Physical Geology

Physical Geology


Summer 2011
05/23/2011 - 08/08/2011

Course Information

Section 003
MW 08:00 - 09:55
RGC1 108
Clover Clamons

Section 003
MW 10:05 - 12:00
RGC1 108
Clover Clamons

Office Hours

No office hours have been entered for this term

Section Information

Section:             28005 (003)

Lecture:            M/W 8:00 - 9:55 a.m., Room 108, Rio Grande Campus

Lab:                   M/W 10:05 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., Room 108, Rio Grande Campus

instructor Information

Professor:         Courtney Clover Clamons, P.G.

Office Hours:    Mondays & Wednesdays

                          12:30 -2:00 p.m. in RGC Adjunct Faculty Office (Room 106)

                          See me or email me to schedule a conference outside of regular office hours

Voicemail:        512-223-1790 x26684

E-mail:     (Email is the best way to reach me)

Course Subjects


Physical geology is the study of the Earth system, minerals, rocks, geological processes, structural geology, plate tectonics, geologic time, geological processes, and landforms. This course is designed to give a basic understanding of geology and geological techniques for both geology and non-geology majors. A Saturday field trip is required.



One year of high school science. Reading and math proficiency as proven by passing score on Texas Success Initiative (TSI) testing, or being TSI exempt.



This course is designed to give a basic understanding of geology and geological techniques for both geology and non-geology majors. Physical Geology serves as the beginning course for geology majors, and introduces basic geological concepts, processes, and techniques. By the end of the course, you will know considerably more about the earth and its processes and be able to impress your friends and family with your awe-inspiring knowledge of geology.

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

  • Review basic concepts of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology as applied to geology
  • Learn the basic principles of geology and geological processes
  • Develop an understanding of the methods geologists use to study the Earth
  • Learn to identify common rocks and minerals

Course Requirements


Textbook:                         Understanding Earth, 6thedition,2010,by Grotzinger and Jordan.

                                            ISBN: 978-1-4292-1951-8

Laboratory Manual:        Laboratory Manual for Introductory Geology,2010, by Ludman and Marshak.

                                            ISBN: 978-0-393-92814-3

Optional Study Guide:    Student Study Guide for Understanding Earth, 5thedition by Kresan and

                                            Mencke. ISBN: 978-0-716-73981-4



The following supplies are required for this class:

  • Two No. 2 pencils or mechanical pencils
  • Pencil eraser (white preferred for map work)
  • 12" ruler with Metric and English units
  • Set of colored pencils with at least 10 colors
  • Basic electronic calculator NOTE: cell phones, wireless hand-held devices (iTouch) and computers cannot be used as calculators on quizzes

Optional supplies, but highly recommended:

  • Three-ring notebook, 3” with paper for notes and lab materials
  • Portable three hole punch (clips in binder)
  • Drafting Compass (for drawing circles, not finding directions)
  • Protractor

Course Policies


This course will be taught in the classroom in a lecture/discussion format illustrated with videos and PowerPoint presentations, along with laboratory exercises and field investigations. The lecture and lab sessions will generally complement each other, but the lectures focus on general geological topics, while the lab exercises will show you how to apply that knowledge in practical ways. Student learning will be assessed through graded laboratory exercises, in-class lecture and field activity examinations, and practical quizzes on laboratory exercises.



You are expected to read the assignments before class; in doing so, you will get much more out of both lecture and lab. Just as you cannot expected to be able to cook a four course meal without some prior knowledge of cooking and good recipes to follow, you will discover that reading the textbook, then coming to lecture, and then working on the lab exercises will help you to understand the material and give you the foundation you need to complete the work. Students that read the assignments, come to class and do the work generally do well. Those that do not often end up having to repeat the class. As much fun as I think geology is, you probably do not want to do it twice. 



It is very important for you to attend all of the laboratory sessions. You should read the assigned chapter in your laboratory manual before you come to class so that you can complete the exercise in the allotted time. Completed exercises are due one week after they are assigned unless otherwise noted. Some assignments will be due on the day the exercise is assigned, or by the end of the next open-laboratory session.If it is impossible for you to attend the scheduled lab (or lecture), please contact me ahead of time so that arrangements can be made. You will find the exercises much easier to do in the lab where I can answer questions.Be forewarned: the lab component of this class is labor intensive and it is very easy to get so far behind that you cannot catch up.



Students who miss a laboratory or who need extra time to work on a lab should plan to attend open-laboratory sessions. Our geology lab technicians will be available to help you during open labs. This is your best opportunity to successfully complete your lab exercises and spend additional time with the minerals and rocks. You must bring your own copy of the laboratory exercise to the open laboratory session.

RGC/CYP Geology Laboratory Technician John Conners

RGC Lab Room 108: Open Lab Friday 10 a.m. – 2p.m.

