The below list of learning objectives state the core concepts covered in the text by chapter. By the end of each chapter, students should be able to understand and retain these key concepts.

Chapter 1
  • List the goals of the study of geology and explain the scientific method as it applies to the study of Earth.
  • Explain the birth of geology as a science.
  • Discuss the enormity of geologic time and the unique insights geology offers on modern environmental issues.
  • Identify the materials of the solid Earth: minerals, rocks and fossils, and the three basic rock groups: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
  • Restate the relationship between the basic rock groups that the concept of the Rock Cycle portrays.
  • Summarize the processes that formed planet Earth and explain the origin of Earth’s layered structure.
  • Describe how Earth is cooling and how its evolution is related to its cooling history.
  • Identify Earth as an interactive system with four intimately linked components: the solid Earth; the hydrosphere; the atmosphere; and the biosphere.
  • Describe the pivotal role of geology and geologists in modern society.
Chapter 2
  • Outline Wegener’s idea of drifting continents and describe the evidence he cited to support his hypothesis as well as the primary objection to his claims.
  • Explain how paleomagnetism provides support for continental drift by providing evidence for the concepts of apparent polar wander and magnetic polarity reversal.
  • Summarize the process of seafloor spreading and the evidence that indicates that new ocean floor is continuously being created at mid-ocean ridges.
  • Summarize the evidence that old ocean floor is continuously being destroyed beneath deep ocean trenches by a process called subduction.
  • Explain how the theory of plate tectonics provides an explanation for continental drift and describe the three types of plate boundaries.
  • Describe how volcanic hotspots are attributed to plumes of hot material rising from deep within Earth’s interior.
Chapter 3
  • Recognize that that minerals are chemical compounds made up of atoms linked together by a variety of chemical bond types.
  • Explain what minerals are and explain how the characteristic physical properties of minerals are determined by the internal arrangement of their constituent atoms
  • Describe the characteristic physical properties that we use to identify minerals, including crystal shape, color, luster, and hardness.
  • Compare and contrast the properties of the two primary categories of silicate minerals and cite examples of each.
  • Discuss and cite examples of the important properties and characteristics of the nonsilicate rock-forming minerals.
  • Compare and contrast rocks and minerals.
  • Cite examples of the role minerals play in human society.
  • Explain what mineral formation can tell us about plate tectonics and the evolution of Earth.
Chapter 4
  • Describe how igneous rocks relate to the two other rock groups (sedimentary and metamorphic).
  • Describe how magma forms and the factors that influence magma’s ascent toward the surface and its cooling history.
  • Explain how magmas produce a variety of igneous rocks with textures that vary according to the environment of their formation.
  • Compare and contrast the different types of igneous rock and explain the basis of their classification.
  • Explain how the chemical composition and physical characteristics of magma evolve as magma cools.
  • Identify the processes that cause volcanic eruptions and the various types of volcanoes and volcanic rocks that eruptions produce.
  • Explain the role that plate tectonics plays in the formation and composition of magma and igneous rocks
Chapter 5
  • Recognize that weathering breaks down minerals and rocks and occurs as a result of both mechanical and chemical processes.
  • Explain the processes that cause mechanical weathering, which is responsible for rock disintegration.
  • Explain the reactions that cause chemical weathering, which is responsible for rock decomposition.
  • Describe how soils form and what factors control the development of soil profiles.
  • Discuss the role plate tectonic processes play in weathering, soil development, and global temperature variation.
Chapter 6
  • Describe how sediment forms and consolidates to produce sedimentary rocks.
  • Compare and contrast the textures and compositions of sedimentary rocks and explain how sedimentary rocks vary according to the environment of their deposition.
  • Describe the different types of sedimentary rock and the basis of their classification.
  • Explain how the composition, fossil content, and presence of sedimentary structures allow us to interpret the origin of sedimentary rocks.
  • Identify the various sedimentary features that characterize deposition in continental, coastal, and marine settings.
  • Explain the role that plate tectonics plays in sedimentation and the formation of sedimentary basins
Chapter 7
  • Restate how metamorphic rocks relate to the two other rock groups (sedimentary and igneous).
  • Describe how metamorphic rocks are produced by the action of heat, pressure, and fluids on preexisting parent rocks over the course of time.
  • Recognize the different types of metamorphism, the processes that cause them, and the environments in which they occur.
  • Identify how the textures of metamorphic rocks reflect the environment of their formation.
  • Compare and contrast the types of metamorphic rock and explain the basis of their classification.
  • Explain how the mineral content of metamorphic rocks indicates the pressure and temperature conditions of metamorphism.
  • Compare and contrast the plate tectonic settings where metamorphism takes place and the variable conditions of metamorphism that the different settings produce.
Chapter 8
  • Define, compare, and contrast relative and absolute age dating.
  • Describe the development of ideas that led to the modern view of geologic time.
  • List and explain the rules that geologists apply to determine the relative age of geologic events.
  • Explain how correlation allows individual rock layers to be traced from one place to another.
  • Describe how relative dating methods allowed the geologic time scale to be established.
  • Summarize radioactivity and its use in determining the absolute age of geologic events.
  • Explain how absolute dating has established numerical ages for the geological time scale.
  • Explain how relative and absolute dating together form the basis of our modern understanding of Earth history.
  • Discuss how the vast span of geologic time has allowed plate tectonics to profoundly influence on Earth history.
Chapter 9
  • Identify the physical and chemical divisions in Earth’s outer layers.
  • Understand that the lithospheric plates are buoyant, and that this buoyancy controls the relationship between crustal elevation, crustal thickness, and crustal density.
  • Compare and contrast the three types of plate boundaries and describe the three main ways boundaries interact: spreading apart, coming together, and sliding past one another.
  • Describe the processes that occur at divergent boundaries and explain how new ocean floor is created.
  • Describe the processes that occur at convergent boundaries and explain how crust is recycled and continents are built.
  • Describe the motion along transform boundaries and compare and contrast the two principal types of transform faults.
  • Describe the enigmatic volcanic regions known as hotspots and explain how they can be used to track the movement of plates.
  • Compare and contrast the three types of force that may propel plates.
Chapter 10
  • Describe the processes of rock deformation and compare and contrast ductile and brittle behavior in rocks.
  • Explain how strike and dip are used to measure the orientation of geologic structures.
  • Compare and contrast joints and faults and discuss how each type of fracture forms and the geologic structures produced as a result.
  • Identify types of fold structures and summarize how folds are described based on the orientation of their axial plane and fold hinge.
  • Compare and contrast different types of unconformities, and assess their relationship to deformation.
  • Discuss the plate tectonic causes of mountain building above subduction zones and at convergence zones.
  • Explain how the geologic record helps us to explore the role of plate tectonics in the evolution of ancient mountain belts.
Chapter 11
  • Describe how geophysicists use geophysical methods and earthquake waves to probe Earth’s interior.
  • Explain the elastic rebound theory, which provides an explanation for the origin of earthquakes.
  • Describe the characteristics of seismic waves and explain the difference between primary waves, secondary waves, and surface waves.
  • List the key observations that revealed that Earth possesses a layered planetary interior.
  • Explain our current understanding of Earth’s hidden interior using the evidence provided by Earth’s internal heat, its density, and the path of earthquake waves through its interior.
  • Describe how it is now possible to produce three-dimensional pictures of Earth’s interior and what these pictures indicate about the circulation of materials in the core and mantle.
  • Explain how the fate of subducted slabs may be linked to the formation of mantle plumes at the core-mantle boundary.
Chapter 12
  • Define mass wasting and explain why it occurs.
  • Identify the various factors that govern mass wasting and the ways in which mass wasting is triggered.
  • Describe the mechanisms of mass wasting and the subdivision of mass wasting into falling, sliding, and flow.
  • Identify methods that assess the threat of mass wasting and methods that reduce the hazards mass wasting poses.
  • Illustrate how mass wasting can be triggered by events linked to plate tectonics.
