Honors | Earth Science
S103 | 11823 | James Brophy

There are no prerequisites for the course.


This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental
geologic materials and processes which, together, have been creating
and sculpting the face of the earth for billions of years.  The
subject matter is essentially the same as that covered in the
Bloomington-based version of G103, including:

付he study of minerals and rocks
付he principles of chemical and physical weathering
付he erosional and depositional characteristics and power of streams
and glaciers
付he origin and nature of volcanoes and volcanic deposits (including
hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone National Park)
付he forces involved in the formation of large mountain ranges
付he generation of earthquakes and earthquake destruction
付he nature and formation of different types of ore deposits and the
environmental problems associated with their exploitation.

Because this course is taught 妬n the field and 妬n Montana, where
one is surrounded by all of the aspects of all of these subjects all
the time, a fundamentally different teaching approach can be
employed. Unlike the classroom experience in Bloomington, learning
is acquired through sequential hands-on, enquiry-based projects that
emphasize the basic principles of, and interrelationships between
all of the various aspects of geology outlined above. Close, one-on-
one instruction is fostered by the low student/staff ratio. Students
enrolled in S103 will conduct an additional field and/or literature
based research project on a topic of their choice.

Course Outline
The course is divided into 6 different projects, each with its own
theme and objectives. All of the projects are field-based and rely
extensively on personal observation, data collection and
interpretation. Most of the projects are conducted in the immediate
vicinity of the Field Station. A generalized course schedule is
provided at the end of this section.

Project #1  Minerals, Rocks and Weathering

Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks are all exposed within a
very short distance of the Field Station. This project will
emphasize the basic characteristics of the different types of rocks
as well as the processes that have led to their formation.  Through
the study of these rocks, you will learn about

謬he common rock forming minerals
謬he formation and characteristics of igneous rocks
謬he processes and results of chemical and physical weathering
謬he formation of chemical and clastic sediment
謬he formation and characteristics of sedimentary rocks
謬he formation and characteristics of metamorphic rocks

You will also be introduced to the basic concepts and techniques of

謬opographic maps and map reading
柊erial photographs and photograph reading
膝eologic mapping

At the same time you will be introduced to the concept (and
enormity) of geologic time and learn how the various weathering and
rock-forming processes have operated in concert with one another in
the western United States for the past 2.5 billion years

Project #2  Mountain Building, Folding and Faulting

The Field Station is located in the heart of the Tobacco Root
Mountains which, during the last several tens of millions of years,
have experienced just about every type of mountain building process
known to geologists including compressional folding and faulting
(similar to that which occurred in the Alps and the Himalayas) as
well as extensional faulting (similar to that which has created the
beautiful Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming). This project centers
around the geologic mapping and interpretation of two small field
areas in the vicinity of the Field Station. Through this project you
will learn about

筆ore advanced techniques of geologic field mapping
謬he characteristics of different types of folded sedimentary rocks
謬he characteristics of different types of faults
謬he relationship between extensional and compressional mountain
building forces and the different types of folds and faults

At the same time you will learn about the nature and style of the
various periods of mountain building that have affected southwestern
Montana and much of the western United States.

Project #3  Volcanoes, Groundwater, Geysers and Hot Springs

These may seem like unrelated topics, but when they are studied as
part of a 3-day road trip to Yellowstone National Park they suddenly
seem to fit together. We will depart for Yellowstone after lunch on
Friday and return to the Field Station around lunch time on Sunday.
Nights will be spent camping in the park. During the trip you will
study one of the world痴 largest volcanoes and learn about
groundwater and it痴 relationship to the hot springs and geysers for
which Yellowstone is most famous. We will, of course, take time for
sight seeing. On the return trip to the Field Station we will visit
the Madison River Canyon Landslide which was triggered by the 1959
Hebgen Lake earthquake. Discussions will center around the processes
responsible for generating earthquakes and the resultant physical

Project #4  Earthquakes

The Field Station is located in a region that has a lot of
earthquake activity. (A magnitude 5 quake occurred in August of 2005
about 30 miles away from the Station!). This one-day project will
center around the investigation of a well-known seismically active
fault system. Historical records of seismic activity will be coupled
with on-the spot field observations to develop an understanding of.

謬he role of seismic rebound in generating earthquakes
謬he nature and causes of earthquake periodicity within a single
fault system
菱azards associated with man-made structures and earthquake activity
謬he difficulties (and challenges) of earthquake prediction

Project #5  Stream and Glacial Erosion and Deposition

Streams and glaciers have been chipping away at the Tobacco Root
Mountains ever since they started to form several tens of millions
of years ago. The streams are still active today. The result is a
natural laboratory in which nearly every aspect of erosion and
sediment deposition brought about by running water and/or slowly
moving ice can be studied. This project will emphasize two things:
(1) the differences between how streams and glaciers erode rock and
deposit sediment; and (2) the specific nature of stream erosion,
sediment transport and deposition. These goals will be achieved
through a comparative study of erosional land forms created by
streams and glaciers, a detailed field study of a fast-moving
mountain stream system, and an investigation of ancient stream
sediments now preserved as rock. In the end you will learn about

謬he mechanisms of erosion and sediment transportation by water and
謬he contrasting nature of landforms created by stream and glacial
謬he differences between stream-deposited and glacial-deposited
sedimentary deposits
謬he anatomy of a stream system including
Stream channels and channel deposits
Flood Plains and flood plain deposits
Meanders, cut banks, point bars and their associated sediment
謬he roles of different types of sedimentary deposits in the
migration and storage of both groundwater and petroleum

Project #6  Mining and Environmental Geology

The Field Station is located in the very heart of mining country.
Within a short drive can be found numerous old gold and silver mines
as well as one of the world痴 largest and most productive copper
mines located right in the middle of (yesthat痴 right) the city of
Butte. Also nearby is the largest currently operating gold mine in
the United States. These very same mines, however, have given rise
to some of the more challenging environmental problems confronting
our society today. This final project will investigate the geology
of a mineralized ore deposit and consider the impact on the
environment of decade痴 worth of mining activity. You will learn

膝eologic mapping techniques at a very small scale
謬he nature and origin of vein-type mineral deposits
彪arious techniques of hard rock mining
柊cid mine drainage and its effect on the environment