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GEOL 103 History of Earth • 6 Cr.




Surveys the geologic history of the earth, including the history of life on earth. Students learn to interpret rock and fossil evidence. The course is designed for non-majors includes laboratory work. Fulfills laboratory science course requirement at BC.


Fulfills laboratory science course requirement at BC.


After completing this class, students should be able to:

  • Scientific Skills
    • Evaluate scientific information using the scientific method
    • Distinguish between observation and interpretation, and hypothesis and theory.
    • Express lab results with proper number of significant figures
    • Construct and interpret different types of graphs and charts
    • Efficiently communicate results of research to other students in the class; such as through presentations, written assignments, etc.
    • Recognize and use prefixes in metric measurements
    • Demonstrate the ability to read and interpret topographic and geologic maps.
    • Apply critical thinking skills to evaluate public issues and current events involving geology
    • Make observations of geologic materials through descriptions and sketches
    • Critically analyze scientific hypotheses using observations and data provided
  • Geologic Knowledge
    • General
      • Define geology
      • Explain the significance of the theory of plate tectonics.
      • Describe and illustrate the general structure of the earth.
      • Describe the relationship between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks in the rock cycle.
      • Describe the accomplishments of important geologists, e.g. James Hutton, Alfred Wegener, and Charles Lyell.
      • Recognize important geologic terminology, particularly those terms that are used in the media.
      • Derive geologic information from different types of maps and aerial photographs.
      • Construct and interpret geologic maps and cross sections
      • Interpret geologic history using aerial photographs.
    • Minerals and Rocks
    • Explain differences between and define elements, minerals and rocks
    • Distinguish between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
    • Identify common igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks using appropriate identification flow charts.
    • Use rock composition and texture to interpret the geologic history of rocks (i.e., learn to “read the rocks”).
    • Describe the role plate tectonics plays in the formation of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
    • List examples of the common types of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
    • Construct detailed descriptions of sedimentary rocks.
    • Compare the common types of environments in which sediment is deposited, and list the characteristics of the sediments found in each environment.
    • Identify and interpret common sedimentary structures.
    • Explain how paleogeographic reconstruction and paleoclimatic inferences can be made from rocks
    • Earth’s Structure and Plate tectonics
      • Identify the major layers of the earth and list their basic characteristics.
      • Cite the evidence for the old hypothesis of Continental Drift, and explain why the hypothesis failed.
      • Define plate tectonics.
      • List the three major types of plate margins.
      • Describe the basic tectonic setting of the Pacific Northwest.
      • Synthesize the types of geologic activity and materials formed at each type of plate margin.
      • Explain how oceanic and continental crust is formed at plate boundaries and describe the basic characteristics of both types of crust.
      • Calculate plate velocities using hot spots and/or magnetic stripes.
      • Apply modern plate tectonic concepts to understanding past plate tectonic activity.
    • Geologic Time
      • Distinguish between uniformitarianism and catastrophism.
      • Distinguish between relative and absolute time, and explain how they are used in conjunction to determine the age of rocks.
      • Describe the way which geologists subdivide rock units.
      • Define the basic principles of relative dating and apply them place geologic events in chronological order.
      • Interpret chronology of geologic events using relative dating principles and geologic cross sections
      • Distinguish between different types of unconformities and explain how rock formations are correlated.
      • Explain how radiometric dating is used to determine the absolute age of rocks.
      • List the commonly used radioactive isotopes, the types of material they are used to date, and their limitations.
      • Calculate absolute ages using radiometric dating principles.
      • Discuss the other major types of absolute dating (e.g. dendrochronology, varves, lichens)
      • List, in correct order, the major divisions of the geologic time scale, including the ages of the major boundaries.
      • Explain how the geologic time scale was created.
      • Place human concept of time in context of geologic time.
      • Correlate rock formations based on lithology, biostratigraphy, etc.
    • Paleontology
      • Define fossil and explain how they can be used to help determine depositional environments.
      • Identify common fossils using fossil identification charts.
      • Interpret fossils assemblages to determine the age of rock units.
      • Explain how living things are classified and list the major Kingdom of living things.
      • Distinguish between the major phylum, by using physical characteristics of living things.
    • Evolution & Extinction
      • Define the theory evolution and discuss the historical development of the theory.
      • Discuss the geologic and biologic evidence for evolution.
      • Explain the genetic basis for evolution and show how natural selection works in conjunction with genetic variation
      • List examples of speciation
      • Discuss the relationship between plate tectonics and biological evolution
      • Explain the ways in which organisms live, eat, and move around, and their relationships to each other within an ecosystem.
      • Explain the record of extinction in the geologic record. List some examples of causes of extinction.
    • Geologic and Biologic History of the Earth
      • Interpret geologic maps and cross sections to understand the geologic history of the earth.
      • Explain the current hypothesis for the formation of the universe, solar system, earth and moon.
      • List the basic characteristic of our solar system, including basic properties of the planets.
      • Explain the methods geologists have used to determine the age of the earth, and identify the problems with some of the methods.
      • Discuss the origin and evolution of the atmosphere and oceans.
      • Explain the current hypothesis for the origin of life on the earth. List evidence that supports this hypothesis.
      • Discuss the geologic history of the earth (with an emphasis on North America) from the Precambrian to the present. Include a discussion of the following for each major time period:
        • Major rock formations and rock-forming processes
        • Major plates, plate tectonic “events’, the formation of major geologic provenances and mountain ranges
        • Dominant life forms, evolutionary developments and major extinctions
        • Atmospheric and oceanic composition and characteristics, including ice ages and other types of climate change
        • Major economic deposits
      • Define and discuss the importance of transgressions and regressions.
      • Define terrane and explain the importance of terranes in the development of Washington State.
      • Describe the geologic evolution of the west coast of North America during the Phanerozoic. Cite evidence for this geologic story.
      • Discuss the evolutionary history of the genus Homo.
      • Apply knowledge of geologic history to understand the future geologic and biologic change (e.g. greenhouse warming, rising sea level, mass extinctions)

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Bellevue College
3000 Landerholm Circle SE Bellevue, WA 98007-6484 U.S.A.
Work: (425) 564-1000