Welcome to Environmental Geology (ENVS 150). These pages provide general information about the mechanics of the course as well as guidelines as to how the course will be taught and what is expected of you.

Class: Period 7, MWF, 2:10 – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Hayes Hall Rm. 109
Instructor: Eric Holdener
Office: Hayes Hall 309-C
Phone: PBX 5817
E-mail: holdenere@kenyon.edu
Office Hours: MW, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 (noon); TR, 1:00 – 2:00; or by appointment
Text Book: Pipkin, et al., Geology and the Environment (4th ed.) (GE)
Final Exam: Thursday, May 11, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.


Course Description and Objectives

This course will concentrate on interactions between Earth’s physical environment and humans. Generally speaking these interactions take two forms: voluntary interactions include such activities as exploration and mining, building, agriculture; involuntary interactions include events such as earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis. Understanding Earth’s physical environment provides answers to questions that guide decision-making processes at all levels: individual, business, and all echelons of government from local to state to national.

We will start our quest for understanding with an exploration of basic environmental concepts, including Earth materials, Earth processes, and Earth Systems. This background information will help make sense of the distribution of events and activities listed above, and with this sense we can begin our detailed examination of causes and consequences. Eventually we tackle questions whose answers are significantly geologic in nature. Why do earthquakes and volcanoes occur where they do? Why are some volcanic eruptions relatively safe to watch (from a distance of course) while others are cataclysmic? Why did this dam fail? Why did this building fall? Why does my tap water taste funny?

Ultimately you will use the knowledge you have gained to decipher and summarize the geologic underpinnings of other events and activities that are significantly geologic in nature.

Course Format

All subdisciplines of geology are best learned by hands-on observation of the subject matter, and we will compliment lectures with observations of mineral and rock specimens (i.e., in-class laboratories). We will also spend some time on exercises designed to give you essential background information to best understand how the Earth “works.” These exercises and observations are designed to give you a better understanding of the material and how it relates to human activities. I would like to take you on at least one fieldtrip; if and how this is possible will be determined at a later date. See the course schedule for possible dates.

Attendance (http://www.kenyon.edu/x24249.xml#x24252)

You are expected to attend all scheduled course meetings, including the possible off-campus fieldtrip later in the term. Furthermore, the College requires regular attendance of all first-year students and students on conditional enrollment. More importantly, your success in the course depends upon regular attendance. If you miss a class for any reason, you are responsible for minimizing the effects of the absence. If you miss an assignment, a valid excuse cleared through the Dean’s office will be required before an opportunity to make up the work is even considered.

Academic Honesty (http://www.kenyon.edu/x24263.xml)

At various times throughout the course a great deal of learning will result from the exchange of ideas among students; I encourage such cooperation. However, all materials submitted for evaluation must be your own work. Evidence to the contrary may result in zero credit for the assignment in question.

Determination of Grade and Course Evaluation

Two mid-term exams and the final will focus on material covered in lectures and readings. The final exam will be comprehensive. The minerals and rocks quiz will test your ability to recognize some of the most common and significant types of minerals and rocks. We will have discussed and observed these in class.

GeoNews reports are short (2-3 page) summaries of environmental geology related current events. An event can be any voluntary or involuntary interaction between humans and their environment. Current should be taken to mean that the event takes place during the semester, but I would be willing to discuss the possibility of older events if you have a compelling reason for wanting to report on the past event – please see me about this. Reports are due on or before the day indicated on the course schedule. You will find more details about these reports in the GeoNews section of the web site.

Graded Item


Exam 1


Exam 2


(Final) Exam 3


Minerals and Rocks Quiz


Homeworks/Exercises (4)


GeoNews Reports (3)




Participation is traditionally difficult to quantify. I will do my best to get you involved during lectures by asking questions, plus I will keep track of those contributing to the Friday paper discussions.

Regarding Disabilities

If you have a disability that requires any sort of accommodation(s) in order to participate fully in this class, your needs will be met. However, you must first contact Erin Salva at PBX 5145 or via e-mail (salvae@kenyon.edu). You are welcome to see me about your situation, but your specific arrangements must be negotiated through Erin’s office. Please take care of these matters promptly.

Scheduling Conflicts

Geologic events often strike with little or no warning. Major events in our lives (e.g., weddings) generally do not occur so unexpectedly. If an event is scheduled to take place this semester that will force you to miss a class meeting or an exam, you must see me about this matter at your earliest convenience and as soon as possible. Special consideration will not be granted to students who approach me with last minute requests!