Introduction to Earth Sciences

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOG 1120
Introduction to Earth Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Lab, Field work: 3 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Field Experience
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lecture, labs, field work, analysis and interpretation of graphs, maps and air photos, slides, videos, individual and/or team projects and small group discussions.

Course Description
Have you wondered how mountains form or why earthquakes and volcanoes occur where they do? Have you ever picked up a rock and wondered where it came from? Geography 1120 addresses these questions with both theoretical and interactive hands-on instruction in the origins of the Earth’s land surface and its modification by tectonic and surface processes. Topics include: minerals and rocks, geological time, weathering and soils, and the processes and landforms associated with fluvial, glacial, coastal and desert systems. Human impacts on each of these systems are also examined.
Course Content
  1. Introduction
    • Physical geography within geography
    • Geographic spatial analysis
    • Scientific method
    • Systems theory and its application to planet Earth
  2. Minerals
    • Atomic theory
    • Rock-forming mineral families
    • Diagnostic properties
    • Mineral identification
  3. Rocks
    • Rock Cycle
    • Igneousrocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Sedimentary rocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Metamorphic rocks, their characteristics and rock-forming environments
    • Rock identification
  4. Geological Time and Principles
    • Divisions of time and criteria for these divisions
    • Earth science principles of original horizontality, superposition, cross-cutting relationships and faunal succession
  5. Plate Tectonics
    • Developmentof, and evidence for, plate tectonic theory
    • Plate boundary types, interactions and resulting patterns of tectonic landforms and phenomena
  6. Topographic Maps
    • Projections
    • Map elements: scale, locational coordinate systems, direction indicators, data and legends
    • Contour line construction, interpretation and analysis
    • Topographic profile construction and analysis
    • Calculation of vertical exaggeration and gradients
    • Landform measurement, analysis and identification
  7. Crustal Deformation and Volcanism
    • Structures and their topographic expression
    • Extrusive igneous activity: eruption types and resulting rock bodies and landforms
    • Intrusive igneous activity: resulting rock bodies and landforms
  8. 8. Weathering and Soils
    • Chemicalweathering types, causes, characteristics and patterns
    • Physical weathering types, causes, characteristics and patterns
    • Influences on rates ofweathering, products of weathering
    • Soil characteristics:pedons, profiles, horizons, properties
    • Canadian system of soil classification
    • Soil orders of Canada: formation, characteristics and geographic distribution
  9. Hydrologic Cycle and Mass Movement
    • Components ofthe hydrologic system
    • Massmovement classification and types
    • Influences on slope stability
  10. Fluvial and GroundwaterSystems
    • Drainage basin morphology and patterns
    • Channel patterns and processes
    • Flow characteristics
    • Fluvial erosional and depositional landforms
    • Human impacts on fluvial systems
    • Groundwater processes and landforms
    • Karst processes and landforms
    • Human impacts on groundwater systems
  11. Glacial and Periglacial Systems
    • Development and movement of different types of glaciers
    • Glacial erosional and depositionalprocesses and landforms
    • Periglacial distribution, processes and landforms
    • Human impacts on glacial and periglacialsystems
  12. Coastal Systems
    • Coastal environment components:tides, currents, waves
    • Wave refraction and longshore currents
    • Coastal erosional and depositional processes and landforms
    • Types of coastlines
    • Human impacts on coastalsystems
  13. Aeolian Systems
    • Geographic distribution of deserts and reasons for this distribution
    • Aeolian erosional and depositional processes and landforms
    • Desert fluvial processes and landforms
    • Human impacts on aeolian systems


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe and use the frameworks of science applicable to first-year physical geography.
  2. Analyze and interpret minerals, rocks, sediment and soils to identify their environment of origin.
  3. Describe and explain the processes that occur within earth’s lithosphere and hydrosphere, as well as their interactions with the atmosphere.
  4. Think critically and examine geomorphological issues in a scientific context at local, regional and global scales.
  5. Communicate effectively using the language, graphical presentation methods and quantitative methods employed in physical geography.

Means of Assessment

The evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria during the first week of classes.

Evaluation will include some of the following:

  • Laboratory assignments with a combined value of up to 50%.
  • Multiple choice and short answer exams with a combined value of up to 50%.
  • Field work with a value of up to 20%.
  • A term project with a value of up to 25%.


An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Laboratory Assignments  10%
Two Laboratory Exams  30%
Midterm Examination  25%
Final Examination  25%
Term Project  10%
Total 100%

Note:  This course received a standing variance from Education Council in November 1999 to allow up to a 15% open book lab exam in the penultimate week of the semester.  This is not a final exam; it is an assessment of student learning of lab work performed in the second half of the semester.

Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:

  • Christopherson, R. W.  and Byrne, M.L. (2006). Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography (Canadian ed.).  Toronto: Prentice Hall.

Which Prerequisite