Introduction

I have been in the Union College Geology Department since 1985, and was the first hired when the department was restarted. I did a two-plus year stint as chairman, was four years Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Union College, and did another 6 year stint as Chair. Though trained principally in metamorphic petrology and igneous geochemistry, my work has diversified somewhat in the liberal arts setting of the College. Ancillary research interests now include the geochemistry of natural waters and dinosaur coprolites. I am also sponsor a web site for college and high school level Earth Science labs and exercises. I also enjoy making illustrations, and yet more illustrations.

Courses

At various intervals I teach the six courses listed below. I am interested in teaching geologic science, but also about the nature of science, the use of science in public policy, and science literacy of the general public. Here is a short list of books and other resources that I think all educators should be familiar with.

 

Physical Geology: An introduction to geological materials, geologic structures, and geologic processes. It is an overview of what the Earth is made of and how geologic processes change the landscape, climate, and rocks, over time. The course has bi-weekly labs that emphasize collection and interpretation of geologic data in the field. The object is to interpret the geology as professional geologists might, in the context of regional geologic history.

 

Mineralogy: This is partly a classic mineralogy course, covering mineral form, symmetry, internal structure, mineral identification, crystal chemistry, X-ray diffraction, and mineral optics. Weekly labs are hands-on, and include X-ray diffraction projects, construction of atomic models of sheet silicates, and a scanning electron microscope introduction. Homework exercises mostly involve basic mineral and crystal calculations involving density, unit cell volume, and chemical formulae, and special guided readings from the American Mineralogist. The lab final exam is handed out the first day of class: a box of 65 numbered minerals (which they keep) that the students identify by the end of the term. Students are motivated to learn and use of the available identification techniques.

 

Petrology: This course covers the mineralogy, chemistry, and origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks. It is designed to give a modern perspective of the materials, conditions, and processes that combine to produce the variety of igneous and metamorphic rocks that we see at the Earth's surface. Homework emphasis is on basic petrologic calculations, plotting data, and reading modern papers on petrology from the journal Geology. Labs emphasize work on thin section and hand sample suites from a variety of igneous and metamorphic terranes. This course also has three one-day field trips to various sites in New York and western New England.

 

Geochemistry: Not a standard overview of geochemistry, but emphasizing practical practice and application of geochemistry to understanding geologic problems. The course is divided up into five blocks, each of which is devoted to a limited geochemical topic: element and isotope abundances, radiometric dating, chemical weathering, crystal/liquid trace element partitioning in magmas, and the chemistry of natural surface water. For each block, students collect, prepare, analyze samples by ICP-MS and other methods, review the data, and write mathematical models on spreadsheets. Students get lots of practice working with and analyzing samples, working with mathematical models, and writing.

 

Other things of interest

Available data: A variety of rock and water chemistry data are available on our Data Page.

 

Analytical equipment: We have a large variety of analytical and sample prep equipment. See our equipment page for details.

 

Virtual field trips: We have several virtual field trips on the web from a variety of places in the world, including New England, Alaska, and Greenland.