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CCOG for G 202 Fall 2023

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Course Number:
G 202
Course Title:
Earth Surface Processes
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces physical geology which deals with mass wasting, streams, glaciers, deserts, beaches, groundwater, and use of topographic maps. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and (MTH 95 or MTH 98) or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Earth Surface Processes (G 202) is intended for both geology majors and non-majors, and is one term of a three course group of foundational college geology courses.  G 202 examines  the Earth's landscapes and the geologic processes which create landscapes.

Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations in order to successfully complete this course.

Field Based Learning Statement

Earth and space sciences are based on observations, measurements and samples collected in the field. Field-based learning is recommended by numerous professional Geology organizations, including the American Geological Institute and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Field-based learning improves both metacognition and spatial/visualization abilities while helping to transfer basic concepts to long-term memory by engaging multiple senses at the same time. Spatial thinking is critical to success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines. Field work may include:

  • Developing skills in site characterization
  • Application of key terms and concepts
  • Measurement and data collection
  • Interpretation of data and observations, and fitting them to a larger context

Field work may be physically challenging and may require overland travel on foot or other means to field sites, carrying equipment and supplies, and making measurements in unusual or awkward positions for a length of time.  Field work may include inherent risks (uneven terrain, variable weather, insects, environmental irritants, travel stress, etc.). Field work can be adapted to individual abilities.

Creation Science Statement

Regarding the teaching of basic scientific principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology/General Science Subject Area Committee  stands by the following statements about what is science. 

  • Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. A scientific theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth. The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation.
  • “Creation science,” also known as scientific creationism, is not considered a legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy. This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1004).
  • Geology/General Science instructors at Portland Community College will teach the generally accepted basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution) not as absolute truth, but as the most widely accepted explanation for our observations of the world around us. Instructors will not teach that “creation science” is anything other than pseudoscience.
  • Because “creation science”, “scientific creationism”, and “intelligent design” are essentially religious doctrines that are at odds with open scientific inquiry, the Geology/General Sciences SAC at Portland Community College stands with such organizations as the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute in excluding these doctrines from our science curriculum.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Explain the geologic processes which formed specific landforms using an understanding of landform characterization and classification.
  2. Analyze how earth materials, uplift, subsidence, erosion, transport, deposition, climate, biological activity, and time interact to create landscapes.
  3. Evaluate an earth surface processes-related problem or issue impacting our community or the environment using scientific reasoning based on field and/or laboratory and/or remote measurements and observations. 
  4. Assess the contributions of physical geology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of physical geology in its historical and cultural context.

Quantitative Reasoning

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to analyze questions or problems that impact the community and/or environment using quantitative information.

General education philosophy statement

Geology and General Science Courses develop students’ understanding of their natural environment by introducing students to Earth, its processes, and its place in the larger scale of our solar system, galaxy, and the universe. Students learn how: • Earth is related to other terrestrial planets, • Plate tectonics drives volcanism and seismicity, • Surfaces and atmospheres evolve through time, setting the stage for the origin of life as well as mass extinctions, • Earth’s climate has changed via natural astronomical cycles interacting with the earth system’s (atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere) in the past and is changing presently due to anthropogenic causes. Students gain an appreciation for geologic time and the rate of Earth processes and learn the methods used by scientists to observe and study our planet and the universe beyond. Students are introduced to the foundational concepts of how to apply quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills to solve Earth and Space science problems, and they gain an appreciation for the processes that operate at these spatio-temporal scales. Students learn how internal and surficial Earth processes impact society giving them the context to better understand natural hazards, energy and resource distribution, and impact of humans on our habitat to participate in societal discussions and decisions about these topics in a responsible manner.

