Physical Geology

Physical Geology


Fall 2011
08/22/2011 - 12/11/2011

Course Information

Section 008
TTh 19:30 - 20:50
NRG2 2213
Carolyn Riess

Section 008
TTh 21:00 - 22:20
NRG2 2228
Carolyn Riess

Office Hours

No office hours have been entered for this term


The information below may not constitute the complete course syllabus.  A complete syllabus with all course policies and other information is handed out in class or available in Blackboard.  The scheduling of topics is also subject to change.  Such changes will be announced in class.

Course Requirements

GEOL 1403 Section 35215-008

Lecture 7:30 – 8:50 P.M. Tuesday & Thursday in NRG Room 2213

Lab 9:00 – 10:20 P.M. Tuesday & Thursday in NRG Room 2228


One year of high school science, and reading and mathematics proficiency on Texas Success Initiative (TSI) testing or TSI exempt

Textbook & Lab Manual

Grotzinger, John, and Tom Jordan. Understanding Earth. 6th ed. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2010. 654 p.

ISBN 978-1-4292-1951-8

Ludman, Allan, and Stephen Marshak. Laboratory Manual for Introductory Geology. 2010. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 422 p.

ISBN 978-0-393-92814-3

Course Supplies

The following supplies are required for this class. Please have all by the second week of class.

  • Calculator (programmable not necessary)
  • No. 2 pencils or 0.7mm mechanical pencil w/ HB pencil refills (required for use on all lab exercises and exams)
  • Extra eraser such as Staedtler Mars-Plastic paper/film eraser
  • 3-ring binder (1 ½ “) for lab exercises

The following items are recommended for this class.

  • Computer & internet access for ACC Black Board
  • Computer & internet access for textbook companion websites


Instructor: C. Maurine Riess, Associate Adjunct Professor

Office Hours: 6:30-7:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday

Northridge Campus, Portable 4

Voice mail: 512-223-1795, Mailbox 25460 E-mail:

Course Subjects

Instructional Methodology

This is a classroom course utilizing illustrated lectures, class discussions, laboratory exercises, and a Saturday field trip. Student learning is assessed through lecture exams, laboratory exercises and exams, and field trip material. The ACC Blackboard will be used for grade posting, announcements, assignment submission (optional). All course materials, when possible, will be posted here.

Lecture and Laboratory

It is very important that you attend all of the lecture and laboratory sessions. Reading the assignments in the textbook and laboratory manual before you come to class will help you understand concepts and apply what you learn in lab. We will review exams and completed lab exercises in class. Keep all graded exercises in the 3-ring binder. Your complete binder will receive a lab exercise grade also.

If you fall behind or need extra lab instruction to complete the exercises, or to study for an exam, you may want to attend open labs on Fridays. Geology Laboratory Technician Cindy Carr facilitates open-lab sessions in NRG 2228 from 10:00 A.M. to Noon each Friday.

Additional open-lab sessions may be scheduled on Friday’s throughout the semester at the Riverside, Northridge and Cypress Creek campuses.

Submitting Assignments

You may submit assignments by any of the following means:

1. Send a file attachment through e-mail to

2. Submit through Blackboard by posting in the Digital Dropbox

3. In person during class or office hour (prior to class)

4. Delivery by inter-campus mail from another campus (Address to: C.M. Riess, NRG)

RThe 3-ring binder is essential for organizing and keeping all lab assignments. The Lab Notebook will be graded for completeness and organization. Lab exercise deadlines will be assigned in class as you progress through the material. Assignments are due on or before the due date and will be penalized 10 points each week if turned in late.

Field Trip

All students must attend a mandatory class field trip on Saturday, November 19, 2011. We will ride in rented vans provided by the ACC from the NRG campus to various geological sites in and around Llano, Texas. We will leave at 8:30 am and return to NRG campus by 5:30 PM. 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 the class. If you cannot attend your scheduled class trip, you must arrange (at least 2 weeks) in advance to participate in another professor's field trip. A list of available alternate field trips will be compiled and available at the beginning of the semester.

Assessment and Grading

Lecture Exams

There will be four lecture exams. All exams are closed book with multiple-choice questions covering new material, Test material will come from classroom lectures, associated handouts, and reading assignments. The final lecture exam will be approximately 50 percent comprehensive. The final exam will also include material you learn during the field trip.

You may prepare and bring to each test a 3.5" x 5" notecard with notes to use during the exam. It may be handwritten or printed out, but the work must be your own (i.e. you may not borrow or use someones else's notecard).

Laboratory Exams

There will be four lab exams given in class during regular lab time. There will be no “make-up” lab exams because we use special materials provided only in the laboratory. Each lab exam is unique and designed to test your comprehension and mastery of the exercises.

