An Introduction to Geology: 2014

Week 9. Fossils.

How to tell bone from stone: Smithsonian magazine article by Brian Switek.

The Fossil Record of Cricket (an article I wrote for ESPN Cricinfo). I later wrote another on the evolution of fast throwing.


Weeks 6. & 7. TECTONICS

The day the Earth moved – very interesting article in Cosmos magazine describing the revolutionary times of 1963, when tectonic theory came to the fore.

The Moho (or, more properly, the Mohorovičić Discontinuity) is the boundary between the crust and the mantle. It is not the same as the boundary between the lithosphere and aesthenosphere, because the lithosphere includes the solid upper mantle.

Much of the lower mantle is thought to be composed of a (newly named) mineral called bridgmanite.

There is also new evidence, including a recently discovered terrestrial sample of a mineral called ringwoodite, that the lower mantle (410 to 660 km below the surface) has considerable volumes of water trapped in it.

Both bridgmanite and ringwoodite are varieties of olivine, as explained in this helpful article.



Faunal correlation (from Wikimedia Commons)

Here are a few 2014 additions to all the existing ‘IntroGeol’ files already on the site, as follows:

Lecture notes for Class 5 “A Bit More Time”

2014_IntroGeol_Lect5 (PowerPoint)

The Rock Cycle

An excellent, rather more detailed version of the rock cycle, illustrating the subdivisions of the different sections, can be seen on the Geology Cafe website here.


The 2014 edition of the geological time scale, produced by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) can be downloaded here.

If you want details of where in the world any of the Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs) are, Wikipedia provides a pretty comprehensive list here. It is based on the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s list, which can be found here.

For more information on clay minerals, also known as sheet silicates, also known as phyllosilicates (literally ‘leaf silicates’, deriving from the same Greek origin as ‘filo’ pastry), these course notes by Prof. Stephen Nelson of Tulane University are very helpful.

An excellent Conversation article on why the discovery of clay minerals on Mars is rather important.

An Introduction to Geology: 10


Life on Mars? (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect10_future_SML (PDF) 2013_IntroGeol_Lect10_future_SML (PowerPoint)


The global seismic hazard assessment programme (1992-1999).

Predicting earthquakes (USGS web resources)

Earthquakes and seismology (BGS resources)

The L’Aquila Earthquake, Italy (by Dr Richard Walters, University of Leeds)

Did toads predict the L’Aquila earthquake? (from Nature Blogs)


International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center.

Cycles in felsic volcanic eruptions might be caused by gas waves (from Nature)

Using thermal imaging to predict volcanic eruptions (from National Geographic)

What will happen when the Yellowstone super-volcano erupts? (from io9)

The Yellowstone super-volcano is also rather larger than previously thought (from BBC News)

Plate tectonics

Measuring plate motion (by Andrew Alden, Geology About)

Using GPS to measure plate movements (University of Colorado)

Calculate the speed your plate is moving at! (from UNAVCO)

The Earth in 50 million years (from Chris Scotese’s Paleomap project)

Climate & Extinctions

The Big Five Mass Extinctions (from the Natural History Museum)

Has the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived? (paper by Barnosky et al.)

Why previous predictions of future extinctions were problematical (from Nature)

Movement of marine life follows climate change (article in Science Daily)

More species in a warmer world? (article in Nature)


An Introduction to Geology: 9


Chino copper mine, New Mexico (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture slides: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect9_econ_SML (ppt) or 2013_IntroGeol_Lect9_econ2 (pdf)

English Heritage/BGS county atlases of building stones.

GeoScenic, the national archive of geological photographs.

Minerals UK (BGS website)

Coal mining map of the UK (from the Coal Authority)

This Exploited Land: ironstone and the railways in the North Yorks Moors

Cleveland Ironstone: a history (from the Tees Valley RIGS website)

Map of UK oil and gas fields (from DECC)

UK energy analysis (by US Energy Information Administration)

Economic geology in 2013 (review issue of Nature Geoscience, including the paper ‘Metals for a low-carbon society’ by Vidic and colleagues: Vidal_etal2013_renewables_metals)

The Future of the Global Minerals and Metals Sector (BGS article)

Geology of the Coed-y-Brenin (from Geology Wales)

Geology of the Great Orme copper mines (from Wales Underground)

Treasures from the Deep (RSC article on the challenges of deep sea mining)

Rare earth elements: a beginner’s guide (from the BGS)

Rare earths and renewables (an article I wrote for the Newfoundland Independent)

Geothermal energy (BGS website)


An Introduction to Geology: 8

Fossils & Palaeontology

The Walcotts investigating the Burgess Shale (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture slides: 2013_IntroGeol_fossils_Lect8 (pdf) or 2013_IntroGeol_fossils_Lect8_SML (ppt)

3D Fossils (new project led by the British Geological Survey)

British Fossils (book by Peter Doyle)

St Hilda’s ammonite, Hildoceras bifrons (NHM website)

The Palaeontological Association (UK-based organization promoting palaeontological science)

Palaeontology Online (articles about the cutting edge of fossil research, written by palaeontologists)

Palaeocast (Palaeontology podcasts and photos on a wide variety of topics)

Fossil evidence of early life: Oldest_fossil_evidence_PaleoSoc (a short guide by the Paleontological Society)

The fossil record of cyanobacteria (UCMP website)

The earliest evidence of life ( article). If you want the full scientific version, it can be found here: 3.48 billion year-old microbially induced sedimentary structures.

