Geological Science and Engineering

Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Two New Field Courses in Geology


For many years, the Department has run two 5-day field trips during the week immediately following Canadian Thanksgiving – one to New York State and the other to the Quebec City region – and over the years nearly 1000 students in Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering have taken one or both of these trips. In the past, these trips were integrated into other courses, with little formal credit for the workload and experience. Starting last year, the Department has taken the innovative step of granting individual “quarter course” credit for each of these trips; students who take both trips get credit for the equivalent of a one-term course in Field Geology that counts toward their degree requirements. Students attend an introductory lecture, participate in assignments, and write an exam based on the content and concepts of the trip. Both trips have direct relevance to a career in the petroleum industry, and have been supported partially by industrial partners, including Shell Canada, and the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. Students pay for their own accommodation and food. Transportation is paid for by students through the Transportation Levy, with substantial support provided by the Geological Field Education Fund generate by alumni and industrial contributions.

GEOL 301 travels to New York State and Pennsylvania to investigate the sedimentary rocks and fossils of eastern North America during the 250 million-year interval between the late Precambrian breakup of supercontinent Rodinia and the late Paleozoic assembly of supercontinent Pangea. During this time, eastern North America was subject to the Ordovician collision of an island arc (the Taconic Orogeny), a period of relative quiescence in the Silurian, and the Devonian collision of the mid-sized continent Avalonia that generated the Acadian Orogeny. The trip gives students an excellent overview of the genesis of the siliciclastic and carbonate rocks that accumulated in fluvial and shallow-marine settings in response to these major tectonic events. The ability to observe, describe, and interpret sedimentary rocks is a cornerstone of this field course. Fossils are present in nearly every outcrop and provide key environmental information – paleontological highlights include the world’s oldest coral reefs, abundant Ordovician and Devonian marine fossils including early ammonoids and fish, and the advent of terrestrial life in the Devonian. These deposits also host significant hydrocarbon and mineral resources – in particular the Knox Unconformity that elsewhere hosts Mississippi-Valley-type mineral deposits and spectacular outcrops of the Ordovician Utica Shale and the Devonian Marcellus Shale that represent two of the most important hydrocarbon source beds in North America. This field trip is a recommended adjunct to our courses in Paleontology (GEOL/GEOE 337), Carbonate Sedimentology (GEOL/GEOE 368), and Terrigenous-clastic Sedimentology (GEOL/GEOE 478).

GEOL 401: This trip travels through eastern Ontario and the Quebec Appalachians to discover geological processes and products of the Cambro-Ordovician Taconic Orogeny, one of the major geological events in the evolution of North America. It is designed to link major concepts in sedimentology, paleontology, structural geology, and global tectonics. Focus is on the contrasting rock types, depositional environments, and fossils present on the stable Laurentia craton through to the ancient continental margin, where students see deep slope deposits and obducted oceanic crust. The excursion begins with examination of shallow-marine siliciclastic and richly fossiliferous carbonate rocks and the far-field effects of initial collision with an off-shore volcanic arc. Participants then explore the juxtaposition of platformal carbonates and the evolving foreland basin deposits near Quebec City. Stepping across Logan’s Line, students get to see the exceptionally preserved but transported deep-water carbonate slope deposits in their paleoceanographic context. The trip ends by travelling deep into the mountain belt near Thetford Mines to study world-class exposures of volcanic rocks, ophiolites, and their mineral deposits that were accreted to North America. This region is of inordinate geologic importance because it was here in eastern North America that many of the principles of plate tectonics as related to mountain building were first worked out. The excursion is used to demonstrate the proper methodology which should be employed in large-scale geologic enquiry especially as related to hydrocarbon resources and economic mineral deposits. The trip builds on principles gained in GEOL 301, is more regional in scope, and is strongly recommended as a link with GEOL/GEOE 488.

Fieldtrip Leaders and TAs:
Each of these trips is normally led by two professors, who provide top-level instruction throughout the trip. Additional support from corporate sponsors or alumni through the creation of one or more named Teaching Assistant positions for these courses would be welcomed! For additional details, please contact Department Head, Dr. Jean Hutchinson hutchinj@queensu.ca.