Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Environmental and Applied Geology

Environmental and Applied Geology

Kate Scharer
, Appalachian State University


Standard hazards and resources geology course. I continually emphasize physics and chemical processes that drive geologic outcomes, make students do a bit of math, and always incorporate current events.

Course URL: restricted access
Course Type:
Entry Level Environmental Geology

Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture is taught by the professor and the lab is taught by TAs.

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites. The vast majority of the students are non-science majors and take this to satisfy general education requirements. The course is linked to a 2 hour/week lab taught by other faculty. Starting next year, students taking this course can proceed into the major without backtracking.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no

Course Content:

Approximately 2/3 of this course focuses on geologic hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and flooding. We explore the physics that control these hazards, historic examples, and how humans and the landscape are affected by these hazards. The final third of the course focuses on resources and waste: how humans manage each and what the future might hold.

Course Goals:

I want students to:
-Have a basic knowledge of geologic process and complexity of geologic systems
-Be exposed to geologic constraints on modern issues (esp. climate change)
-Have confidence to explore scientific side of current events
-Solve a simple equation that addresses physical process
-Gain experience with hazard maps that they may encounter in future (flood map, slope stability map, etc.)

Course Features:

The lecture is fairly traditional; however I do short in-class experiments, pre-tests, and brief group discussions to engage students and get them more comfortable with asking questions. The lab is a critical part of achieving the goals. Our lab is taught by faculty that have all worked together to develop labs that are linked to typical subjects in a hazards/resources lecture. The students take a walking field trip of local creek and review data collected by research and we also go on an afternoon field trip to local mass wasting sites. Two example activities for this course are Simple Landslide Demo and Pop Bottle Hydrograph.


Exams, personal interaction, course assessments

References and Notes:

Course readings:
Environmental Geology, Montgomery
Selected by department committee.
1103 Lab Manual; developed and written by Geology Department
Because geology department faculty (not TA's) teach the lab, we all felt we could do better than commercially available lab manuals. This allowed us to include exercises based on our/local data sets and expertise.
Selected chapters from "Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of Americas Fresh Waters" by Robert Glennon
Documentary film on dam failure, "Buffallo Creek Disaster" by Appalshop.

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