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University of Minnesota GEO 1002: Earth History

Course web page by Dr. David Fox - Starting Point page by R. Teed (SERC)
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Dr. David Fox
, http://www.geo.umn.edu/people/profs/FOX.html ,
Dr. David Fox

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This Earth history class is intended for non-geoscience majors and follows a chronological structure, starting with the Big Bang and finishing in the anthropogenic period.

Abridged from the syllabus: This course is an introduction to the history of the Earth and its life over the last 4.6 billion years. The story of the ever changing Earth and its inhabitants is written in the rocks that make up the Earth, the fossils of past life forms found in those rocks, and the diversity of life on Earth today. To read this story, we will first learn some of the basic language and principles used by geologists, paleontologists, and biologists to describe and understand the history of our planet. Key concepts include Earth materials, depositional environments, the geological timescale, plate tectonics, and evolutionary theory. In the rest of the course, we will use these basic principles to examine the evolution of life in the context of the tectonic and climatic history of the Earth. Topics in the history of life will include the earliest evidence for life, the Cambrian explosion, the origin of ecosystems on land, life in the time of the dinosaurs, and the evolution of mammals, including humans. Throughout the course we will touch on the historical development of the fundamental ideas of modern geology and biology. The laboratory will provide additional information and exercises to reinforce understanding of the basic principles, processes, and historical patterns discussed in lecture.

Course Context:

GEO 1002 is a physical science lab course designed for undergraduate non-majors.

Course Goals:

This course will enable you as the student to:
  • Understand science is a way of viewing and explaining the world around us and is a social and historical process, not simply a collection of "facts" handed down by people older or deader than you.
  • Learn some of the basic principles and techniques and unifying theories of Earth science and evolutionary biology.
  • Understand that the Earth is far more dynamic than our short attention spans allow us to recognize easily and that the more things change, the less they are like they used to be.
  • Learn some of the details of the history of the Earth and its life forms
  • Turn you all into Geology and Geophysics majors.

Course Content:

The course goes from the Big Bang to the present day. It stresses orogeny, evolution, the early atmosphere, and climate change and uses stratigraphy to unite the disparate topics of the course.

Teaching Materials:

The web site contains syllabi, all of the lecture notes for the course, the homework handouts, keys and study guides to the exams, notes about logisitics, and a list of helpful links.


30% of the grade is based on labs, the rest is based on homework and on exams.

References and Notes:

This fairly complete website is a useful model for anyone developing an Earth History course with a systems approach. The only information about the labs is their titles, and little is written about the field trip. The text, Stanley's Stanley, 1999 , is very complete.