GEOL 102 Historical Geology:
The History of Earth and Life

Spring Semester 2021

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

Lecture: ASYNCHRONOUS ONLINE (Panopto videos on ELMS)
Laboratory: SYNCHRONOUS Zoom 2:00-5:00 pm Eastern Time W

Instructor: Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Room: Geology Building (237 GEO) 4106
Office Hours: 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:

Grade Percentage
Midterm Exam I: 20%
Midterm Exam II: 20%
Final Exam: 20%
Labs: 25%
Pre-Course Knowledge Survey: 2%
Quizzes: 13%

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 online exams on March 1-3 and April 12-14, respectively. For each of these there will be a section comprised of true/false, matching, multiple choice, and similar type questions, as well as a few short answer questions and an essay. These exams are open note but timed (60 minutes) and are subject to the University's Honor Pledge; you may not seek help from students or other people in doing these. If you encounter a technical problem, please contact for help (and Dr. Holtz so that he is aware of your situation.

Final Exam (20%): The online final exam during the regularly scheduled exam season. It is cumulative for the entire course, although it focuses on material from the second exam onward. Format is similar to the mid-term exams, but will be timed for 120 minutes. The exam will be available SUNDAY to TUESDAY MAY 16-18: please plan your end-of-semester travel (if any...) accordingly!! (It that means informing your parents about this now, please do so!).

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. There is no separate lab manual for this course: lab materials (pdfs and videos) are provided on ELMS. Labs are turned in on ELMS: either as entries or uploads in an ELMS "quiz". There will be a video to watch PRIOR to each lab: you are responsible for watching this in advance.

Pre-Course Knowledge Survey (2%): In order to assess your current knowledge and memory of the pre-requisite knowledge for this course, an ELMS survey is assigned covering issues of basic physical geology. This must be completed by the end of the first Friday of classes (Jan. 29). The goal here is to see what you know and remember: you are graded for having completed the survey, not your answers on the survey. DO NOT PANIC! But do not use outside sources: the task here is to see what you remember of previous geology courses.

Quizzes (13%): Weekly quizzes will be given on ELMS, starting in the second Friday of classes (except for weeks in which there is an also a mid-term exam). The quizzes might include information from the labs but 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.

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

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 major. 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 at the Zoom meetings is required.

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. Even given its online nature, there is the possibility that due to 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 day.

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:
Given the reliance on technology this semester, please make certain that you have access to appropriate hardware, software, and Internet connections. If you are concerned about your ability to connect remotely for this course, please consult the following information about solutions provided by the Division of Information Technology:

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.

Copyright: © 2021 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 January 2021

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