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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

GEOL 1111: Introduction to Earth Science

This lab course studies the nature of the Earth and its development through time. Students examine the Earth's origins and composition, in addition to volcanoes, earthquakes, and development of the landscape over time by such processes as weathering, mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, wind and waves. The lab component of the course has a focus on identification and understanding of minerals and rocks, and on the interpretation of geological features from topographic maps.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the properties of some common minerals and use them to identify minerals.
  • Explain the relationships between minerals and rocks.
  • Describe and identify igneous rocks and the processes involved in their formation, and the different types of intrusive bodies and how they are formed.
  • Explain the relationships between volcanism and plate tectonics, and discuss some of the processes that occur before and during volcanic eruptions.
  • Describe the various processes and products of weathering, and explain the relationships between weathering and soil.
  • Describe the processes involved in the formation of sedimentary rocks and explain how the study of sedimentary rocks can be used to understand past environments of the Earth.
  • Explain the processes of metamorphism and describe the characteristics of several different types of metamorphic rocks.
  • Identify some common sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
  • Describe various methods of geological dating, use the geological time scale, apply information about fossils to date rocks, and explain how radiometric techniques can be used to date rocks.
  • Discuss the compositions and characteristics of the Earth's interior and the nature of seismic wave motion through the Earth, and explain the origin and features of the Earth's magnetic field.
  • List the Earth's important plates, and describe their extent.
  • Summarize some of the important geological advances of the 20th century that provided the evidence for the theory of plate tectonics.
  • Describe the mechanisms for plate movement and the geological processes that occur at plate boundaries.
  • Explain how the principle of elastic deformation applies to earthquakes; describe what defines a rupture surface; explain the relationship between stress transfer and aftershocks; distinguish between earthquake magnitude and intensity; and explain how communities and individuals can be best prepared for an earthquake.
  • Discuss the hydrological cycle and its relevance to surface water and groundwater; describe stream processes; and discuss the origins and characteristics of braided and meandering streams.
  • Discuss the steps that can be taken to reduce the damage from flooding.
  • Explain the concepts of aquifer porosity and permeability, the water table, hydraulic gradient, and confined and unconfined aquifers.
  • Describe some of the ways that groundwater can be contaminated, and what can be done about it.
  • Discuss the timing of some of Earth's past glaciations; explain how snow accumulates to form ice; and describe the effects of glacial erosion and the types of deposits related to glaciation.
  • Explain the various factors that contribute to slope instability, and the types of events that can trigger a slope failure.
  • Describe the various types of mass wasting in terms of the materials involved and the type of motion, and discuss some of the steps that we can take to reduce our risks from mass wasting.
  • Describe how waves are formed, and how they change as they approach the shore; discuss the origins of longshore currents and longshore drift; and explain the processes and landforms of coastal erosion and deposition.
  • Summarize the properties of greenhouse gases and their role in controlling the climate, and explain the roles of climate forcings and climate feedbacks; and describe some of the mechanisms and consequences of anthropogenic climate change.
  • Discuss the changes in British Columbia's climate over the past several decades.
  • List some of the actions that individuals can take to limit climate change.
  • Summarize the Precambrian history of North America; discuss the accretion of exotic terranes in western Canada during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic to form the Intermontane and the Insular Superterranes; and describe the origins of the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Range.

Course topics

Unit 1: Introduction, Minerals, Igenous Rocks, and Volcanism

Unit 2: Weathering and Soil, Sedimentary and Metamorphic Rocks, and Geological Time

Unit 3: Earth’s Interior, Plate Tectonic, and Earthquakes

Unit 4: Water, Glaciation, and Mass Wasting

Unit 5: Shorelines, Climate Change, and the Geological History of Western Canada

Required text and materials

Students will receive the following:

  1. Scott Resources. (n. d.). Scott Resources Canada rock and mineral collection.

    Note: Students will use this rock kit for the laboratory component.

Students will need to source the following on their own:

  1. Earle, S. (2019). Physical geology (2nd ed.). Vancouver, BC: BCcampus.
    Students can download the following Open Textbook, online, free of charge at the BCcampus website:

Additional requirements

The laboratory component focuses on rocks, minerals, and topographic maps, which are packaged and made available for students to use at home.


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, you are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in-person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

In order to successfully complete this course, students must obtain at least 50% on the final mandatory examination and 50% overall.

Assignment 1 12%
Assignment 2 12%
Assignment 3 12%
Assignment 4 12%
Assignment 5 12%
Final Exam (mandatory) 40%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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