Course Grade

Your course average will be calculated as follows:

10% - Laboratory exercises Notebook

60% - Four lecture exams @15% each

30 % - Four lab quizzes @ 7.5% each

The following scale will determine your course grade:

90-100% = A

80-89% = B

70-79% = C

60-69% = D

Below 60% = F

Students whose final course average is 59%, 69%, 79%, and 89% will be advanced to the next higher letter grade if their final lecture exam shows improvement over scores on the mid-term lecture exams.

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

Course Description

Physical Geology is the study of the Earth and the processes that shape it. The course offers an overview of minerals and rocks, weathering and erosion, plate tectonics, volcanism, earthquakes, mountain building, soil, and water and energy resources. A fieldtrip is required.

Course Rationale

As the world's population grows and expands, humans are placing a greater demand on earth resources, encountering natural hazards more frequently, and are causing a rapid change in our climate. To make educated decisions about these changes, consumers, voters, and decision-makers must understand how the Earth system works and how scientists have obtained this knowledge. Studying physical geology provides a valuable perspective for this understanding. This course is designed to give a basic understanding of geology and geological techniques for both geology and non-geology majors.

Course Objectives

  • Learn the basic principles of geology and how to identify common rocks and minerals
  • Review and apply basic concepts of mathematics, chemistry, and physics to geology
  • Develop the ability to interpret earth materials, processes and features
  • Develop an understanding of the methods that geologists use to study Earth
  • Learn to make scientific observations and ask meaningful questions about the Earth
  • Conduct safe and productive laboratory and field investigations of the Earth


Science courses, especially those with laboratory and field exercises, may require a different approach to studying than other courses. You will need to conceptualize things in three dimensions, understand complex concepts, and learn a new vocabulary for describing planet Earth. Your performance and enjoyment of this class will improve if you take notes from both the textbook and the lecture, answer the review questions in each chapter, and go over the key terms and concepts listed at the end of each chapter. Many students find it useful to make flash cards for key terms and definitions. Forming study groups with your classmates is highly recommended.

The textbook companion website includes many interactive videos, flashcards, illustrations and practice exams. Go to: Many students underestimate the amount of time needed to do well in this course. At a minimum, you should expect to spend at least one hour outside of class studying for every hour you spend in class. A free geology tutor may be available in the ACC Learning Labs; check for locations and hours.

Professional Etiquette

Please be seated and ready for class on time. If you arrive late or need to leave early, please sit near the door. Please notify the professor if you have to arrive late or leave early on a regular basis. As a common courtesy, do not interrupt the professor or classmates when they are speaking, do not carry on conversations during lectures, and turn off audible alarms on cell phones and computers before the class starts. Use of computers for note-taking will be restricted if it is a distraction to others or if the computer is being used for any other purpose. You are required to focus on course content during lectures, laboratory sessions and field activities, and not engage in electronic communication with others. You may not use your phone during an exam for calculations or any other function.

Course Policies

Participation and Assignments

Passing this course will depend on regular class attendance. Please work with the professor and your classmates in lectures and labs and participate in class discussion. This may include distributing and collecting course materials in the classroom, setting up and logging off computers, participating in class demonstrations, and cleaning up the classroom.


If you decide to drop this class, it is your responsibility to protect your academic record by withdrawing no later than November 17, 2011. The professor, however, reserves the right to withdraw a student for not meeting course objectives. Departmental policy forbids a professor from withdrawing you from this class after the withdrawal date. 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.

Incomplete Grades

Incomplete grade assignments must conform to ACC policy. An incomplete grade (recorded as "I") will be given only if extenuating circumstances, such as illness or death of a loved one, keep a student from completing the final exam and/or final laboratory quiz. A student must request an incomplete grade from the professor in writing with documentation of the extenuating circumstances. If the professor agrees to an incomplete grade, the final exam ot other requirements must be taken or submitted no later than three weeks before the end of the following semester.

Special Needs

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. There is an OSD at each campus; at (Northridge it is in Bldg. 1000, Room 1111. Students are encouraged complete all paperwork with the NRG office three weeks before the start of the semester. Students who are request accommodations must provide the professor with a Notice of Approved Accommodations form at the beginning of the semester. Your professor must have a copy of your signed accommodations form before any accommodations occur. Both ACC and your professor are committed to making accommodations and adjustments for qualified students. All information regarding your medical condition and special needs is confidential.

Freedom of Expression, Scholastic Dishonesty, and Student Discipline

Academic Policies and Services

Freedom of Expression

Each student is strongly encouraged to participate in class. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints. These differences enhance the learning experience and create an atmosphere where students and professors alike will be encouraged to think and learn. On sensitive and volatile topics, students may sometimes disagree not only with each other but also with the professor. Faculty and students are expected to respect the views of others expressed in classroom discussions.

Scholastic Dishonesty

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.

Student Discipline

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 Northridge 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 and he or she should consult the current Student Handbook for their rights and responsibilities.


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Course schedule

Course (Lecture & Lab) Schedule under construction