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Environmental Geology

GLG 130

Environmental Geology

GLG 130

Course Description

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: READING LEVEL 2 and WRITING LEVEL 2 and MATH LEVEL 2.

Introduces geology as it relates to human activities, and is designed for both non-science majors and students interested in an environmental career. Emphasizes geologic hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, mass movements, and pollution of water and soil resources. Examines waste disposal along with related topics in medical geology and environmental law. Optional field trip(s) to waste disposal sites and/or remediation sites. (45-30)

Outcomes and Objectives

Explain the two individual components of environmental geology and the place of humans as agents of geologic change.

Objectives:

  • Define and distinguish between geology and environmental geology.
  • Explain how environmental geology encompasses some of the goals of both physical and historical geology.
  • Describe the scientific method.
  • Discuss the role humans play in changing the geologic environment.
  • Recognize the Earth is a unique, closed system.
  • Explain why there is no place to dispose of things without affecting something else.

Describe various types of generated waste and how to properly dispose of each variety.

Objectives:

  • Define solid waste, liquid waste, hazardous waste, and radioactive waste.
  • Draw and label the major components of a sanitary landfill.
  • Discuss the geologic factors necessary for an effective landfill.
  • Explain how municipal liquid waste is remediated, including primary and secondary treatment.
  • Identify the leading generators of waste by industry.
  • Compare and contrast disposal of liquid hazardous waste vs. radioactive waste.
  • Discuss proposed ways to dispose of radioactive waste.
  • Describe how agriculture contributes to hazardous waste.

Explain the principle of uniformitarianism and other fundamental theories of geology.

Objectives:

  • Explain uniformitarianism and catastrophism.
  • Explain the rock cycle and the driving force behind the process.
  • Define igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.
  • Classify and name 10-20 basic rocks on the basis of their physical properties.
  • Describe and identify the major components of the hydrologic cycle.
  • Identify the two major reservoirs of fresh water.
  • Explain what drives the hydrologic cycle.
  • Compare and contrast the three types of plate tectonic boundaries.
  • Draw and label a schematic diagram of each type of boundary.
  • Explain the mechanism thought to drive plate tectonics.
  • Discuss why volcanoes and earthquakes often occur in lines or arcs on the Earth.
  • Explain likely plate tectonic settings for each of the major rock types.

Describe volcanic landforms, volcanic hazards, and ways to minimize potential volcanic damages.

Objectives:

  • Compare and contrast the three types of volcanoes and give examples of each.
  • Describe the two major types of lava and why the viscosity of lava can vary.
  • Compare and contrast volcanic occurrences at subduction zones, spreading centers, and hotspots.
  • List and describe four hazards associated with volcanic eruptions.
  • Differentiate primary volcanic hazards from secondary hazards.

Describe mass-wasting processes and the driving forces behind each type, including triggering mechanisms.

Objectives:

  • Compare and contrast the two basic types of mass-wasting processes.
  • List and explain factors that influence landslides and mass-wasting.
  • List and explain four events that can trigger mass-wasting.
  • Describe the process of landslide hazard assessment.
  • Compare and contrast slides vs. slumps.
  • Compare and contrast falls vs. flows.

Explain the common causes of flooding and how human activities have altered flood patterns.

Objectives:

  • Draw and label the morphological features of a river system.
  • Summarize the common factors that cause flooding.
  • Define flood stage.
  • Explain how stream stage is measured.
  • Construct and interpret a flood frequency curve given a set of data.
  • Explain how channelization and urbanization can contribute to flash floods and/or higher floods.
  • Describe the effects urbanization has on stream hydrographs.
  • Describe how tsunamis and hurricanes can cause flooding.
  • List four ways flooding hazards can be prevented.

Describe earthquakes, seismic waves, and earthquake hazards related to the proximity to plate boundaries.

Objectives:

  • Describe the relationship between earthquakes and tectonic plate boundaries.
  • Explain the elastic rebound theory.
  • Compare and contrast earthquake occurrence at the three types of plate boundaries.
  • Evaluate the possibility of earthquake occurrence given appropriate historical information about fault movement.
  • Contrast three types of seismic waves.
  • Explain the operation of a seismograph.
  • Determine the epicenter of an earthquake, given time-travel curves and three seismograms.
  • Compare and contrast the Mercalli and Richter scales.
  • Describe five hazards from earthquakes.
  • Explain the basis of long-term and short-term earthquake predictions.
  • Describe the difficulties associated with making earthquake predictions.
  • Compare and contrast P and S wave behavior in the Earth's interior.
  • Relate body wave behavior to the internal structure of the Earth.

Describe current and historic usage of energy resources, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, wood, and solar energy.

Objectives:

  • Define fossil fuel and alternative energy.
  • Draw and describe three ways that oil and natural gas is trapped in rocks.
  • Identify the U.S. distribution of various fossil fuels, including coal and oil shale.
  • List problems or limitations of geothermal energy, nuclear power, solar energy, and wind energy.
  • Discuss environmental problems associated with burning fossil fuels, including acid rain and global warming.
  • Explain how U.S. energy consumption and sources have changed since 1870.

Explain soil formation factors and classify soils according to established systems.

Objectives:

  • Classify unknown soil samples based on the USCS and USDA systems.
  • Compare and contrast the major soil horizons.
  • Explain the five factors that influence soil formation.
  • Discuss methods to prevent soil loss and increase agricultural productivity.
  • Contrast chemical vs. physical weathering processes.

Describe the differences and similarities between ground water processes and surface water processes, applying the knowledge to problems of water pollution and overuse.

Objectives:

  • Compare and contrast porosity and permeability of various sediments.
  • Draw a diagram showing the water table, unsaturated zone, and saturated zone.
  • Describe how ground water moves, why it moves, and how fast it moves.
  • Compare and contrast an aquifer and an aquiclude.
  • Explain the causes of artesian pressure.
  • Explain the two major effects of ground water overuse.
  • State four sources of ground water pollution.
  • State four ways to remediate ground water.
  • Define point and nonpoint sources of pollution.
  • Compare and contrast active vs. passive remediation.
  • Compare and contrast prior appropriation vs. riparian rights.