Planet Earth's Geological Environment, GEOL 101

Klaus Neumann,
Ball State University


Planet Earth's Geological Environment gives a general introduction into geology, and, building on that initial information, examines geologic hazards that affect human beings. This natural science core course consists of lecture and an independent, yet related and mandatory laboratory.

Course Type: Intro Level Environmental Geology
Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in separate lecture and lab components. 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 that is part of the University's core curriculum. There are no prerequisites and previous knowledge of geology is not necessary, but the course will build on high school level science that is required by university admission. The lab is mandatory. Most students take the course to fulfill core curriculum science requirements. Less than 10% of the students are interested in a major in sciences.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no
Due to changes in the University curriculum, we can not make an intro and core curriculum course mandatory. We also do not have enough declared majors at the freshman level to fill a majors-only intro course.
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:

General introduction to geology, with focus on geology relevant to humans such as hazards, energy resources and climate. Labs cover minerals and rocks, maps, and geologic hazards. Tsunami assignment is an example of an activity used in this course.

Course Goals:

Students will have a basic understanding of plate tectonics and the inner structure of earth. Based on this, they will be able to understand the distribution and mechanisms of volcanoes and earthquakes.
Students will understand the physical principles of geologic hazards such as land slides and floods, as well as possible remedies (e.g. engineering-based).
Students will be able to understand the source, rate of formation and rate of use, and the limitation of natural resources.

Course Features:

There is no "capstone" exercise for this intro course. Throughout lectures and exercise I try to establish as many as possible local and personal connections to make geology look relevant to the students' current and future life.

Course Philosophy:

Major changes in course design are difficult as this class is taught each semester by several faculty and a certain degree of similarity has to be maintained. This is especially important since the labs are taught by TAs and are not separated by class.


Traditionally, multiple choice exams in class and practical/applied exams in the labs. More comprehensive written exams would be better but are impractical due to class size.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 95kB May7 08)

Teaching Materials:

See the activities sheet for a tsunami writing assignment used in this course.

References and Notes:

Course text: Introduction to Environmental Geology, Keller
Unlike physical geology books, it focuses on more applied topics such as hazards and natural resources. Supporting materials and web site is good.

We use a lab manual that is produced in-house. It covers only what is covered in lab, and is much cheaper ($7) than commercial lab books.
When possible I give reading assignments covering current geologic events.