 116;
Mon/Wed/Fri 10 - 10:50 am
Labs: Hall of Science 140;
Mondays 1 - 3:50 pm

Course description

Like physical geology, environmental geology is the study of the Earth.  Unlike physical geology, environmental geology applies our study to current environmental problems experienced by humans.  As geologists we will travel the world (from our classroom!), exploring structure, materials, patterns, and processes that give us insight into the Earth as a functioning system.  As environmental scientists, we will always return to apply our geological insights to humans and the way we live, dispose of waste, use resources, and consume energy.

What will this class do for you?

I hope this class will allow you to:

  • Converse intelligently about the scientific basis behind controversial environmental issues like climate change, energy and resource use, and pollution
  • Recognize local and regional areas prone to particular geologic hazards like volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and storms
  • Appreciate the amazing and fascinating complexity of the geologic systems that shape our planet

Course structure

Each week, there will be three one-hour lectures and one three-hour laboratory period.  The lectures will cover the various topics in geology, and then apply this information to the study of environmental problems.  Readings in the textbook will supplement the lecture material.  The labs will allow you to learn hands-on techniques for "doing" geology; in lab you will learn to identify rocks and minerals, how to read topographic and geologic maps, and more.  

Course materials

  • Required textbook: Pipkin, Trent, Hazlett, and Bierman, Geology and the Environment, 7e. Belmont, California: Thompson Brooks/Cole, 2008.  Other editions are fine but it is up to you to check the page numbers.
  • Required lab book: Introductory Geology Manual (I will provide this; I will also provide rock and mineral charts).
  • A computer with Google Earth and Excel installed, hopefully in working order.  Let me know if you don't have this.  I would like to be able to do some computer-based activities this semester.
  • Optional: Field notebook for field trips (you will need some kind of field notebook, but the "official" orange or yellow field books are nice to have, you can get them in the bookstore)
  • Optional: 10x hand lens, Hastings Triplet or similar type (useful for geology and botany, and fun!)
  • Optional: Colored pencils and a calculator will be useful for some of the labs.  I will provide some but you may want your own.

Field Trips

We will go on several field trips for this class, held during your regular lab times; see the schedule for the dates.  It is your responsibility to wear appropriate clothing.  I'll leave the definition of "appropriate" up to you, but be sure that you are prepared for bad weather and that your shoes will let you scramble around in the dirt with the rest of us.  Bring sunscreen, drinking water, a notebook and pencil.  You will do well on field trips if you take detailed notes and draw sketches while in the field.

Finding me

I have official office hours when you are most likely to find me in my office in Hall of Science 150.  However, you are welcome to bring questions to my office  whenever the door is open.  You may want to check my schedule for the best times to find me.


I use a standard system for grading based on your percentage of total possible points:

Percentage Grade
97 - 100% A+
93 - 96% A
90 - 92% A-
87 - 89% B+
83 - 86% B
80 - 82% B-
77 - 79% C+
73 - 76% C
70 - 72% C-
67 - 69% D+
63 - 66% D
60 - 62% D-
< 60% F

Exams (45% of the class grade)

There will be four exams, each worth about 11% of the course grade.  Exams will primarily cover material from lecture, although material from your labs can also appear on exams.  The exams are not cumulative, except insofar as understanding material from earlier in the class may be necessary to understand later material.  The first three exams will be held during the lecture periods indicated on the course schedule; the fourth exam will be held during the final exam slot (also on the course schedule).  This time is set by the registrar and is not negotiable.  If circumstances beyond your control force you to miss an exam, please contact me ahead of time by phone, email, or in person to discuss it.

Lab exercises and field trips (35% of the class grade)

Each lab, you will follow a self-contained program designed to introduce you to a particular aspect of geology.  Depending on the lab, you may use the lab period learning to identify rocks and minerals, analyzing stream processes on our stream table, or reading geologic and topographic maps.  Labs are evaluated based on questions or other materials you turn in, and sometimes on lab quizzes testing your understanding of the material.  Unless stated otherwise, lab exercises are due at the end of the lab period in which they were assigned.

Project (20% of the class grade)

Everyone in the class will work on an environmental geology project.  Your job will be to write the geological portion of an environmental impact statement.  You can read about the project in detail here.


I do not enforce your attendance in lecture.  However, there is no question that you will do better in this class if you come to the lectures.  Exams will primarily draw on material that we discuss in lectures.  Attendance in lab is required in order to get credit for your lab work; if you cannot attend a scheduled lab for any reason, please talk to me beforehand and if possible I will provide you with the materials you will need to complete the lab on your own time.

Late work

Assignments can be handed in late, but you will lose points for each day the assignment is late as shown below. I understand that sometimes unexpected obstacles arise, so everyone gets one “pass” for a two-day extension — just let me know when you need to use it. Obviously, I can no longer accept late work after I turn in grades following final exams.  If you have special circumstances that prevent you from turning in an assignment, contact me ahead of time to discuss it.

Less than one day late: -5%
One to two days late: -15%
Two to three days late: -25%
Three days to one week late: -35%
More than one week late: -45%

Course calendar

View this calendar in other formats

If you use Google Calendar, you can view these events in your own calendar.  Just click the button at the bottom right of the calendar.  You will be offered access to two calendars; one called "Environmental Geology" with most of the course events, and a second calendar called "Bader - all classes" that includes office hours and special events.

If you want a schedule suitable for printing, you may click here to download a pdf.  Warning: our schedule may change during this semester, rendering the pdf version obsolete.  The Google calendar will remain up-to-date and should be your primary reference.