Natural Disasters and Earth Resources

Mathieu Richaud
CSU - Fresno


Processes and materials that produce the different geologic resources and hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, landslides). Plate tectonic theory. Emphasizes the relationship between geology and humans.

Course Type: Intro Level Geologic Hazards
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:
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. Typically, >80% of the students take the course to satisfy a general education requirement. 10-15% take it to satisfy elementary science teachers curriculum in the Natural Sciences. Only a few percent become geology majors after taking the class. The course has a mandatory lab. Students who decide to major in geology must take subsequent courses in physical geology.

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:

The Earth Science course focuses on Geology and also covers topics in Oceanography and Planetary Geology and it includes 1 field trip to Yosemite National Park. Students make observations and interpretations during the field experience. The field trip is worth a few bonus points and mostly interested or outdoorsy people take it.

Course Goals:

  1. Familiarity with the scientific method and forming and testing hypotheses.
  2. An understanding of what Earth is composed of, from atoms to minerals to rocks, to the overall structure of the planet.
  3. An understanding of the theory of plate tectonics and how it explains much of the geologic record, as well as earthquake and volcanic hazards.
  4. A grasp of geologic hazards, how to arrange your life so as to minimize them, and what to do when they strike.
  5. An understanding that Earth provides many resources that permit civilization to function. Most of these are non–renewable. Furthermore, their extraction and/or use can severely alter local areas or in some cases the entire earth system.

Course Features:

No capstone project.


Multiple choice and short essays, done as take-home exams.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 56kB Nov24 08)

Teaching Materials:

Exam 1 - Fall 08 (Acrobat (PDF) 149kB Nov24 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: Earth, portrait of a planet by Stephen Marshack
This new text uses Google Earth to show geologic landscapes, features and has lots of double-page illustrations.
We also use an in-house lab manual.