Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


MCNAMEE, Brittani, Environmental Studies, University of North Carolina - Asheville, CPO 2330, One University Heights, Asheville, NC 28804 and GUNTER, Mickey E., Geological Sciences, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter MS 443022, Moscow, ID 83844,

The goal of this lab is to teach students to identify minerals by their physical and optical properties. The lab manual is constructed around the textbook DVD by Dyar and Gunter (2008) Illustrated by Tasa, with focus on the authors’ “Big Ten” minerals. Labs concentrate on four topics: analytical equipment, physical and optical properties, mineral identification, and special projects.

The first two labs are spent introducing the students to the different instruments used for mineral identification. Students are shown the XRD and SEM, or other specialized equipment, and briefly explained the concepts driving them. The next lab introduces the students to the polarizing light microscope (PLM), their primary tool in mineral identification. Students learn the parts of the microscope and their purposes, measure the field of view, calculate total magnification, and how to center the objective lenses. The lab following walks students through a series of exercises demonstrating the optics of the microscope.

The next round of labs focuses on defining and learning the techniques to identify the physical and optical properties of minerals. Lab exercises begin with students comparing the properties of two or three different minerals and then lead to observing the properties of an unknown mineral and identifying the mineral using the DVD database.

After students have learned the different properties and how to identify them, they will apply them to different minerals. The “Big Ten” minerals are split into labs by class (framework silicates, sheet silicates, etc.). Students use the DVD database and lab materials to characterize the properties themselves and to build their own mineral lab manual, which they can use in petroglogy.

The semester ends with two projects. The first project involves building a spindle stage and using it with the EXCALIBR program to expand the student’s understanding of optical properties of minerals. The second project, and the students’ final, is a collection of 20 minerals from Latah County, Idaho identified by the students using the techniques and resources learned over the semester.

  • McNamee_Gunter_GSA2012_poster.pdf (34.4 MB)