January 2021

Geology of the American West

Listed in: Geology, as GEOL-104

Moodle site: Course


Tekla A. Harms (Section 01J)


Iconic and yet dramatically diverse landscapes characterize the western United States, including snow-capped mountain ranges, deep canyons, monuments of stone, geyser fields, and vast lava-capped plateaus - in marked contrast to the more subdued lands to the east. North America is a dynamic, sometimes cataclysmic and sometimes quiescent land with a deep past. In this course, we will focus our attention on the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Columbia Plateau. By placing these parks in their geologic context, students will gain a framework within which the geology of many additional western landscapes can be understood.

No prior study of geology is necessary. Participants in this course will be introduced to fundamental concepts in earth science: rock types and their origins; plate tectonics and crustal dynamics; weathering, glaciation and the carving of landscapes; sea level rise and fall; measuring geologic time; and reading geologic maps. We will also join the debate surrounding some unresolved problems in western geology by critically assessing cutting-edge data and interpretations. The course will culminate in the joint production of a geologic guidebook for travel to select parts of the west.

This course will be conducted remotely using both synchronous and asynchronous meetings. We will exploit a range of innovative digital resources to bring the west to us for close examination - such as gigapan images and Google Earth - and will use traditional primary and secondary print sources as well.

Not open to students who have completed Geology 111. January term. Professor Harms.


Online Only, Science & Math for Non-majors


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, Spring 2022