Re: Where is Geology 401?

Steven M. Smith (
Wed, 22 Apr 1998 21:56:31 -0400

At 09:42 PM 4/21/1998 -0500, Glenn Morton wrote:
>Hi Norm,
>I wish Steve Schimmerich or Steve Smith would jump in here as they are more
>field geologists than this geophysicist, but I will express what I know about.

At Glenn's urging, I will add (what I hope is) a brief note. Despite
being a geophysicist ;-), Glenn seems to handle these arguments well and
I have little to add.

Norm has asked us:
<<Where is Geology 401? ... Where is there a textbook for the sort of
"foundations" course in geology that one would expect to see at a senior
undergraduate or beginning graduate level? One would expect that at this
level, now that a student is familiar with the essentials of the subject
and is presumably a serious student, that there would be a course in
which the basic logical foundations of the subject are thoroughly
examined. I have never been able to find such a book.>>

In my experience, the best "geology foundations" textbooks are usually
the ones required by the Geology 101 class. A good 101 textbook is so
crammed with foundational information that the beginning geology class
only skims the surface of the contained info. I have often recommended
to senior geology students (especially those facing the dreaded GRE test
needed to enter grad schools) that the best way to become grounded in
"foundational" knowledge is to actually read their Geo 101 text! - (too
often for the very first time). It may be ironic but I think that
geologists who write Geology 101 textbooks often hope to teach the whole
subject in one book. Maybe that's because Geology 101 is often the only
science class that non-majors ever take.

Norm also notes:
<<It seems to me that one of the most essential notions in the study of
geology is the claim that one can make reliable rock/formation
correlation's over great enough distances and with great enough
frequency to be able to make sense out of the geologic pile over large
distances. ... What I have never seen is a thorough quantitative
examination of the degree to which one can make reliable correlations
over great distances. I find this incredible, that many geologists would
like to give the impression that theirs is an academic discipline, yet
it seems so difficult to find a good treatment of this question which
one would think would be at the foundation of their subject.>>

Mapping, stratigraphy, and correlation of rock units are interwoven into
the entire education process for geologists. A student first encounters
the concepts in Geology 101, then again in Historical Geology (102). It
is also covered to some degree in Structural Geology and Field Mapping
Geology courses. The most thorough treatment of correlation is usually
found in your Stratigraphy & Sedimentology classes (Geo 362 for me). I
still refer back to the classic textbook by Krumbein and Sloss [1963,
Stratigraphy and Sedimentation, 2nd Ed., W.H. Freeman & Co.]. Perhaps
Steve Schimmrich could recommend a more modern textbook.

In Grad school, I majored in mineral exploration using geochemical
techniques and therefore only took a minimum of classes dealing with
mapping issues. The one exception was Carbonate Petrology where we
spent an entire semester exploring the complexities of limestone!

Here is one other reference for correlation and stratigraphy. The USGS
has published databases on CDROM which contain references to thousands
of articles dealing with the naming and correlation of individual
stratigraphic units. If one has a question about a single formation
(like the Fountain Fm in the Denver Basin), this is the place to start.
[Stratigraphic Nomenclature Databases for the United States, Its
Possessions, and Territories, 1996, USGS Digital Data Series DDS-6,
Release 3]

>At 09:57 PM 4/21/98 -0400, Norm Smith wrote:
>I have over the past few
>>years scanned through every book on the subject that
>>I have been able to find in the library at the
>>Colorado School of Mines (which I suppose is a
>>decent geology library). I have read those that
>>seemed relevant to my question.
>I would hope that CSM has a good geological library, I have hired people
>from that institution to work for me. :-) They seemed to know what they are

Norm, as a CSM alum I can vouch for the quality of that library.
Another resource here in Denver is the USGS library (Bldg 20, Denver
Federal Center - If you stop by, look me up since I'm in the same
building). Between these two libraries, there are very few geological
books that can't be found. However, because these libraries cater to
the geological community, the books that may be the hardest to find are
the less technical general overviews directed toward the non-geologist.

[The opinions expressed here are my own and are not to be attributed
to my employer]

:: ////// Steven M. Smith Office: (303)236-1192 ::
:: |----OO U.S. Geological Survey Message: (303)236-1800 ::
:: C > Box 25046, M.S. 973, DFC Fax: (303)236-3200 ::
:: \__~/ Denver, CO 80225 ::