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 Field Geology I  posted by  boym   on 2/20/2008  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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12.114 Field Geology I

Fall 2005

Student measuring strike and dip.
A student demonstrates the technique for measuring the strike and dip of geological features in the field with a Brunton compass. (Image courtesy of Mariela Perignon and Ben Crosby.)

Course Highlights

This course features lecture notes slide shows and lab exercises in preparation for geology field camp.

Course Description

The course provides students with (1) an introduction to the geologic history of western North America, with particular emphasis on our field camp location and (2) an introduction to both digital and traditional techniques of geological field study. The weather permitting, several weekend field exercises provide practical experience in preparation for Field Geology II (12.115). It presents introductory material on the regional geology of the locale of 12.115.

Special Features




Structure of Earth Materials (12.108) or permission of instructor.


Structural Geology (12.113)


The course focuses on three fundamental topics, each expanded below.

Traditional Geologic Mapping Techniques

  1. Locating your self on the Map
    • Orienting the Map with Respect to your Look-direction
    • Reading Contours and Topography (at various scales)
    • Using the Brunton Compass for Triangulation
    • Distance, Height and Pace Approximation
  2. Rapid Collection and Plotting of Planar and Linear Structural Data in the Field
    • Strike and Dip
    • Trend and Plunge
    • Rake/Pitch
    • Identifying Bedding or other Features vs. Foliation, Avoiding Float
    • Up Indicators (Paleochans, Trace Fossils, Sole Marks, x-bedding, Turbs)
  3. Effective use of a Field Notebook
    • Organization/Clarity
    • Sketching
      • Visualization/3-D Geometry/Cartooning/Block Diagram
      • Conceptual, Creative Playground
      • Hypothesis Generation and Testing
      • Communication of Concepts to others
    • Distinctions between Observation and Interpretation
    • A Memory Resource: your Daily Record
  4. Working with Rocks
    • Hammer, Hand Lens, Magnet, Acid, etc.
    • Classification Schemes for Different Rocks (Mineralogical, Genetic, Textural,...)
  5. Creating and Working with Geologic Maps
    • Measuring Unit Thickness off a Map
    • How to Deal with Covered Sections or Regions Outside the Field Area
    • Recognizing Lateral and Temporal Classification of Formations that have Huge Lateral Extent...How to Differentiate
    • Contacts
      • Faults: Type, Displacement, Shear Sense Indicators, etc.
      • Paraconformity, Unconformity, Conformable, etc.
      • How to Recognize them in Maps, How to Draw them
    • Creating Cross Sections on Maps
      • Topographic Profile
      • Projection of Structures Onto Line
      • Apparent Dip Calculation
      • What Happens at Depth
  6. Mental Concepts for the Field
    • Not just collecting data for data's sake but continuously reevaluating your working hypothesis...iteratively deciding where your next stop should be, what data you need to collect in order to test your hypothesis.
    • Synthesis: Linking Disparate Observations Together

Digital Tools for Geologic Mapping

  1. Knowing GIS: Tools for Making Maps in the Office
    • ESRI Arc Applications
    • Loading, Creating, Editing and Visualizing Various Forms of Data
      • Points, Lines, Polygons, Rasters
    • Organizing Files into an Efficient Directory Structure
    • Creating Final Maps: Legends, Colors, Symbology, Printing
  2. Knowing iPAQ Handheld Computers: Mapping Tools for the Field
    • iPAQ Basics: Power, Data Storage, Care, Transferring Data, Charging
    • ArcPad GIS Application
      • Loading and Displaying Base-map Data
      • Map Manipulation: Panning, Zooming, Turning Layers On/Off
      • Activating and Troubleshooting the GPS
  3. "Rocksmith" Application: An Extension within ArcPad for Geologic Mapping
    • Sherman's Help Documentation
    • Installing and Running the Application
    • Collecting Point, Line and Polygon Data

Preparation of a Compact Field Manual

  1. Goal: Create a Short (< 30p), Compact Field Manual Serving 2 Proposes:
    • Summarizing Clark's Western U.S. Geology Lectures into Field Notes
      • Schematic Maps, x-Sections and Strat. Columns through Time
      • A Time-line of Tectonic Events Effecting the Western U.S.
    • Tip-Sheets Regarding Fundamental Geologic Concepts and Terms
      • Well-Drafted, Well-Annotated Diagrams for Fundamental Concepts
        • Lithologic and Structural Symbology, Rock Classification, Geologic Timescale, etc.

Rationale for Digital Mapping

  • Map Compilation/Publication Stalled by Traditional, Hand Made Methods.
  • Semester two does not require much effort as map is finalized in the field.
  • Office map left at camp in traditional geology, digital everyone gets a fresh map daily.


Labs - 100%


1 Organizational Meeting Organizational Meeting  
2   Field: Beavertail (Map Skills, Compass, Notebooks, Sketches, 3-D Visualization, x-Sections, Columns, Organization)  
3 Introduction to Field Camp and Geologic Mapping Map and Brunton Skills: Map Location/Orientation, S/D, T/P, Triangulation, Data Symbology, Distance Estimates Lab 1 out
4 North American Geologic History: ~2 billion to ~340ma: Passive Margin to Antler Orogeny Introduction to GIS: Concept, Software Applications, Data Types, Data Creation/Editing, Labuser Accounts Lab 2 out
5   Making Geologic Maps: Georeferencing, Tracing Points, Lines, Polygons, Working with Layers of Data Lab 3 out
6 North American Geologic History: ~340ma to ~250ma: Antler Orogeny to Permian Reading and Interpreting Geologic Maps: Structural and Lithologic Symbology, Columns, x-Sections  
7 North American Geologic History: ~250ma to ~present: Permian to Present Finalizing A Digital Geologic Map: Integration of Disparate Line Data into Polygons, Legend, Colors, Layout Lab 4 out
8 Introduction to Detachment Faults and Southwestern North America 3-D Visualization Exercises: Draping Geology, Rule of V's, x-Sections and Block Diagrams from Geologic Maps Lab 5 out
9 Tertiary Extension in the Colorado River Region iPAQs and Mapsmith: Device Issues, GPS, ArcPad, Mapping Tools  
10 Big Maria Fold and Thrust Belt Working with Rocks: Identification, Classification, Hammers, Hand Lenses, Acid, Magnets etc.  
11 Tectonic Context Exerts Control on Later Structures iPAQs Mapping Exercise: Trial Run with Devices  
12 Fast Extension in the Buckskin Mountains Reconnaissance Work for Field Area, GIS, Regional Maps, Structural, Stratigraphic and Logistical Expectations  
13 Magmatism, Extension and Our Field Area Field Preparation: Technical and Logistic Planning, Ironing out the Bugs   Tell A Friend