2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 37
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-3:45 PM


ABBOTT, Kathleen M., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130 and DYMEK, Robert F., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington Univ, Saint Louis, MO 63130, kathleen_abbott@urscorp.com

The desire to educate non-majors in the principles of geology and instill in them a sense of environmental awareness led to the development of the introductory level undergraduate course “Geology of National Parks,” which is entirely lecture-based and visually oriented. This course demonstrates how geologic agents all act together to control the appearance of the landscape. Accordingly, National Parks, Monuments, Lakeshores, and Seashores provide a convenient venue for presentation of this material. The success of “Parks” led to the creation of a course for majors, “The North American Landscape,” which covers much the same material but at a more-advanced level via lectures, labs, and seminars, using Physiographic Provinces as the framework for presentation.

The exercise considered here was developed as a midterm project for the “Landscapes” course. Each student selects one of the lower 48 states and, in so doing, must identify its Physiographic Provinces and geologic domains, and explain how the landscape achieved its present configuration. The final work product is a poster supported by an oral presentation to the class. The students are advised to proceed through a series of panels devoting each one to a different aspect of their state. Space limitations force them to be creative as well as to be succinct with their explanations, while being informative and at the same time avoiding overcrowding within their display.

This poster project lends itself to investigation and interpretation of various data sets, which can be overlain on a template of bedrock geology, such as topography, soil types, vegetation, habitat, agriculture, development (population density, industry), climate (rainfall, snowfall, weather patterns), hydrology (rivers, lakes), resources (mines, quarries), etc. Students are encouraged to use the EPSc library, the Internet, and to contact the state they are researching. One good resource on topography, for example, is the “Tapestry of Time and Terrain” website developed by the USGS (http://tapestry.usgs.gov/). In summary, the poster project introduces students early in their academic careers to diverse and unconventional types of geologic data, and provides the opportunity for them to compare, contrast, and interpret such data in a geologic context.