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CCOG for G 207 Fall 2023

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Course Number:
G 207
Course Title:
Geology of the Pacific Northwest
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces the regional geology of the Pacific Northwest with emphasis on Oregon geology. Includes basic geologic principles, earth materials and geology of Pacific Northwest provinces. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and (MTH 58 or MTH 65) or equivalent placement. Recommended: High school Geology course or equivalent experience. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Geology of the Pacific Northwest (G 207) is a one-term introductory course in geology. The purpose of this course is to acquaint the student with basic geologic principles and the regional geology of the Pacific Northwest emphasizing Oregon and Washington.

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 sceintific 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 such 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. Relate the physiographic provinces of the Pacific Northwest to the geologic materials and processes that create distinctive landforms.
  2. Describe the assembly of the Pacific Northwest from diverse geologic terranes using an understanding of plate tectonics and surficial geology. 
  3. Explain how past geologic events have set the stage for current issues impacting the  communities and environment of the Pacfic Northwest using scientific reasoning based on field and/or laboratory and/or remote measurements and observations. 
  4. Assess the contributions of physical and historical geology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of the geology of the Pacific Northwest 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.  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, 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. Locate the physiographic provinces of the Pacific Northwest on a map
  2. Explore the rock types and geologic features of each of the physiographic provinces of the Pacific Northwest
  3. Identify and describe the major features of the Earth's surface and interior
  4. Describe the major types of materials that make up the Earth's crust and explain how each material relates to the rock cycle
  5. Describe the geologic processes and features that occur at plate boundaries
  6. Describe the impact of surficial processes on landscapes and geologic materials
  7. Identify the role of volcanism and faulting in the development of the High Lava Plains and the Basin and Range Provinces
  8. Describe the roles of flood-type volcanism, catastrophic flooding, and glaciation in the development of the Columbia Plateau
  9. Compare the geologic histories of the Western Cascades, High Cascades, and North Cascades provinces
  10. Discuss the formation of the Puget Sound and Willamette Valley
  11. Describe the role of accretion and crustal deformation in the development of the Klamath Mountains and Blue Mountains
  12. Describe the role of subduction in the development of the Coastal ranges and the Cascades
  13. List the major divisions of the standard geologic time scale

Topics to be covered include:

  1. Physiographic Provinces
    1. Landscape, climate, and vegetation of the PacificNorthwest
    2. Physiographic provinces of the Pacific Northwest
  2. Earth’s Surface Composition and Structure
    1. Regolith vs. bedrock, sources of regolith, variations in depth of regolith
    2. The three rock types; common examples, processes of formation
    3. Occurrence of rocks, cover vs. basement, horizontal vs. folded and faulted strata, types of intrusions, structure of mountain ranges, geologic maps
    4. Rock cycle; internal process vs. surficial processes, energy sources for internal and surficial processes.
    5. Continental crust vs. oceanic crust; differences in composition and thickness
  3. Historical Geology
    1. Principles of relative and absolute dating
    2. Fossils, faunal succession, stratigraphic correlation
    3. Past environments; sedimentary evidence for past geographies and climates
    4. Geologic time scale
  4. Plate Tectonics
    1. Basic idea of plate tectonics, evidence for plate motion, difference between continental and oceanic crust, internal structure of the earth, heat loss
    2. Creation and destruction of oceanic crust at ridges and trenches, age of oceanic crust
    3. Geologic activity and structure at each type of plate boundary (transform, convergent, divergent), cause of earthquakes, volcanism and topography at plate boundaries
    4. Hot spots, hot spot tracks, oceanic vs. continental hot spots, causes of hot spots
  5. Coastal Provinces; Coast Ranges and Olympic Mountains
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Paleogrography of Tertiary coast
    3. Coastal processes, evidence for uplift
    4. Modern tectonic setting, accretion, evidence for prehistoric subduction zone earthquakes
  6. Lowland Provinces; Puget Sound and Willamette Valley
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Glaciation and ice age floods
  7. The Volcanic Arc: Cascade Mountains Province
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Subduction zone volcanism
    3. Tertiary plate tectonic setting of the Pacific Northwest
    4. Old cascades vs. young cascades, uplift of Cascade Mountains
    5. Volcanic hazards
  8. Extension and Hot Spots: Basin and Range, Columbia River Plateau and High Lava Plain
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Timing of basin and range extension, formation of fault block mountains
    3. Flood basalt volcanism, vs. silicic volcanism
    4. Hot Spot volcanism
  9. Accreted Terranes: Kalamath Mountains, Blue Mountains and North Cascades
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Accreation of exotic terranes, stacking of terranes, stitching by plutons
    3. Mesozoic plate tectonic setting of the Pacific Northwest
  10. Edge of the Craton: Okanagan Highland and Rocky Mountains
    1. Major topographic features, drainages, rock units and geologic structures
    2. Cratonic sediments, fold and thrust belts
    3. Paleozoic plate tectonic setting of the Pacific Northwest