G433 Geology, Hydrology and Geochemistry in the Rocky Mountains
DATES: June 19 – July 30, 2017 (6 credits)
NOTE: This course is physically demanding. Students should be in good health, capable of strenuous hiking on rugged terrain while carrying daypack and field gear.
Students are expected to have completed at least the first two to three years of a standard undergraduate program in the geosciences. This would normally include an introductory course and two or more courses in the disciplines of mineralogy, petrology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, hydrogeology and structure/tectonics. Additional topical coursework is beneficial including chemistry, biology/ecology, calculus, or physics. Students with alternative backgrounds are encouraged to apply and will be considered on a case–by–case basis.
The practical training provided will have a strong interdisciplinary science base and will include contributions from geoscientists with a broad range of backgrounds in geology, hydrology and geochemistry. The techniques and methods employed will require students to apply basic principles from chemistry, geology, mathematics, and physics to solve the problems they encounter.
G433 addresses topic related to surface and near surface environmental processes, set within a geologic framework; students will work with a variety of geologic settings including crystalline rocks, sedimentary rocks, poorly consolidated Tertiary basin fill, and modern sediments. The curriculum makes use of a network of permanent weather stations, ground water monitoring wells, stream gauging stations, a SNOTEL site, and soil sample sites in the Willow Creek Demonstration Watershed, a facility installed for use by classes at the IU field station. This area will serve as an outdoor laboratory for multiple teaching modules. Students will benefit from the use of the same general field area for different themes (e.g. bedrock geology, sediment and soil characteristics and groundwater hydrology) so they can mentally and physically interrelate the components of the watershed system. The course includes trips to pertinent localities including Superfund sites and Yellowstone National Park.
The G433 curriculum is organized into two components. The first part involves extensive teaching designed to review basic field skills and to provide background concepts and introductions to instrumentation and computer applications that will be used during the course. Field instruction takes place in small groups, in one-on-one situations and in short lectures at the field station and field. Individual exercises have specific, focused themes that reflect the various disciplines within geology and geology-based environmental science (e.g., hydrogeology, soils and geomorphology).
Topics covered in the first part of this course include:
- Study of sedimentary rocks through detailed description and measurement of stratigraphic sections
- Techniques of mapping structures on aerial photographs and topographic maps
- Detailed mapping of areas of moderate complexity
- Field studies of igneous and Archean metamorphic rocks
- Techniques in soil description and mapping
- Identification and mapping of glacial features and sediments
- Stream geomorphology and techniques in stream surveying
- Groundwater flow and aquifer characterization
- Surface and groundwater geochemistry and the geochemical evolution of groundwater, including the study of hydrothermal systems and the generation of acid rock drainage
Students will develop skills in field notebook descriptions, measurements with Brunton compass and other field instrumentation, and field examination of stratigraphic sections, use of topographic maps and air photos for location and as base maps, use of field instrumentation and construction of geologic maps and cross sections for an area of study. In addition to the teaching exercises, there are four one–day field evaluation exercises. Students, working independently of other students and faculty, collect basic observational, geochemical and stratigraphic data, construct a geologic map and cross sections for the area, and decipher the geologic history and hydrogeology of a diverse area that they have not previously visited.
During the latter portion of the course, students work on a final project where they apply the skills and techniques learned in the course to two very different final study areas characterized by geologic and hydrologic diversity and complexity. Students apply the skills, techniques and instrumentation learned throughout the course to collect, analyze and interpret structural, hydrologic, geomorphic and geochemical data to advance their understanding of the integration of these sub-disciplines. This project emphasizes independent work and critical thinking.
In addition to the teaching exercises, there are three one–day field evaluation exercises. Students, working independently of other students and faculty, collect basic observational, geochemical and stratigraphic data, construct a geologic map and cross sections for the area, and decipher the geologic history and hydrogeology of a diverse area that they have not previously visited.