2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


ASHER, Pranoti M., American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009-1277 and RHODES, Dallas D., Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA 30460-8149, pasher@agu.org

At Georgia Southern University, the Environmental Geology course and required laboratory component are taken by nearly 750 students each year to fulfill a core curriculum requirement in environmental science. The laboratory has been somewhat traditional, although the exercises have been tailored to local and regional environmental issues. Using well fields on campus, students measure water levels to develop an understanding of confined and unconfined aquifers and determine the rates of horizontal and vertical flow of water within these aquifers. The recent purchase of a XRD unit and addition of exercises on analyzing household and construction materials has enhanced the existing mineral and rock exercises.

Despite these additions, the course continues to have high failure and drop rates amongst students. To address this problem we propose a forensic twist to the existing environmental geology laboratory course. We feel that this will a) rekindle interest in the course material in light of popular forensic programs on television b) involve students in a semester long problem-based learning opportunity by using case studies and c) potentially target the nearly 400 students enrolled in the Justice Studies Program to choose Environmental Geology to fulfill the requirement in environmental science.

The forensic version of the laboratory course would include topics such as: rocks and minerals; topographic map exercises along with applications related to floodplains, stream flow, and land use; groundwater accumulation, migration, and contamination concepts; and hazard mitigation. The modified exercises would include a case study of a murder case involving sand in the victims' shoes. Students will conduct a macroscopic and microscopic examination of the evidence augmented by XRD analysis and use geologic and topographic maps to determine the location of the murder. This would allow students to hone their understanding of rock and mineral concepts and environments of formation as well as learn basic map reading skills. A second case involving a neighborly dispute over contaminated water supply can be easily created with real data involving our campus well fields. This exercise would allow students to grasp hydrogeology concepts and practice topographic map skills. Other cases will be discussed in our presentation.