History of the Earth

Important Notice

This course is not active. Please contact Department Chair for more information.

Science & Technology
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Course Code
GEOL 1121
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course is concerned with Earth history and the events that have shaped the development of the Earth. Topics include: the origin of the Earth, origin and evolution of life, mass extinction events, dinosaurs, Ice Age mammals, and ancient climates. Techniques used to date and interpret events of the past and reconstruct ancient environments will be discussed. Field trips may be required.
Course Content

Lecture topics include

  1. Origin of the Earth, origin of life, evolution.
  2. Rocks and Minerals.
  3. Geologic time, relative and absolute dating, geochronology
  4. Stratigraphic principles, lithostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy, biostragigraphy.
  5. Paleontology, Taphonomy.
  6. Extinctions.
  7. Paleoenvironments, reefs, ancient climates, paleobiogeography.
  8. Major events of Earth history.

Lab Topics may include

  1. Rocks and Minerals
  2. Relative Dating
  3. Correlation
  4. Geochronology - Absolute Dating
  5. Lithofacies
  6. Biostratigraphy
  7. Paleontology
  8. Biofacies
  9. Topographic and Geologic Mapping and Cross-Sections
  10. Paleoenvironments
  11. Paleobotany
  12. Paleobiology
Methods Of Instruction

2 hours per week lectures.

2 hours per week labs.

Lectures and labs may be supplemented by videos, slides or film presentations, and by field trips. Textbook and other readings will be assigned to supplement the lectures.

Means of Assessment
Lab assignments 5-15%
Lab exams 20-40%
Midterm exam(s) 20-30%
Research paper 0-15%
Final exam 30%
Learning Outcomes
  1. Geology as a Science
  • Understand the nature of science and its strategies
  • Understand the difference between experimental and historical (interpretive) sciences
  • Develop critical thinking skills in assessing evidence and interpretations
  • Understand the role of time perspective in geological investigations: time as the fourth dimension
  • Understand the cumulative nature of history: that each outcome provides the initial conditions for the next
  • Understand the development, nature, and implications of Uniformitarian theory and differences from Catastrophism
  • Understand the place of geology vis-B-vis other disciplines
  • Time Perspective and Context
    • Know “by heart” the geological time scale in terms of eons, eras, periods, and Cenozoic epochs
    • Know the history of important events and people involved in the development of the geological time scale
    • Know the character and overall historical context of the solar system
  • Stratigraphy
    • Know the underlying principles of stratigraphy as applied to sedimentary successions (relative dating)
    • Understand the origins of sedimentary rocks and of stratified and cross-cutting igneous rocks
    • Understand the Principle of Fossil Succession
    • Know how the stratigraphic and fossil records served as the basis for an understanding of geological time (relative)
    • Understand the facies concept as applied to both rocks (sediments) and fossils
    • Understand the potential and procedures of paleoecological/paloenvironmental analyses
    • Understand the role of analogy (use of modern analogues) in paleoenvironmental work, and limitations thereof
  • Fossils
    • Gain familiarity with the major kingdoms and of the phyla of organisms typically encountered in the fossil record
    • Know how to identify examples of all these phyla, including a basic suite of fossils at the genus level
    • Develop skills in observation of diagnostic criteria as a basis for fossil identification
    • Develop ability to distinguish fossils from common “pseudo-fossils” (e.g., dendrites)
    • Understand principles of evolution and extinction
    • Gain familiarity with the overall paleontological sequence, evolutionary changes, and key examples such as the dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
  • Landscapes
    • Understand how modern landscapes are indicators of past conditions
    • Understand unconformities in the stratigraphic sequence as paleolandscapes
  • Sequences and Correlation
    • Understand the development, nature, and uses of the stratigraphic column as developed locally
    • Understand the nature of sequences and the global significance of sequence stratigraphy
    • Understand procedures for correlation of sedimentary sequences
    • Know the “evolutionary fauna” concept linking faunal succession to persistent community types (e.g., reefs)
  • Event Sequences
    • Know the basis for inference of past events
    • Know the principles of plate tectonics and the implications of plate tectonic activity for earth history
    • Know that global change is not just a thing of today, and how the past is the key to the to the future
    • Know key world, regional, and local sequences to illustrate the integration of the plate tectonics theory with the geological time scale
    • Know key world events of the geological past (supercontinents; extinctions; glaciations, etc.) and implications for the future
  • Study maps and cross-sections to develop skills in 3-dimensional visualization of earth materials and relationships
  • Develop ability to communicate understanding to peers (general public) as informed citizens.
  • Textbook Materials

    Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

    Levin, H.L.; The Earth Through Time; Nelson/Thompson Publishing; latest edition.



    No prerequisite courses.


    No corequisite courses.


    No equivalent courses.

    Course Guidelines

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    Institution Transfer Details for GEOL 1121
    There are no applicable transfer credits for this course.

    Course Offerings

    Summer 2022

    There aren't any scheduled upcoming offerings for this course.