3 credits - Fall 2018 - M 1:35-2:25 and W 1:35-5:25 in FD Adams 348 - or on location

Download complete syllabus in pdf format


Lecturer: Kirsten Rempel (kirsten.rempel[at]mcgill.ca, Office: FDA 344)
Office hours: Mondays 2:30-3:30pm

Fiona D'Arcy (fiona.darcy[at]mail.mcgill.ca)
Shane Rooyakkers (shane.rooyakkers[at]mail.mcgill.ca)
Lauren Somers (lauren.somers[at]mail.mcgill.ca)

TA office hours:

Fridays, 10-11 am
Fiona, FDA 130A, Sept 7-Sept 28
Lauren, FDA 131B, Oct 5-Oct 12; Oct 26-Nov 2
Shane, FDA 130A, Nov 2-Nov 23

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 (loupe 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/academicrights/integrity/cheating 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.

Assignment Mark
First outcrop description feedback only
Pace & compass exercise 5%
Sand quarry exercise 10%
Topographic map on Mt Royal 5%
Geology in 3D - sketching w/ Covo and Mellin 5%
3D info from geologic maps 5%
Igneous and metamorphic rocks (Grenville trip) 10%
Metasediments and folds (Magog-Sutton trip) 10%
Hammer seismics exercise 10%
Volcanic rocks on Île Ste-Hélène 10%
Landforms with Google Earth 5%
Cross section & 3-point problem 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 Materials Turn in today
1 Sept 3 No lecture (Labour Day) 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).
Sept 5 Intro to the course & first outcrop description (meet in FDA 348, then we'll walk up to Mt Royal) Assignment, key concepts and lecture slides
2 Sept 10 Geological maps, scale & orientation measurements 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. Lecture slides Turn in first outcrop description in notebooks (for feedback only)
Sept 12 Pace & compass exercise, using geologic compass (meet in FDA 348, then we'll walk to the centre of campus) Assignment and key concepts
3 Sept 17 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 Musée de Paléontologie et de l'évolution. The details of cross-bedding and cross-stratification. A nice example of cross bedding in California. Some information on the Champlain Sea. Lecture slides Pace & compass lab (5%)
Sept 19 Sand quarry trip - Sediments description & Quaternary geology (vans leave MILTON GATES at 1:35 sharp . This field trip is off-island so allow for possible late return due to traffic on the way back.) Assignment and key concepts
4 Sept 24 Topographic & 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 - some of it might be intended for kids (the rock cycle video), but it's accurate, and entertaining! Lecture slides Sand quarry trip report (10%)
Sept 26 Topographic map reading with GPS (meet in FDA 348 or at Mt Royal cemetery, Chemin Remembrance & Voie Camilien-Houde) Assignment and key concepts
5 Oct 1 No lecture (classes cancelled for Québec election day) Bring to lab: plain paper, soft graphite pencils (HB, 2B, etc), pencil sharpener.
Oct 3 Geology in 3D lab: Sketching & observing on Mt Royal (w/ architects David Covo and Robert Mellin) Topographic map lab (5%)
6 Oct 8 No lecture (Thanksgiving)
Oct 10 Extracting 3D info from geologic maps (in FDA 348) Assignment and lab intro lecture Geology in 3D lab (5%)
7 Oct 15 Igneous and metamorphic rocks Check out these Wikis on igneous and metamorphic rocks to get ready for the Grenville trip. Lecture slides
Oct 17 No lab (replaced by trip on Saturday) 3D info from geologic maps (5%) Turn in to Kirsten's mailbox
Oct 20 Grenville field trip - Gneisses, scariness and granite (whole day trip - meet at 9 am at Milton Gates) Grenville field trip assignment and key concepts
8 Oct 22 Introduction to deformation structures A playlist of videos showing folding in action. Rotate a fold in 3D to see how it looks different when viewed in different directions. Lecture slides and stereonet
Oct 24 No lab (replaced by trip on Saturday)
Oct 27 Magog-Sutton field trip - Slates, greenstone, folds (whole day trip - meet at 8:30 am at Milton Gates) Magog-Sutton field trip assignment and key concepts
9 Oct 29 Folds and interpretation using stereonets The basics of seismic reflection
Lecture slides
Oct 31 Shallow subsurface geophysics: Hammer seismics (meet in FDA 348, then we'll walk to the centre of campus) Seismics assignment postponed due to rain. New lab for this week: Stereonets lab Grenville trip report (10%)
10 Nov 5 Volcanic rocks and diatremes Wired explains all about diamonds
Make a cup of tea and watch National Geographic's explanation of
plate tectonics.
Lecture slides Stereonets lab (5% replaces x-section lab)
Nov 7 Volcanic rocks on Île Ste Hélène (Metro field trip! Meet in FDA 348, or at 2:30 pm at parking lot P13, Parc Jean Drapeau) Assignment, key concepts and location of the outcrop in Google Maps Magog-Sutton trip report (10%)
11 Nov 12 Landforms - relating to bedrock geology & surface processes **Île Ste Hélène trip this week! Google Earth/Mars lab moved to next week.**
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?
Lecture slides
Nov 14 Google Earth lab - Landforms and interpretation (in FDA 348) Assignment
Google Earth Pro
Hammer seismics (10%)
12 Nov 29 Intro to plate tectonics This week's lab is the Google Earth/Mars exercise. Make sure you have Google Earth Pro installed on your laptops before the lab!
There are additional map files to download, specified in the lab handout.
Correction: instead of the Surficial Geology map of Ontario, you'll need the Bedrock Geology map.
Lecture slides
Nov 21 Cross section & 3-point problem (in FDA 348) Îsle St Hélène trip report (10%)
13 Nov 26 Geology of Québec Huge and beautiful geologic map of Québec. Read about the evidence for the oldest traces of life on Earth. Lecture slides Google Earth landforms lab (5%)
Nov 28 Geology of Québec presentations (in FDA 348) Geology of Québec presentation (5%)
14 Dec 3 No lecture
Dec 4 Last day of classes Geology of Québec report (15%)
Dec 5 No lab

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. Monteregian 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)