Environmental Geology

Suki Smaglik

Central Wyoming College,
Two Year College


Environmental geology is the study of the interactions between humans and their geologic environment: rocks, water, air, soil, life. Humans are impacted by Earth processes, and by their activities have an impact on Earth. This introductory-level course will use physical geologic principles (rocks, minerals and plate tectonics) as a foundation for the study of these environmental interactions. This course will explore issues relating to these interactions: natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, storms; natural resources including water, soil and energy; climate change; human population; pollution and environmental policies. Laboratory exercises will apply geologic principles to environmental problems. Prerequisites: MATH 1000 and ENGL 1010, or above. Field Trip required. 4 cr. (3 lect., 3 lab)

Course URL: https://www.cwc.edu/faculty/suki-smaglik/
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an introductory course, with prerequisites of college-level Math and English because this course is writing and math intensive. It is designed specifically as a requirement for an AS program in Environment, Health and Safety - Environmental Technician (EHS-ET), although it is open to any student as a General Education Lab Science requirement. Around 80% of the students are in the EHS-ET program, ~10% are Earth Science Majors and ~10% are taking the course to satisfy their Lab Science requirement. The course format is an integrated lab and lecture that meets twice per week for three hours. Field labs and a full-day field trip are required. This course is a Transfer Equivalent to University of Wyoming course GEOL 1500, and satisfies the introductory geology course requirement at the university.

Course Goals:

In order to successfully complete this course, students must:

A. Demonstrate an understanding of fundamental geological processes:

  1. Define the main geologic, petrologic, tectonic and geomorphologic processes involving crustal rocks;
  2. Identify and classify rocks (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary) and to read and interpret geologic maps and sections;
  3. Explain the reason for the natural abundances of important chemical elements and compounds in natural environments (air, water, soils, rocks);
  4. Diagram the migration of the elements within the main natural environments (biogeochemical cycles);
  5. Demonstrate knowledge of basic hydrologic principles, the significance of water and the implications of global water use;
  6. Explain the nature and causes of air and water pollution, especially the impact of the movement of pollutants;
  7. Evaluate the geology of energy sources and economic considerations;
  8. Compare the nature of geological hazards, and their impact on society;

B. Apply scientific laws and principles to new situations:

  1. Identify environmental problems and apply geologic principles to solving those problems;
  2. Exercise thoughtful judgment in decisions relating to the environment, resources, and society as a whole;
  3. Demonstrate an ability to use math and metrics to analyze environmental issues;
  4. Acquire and synthesize data needed to apply science to the needs of society;
  5. Analyze system dynamics of geologic systems and understand how geologists use temporal and spatial relations to interpret system;
  6. Demonstrate awareness of competing concerns (including economic, social, & biological tradeoffs) that arise in environmental geologic decision-making;
  7. Develop the ability to extract knowledge from published studies and communicate it in a professional manner via formal writing assignments and oral presentations;

C. Assess the human impact on natural environments:

  1. Comprehend the impact of human population growth on the global environment;
  2. Understand potential impacts of natural geologic events on society and some of the potential impacts of human activities on our environment;
  3. Illustrate the connection between water and human health;
  4. Describe the role, of human activities and natural variability in controlling climate apply geologic techniques for analyzing climate history and understand how geologists define the climate history;
  5. Apply scientific methods and knowledge in making and evaluating decisions in human affairs;
  6. Recognize the limitations of science in addressing certain societal problems.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Course activities and course structure are directly aligned to the above objectives. Student success in achieving the objectives are assessed by writing assignments, online quizzes and in-class written examination.

Skills Goals

Student Attributes: Central Wyoming College wants students completing course work to possess particular student attributes. (For definitions of attributes, see p. 6 of CWC 2011-2013 Catalog). This course contributes the following toward attaining these attributes.
A. Critical Thinking: GEOL 1470 students are required to formulate and submit critical thinking questions weekly. They are also required to analyze and synthesize data collected in laboratory settings and to draw appropriate conclusions regarding the nature of the experiment.
B. Self-directed learning: GEOL 1470 students must direct their learning of
course materials by establishing a learning strategy, based on options provided by the instructor. The instructor provides a framework for learning, while students build the necessary steps for their own success in the course.
C. Communication: GEOL 1470 students learn to communicate using both written and oral formats. Team-building exercises provide students the ability to communicate and work in a group. Student teams will lead class discussions for the last third of the course.
D. Technological literacy: GEOL 1470 students use the technology of the
Internet to acquire necessary course materials. Laboratory problems maybe computer-based. Computer software is used by students to analyze data and produce written reports.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

See explanations above.

Attitudinal Goals

To excite the student about the world around us and to help the student gain a better understanding of the way Earth works.
To explain geology in an integrated scientific format that allows the student to develop critical thinking skills.
To help the student understand why science is important and how the scientific method can be applied to their lives.
To encourage the student to become an informed and responsible citizen of the planet.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

These attitudinal goals are assessed by in-class discussion and writing assignments, as well as online discussion forums.


Homework 20% Includes writing assignments, pre-lab work, TMYN, etc.
In-class work: 25% Includes labs and other unannounced in-class work
Exams: 25% Four exams of various value.
Quizzes: 10% Questions on readings, given each week
M&A 10% Motivation & Attitude – includes attendance.
Total: 100%
Instructional Methodology: Hybrid Online & Classroom: Interactive Lecture/Discussion,
Guided Inquiry Activities, Applied Geology Exercises, Field Trip(s).


GEOL 1470 Environmental Geology - Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 2.8MB May20 12)