Geological Exploration Techniques

Jeannette Wolak,
Tennessee Technological University


This course covers practical techniques for geological exploration, with emphasis on environmental, mining and petroleum industry applications. Surface and subsurface methods are discussed including geological mapping, drilling, core extraction, wireline logging and 2D/3D seismic interpretation.

Course Size:
less than 15

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

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is a junior-senior level course in the earth science curriculum. It counts as a directed elective for students in the following programs of study: geology or environmental geology. Although it does not have pre-requisites, most students elect to take the course close to graduation as it focuses on practical skills for geoscience employment. The class meets three times a week for an hour (lecture component) and once a week for two hours (lab component).

Course Content:

This course focuses on bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for geoscience employment. The first half of the semester is devoted to mining geology; the latter half, petroleum geology.

Course Goals:

  1. Students can integrate multiple datasets from field, lab, drilling, seismic, etc. to answer a geologic question.
  2. Students can identify what types of data may be needed to address a geologic question.
  3. Students can communicate their findings via oral or written presentations.

Course Features:

The course is a hands-on approach to practical skills. Labs address the following basic skillsets: (1) hand sample description; (2) core description; (3) wireline log analysis; (4) 2D/3D seismic analysis.

There are two main projects for the course, both of which use 'live' datasets. For the mining portion, I partner with Gordonsville Zinc Mine (TN) to bring an exploration problem into the classroom. For the petroleum portion, we use data from dGB Earth Sciences OpendTect seismic repository.

Course Philosophy:

I designed this course after working in the petroleum industry prior to teaching. It allows me to bring some of my background into the classroom and to give students an opportunity to work with live data. In my opinion, it bridges a gap between the theoretical knowledge that I focus on in other courses (i.e., sed/strat) and practical application of that knowledge to answer geologic questions. In my experience, students enjoy learning/thinking about the broader implications of their work in disparate fields such as economics, business or sociology. This course gives them a venue to explore those curiosities.


In the lecture component, I use weekly assignments and exams to evaluate student learning. The lab component is based on graded lab exercises and two semester projects.


Syllabus for Geological Exploration Techniques (Acrobat (PDF) 91kB Jun11 14)

References and Notes: