GEOL 105: Earth Lab: Resources and Consequences (4)

Class Time: TBD. Students should plan on the possibility of meeting at any time and all day Monday through Friday- this does not mean that we will be in the classroom, lab, or the field all day for five days a week; however, your schedule should be sufficiently flexible so as to meet any day of the week. Most of the course will consist of all-day field trips with three two-day overnight trips with supplemental discussions and work in the classroom and in the lab.

Place: Lecture - Sed/Strat/Paleo Lab- Science Addition A122

Text: There will be no required text for this course; rather, there will be prepared readings from the scientific and mainstream literature related to the specific processes, issues, techniques, and locations that we will be studying

Instructor: Dr. Paul Low

Office: Science Addition A115
Office hours: ...for Spring Term will be by appointment. Anytime that my office door is open, you are welcome.
Office phone: 540-458-8271
Cell: 413-627-5869
E-mail: lowp@wlu.edu

Description (from the catalog): The emphasis and location of the study area differs from year to year. Most course activity involves outside field work with a series of multi-day to multi-week field trips. The primary goal of this course is an in-depth introduction to a particular region or field of geological study for introductory level science students.

FDR: SL This course fulfills the university’s general education requirement for a lab science.

Introduction: Since the Paleolithic Age, humans have used geologic materials on a daily basis in order to sustain both our lifestyles and our lives. The extraction, refinement, trade, and consumption of these resource materials creates a variety of negative externalities that must be considered when making informed, responsible decisions as consumers and citizens. This Earth Lab course will introduce students to geologic resources through the field investigation of issues related to:

coal- with a particular emphasis on the process of mountain-top removal and valley fill mining that is common in central Appalachia and coal ash storage

shale gas- with a particular emphasis on the process of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus formation that underlies much of WV, OH, NY, PA, and parts of VA

hydroelectric facilities, aggregate mining, sulfide deposits, & pegmatite deposits

In addition to resources that are commonly extracted within the region, this course will discuss issues related to our use of:

other conventional hydrocarbons (oil and gas)- with a particular emphasis on the recent Deepwater Horizon Disaster (aka the BP Oil Spill)

other unconventional hydrocarbons - tar sands of Athabasca (Canada) and oil shale of the Green River Formation (Western USA)

mineral resources from ophiolites and large igneous complexes such as the Bushveld (South Africa)

mining and international trade of diamonds

A large portion of this course will involve an original research project of water quality comparing undisturbed areas and areas of intensive, recent, and historical mining activity wherein students will collect water samples, analyze them, interpret the results, and communicate those results. Water quality analyses will be performed in the field using various techniques including colorimetry and back in the lab using ion chromatography and ICP-OES; the chemistry department‘s XRF will be used to characterize solid materials.

Objectives: Understanding the complex interaction between humans and geologic resources requires a multifaceted, non-reductionist, interdisciplinary approach that considers the physical and chemical properties of the materials involved, the geologic processes through which these materials were formed or concentrated, the geologic and geophysical knowledge that is necessary to locate them, the industrial processes required for their extraction and beneficiation, the economic and political factors that determine their societal value, and the environmental, social, cultural, political, and aesthetic consequences that we as a society and as individuals are willing to endure in the pursuit of survival, comfort, and bling. Toward this end, students in this course will be expected to approach an understanding of geologic resources and their consumption on three levels:

(i) How do natural, geologic processes produce the materials and concentrate the elements that society deems to be of such great value that we are literally willing to move (the) Earth? Understanding the formation of ore- and hydrocarbon-deposits provides the basis for considering how (or if) these resources can be consumed conscientiously; furthermore, understanding the natural restraints on the abundance and distribution of geologic resources is essential to understanding regional and global depletion, disruption, and scarcity in a global economy of nation-states.

(ii) What are the environmental and social consequences of using different resources? Students will study, often through direct observation or measurement, quantitative and qualitative examination of environmental quality as it is affected by the consumption of geologic resources.

(iii) Why do we rely so heavily on certain resources despite these environmental and social costs? Students will concentrate not only on the scientific concepts of physical and chemical geology and hydrology and geospatial distribution, but on sociological concepts such as institutional inertia and the psychology of previous investment, Jevons paradox, costs externalization, and our society's love affair with techno-triumphalism and its refusal to accept on a practical level the very concept that resources can, in fact, be finite.

In addition to learning about the scientific method, low-temperature geochemistry, relevant analytical tools, methods, and software, the skills that students will be expected to take away from this course include the ability to:

(i) interpret geologic and topographic maps
(ii) identify geologic materials and to understand their physical and chemical properties
(iii) interpret and draw conclusions from quantitative data
(iv) communicate these interpretations to a target audience

Prerequisite: Any previous geology course (such as GEOL 100, 101, 104, 141, 144, 150, or 155) and permission of the instructor.

