2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM

A Geologic Processes Course for Planetary Scientists

LANG, Nicholas P.1, FEDO, Christopher M.1 and WHISNER, S. Christopher2, (1)Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, 1412 Circle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996, (2)Department of Environmental, Geographical and Geological Sciences, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 400 E. Second St, Bloomsburg, PA 17815, nlang1@utk.edu

Paramount to unraveling processes that have shaped the surfaces of other planets is a fundamental understanding of geologic processes as they operate on Earth. Here we describe a class we recently taught at the University of Tennessee aimed at providing planetary science students solid backgrounds in sedimentology, structural geology, volcanology, and geological relationships through the integration of discussion, in-class exercises, and an extensive field trip to the Mojave Desert region of CA and NV. In-class exercises consisted of interpreting and discussing visible satellite images of the Cima volcanic field (CVF) and the Keystone Thrust (KT) – two of a number of locations visited on the field trip and that provide useful geology lessons relevant to the interpretation of other planetary surfaces. The CVF is tied to crustal thinning and mantle derived melts and is useful for highlighting magmatic processes from melt generation to its emplacement at the surface. The KT is a thrust fault in the Spring Mountains juxtaposing Paleozoic limestone against Mesozoic aeolian cross-bedded sandstone and is useful for highlighting contact relations, the ‘rule of v's', and three-dimensionality. During class, students geologically mapped the images with the goals of identifying contacts, determining possible timing relationships, and identifying questions and predictions addressable in the field. On the field trip, students were given an overview of both areas and were set to collecting field data appropriate for addressing their questions and predictions. By combining image interpretation with visiting field sites, not only did the students learn about specific geologic processes, but they also gained an appreciation of scale as well as an understanding of the level of question addressable by examining a 2-D satellite image versus working in the field. Although we emphasize only two locales, the Mojave region hosts a plethora of geologically intriguing spots addressable in the manner described here.