Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

CCOG for G 203 Fall 2022

View archive version »
Course Number:
G 203
Course Title:
Evolution of Planet Earth
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces historical geology which deals with geologic time, fossils, stratigraphic principles, and the geologic history of the North American continent. Recommendation: completion of G 201 or G 202 or GS 106. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and (MTH 95 or MTH 98) or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Evolution of Planet Earth (G 203) is intended for both geology majors and non-majors, and is one term of a three course group of foundational  college geology courses. G 203 introduces students to the principles of historical geology and the geologic evolution of the Earth.

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 geologic 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.
  • 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 past environments recorded in specific geologic areas using an understanding of sedimentary rock and fossil characterization and classification.
  2. Analyze how relative and absolute dating have been used to construct and refine the geological time scale.
  3. Explain major events in the geologic record using an understanding of earth systems and biological evolution.
  4. Explain how past geologic events have set the stage for current issues impacting our community and the environment using scientific reasoning based on field and/or laboratory and/or remote measurements and observations. 
  5. Assess the contributions of historical geology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of historical 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. Discuss the evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics
  2. Explore the geologic and fossil record for each of the major geologic eons and eras
  3. Discuss the evidence supporting the theory of evolution
  4. Describe and use the geologic time scale
  5. Explore the basic concepts involved in radiometric dating
  6. Discuss the principles used in relative dating
  7. Examine common invertebrate fossils

Topics to be covered include:

  1. Plate Tectonics (may be covered in G201)
    1. Alfred Wegener and evidence for continental drift
    2. Magnetic reversals and sea-floor spreading
    3. Using hot spots to determine plate motion
    4. Rifting and the origin of ocean basins
    5. Features associated with each type of plate boundary (divergent, convergent, transform)
    6. Ophiolites
    7. Subduction and related volcanism
    8. Continental collisions and relationship to mountain building
    9. Convection as a driving force of plate tectonics
  2. Geologic Time
    1. Uniformitarianism
    2. Principles of relative dating (horizontality, superposition, cross-cutting relations, inclusions, faunal succession)
    3. Unconformities (angular unconformity, disconformity, nonconformity)
    4. Correlation
    5. Radiometric Dating (isotopes, half-life, parent and daughter isotopes)
    6. Other absolute dating techniques (tree-rings, varves, lichenometry)
    7. Geologic time scale
  3. Statigraphy
    1. Stratigraphic units (formation, group, etc.)
    2. Time-rock unit
    3. Evidence for changing sea level
    4. Fossils and evidence for evolution
    5. Index fossils
  4. Precambrian
    1. Divisions of Precambrian time (Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic)
    2. Formation of the Earth and Moon as members of the solar system
    3. Speculation on the conditions on the Earth during the Hadean
    4. Archean crust
    5. Origin of continents
    6. Granulite gneiss/greenstone belts
    7. Crustal provinces of North America and assembly of Laurentia and Rodinia during the Proterozoic
    8. Wilson cycles
    9. Early atmosphere
    10. Precambrian ice ages
    11. Origin of Life
    12. Indirect evidence of Life through carbon isotopes in Isua formation ~ 3.8 by ago
    13. Cyanobacteria in 3.5 by Australian cherts
    14. Stromatolites
    15. Prokaryotic vs. eukaryotic cells
    16. Ediacaran Fauna
  5. Paleozoic
    1. Divisions of the Paleozoic
    2. Transgressions and Regressions (Sauk, Tippecanoe, Kaskaskia, Absaroka)
    3. Orogenies (Taconic, Caledonian, Acadian, Antler, Ouachita, Allegheny/Hercynian)
    4. Assembly of Pangea
    5. Clastic wedges
    6. Cyclothems
    7. Cambrian Explosion
    8. Burgess shale
    9. Trilobites
    10. Brachiopods vs. Mollusks
    11. Foraminifera
    12. Paleozoic Reefs (archeocyathids, corals, sponges, bryozoans)
    13. Emergence of Fish (jawless, jawed, ray- and lobe-finned)
    14. Emergence of amphibians and reptiles (amniotic egg)
    15. Plants invade land
    16. Great Permian Extinction
  6. Mesozoic
    1. Divisions of the Mesozoic
    2. Orogenies (Sonoma, Nevadan, Sevier, Laramide)
    3. Breakup of Pangea
    4. Cretaceous transgression
    5. Dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and flying reptiles
    6. First birds and mammals
    7. Angiosperms (flowering and deciduous plants)
    8. K-T extinction
  7. Cenozoic
    1. Divisions of the Cenozoic
    2. Alpine-Himalayan Belt
    3. Laramide orogeny
    4. Colorado Plateau
    5. Basin and Range
    6. Pleistocene ice ages
    7. Radiation of mammals
    8. Human origins