3 credits - Fall 2017 - M 1:35-2:25 and W 1:35-5:25 in FD Adams 348 - or on location

Download complete Syllabus in pdf format


Prof: Jamie Kirkpatrick (james.kirkpatrick[at]mcgill.ca, Office: FDA 340)
Office hours: Mondays 2.30-3.30pm, FDA340

Sarah Bodeving (sarah.bodeving[at]mail.mcgill.ca, Office: FDA346)
David Martineau (david.martineau[at]mail.mcgill.ca, Office: FDA346)
Noah Phillips (noah.phillips[at]mail.mcgill.ca, Office: FDA404)

TA office hours: Tuesdays 11.30am to 12.30pm.
Sept 19 - Oct 10: Sarah in FDA346
Oct 17 - Nov 7: Noah in FDA404
Nov 14 - Dec 5: David in FDA346

About this course

Welcome to Geology in the Field. This course is designed to introduce students to the practice of making observations of rocks in the wild (or, in and around Montreal), teach them how to identify a few common rock types and understand how those rocks were formed, to think about the relationship between bedrock structure and the topography of the landscape, and to wade into thinking about geologic time.

This course will meet twice per week - a 50-minute lecture on Monday, and a 3h50 period on Wednesday for putting geological methods into practice.

This course is designed to introduce students to the practice of field geology, and will involve walking to light hiking during many assignments. Any student who is concerned about access or mobility issues should contact the instructor as soon as possible to determine how we can work together to enable everyone to participate in the course. Students will want to wear sturdy shoes (which may get muddy on some days), and be prepared to work outside even if it is cold or raining. For some labs, students will need to take public transportation (or use a bicycle or other mode of personal transportation) to meet at sites around Montreal.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, you will be able to make first-order field descriptions of a variety of local rocks and distinguish between primary (depositional) characteristics of sedimentary and volcanic rocks and features produced by deformation. You will learn to use a geological compass to measure primary and secondary features of rock outcrops. You will learn to read topographic and geologic maps. Along the way, you will be exposed to key concepts in geology, the history of geology, and the rich and economically important geology of Quebec.

This course will serve as a pre-requisite for the traveling field courses offered in May (EPSC 231, 330, 331).

You will need

  • BOUND field notebook with a hard cover - preferably Rite-in-the-Rain or Moleskin, 12x19 cm
  • Hand lens (loope or magnifying glass) with x5 - x10 magnification
  • Set of pencil crayons (coloured pencils) - 12 colours
  • Sharp pencils
  • Protractor and ruler (10 cm or longer)
  • Hiking shoes or boots (might get a bit muddy)
  • Warm clothes; rain jacket


Freeman, Tom, Geology Field Methods, 2010, Friendship Publications, Columbia, MO, 2010, 111 p.
Available from the instructor for $20.00 CAD (or $15 USD).

Other readings to be distributed in class as necessary.


McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/ for more information).

In accord with McGill University's Charter of Students' Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.

Reading and lectures for this course will be given in English, which is the most commonly used international language for science, including geology. I encourage you to use any literature or online resources to learn the terminology of structural geology in French, and I hope I will learn along with you. You are welcome to submit written work in French. I reserve the right to enlist the help of francophone colleagues as needed to assist in grading your work.

First rock description feedback only
Pace and Compass 5%
Champlain Sea Sediments - stratigraphic column 10%
Topographic map exercise 5%
Geologic Maps Lab 5%
Sketching 5%
Grenville Field Trip 10%
Sutton field trip 10%
Geophysics exercise 10%
Volcanic rocks - Isle St Helene 10%
Google Mars Lab - Landforms and interpretation 5%
Calculations on topographic maps 5%
Geology of Quebec presentation 5%
Geology of Quebec report 15%

Course Schedule and Materials

This section will be updated weekly - check in frequently for reading assignments and other instructions.

