Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Geology and Geophysics 1001, Summer 2002
Course Syllabus


Marshall Bartlett, 709 William Browning Building (WBB)
e-mail:, phone: 581-3588


Theories of the structure and motions of the earth are as old as civilization. In the forty years since 1960, the earth sciences have undergone a radical transformation. What were once a number of disparate disciplines based on the observation and cataloging of facts related to the earth have become a well integrated and strongly verified (while still incomplete) theory of how the earth works.

This course will engage you, the student, as a scientist. Our goal is to empower you to think and do science. We will use the earth as our playground for the construction and understanding of the process of how science is done.

We will begin by constructing a unified theory of the earth based on our own observations of data about the earth. With a theory of how the earth works in hand, we will then examine what our theory can tell us about two of the earth's more violent processes: earthquakes and volcanoes. We will attempt to answers questions such as:

    1. Can we predict these events? Why or why not?
    2. Why do such events occur where they do and not at other places on the planet?
    3. How do these events influence the lives of people and cultures around them?
    4. Are these events unique to our planet or do they occur elsewhere as well?
    5. What are the energetic of such events? How much energy is released when the earth moves?

The course will be largely descriptive in nature; no mathematics will be needed beyond relatively simple arithmetic calculations and a little algebra. The course will also emphasize the contributions to the earth sciences of many different disciplines and the integrated nature of modern scientific endeavor. The value of science as a thread in the larger human discourse will also be emphasized. Students will be expected to make and record scientific observations, make interpretations of these observations, and share and debate the relative merits of different interpretations of the available data.

Geo1001 is a Science Foundation course.

Goals and Learning Objectives

  1. To gain an understanding of the role of the earth sciences in the lives of people and the development of cultures.
  2. To overcome science anxiety in students and to engage students in the scientific process.
  3. To gain an understanding of how science is done and why, including observations, hypothesis, theory, and validation.
  4. To improve written, oral, and visual communication skills.

Structure of the Course

The course is based around two class periods per week. Approximately half of the lecture periods will be narrative (traditional), and half will be based around student discussions, interactions, and hands on projects. Attendance is expected at all class periods.

In addition to lectures, the course will consist of homework assignments intended to augment and enrich the material covered in class. Two types of home assignments will be given: semiweekly writing assignments often involving Internet research, and daily reading assignments for the following class period. All homework will focus on adding new dimensions to the material presented during lecture, rather then repetitive exercise intended to teach a specific skill. Material from the homework assignments is part of the course and will be fair game on examinations.

One midterm will be given. This will be a closed book, in-class examination. Since we feel that exams should foster as well as measure learning, students will be given an opportunity to resubmit answers they missed on the midterm exam using all available resources for half credit. The final exam will be closed book and comprehensive. Solutions to exam questions will be discussed in class.

A semester project will be expected of each student. The project will consist of documenting all the seismic and volcanic activity occurring world wide during the course of the class and interpreting this data for what it can tell us about the earth. Information on the semester project will be handed out the first week of the course.

Class requirements:

  1. Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:15-10:45 A.M. in Room EMCB 103
  2. Problem sets: One assignment about every two weeks (five total). Assignments will involve Internet based research and require 3-4 hours per assignment.
  3. Midterm Exam, Thursday July 11th, 2002
  4. Semester Project: Due the final day of class, August 6th, 2002
  5. Final exam: August 8-9 (TBA)

Textbooks: Volcanoes by Decker and Decker, Earthquakes by Bolt, other materials available on the Internet.

Class web site:

Grading Policy: The course grade is based on the following weights:

  1. Final Exam 30%
  2. Midterm Exam 20%
  3. Problems 30%
  4. Semester Project 20%

Final marks will be awarded based on the final percentage (calculated from the weightings above) converted to a letter grade according to the following straight scale:


Important Dates for Geo1001 during Summer 2002

  1. Tuesday, May 21st - Class begins!
  2. Monday, May 27th - Memorial Day Holiday
  3. Wednesday, May 29th - Last day to drop classes without a tuition penalty
  4. Friday, June 28th - Last day to withdraw from class
  5. Thursday, July 4th - Independence Day Holiday
  6. Wednesday, July 24th - Pioneer Day Holiday
  7. Tuesday, August 6th - Last day of classes!
  8. Thursday & Friday, August 8-9 - Final Exams

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that reasonable accommodations be provided for students with physical, cognitive, learning and psychiatric disabilities. Please contact the instructor of this course at the beginning of the semester to discuss accommodations for this course.