GEOL 102 Historical Geology
The History of Earth and Life

Spring Semester 2017

PLS 1113 9:00-9:50 am MWF
LAB GEO 2107 2:00-5:00 pm W

Instructor: Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.

Room: Geology (237 GEO) Wed 10-11:30 am, or by appointment

Phone: (301) 405-6965, Email:

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.

Grade Percentage
Midterm Exam I: 20%
Midterm Exam II: 20%
Final Exam: 20%
Quizzes: 10%
Labs: 20%
Lab Exams: 10%

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 1 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 WEDNESDAY MAY 17, 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 (20%): 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. NOTE: Most labs are derived from the DEH textbook (see below); it is vitally important that each student purchase a copy of this text.

Lab Exams (5% each): There are two lab exams. These are done in the lab time scheduled, and include a mixture of specimen-based and graphics-based questions. The first one (March 15) concerns materials from the labs of weeks 1-7; the second (May 10) concerns materials from the remaining labs.

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: Deciphering Earth History: Exercises in Historical Geology. Fourth Edition (DEH) by R.A. Gastaldo, C.E. Savdra, and R.D. Lewis (2006, CPC Publishing) ISBN-13 978-0898923162

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


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.

Attendance in class is expected. If you cannot make a certain lecture, try and find another student who might lend your their notes. (In fact, establishing a study group early in the course has proven useful for many students in the past).

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.

NOTE: 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.

Course Evaluations: CourseEvalUM will be open for students to complete their evaluations for Spring 2017 courses 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 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: © 2017 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
  • Handouts

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

    Last modified: 24 January 2017