Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


GREGG, Tracy K.P., Department of Geology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 126 Cooke Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260,

Introductory geology instructors face the challenge of recruiting majors from a pool of undergraduates who are commonly self-described as “afraid of” or “not liking” science, because few undergraduate geology majors come to college knowing that they want to be geologists. For many undergraduates, an introductory Earth Science course represents the only science course they will take during their university career. Making geology exciting and accessible to these undergraduates is essential for recruiting geology majors, and incorporating planetary science into introductory geology courses offers a way to meet these challenges. Planetary science offers students and exciting an unbiased exposure to geological processes.

Most simply, there are only 4 fundamental geologic processes that have affected (or are affecting) the surface of Earth and every other solid body in the Solar System: volcanism, tectonism, weathering/modification/erosion, and impact cratering [R. Greeley, personal communication]. The surfaces of other planets offer multiple opportunities to engage students in understanding geologic processes. For example, the 3 main types of faults (normal, reverse and strike-slip) can be identified on the surface of Venus to help teach tectonics. Students learn about volcanism while investigating the largest volcanoes in the Solar System on the Martian surface. Enormous impact craters are observed on Mercury and the Moon. Mars displays active dust storms, sand dunes, and dust devils to help students learn about aeolian transport and deposition.

Pedagogically, students appear to be more willing to learn, and express interest (as well as confusion) about geologic processes when cloaked in the comforting ignorance of another planet. In addition, most NASA data are user-friendly and freely available online for students to access in their own time, as well as during class. I will present some successful—and some failed--ideas and concepts for incorporating planetary science into introductory geology classes, including in-class activities and labs.