CYP Lab Room 2236: Open Lab Days/Times TBA


Northridge Geology Laboratory Technician Cindy Carr

NRG Room 2228: Open Lab Days/Times TBA



There is a mandatory class field trip, date to be announced, but likely July 9th or 13th. Transportation will be provided by the College. We will leave at 7:45 on Saturday and return by 6:30 p.m. You must participate in an ACC physical geology field trip to pass this course. Department policy states that students who do not attend the required field trip will fail this class. If you cannot attend our class trip, it is your responsibility to arrange in advance to participate in another professor’s field trip. Do not assume that if you miss the field trip, you will be able to make it up.



Three, in-class, closed-book examinations will be given. Questions will be drawn from lectures, handouts, reading assignments, and the field trip. A final exam on the last day of class will emphasize material covered since the last examination, but also include topics from previous exams. Exams may consist of multiple choice, matching, diagram labeling, and short answer questions.



Four graded, in-laboratory practical quizzes will contain questions from material covered in the labs. These include questions about samples of earth materials, maps, and photographs, as well as short answer questions about terminology and methodology. A study guide will be distributed before every exam and quiz. No exam or quiz will be given early.



Your final course grade will be calculated as follows:

60% -- three lecture examinations

            15% - Exam 1

            20% - Exam 2

            25% - Exam 3

20% -- four laboratory quizzes

15% -- laboratory exercises

5%   -- field trip exercise

The following scale will be used to determine your course grade:

90-100% - A

80-89% - B

70-79% - C

60-69% - D

Below 60% - F

No extra credit will be given. Students whose final course average is 59, 69, 79, and 89 will be advanced to the next higher grade if their final lecture examination shows improvement over the score of their mid-term lecture examination.


Missed Exams

All exams will be given in class. Missed exams must be made up within one week of the scheduled test date in the testing center, unless extenuating circumstances apply. See instructor regarding make-up exams.


Missed Lab Quizzes

All lab quizzes will be given in the laboratory. There are no make-ups for missed lab quizzes.


Late Work

You are responsible for any assignment that you miss. Contact the professor or another student as soon as possible to get information on the assignment that you missed. All work must be turned in no later than one week from the day it was assigned to be considered on time, even if you are absent. Please note, some assignments are due the same day or next class period in order to keep on the shortened summer schedule.

Assignments are due at the beginning of the laboratory period. Any work turned in late will be penalized five percentage points each calendar day it is late, beginning with the due date. However, it is better to turn an assignment in late for a reduced score rather than to receive no points for the work.

Late assignments placed in the instructor’s mailbox in the campus administration area MUST have the date of receipt stamped on them by the administrative assistant in the mailroom. Late work will not be accepted after an assignment has been returned to the class.



Students are expected to attend lectures and lab and participate in class discussion, as tests and quizzes are derived from materials presented in lecture and lab as well as from the text. You will learn more from attending the classes than if you just read the text.



Should a student decide to withdraw from class, it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that his/her name is removed from the class roll.

The instructor reserves the right to drop a student should she feel it is necessary. This is most common in when students have excessive absences. Departmental policy forbids the instructor from withdrawing you from the class after the withdrawal date listed in the course catalogue.

Per state law, students enrolling for the first time in fall 2007 or later at any Texas college or university may not withdraw from more than six courses during their entire undergraduate career. This applies to all courses and to all institutions of higher learning in Texas. Some exemptions for good cause could allow a student to withdraw from a course without having it count toward this limit. The specifics of how the law is to be implemented, and how information will be shared between institutions are not fully defined. Many students are not aware of this legislation recently passed by the Texas legislature.

If you decide to drop this class, you must protect your academic record by withdrawing no later than Thursday, June 2, 2011. It is your responsibility to verify that you have successfully withdrawn from the class before the final withdrawal date. You are strongly encouraged to keep copies of paperwork should there be a problem in the computer records.



An incomplete grade ("I") will only be given if extenuating circumstances, such as illness or death of a loved one, keep a student from completing the final examination. Incompletes must be requested in writing with documentation of the circumstances. If a grade of I is given, the final examination must be taken by a date set by the student and professor. This date must be at least two weeks before the end of the 2011 Fall Semester, which is Sunday, December 11, 2011.

Other Information


Please be seated and ready for class on time. Lectures and labs start promptly. If you arrive late or need to leave early, please sit near the door. As common courtesy, please do not carry on conversations during lectures, and turn off audible sounds on your cell phone, pager, or computer before you come to class. Do not send text messages during class. Use of a laptop is acceptable, as long as its use is course-related. Students who are disturbing others will be asked to leave the classroom. Repeated offenses may result in the instructor dropping you from the class.



Cheating on an exam or laboratory quiz will result in a score of zero for that test or quiz, and may be subject to further disciplinary action according to ACC guidelines. Acts prohibited by the College for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work. Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, research, or self-expression. Academic work is defined as, but not limited to tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations, and homework.



