Structural Geology

Jamie Levine

Whitman College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


This course is an upper-level structural geology course with a focus on understanding stress, strain, the formation of geologic structures, and 3-D visualization.

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Course Context:

This is an upper-level geology course with prerequisites of introductory geology and sed/strat or geomorphology. The course has a required 3-hour lab and 1 required field trip.

Course Goals:

  • Students should be able to read and interpret geologic maps as well as construct cross-sections that represent a 3-dimensional interpretation of a geologic map
  • Students should be able to distinguish between stress and strain and how they are related to structures seen in the field, in hand sample, and under the microscope
  • Students should be proficient with a Brunton compass, understand the types of measurements you can make with a compass and be able to translate those measurements onto geologic maps and use stereonets for data interpretation
  • Students should be able to analyze the fundamental types of structures (faults, folds, foliation, lineation, joints, shear zones...), in terms of their environment of formation, and the mechanics of how they form
  • Students should be able to write a structural history, combining observations from geologic maps, interpretations from cross-sections and relying on cross-cutting relationships and relative age constraints

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

At the beginning of the semester students spend a week during lecture learning to interpret geologic maps and the first 2 labs are geologic map interpretation exercises. The latter half of the semester in lab is spent on cross-section construction. Students spend considerable time learning to interpret geologic maps and this ability is ultimately assessed with their cross-sections.
Throughout the course the students have opportunities to analyze hand samples, images of structures and approximately one day a week there is a hands-on activity in-class to aid in understanding the formation of structures.

Skills Goals

3-dimensional visualization
working in groups

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

In-class, students spent time hypothesizing or discussing how particular structures formed, or predicting what would happen in experiments. By listening in to group discussions, it was clear when students were dominating discussions or were not participating. Geologic map interpretation and cross-section construction require 3-dimensional visualization, and this was assessed primarily through lab exercises, including cross-section construction.



Structural Geology Fall 2011 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB May4 12)