Course Activities and Design

The material in this course will be presented in a  lecture/discussion format accompanied by laboratory exercises. Other educationally sound methods may be employed such as guest lectures, field trips, research papers, presentations, and small group work.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

At the beginning of the course, the instructor will detail the methods used to evaluate student progress and the criteria for assigning a course grade. The methods may include one or more of the following tools: examinations, quizzes, homework assignments, laboratory write-ups, research papers, small group problem solving of questions arising from application of course concepts and concerns to actual experience, oral presentations, or maintenance of a personal work journal.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Identify and classify the landforms associated with mass wasting, groundwater, streams, glaciers, deserts and shorelines
  2. Understand how landforms are related to the processes of erosion, transport and deposition
  3. Describe the materials that make up landforms associated with mass wasting, groundwater, streams, glaciers, deserts and shorelines
  4. Examine weathering and the formation of soils (this topic may be covered in either G201 or G202 at the discretion of the instructor)
  5. Develop an understanding of the kinds and origins or geologic structures (this topic may be covered in either G201 or G202 at the discretion of the instructor)
  6. Examine the role of plate tectonics in shaping the surface of the Earth
  7. Discuss hazards associated with mass wasting, groundwater, streams, glaciers, deserts and shorelines

Topics to be covered include: 

  1. Weathering (may be taught in G201 instead)
    1. Mechanical weathering (frost wedging, abrasion, exfoliation)
    2. Chemical weathering (dissolution/solution, oxidation, hydration)
    3. Factors that affect weathering rates
    4. Products of weathering (sand, clay, iron oxides/hydroxides)
    5. Soil structure
    6. Types of soils (pedocals, pedalfers, laterites)
  2. Structural Geology (may be taught in G201 instead)
    1. Stress and strain
    2. Folds (syncline, anticline, dome, basin)
    3. Faults (normal, reverse, strike-slip)
    4. Strike and dip
    5. Mountain building and relation to stress
    6. Relationship to plate tectonics
  3. Mass Movement
    1. Causes of mass movement (gravity, slope angle, angle of repose, slope composition, vegetation, water)
    2. Types of mass movement (falls, flows, slides, slumps)
    3. Features associated with mass movement (talus, evidence of creep, scarp)
    4. Prevention of mass movement
    5. Triggers (storms, earthquakes, fires, land use)
  4. Streams
    1. Hydrologic cycle
    2. Stream topography (drainage basin, divide, tributaries, distributaries, gradient, graded stream)
    3. Stream erosion (base level, abrasion, hydraulic lifting, dissolution, waterfalls)
    4. Drainage patterns (dendritic, radial, rectangular, trellis)
    5. Channels (braided stream, meandering stream, cut bank, point bar, flood plain, terraces)
    6. Transport (competence, capacity, dissolved load, suspended load, bed load, saltation)
    7. Deposition (alluvial fan, delta, channel deposits, flood plains)
  5. Groundwater
    1. Groundwater movement (hydraulic gradient, zone of aeration, zone of saturation, water table, porosity, permeability, aquifer, aquiclude, artesian systems)
    2. Springs and geysers
    3. Groundwater pollution/depletion (subsidence, saltwater intrusion, cone of depression)
    4. Karst topography (sinkholes, bind valleys, disappearing streams)
    5. Caves and their features (stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, columns, dripstone/flowstone)
  6. Glaciers
    1. Formation and budget of glaciers (snow to firm to glacial ice, zone of ablation/wastage, zone of accumulation, furn line/snow line)
    2. Classification of glaciers (alpine glaciers, valley glaciers, continental ice sheets)
    3. Glacial flow (plastic deformation and basal slip)
    4. Erosional features (cirque, tarn, horn, arête, u-shaped valley, hanging valley, fjord)
    5. Glacial sediments and sedimentary features (drift, till, erratic, moraine, drumlin, outwash, eskers)
    6. Introduction to ice ages (evidence for past ice ages, possible causes of last ice ages)
  7. Deserts
    1. Types of deserts (subtropical created by global air circulation, rain-shadow)
    2. Water erosion and deposition and related features (alluvial fan, pediment, bajada, arroyos, playa)
    3. Wind erosion and deposition and related features (deflation, deflation basins, desert pavement, ventifacts, yardangs, dunes, loess)
  8. Coasts
    1. Waves (wavelength, wave base, wave motion, breaker, wave refraction, longshore current, rip current)
    2. Erosion and erosional features (headlands, wave-cut platform, marine terrace, sea cave, sea arch, sea stack)
    3. Deposition and depositional features (beach, spit, berm, baymouth bar, tombolo, groins, jetties, breakwaters, barrier islands)
    4. Relationship to plate tectonics (passive vs. active margins)
    5. Features associated with sea level changes (estuary, fjord)
    6. Causes of sea level changes (glaciers, rate of sea-floor spreading, human-induced global warming)