Initial Publication Date: December 9, 2016

Phillip G. Resor: Using GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes in Structural Geology at Wesleyan University

About this Course

Semster-long core course for the Earth and Environmental Science majors

Two 80-minute meetings and 3-hour lab

Four-year college

Resor's Structural Geology (E&ES 223) syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 1.8MB Nov23 16)

Using Earthquake Cycle Deformation and Earthquake Hazards to Teach Strain to Undergraduate Majors

My course is one of several core courses that students can choose from when completing the Earth and Environmental Science major at Wesleyan. The course integrates field and laboratory exercises, quantitative analyses, and readings from the primary literature to teach students about rock deformation and its importance to a variety of societally relevant problems. I taught the GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes module about midway through the course after students had been introduced to concepts of deformation, mapping and measurement of geologic structures, and quantification of stress. The connections to earthquakes and earthquake hazards really animated our class discussions throughout the module.

My students were surprised by the magnitudes of static ground displacements associated with the Great Tohoku Earthquake. This opening activity provided a great hook and motivated students throughout the module.

My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials

I used the materials as designed, but because my class meets twice a week for 80 minutes I split Unit 2 between the first and second meetings. I dedicated entire 80-minute sessions to Units 4, 5, and 6, which allowed for more discussion and in-class work on these units.

Relationship of GETSI Materials to My Course

My course is 13 weeks long and the module was taught in weeks 8 and 9. Prior to the module students were introduce to qualitative description of deformation, field mapping, description of faults and fault zones, stress and rock strength. Students applied the module materials later in the course to fold-thrust belts and in their final projects investigating a geologic structure of their choice.


Students were assessed in a formative way by the work they did throughout the module. Summative assessments included the final project calculations, presentations, and slides. I also included questions on their exam based on interpretation of deformation from schematic velocity vectors (similar to Unit 2 figures) and an example from Vancouver Island that included strain quantification (1D) as well as descriptive and hazard analysis.


I envisioned students using this module to not only learn how we calculate strain from displacements (or strain rates from velocities) but to appreciate why we might want to do this. The student's enthusiasm for and execution of their final projects indicated that the module was a success.