An Introduction to Geology: 7


Ice and Water, Argentina (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes (pdf file): 2013_IntroGeol_Lect7_climate

Oxygen isotopes as ancient temperature proxies (from the JOIDES Resolution project).

Using earthworm poo as a palaeo-thermometer (the original paper can be read here).

Milutin Milankovitch: Seeking the Cause of the Ice Ages (from AMNH)

A tutorial on Milankovitch cyclicity (from Science Courseware)

Erratics: rocks from afar (pebbles of the Yorkshire Coast, by Coast Alive).

Mapping the glacial deposits and landforms of the Vale of York: Hall_etal2010_gcl_map_ValeYork (paper by Hall et al. 2010).

Coastal erosion maps (from the Environment Agency).

Coastal Explorer, assessing coastal erosion in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

An overview of the Snowball Earth hypothesis (Gabrielle Walker’s book is highly recommended).


An Introduction to Geology: 6


Plate tectonic map, from Wikimedia Commons.

Lecture notes as a pdf: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect6_tect_SML

Lecture notes as a PowerPoint file: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect6_tect_SML

The day the Earth moved (Extremely interesting Cosmos article on the theory of plate tectonics).

Rheology in structural geology, by the University of Leeds (just in case you missed it)

Leeds also provide further teaching resources on structural geology here.

An online geology dictionary/glossary can be found here.

What heats the Earth’s core? (from

Early Earth had molten magma oceans, new study suggests.

The Iapetus Suture on the Isle of Man (Manx Geological Survey)


An Introduction to Geology: 5


Gneiss (image from Wikimedia Commons)

A pdf of the lecture slides – 2013_IntroGeol_Lect5_meta

Types, grades and facies of metamorphism (a guide by the British Geological Survey).

Classification of metamorphic rocks (from Kentucky University)

A list of metamorphic mineral types (from UC Santa Barbara)

Metamorphic minerals (National Museum of Wales guide)

An atlas of metamorphic minerals in thin section (from Oxford University)

Barrovian metamorphism (from James Madison University)

George Barrow, metamorphic pioneer (from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Chiastolite slate from the Lake District (from the NE Geological Society)

A simple introduction to rock deformation – rheology – can be found here (from the University of Leeds). It might prove useful for lecture 6 too!

An Introduction to Geology: 4


Lower Jurassic mudstones and limestones, Lyme Regis (from Wikimedia Commons)

PowerPoint presentation for lecture 4: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect4_sedy

A Geological Society information page on sedimentary rocks can be found here.

A BBC Bitesize summary of sedimentary rocks can be found here.

A list of US Geological Survey resources on sedimentary geology can be found here.

For information on the soils of the UK, go to the NERC Soil Portal.

The British Society of Soil Science also provides lots of educational information about soils, including lots of free downloads.


An Introduction to Geology: 3


Igneous rocks (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes for class 3: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect3

A guide to some of the common rock-forming minerals.

A summary of igneous rocks, magmas and volcanoes (courtesy of Tulane University)

National Museum of Wales’ guide to minerals (including those of the igneous rocks of Wales)

The UK Virtual Microscope (images of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in hand specimen and under the microscope, courtesy of the Open University).

Teaching resources on volcanoes (courtesy of the US Geological Survey)

Volcano in the lab (a Royal Society of Chemistry experiment to build your own wax volcano)

High resolution, simplified geological map of the UK (from the same website)

The Mentos-Diet Coke volcano (a very explosive DIY experiment!)

Eruptions of confection (a lot of volcanic cakes – of no scientific value, but good fun!)

An Introduction to Geology: 2


Geological time spiral

Lecture 2 handout: 2013_IntroGeol_Lect2

Geological timescale charts (from the ICS)

Determining the Age of the Earth (Scientific American special edition, containing lots of short papers on the topic)

British geological time and climate (free poster from the BGS)

Old Father Time (a Rocky Road article about William Smith)

The time lord of York (my article about John Phillips)

Fortune favours the brave (my article about the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary)

Holmes the Detective (Rocky Road article about Arthur Holmes)

The challenges of dating the oldest rocks (New Scientist article)