Materials to Know

Gain a solid foundation

In order to prepare for your Field School experience, you should have solid understanding of the following:

You should know

  • geologic time scale
  • local stratigraphic column (Cambrian Flathead - εf , Cambrian Wolsey - εw , Cambrian Meagher - εm , ...)
  • general geographic setting
  • strike and dip (definition, symbols, measurement)
  • relationship between dip of beds and topography (assessment of high, medium, and low dips, direction of dip, succession of stratigraphic units)
  • 3-point problem for determination of the dip of a plane (bed, fault, axial plane)
  • map patterns for:
    • anticline- geometries, horizontal, plunging
    • syncline- geometries, horizontal, plunging
    • normal fault
    • strike-slip fault
    • thrust fault (high angle reverse fault)
    • fold cut by fault (various combinations)
    • unconformity, disconformity
  • standard map symbols (strike and dip, fold axes, minor structures, contacts, faults)
  • stereo plots (plotting of a plane, pole to plane, β - plot, π- plot)
  • relationship between dip of sedimentary units and stratigraphic succession
  • rule of V=s
    • for topography (contour lines V upstream)
    • for closure on a fold (plunging fold determination requires knowing age of units)
    • for unit with respect to topography (dependent on relative dips)
  • use of topographic maps (navigation, location, elevation, relief, profiles for geological cross sections)
  • construction of a topographic profile for a geological cross section (1:1 scaling, bend in line of section)
  • selection of location and construction of geologic cross section (perpendicular and parallel to regional strike)
  • determination of sedimentary rock types (gross rock type ID, fossils, depositional environment)
  • fossils (identification, age of abundance, depositional environment)
  • determination of metamorphic rock types (gross distinctions, metamorphic facies)
  • mineral identification in the field with hand lens
  • determination of igneous rock types (gross distinctions, intrusive vs. extrusive, dike vs. sill)
  • general geological history of the Rocky Mountain Region

Review material

If you have access to an introductory historical geology text (e.g. Evolution of the Earth by Dott and Batten, Historical Geology by Dunbar and Waage, History of the Earth by Kummel, or one of several others which are normally used in an introductory course) it would be worthwhile for you to read the sections containing information on the geologic history of eastern South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Pay particular attention to the history and timing of major orogenic events (e.g. Antler, Nevadan, and Laramide orogenies) and perhaps try to identify one or two exceptionally unusual or well-known events/characteristics in the history of the northern Rockies for each period of geologic time (e.g. Cambrian – west to east transgression; Late Jurassic – widespread deposition of continental facies (Morrison Fm.); Cenozoic – end of Laramide orogeny with vertical block uplift and associated non-marine deposition; etc.). Among other things, this exercise will ensure that you know the geologic time scale, at least to the period level. Knowing the time scale is essential to the stratigraphic thinking that you will be doing, starting on the first day of the course.

If some time has passed since you have worked with contour lines on topographic maps, it would be helpful to review basic principles of reading contours. This material can be found in almost all laboratory manuals written for introductory physical geology courses. Normally these manuals also have a chapter on geologic maps, which you also might wish to review. Topographic and geologic maps will be used extensively in your work at the Field Station. An efficient way to review techniques of contour reading is to select the topographic map from the area in which you reside and use it to practice location in the field. Go to an area that has good contour character and traverse around, stopping every few hundred yards in order to locate yourself on the map. Use only the contours to get your location. On geologic maps, make sure that you are familiar with the map patterns of plunging folds, faults, and to review basic principles of strike and dip as applied to geologic map interpretation.

The course textbook, which will be given to you in Bloomington or Rapid City, contains most of the pertinent geologic information that you will need during the trip to the Field Station. Topographic maps and state geologic maps will be placed in the caravan vehicles to supplement the information in the textbook. Two-way radios will be used to point out details of the geology along the route, to discuss regional geology, and to expand on discussion associated with the outcrops that we study.

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