Students enrolled in this course are expected to comply with the provisions of this syllabus and the Student Code of Conduct. With the exception of scholastic dishonesty, violations of the Student Code of Conduct will be reported to the Campus Dean of Student Services for disciplinary action. Any student suspected of scholastic dishonesty will meet in private with the professor to discuss the alleged offense(s) and review the evidence that supports the charge. After conferring with the student, the professor will dismiss the allegation or assess an academic penalty. A student will be informed in writing if an academic penalty is assessed. He or she should consult the Student Handbook for his/her rights and responsibilities.



Health and safety are paramount values in science classrooms, laboratories, and field activities. Students are expected to learn, understand, and comply with environmental, health, and safety (EHS) procedures and protocols, and must agree to abide by the ACC science safety policy. Students are expected to conduct themselves with appropriate professional behavior and with respect and courtesy to all. Anyone who thoughtlessly or intentionally jeopardizes the health or safety of another individual will be immediately dismissed from the day’s activity, may be withdrawn from the class, and or be barred from attending all activities. Specific safety information for each activity will be discussed at the beginning of the activity. For those activities that require specific safety training, a student who is late and misses the safety training will not be able to participate in the activity. The comprehensive science safety policy can be found at



Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office of Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester.


Students who are requesting accommodation must provide the instructor with a letter of accommodation from the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) at the beginning of the semester. Accommodations can only be made after the instructor receives the letter of accommodation from OSD.”



Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good. The common good depends upon a search for truth and upon free expression. In this course, the professor and students shall strive to protect free inquiry and the open exchange of facts, ideas, and opinions. Students are free to take exception to views offered in this course and to reserve judgment about debatable issues. Grades will not be affected by personal views. With this freedom comes the responsibility of civility and a respect for a diversity of ideas and opinions. This means that students must take turns speaking, listen to others speak without interruption, and refrain from name-calling or other personal attacks.




Science courses commonly require a different approach to studying than other courses. In this course, you will be asked to conceptualize things in three dimensions, understand complex concepts, and learn a completely new vocabulary for describing your planet. You will improve your performance if you:

  • take notes from both the textbook and the lecture (Try Cornell notes!)
  • answer the study questions in each chapter
  • go over the chapter summary
  • revisit fundamental concepts in each chapter
  • review key terms at the end of each assigned chapter
  • make flash cards for terms and their definitions


Web Resources



ACC Testing Center Policies

ACC Student Services

ACC Student Handbook

ACC Bookstore

ACC Geology Department

Companion website for the previous edition of the textbook for reviewing concepts and terms. Also offers online exercises and self-tests.

Excellent resource for reviewing key vocabulary terms.

Cornell notes resource and guide

Create your own notes pages

Create your own notes pages – advanced

Other note taking resources



Section 28005 (003) – M/W Summer 2011



Lecture Topic

Text Chapter Reading

Lab Exercise

Lab Exercise Reading

Lab Due Date

Mon 5/23

Introduction & The Earth System


Lab Safety / Math Chemistry and Geography Review



Wed 5/25

Plate Tectonics


Scientific Method, Plate Tectonics



Mon 5/30


Wed 6/1

Interior of the Earth


Plate Tectonics



Mon 6/6

Earthquakes & Tsunamis





Wed 6/8



Mineral Properties & Identification



Mon 6/13

Minerals & Exam 1 Review


Mineral Identification Continued



Wed 6/15

Exam 1 (CH 1 – 3, 13-14)Introduction to Rock Cycle & Igneous Rocks




Rock Cycle



Mon 6/20

Igneous Rocks and Volcanoes

4 & 12

Quiz 1 (All labs through Mineral ID)

Igneous Rocks





Wed 6/22

Sedimentary Rocks


Sedimentary Rocks



Mon 6/27

Metamorphic Rocks


Metamorphic Rocks

Rock Identification Review




Wed 6/29



Quiz 2 (Rock Identification)

Relative and Absolute Dating





Mon 7/4


Wed 7/6

Structural Geology & Exam 2 Review


Geologic Structures



Sat 7/9


Mon 7/11

Exam 2 (CH 4-8 & 12)


Geologic Maps



Wed 7/13

Landform Evolution


Topographic Maps and Contouring

8 & 9


Sat 7/16


Mon 7/18

Weathering, Soils, & Mass Wasting


Topographic Map Interpretation



Wed 7/20



Quiz 3 (dating, structures, geologic and topographic maps, & contours)









Wed 7/27

Groundwater & Streams

17 & 18




Mon 8/1

Winds & Deserts


Aeolian Processes



Wed 8/3

Oceans and Coastlines


Shoreline Processes



Mon 8/8

Exam 3 (CH 15 – 22)


Quiz 4 (groundwater, geomorphology & shorelines




            *Schedule Changes may occur during the semester and will be announced in class