GEOL 102 Historical Geology:
The History of Earth and Life

Spring Semester 2019

The Paleozoic strata of the Grand Canyon at the Bright Angel Trail

Lecture: Plant Sciences Building (036 PLS) 1113 9:00-9:50 am MWF
Laboratory Geology Building (237 GEO) 2107 2:00-5:00 pm W

Instructor: Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Room: Geology Building (237 GEO) 4106
Office Hours (REVISED): Th 11 am-noon, or by appointment
Phone: (301) 405-6965, Email: ELMS or

NOTE: It is your responsibility as a student to completely read through and understand this syllabus. If you have questions about it, please contact Dr. Holtz. You will be held responsible for following all requirements of this syllabus.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:

Course Organization: 3 meetings per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), 1 laboratory per week (Wednesday).

Field Trip: 1 non-mandatory field trip is planned:

This trip is non-mandatory and non-graded, but will greatly advance your understanding of historical geology; additionally, there will be rock- and fossil-collecting opportunities on the trip.

Lectures lost due to University late openings or cancellations or instructor absence will be made up as Panopto video recordings on the ELMS page.

Grade Percentage
Midterm Exam I: 20%
Midterm Exam II: 20%
Final Exam: 20%
Labs: 25%
Quizzes: 15%

Grade Scale: The numbers given represent the thresholds that must be passed in order to reach that grade (for example, A+ is 97.000... and any number greater). There is no rounding for letter grades; the thresholds must be passed. F is any grade below D-. Thresholds: 97, A+; 93, A; 90, A-; 87, B+; 83, B; 80, B-; 77, C+; 73, C; 70, C-; 67, D+; 63, D; 60, D-; < 60, F.

The Final Grade is the algebraic sum based on the numerical grades.

Midterm Exams (20% each): Two pen-and-paper exams on March 6 and April 17, respectively. Absence from the exams will not be excused except for those causes approved by University policy in the University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog. Only those students excused for these causes will be eligible for a make-up exam.

Final Exam (20%): A pen-and-paper final exam during the regularly scheduled exam season. It is cumulative for the entire course. Format is similar to the mid-term exams. The preliminary date is MONDAY MAY 20, 8-10 am (to be confirmed mid-semester): please plan your end-of-semester travel accordingly!! (It that means informing your parents about this now, please do so!). Again, absence from the final will not be excused except for those causes approved by University policy in the University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog.

Quizzes (15%): Weekly quizzes will be given either in class or in lab (depending on time available that week), but which emphasizes the material from the lectures. These will typically be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, or true/false. The lowest two quizzes will automatically be dropped: this is how missed quizzes will be accommodated.

Labs (25%): Essentially every week there will be a lab. Labs are due the week after they are assigned, allowing students time to examine specimens over the course of the week if they wish. For more information, see the separate lab syllabus. The lowest lab grade will be automatically dropped. NOTE: Most labs are derived from the Ossian textbook (see below); it is vitally important that each student purchase a copy of this text.

Required Texts:
Lecture Text: Earth System History. Fourth Edition. by Steven M. Stanley & John A. Luczaj (2015, W.H. Freeman) ISBN-13 978-1429255264

Lab Text: Insights: A Laboratory Manual for Historical Geology 5th Edition by Clair Russell Ossian (2015, Kendall Hunt) ISBN-13 978-1-4652-6079-6

Supplementary Text: Maryland's Geology. Second Edition. by Martin F. Schmidt, Jr. (2010, Schiffer Publishers) ISBN-13 978-0764335938


Expectations and Policies
Expectations & Attendance:
Historical Geology is a foundational course for the field. Many of your later courses--Sedimentology & Stratigraphy, Structural Geology, Geochemistry, Field Geology, and perhaps even your Senior Thesis--will draw upon methods, concepts, and terms derived from this class.

If you hope to earn a good grade for the class, and to retain the information for future classes, make sure that you keep up with the readings (from the textbooks and the online lecture notes), and make sure you that you understand the concepts and information. If you are having problems, feel free to ask questions (in class, by email, or in Office Hours)

Attendance in class is expected. The PowerPoints will not be provided to students, although there are detailed lecture notes online. If you cannot make a certain lecture, try and find another student who might lend you their notes. (In fact, establishing a study group early in the course has proven useful for many students in the past).

NOTE: Attendance means more than mere presence: it means "paying attention". Please take out your ear buds and refrain from texting/web-browsing/doing homework/etc. in class and in lab.

Communication in this course will primarily be by means of the ELMS Inbox email system. In cases of inclement weather or other unexpected emergencies, the University may close. Please consult the University main webpage or call 301-405-7669 (SNOW) to confirm such cancellations. Dr. Holtz will contact students via ELMS in order to inform them concerning delays of due dates for projects to be handed in or for exams: typically these will be shifted until the next available class date.

As part of the nature of the course, there will be a lot of memorization (less than a foreign language class, but more than that found in more mathematically-oriented introductory science classes). This will include lots of anatomical, geological, and paleontological terms, as well as evolutionary and temporal relationships. If you have difficulty memorizing, this may not be the class for you. Also, if there are words or concepts with which you are not familiar, feel free to ask Dr. Holtz (in class, after class, over email, etc.) for an explanation or clarification.

General Policies:
The University has provided a page on Academic policies here. Each student is responsible for reviewing this page with regards to issues of Academic Integrity; the Code of Student Conduct; Sexual Misconduct; Discrimination; Accessibility; Attendance, Absences, or Missed Assignments; Student Rights Regarding Undergraduate Courses; Official UMD Communication; Mid-Term Grades; Complaints About Course Final Grades; Copyright and Intellectual Property; Final Exams and Course Evaluations; and Campus Resources. For specifics with regards to this course, see the following:

Laptop/Tablet/Smartphone Use:
Recent studies have shown that:

Towards this end, I very strongly encourage you to take notes via pencil/pen and paper. It is in your academic benefit to do this.

If you choose to take notes using a computer, you are agreeing to the following conditions:

When not in use, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and all other modes of electronic communication must be turned off and stowed away during class and discussion time. (NOTE: using your smartphone between your legs underneath the desk is NOT "stowed away", and you aren't and have never fooled a teacher or instructor when you try that...) If you are using the device for recording lectures, please activate them then leave them untouched for the remainder of the lecture.

That said, there may be some group activities in which we will use individual laptops/tablets/smartphones in class. Dr. Holtz will make every effort to inform you about this in advance. However, in those situations you may only use these devices for the task at hand.

Course Evaluations:
CourseEvalUM will be open for students to complete their evaluations during the last two weeks of the semester. Students can access CourseEvalUM through ELMS to complete their evaluations. You will be alerted about these dates and provided more information closer to that time, and students will be alerted via their official University e-mail account.

Students who complete evaluations for all of their courses in the previous semester (excluding summer), can access the posted results via Testudo's CourseEvalUM Reporting link for any course on campus that has at least a 70% response rate. You can find more information, including periodic updates, at the IRPA course evaluation website. The expectation is that all students will complete these. This is YOUR chance to anonymously evaluate this class: please use this opportunity!

Copyright: © 2019 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. as to this syllabus, all lectures, and all written material provided in this course. Students are prohibited from copying and selling course materials, from selling lecture notes, and from being paid to take lecture notes without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course. Violations of this prohibition will be treated as violations of the University Honors Code and reported and dealt with accordingly.

  • Schedule & Lecture Notes
  • Laboratory Syllabus & Policies

    For a formatted printable copy of the complete syllabus, click here.

    Last modified: 5 February 2019

    Strata from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation to the Upper Cretaceous Frontier Formation, Bighorn Basin, WY