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Geologic Characterization of Your Property
Students will look up an address (either of their choosing or instructor-provided) and assess the geologic characteristics and vulnerability of that location. Students will utilize datasets about geologic issues/hazards to learn more about how different geologic processes affect the location.
This activity focuses on several Earth Science Literacy Principles, specifically big idea 8 "Natural hazards pose risks to humans" and big idea 9 "Humans significantly alter the earth". This activity utilizes spatial thinking, temporal reasoning, geographic location, and systems thinking.
- Engage students by looking at geologic/environmental characteristics and hazards at a particular location
- Introduce students to relevant online data to assess characteristics and hazards at a particular location
- Select and synthesize characteristics and risks specific to the geographic location
- Correlate characteristics and risks at a particular location with larger scale earth processes
- Students will research and describe the geologic/environmental characteristics of a specific location.
- Students will utilize geospatial databases to analyze the characteristics and hazards of a specific location.
- Students will assess characteristics and risks of a specific location.
- Students will evaluate the value of a residential location based on the total sum of geologic/environmental factors and risks at the location.
Context for Use
Type and level of course
Introductory-level Physical Geology, Environmental Geology, or Geologic/Environmental Hazards college course
Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Some concepts and skills that would be helpful in preparation to complete this activity are:
- rock types and their formation
- basic understanding of geologic hazards and their occurrence and causes
- basic understanding of surface and groundwater concepts
- basic map reading skills
How the activity is situated in the course
This activity is used as a culminating learning activity to allow students to apply and synthesize basic concepts and skills. Property addresses can be assigned early in the course and students can consider that locale as they progress through the concepts preparing them for this final activity.
Description and Teaching Materials
Individual Student Activity
In this activity, students will:
- Choose a location to examine geologic/environmental characteristics and hazards;
Either the student's home location or some suggested alternative location (with consultation from the instructor) can be used as a starting point for examination of a variety of characteristics and a number of different hazards.
- Research the location by interacting with relevant online data resources provided in the Resources section of this activity;
- Compile a summary report of geologic/environmental characteristics and hazards/risks for the location, including:
- Bedrock geology and soil types
- Radon hazard potential
- Earthquake occurrence and hazard
- Flood occurrence and hazard
- Volcanic eruptions, hazard, and specific impact
- Mass wasting: hazard and specific impact
- Groundwater issues (aquifers, water availability, subsidence issues, quality, sinkhole potential, karst topography)
- Coastal hazards
- Severe weather potential
- Economic resources and land use (mineral and energy resources and agriculture)
- Toxic hazards (superfund sites, toxic waste concentration, landfills)
Group Work Option
After students have completed the individual part of the assignment (the site assessments), a collaborative (group) work option is also available. The instructor should place students into groups of 4 such that each student in the group examined a different location. The students will work together to evaluate and compare all of their properties, creating a professional style report ranking the value of the properties with consideration of the geologic/environmental assessment of each property.
Example of a completed site assessment for Instructors
- Example of completed individual, online assignment -
Instructors can find documentation of the activities as well as rubrics for students at this location. Rubrics for instructors are compiled under Assessment on this site. Suggestions for teaching and a list of the assessments are found below.
Teaching Notes and Tips
The activity can be implemented entirely in the context of distance learning, with students completing any discussion questions in the form of a blog or discussion group. In a traditional or hybrid classroom setting, students can complete the online unit as an assignment, using class time to address questions and for student presentations (if assigned by the instructor).
Most of the research requires only a web browser.
Making a compilation image may require a basic graphics program such as Paint, or inkscape (free download).
References and Resources
General environmental hazards
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/induced/index.php#2017 (includes human-induced earthquake hazard)
Water Resources and drought/flood hazard
http://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/index.html and txpub.usgs.gov/DSS/streamer/web/
Radon hazard: http://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-state-contact-information
Alabama (includes severe weather and coastal hazards): http://www.gsa.state.al.us/
California: http://resilience.abag.ca.gov/# and http://myhazards.caloes.ca.gov/ and http://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/shzp/Pages/Index.aspx
Florida: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/ and http://floridadisaster.com/ and http://fcit.usf.edu/Florida/maps/galleries/sinkholes/index.php and http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/florida_hazards.htm
North Carolina: http://disastercenter.com/northcar/northcar.htm and http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/energy-mineral-land-resources/north-carolina-geological-survey/geologic-hazards
Oregon: http://www.oregongeology.org/sub/hazvu/ and http://oregongeology.org/gis/index.htm
Pennsylvania (non-technical): http://ramblingintherain.wordpress.com/author/ramblingintherain/
Washington (Seattle): http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/maps/dpdgis.aspx and http://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/hazards-and-plans/hazards