Week Date Topic Reading Field Trip Turn in today
1 Sept 4 Labor Day - no meeting
Sept 6 Intro to course; First outcrop description 4 short articles online: Your World, Rocked (Slate.com), Is GPS ruining our ability to navigate for ourselves? Vox.com and Mount Royal geology (In French, if you can't read it, use google translate and look at the pictures) and Montreal's Lost Rivers (undermontreal.com). Meet at FDA 348 at 1:35, after a brief intro we will walk together up to Peel St. & Ave. des Pins.
Assignment sheet and Key Concepts handout
2 Sept 11 Orientation and scale Freeman pages 1-10, 16-21, 64-67.
Watch Chuck Bailey's video on how to measure Strike and Dip.
Practice visualizing the spatial arrangement and orientation of geologic units.
Turn in outcrop description in notebooks
Sept 13 Meet at FDA 348 at 1:35, after a brief intro we will walk together to the space west of Burnside and Otto Maas.
Pace and compass exercise.
Key Concepts handout
Assignment sheet
3 Sept 18 Describing and measuring sediments Freeman 70-73, 94
Wiki article on the Champlain Sea.
How sedimentary rocks are deposited (don't worry about faults for now).
Watch these two videos on glacial sediments: Glacio-marine sediments and Glacial history in North America. Note that the soil scientists who made these videos use the term `parent material' because they are interested in the soils that develop out of these sediments.
If you're feeling lucky, check out fossils from Champlain Sea sediments so you can identify any you might find Musee de Paleontologie et de l'evolution
Key Concepts handout
Photos of Sedimentary Structures shown in class,
Lecture slides
Pace and compass
Sept 20 Describing and measuring sediments (gravel quarry field trip; vans leave FDA courtyard at 1:35 sharp). This field trip is off-island so allow for possible late return due to traffic on the way back.
4 Sept 25 Topographic Maps and geologic maps Freeman 74-75, 96-100; How to read a Topographic Map from How Stuff Works. Watch Chuck Bailey's video on how to use a Brunton compass. Here's a good video from Michael Sammartano on topographic maps.
A nice introduction to the variety of different rock types.
Sept 27 Topographic Map exercise on Mt Royal - meeting place either FDA348 or the Mount Royal Cemetery (Chemin Remembrance & Voie Camilien-Houde)
Key concepts handout
Turn in Strat Column
5 Oct 2 Interpreting sedimentary rocks The details of cross-bedding and cross-stratification.
A nice example of cross bedding in California
Some information on the Champlain Sea .
Lecture slides
Oct 4 Introduction to geology in 3D Turn in Topographic map exercise
6 Oct 9 Thanksgiving
Oct 11 Sketching, observing - with David Covo and Robert Mellin from Architecture
Bring: plain paper, soft lead pencil (HB, HB2), pencil sharpener.
Reading Geology in 3D lab
7 Oct 16 Plutonic and metamorphic rocks, shear zones Grenville vocabulary
Make a cup of tea and watch National Geographic's explanation of plate tectonics
Grenville Field Trip Assignment
Oct 18 No class (replaced by trip on Saturday) Turn in sketches from week 6 to Jamie's mail box
Oct 21 Grenville field trip
8 Oct 23 Introduction to deformation structures Fold and metamorphic rock vocabulary
A playlist of videos showing folding in action
Rotate a fold in 3D to see how it looks different when viewed in different directions.
Magog-Sutton Field Trip Assignment
Oct 25 No class (replaced by trip on Saturday)
Oct 28 Magog-Sutton field trip
9 Oct 30 Geophysics: seismic reflection The basics of seismic reflection.
Lecture slides on fold shape and orientation
Lecture slides on refraction seismology
Refraction survey results - forward
Refraction survey results - reverse
Turn in report from Grenville field trip
Nov 1 Hammer seismics on lower field
10 Nov 6 Igneous rocks Reading
Wired explains all about
Turn in Magog-Sutton report
Nov 8 Metro field trip!
Location of the outcrop in Google Maps
Isle St Helene
Assignment sheet
Turn in Seismics
11 Nov 13 Landforms - relating to bedrock geology and surface processes Link to Google Earth files for the geology of Ontario
Link to Google Earth files for the geology of Utah
How to figure out the age of features on a planet you have never visited?
No meeting Bring in notebooks for grading - leave in Jamie's mailbox
Nov 15 Google Earth lab - using 3D data, interpreting patterns
Assignment sheet
Google Earth Pro
Turn in: Isle St Helene
12 Nov 20 Constructing cross sections Lecture notes from this week are here.
Nov 22 Cross section assignment Download map as jpg (7MB). Assignment sheet Turn in Google Earth Lab
13 Nov 27 Plate tectonics Reading
Nov 29 Cross section assignment
14 Dec 4 Geology of Québec Huge and beautiful geologic map of Québec.
Read about the evidence for the oldest traces of life on Earth.
Dec 6 Geology of Québec presentations

Map of planned field trip locations (TENTATIVE; SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Topics for Quebec Geology Report (assignment handout)

  1. Modern Saint Lawrence Estuary (present-day depositional environment)
  2. Hudson Bay Lowlands (glacial-modern)
  3. Glacial geology of Quebec, e.g Champlain Sea (Neogene)
  4. Monteregion Hills (Cretaceous)
  5. Saint Lawrence lowlands (Paleozoic)
  6. Appalachian foreland - ophiolites (Paleozoic)
  7. Appalachian foreland - Dunnage and Humber Zones (Paleozoic)
  8. Grenville Orogen (Proterozoic)
  9. Labrador Trough (Archean-Proterozoic)
  10. Abitibi region gold (Archean)
  11. Superior Province (Archean)