Grading: This will be primarily a project based course. Almost 1/2 of your grade will come from lab/field reports with a substantial portion of the final grade from a report that will synthesize and communicate the observations, measurements, analyses, and interpretations from field sites visited throughout the first 1/2 of the term. In addition to the field reports, there will be a mid-term exam and a final exam and content-based quizzes covering theory and methods discussed in class and in the assigned reading. Late assignments will not be accepted

Field Trips: This is a field-based course and, while we will not be outside all of the time, students should expect to be in the field for extended periods of time. With the exception of dangerous weather (as interpreted by the instructor) and days in which the weather will adversely affect our ability to effectively make measurements or observations, field trips will be made in all weather conditions. When preparing for field days, it is suggested that students check the weather forecast for the area and dress appropriately. Trips may involve hiking (sometimes over rough terrain), bushwhacking, rock scrambling, stream crossings, boating, wading, swimming, tubing, banjos, et cetera. There will be ample opportunities to perspire, get dirty, scratched by branches, interact with biting insects, poison ivy, and the occasional sasquatch. The Spring-Term weather will be such that it will probably be uncomfortably hot at some point in the term and will probably be uncomfortably cold at some point in the term. Trips will be organized to optimize students’ safety, education, and comfort (in that order). Students should please let me know if they have any special medical condition relevant to their safety in the field (allergies, diabetes, missing spleen, et cetera). Overnight trips will involve camping or other (relatively) non-luxurious accommodations.

Honor System: The pledge, “On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unacknowledged aid on this (exam, test, paper, etc.).” will apply to all of your assessed work in this course.

Possible Reading List:

Plumlee et al. (2006) The Toxicological Geochemistry of Earth Materials: An Overview of Processes and the Interdisciplinary Methods Used to Understand Them. (Reviews in Mineralogy: Medical Mineralogy and Geochemistry)

Attari (2010) Public Perceptions of Energy Consumption and Savings (Proceedings of the National Academies of Science)

Orem and Finkelman (2007) Treatise on Geochemistry: Coal Formation and Geochemistry

Excerpts from Swaine and Goodarzi (1995) Environmental Aspects of Trace Elements in Coal (Energy & Environment) (monograph)

Palmer et al. (2010) Mountaintop Mining Consequences (Science Magazine)

Excerpts from Burns (2005) Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal Surface Coal Mining on Southern West Virginia Communities, 1970-2004 (Ph.D. Dissertation)

Excerpts from EPA (2005) Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on Mountaintop Mining/Valley Fills in Appalachia - EPA 9-03-R-05002 (government document)

Finkelman et al. (1999) Health Impacts of Domestic Coal Use in China (Proceedings of the National Academies of Science Colloquium Paper)

Selected readings from Region 4: TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Fly Ash Release (http://www.epa.gov/region4/kingston/index.html)

Selected readings from the popular media related to the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Fly Ash Release

Soeder (2010) The Marcellus Shale: Resources and Reservations (EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union)

Excerpts from Evans (1997) An Introduction to Economic Geology and Its Environmental Impact (monograph)

Owen et al. (2010) The status of conventional world oil reserves—Hype or cause for concern? (Energy Policy)

Excerpts from Kunstler (2005) The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (monograph)

Kelley et al. (2010) Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries (Proceedings of the National Academies of Science)

Pegau (1929) The pegmatites of the Amelia, Goochland, and Ridgeway areas, Virginia (American Journal of Science)

Excerpts from Watson et al. (1907) Mineral resources of Virginia (monograph)

Hinkle (1982) Project Summary: Reclamation of Toxic Mine Waste Utilizing Sewage Sludge-Contrary Creek (government document)

Hammarstrom et al. (2008) Environmental geochemistry of a Kuroko-type massive sulfide deposit at the abandoned Valzinco mine, Virginia, USA (Applied Geochemistry)

Cawthorn (1999) The platinum and palladium resources of the Bushveld Complex (South African Journal of Science)

Cawthorn and Walraven (1998) Emplacement and Crystallization Time for the Bushveld Complex (Journal of Petrology)

Haggerty (1999) A Diamond Trilogy: Superplumes, Supercontinents, and Supernovae (Science Magazine)

Excerpts from Workman (2009) Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought (monograph)

Excerpts from Campbell (2004) Blood Diamonds: Tracing The Deadly Path Of The World's Most Precious Stones (monograph)

Selected readings from Region 4: TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Fly Ash Release (http://www.epa.gov/region4/kingston/index.html)

Selected readings from the popular media related to the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Fly Ash Release

Soeder (2010) The Marcellus Shale: Resources and Reservations (EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union)

Excerpts from Evans (1997) An Introduction to Economic Geology and Its Environmental Impact (monograph)

Owen et al. (2010) The Status of Conventional World Oil Reserves—Hype or cause for concern? (Energy Policy)

Excerpts from Kunstler (2005) The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (monograph)

Kelley et al. (2010) Oil Sands Development Contributes Elements Toxic at Low Concentrations to the Athabasca River and its Tributaries (Proceedings of the National Academies of Science)

Pegau (1929) The Pegmatites of the Amelia, Goochland, and Ridgeway areas, Virginia (American Journal of Science)

Excerpts from Watson et al. (1907) Mineral resources of Virginia (monograph)

Hinkle (1982) Project Summary: Reclamation of Toxic Mine Waste Utilizing Sewage Sludge-Contrary Creek (gov doc)

Hammarstrom et al. (2008) Environmental Geochemistry of a Kuroko-Type Massive Sulfide Deposit at the Abandoned Valzinco Mine, Virginia, USA (Applied Geochemistry)

Cawthorn (1999) The Platinum and Palladium Resources of the Bushveld Complex (South African Journal of Science)

Cawthorn and Walraven (1998) Emplacement and Crystallization Time for the Bushveld Complex (Journal of Petrology)

Haggerty (1999) A Diamond Trilogy: Superplumes, Supercontinents, and Supernovae (Science Magazine)

Excerpts from Workman (2009) Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought (monograph)

Excerpts from Campbell (2004) Blood Diamonds: Tracing The Deadly Path Of The World's Most Precious Stones (monograph)