Chapter 13
  • Identify the role that running water plays in the hydrologic cycle.
  • Compare and contrast the two types of streamflow and explain the factors that effect a stream’s velocity and gradient.
  • Describe the work of running water as an agent of erosion and the drainage patterns streams create.
  • Identify the three ways a stream transports its sediment load.
  • Describe the processes and products of stream deposition.
  • Discuss the causes and consequences of flooding.
  • Demonstrate how streams are closely linked to plate tectonics and how most of the world’s great drainage basins owe their origin to the breakup of Pangea.
  • Explain that Earth is the only planet in the Solar System with running water on its surface, although there is compelling evidence for the former existence of running water on Mars.
Chapter 14
  • Recognize that groundwater is a vital source of accessible fresh water.
  • Describe how groundwater forms below the water table.
  • Explain the origin of aquifers, the controls of groundwater flow, and the origin of oases and hot springs.
  • Describe how the movement of groundwater through soluble rock creates caverns and a distinctive surface topography.
  • Explain how groundwater is exploited as a resource and how the unique qualities of groundwater render it susceptible to contamination by human activities.
  • Identify how plate tectonics governs the location and overall shape of some aquifers, as well as groundwater flow, by creating the mountains that influence topography and act as recharge areas for aquifers, as well as the faults that bring groundwater to the surface.
Chapter 15
  • Explain the formation and movement of glacier ice.
  • Describe the process of glacial erosion and the landforms that glacial erosion produces.
  • Describe the processes of glacial deposition and the effects glaciers have on Earth’s landscape.
  • Describe the influence of the Pleistocene ice age on the landscapes of the northern hemisphere.
  • Summarize the evidence that is used to deduce the existence and causes of ancient ice ages.
  • List other instances of glaciation from across our solar system.
Chapter 16
  • Explain that deserts originate from a variety of processes and therefore form in a variety of settings.
  • Identify the surface processes that lead to weathering and erosion in deserts.
  • Describe the role wind plays in sculpting the desert landscape and the features it creates.
  • Explain how human activities such as cultivation and overgrazing pose a serious environmental threat in many parts of the world, resulting in the creation and expansion of deserts.
  • Show the influence of plate tectonics on the distribution of deserts using the evidence for ancient deserts in the rock record.
  • Use photographs of Mars to show that desert landforms like those on Earth are also present on other worlds.
Chapter 17
  • List the processes that shape coastlines.
  • Describe the nature of waves and compare and contrast wave behavior in the open ocean and near shore.
  • Identify the origin of tides and tidal patterns.
  • Explain the processes of coastal erosion and describe the landforms these processes produce.
  • Explain the processes of coastal deposition and describe the landforms these processes produce.
  • Summarize the evolution of coastal regions and the effects changing sea level has on coastlines.
  • Analyze the key issues in coastal management and the obstacles to sustainable coastal development.
  • Summarize the role that plate tectonics plays in governing the shape of coastlines.
Chapter 18
  • Cite examples of the prevalent human use of mineral deposits and industrial materials.
  • Name the principle metals and metallic minerals and describe the relative abundance, human uses, and sources of these minerals.
  • Describe the relative abundance, human uses, and sources of the most important nonmetallic minerals and industrial materials.
  • Explain the processes that concentrate mineral deposits and industrial materials in sufficient quantities that they can be economically extracted.
  • Summarize and cite examples of the close link between mineral deposits and plate tectonics.
  • Describe the exploration methods by which mineral deposits are discovered.
  • Discuss what the future might hold as the demand for mineral deposits and industrial materials confronts a limited supply.
Chapter 19
  • Show that most of the energy that supports industrial economies comes from the nonrenewable fossil fuels—oil, natural gas, and coal.
  • Describe the origin of petroleum, the formation and distribution of petroleum reservoirs, and the means by which they are exploited.
  • Describe the formation of coal and the distribution of coal deposits.
  • Explain how nuclear power is generated and the issues of safety and waste disposal associated with this power source.
  • Discuss the principle sources of renewable energy—geothermal, water, wind, solar, and biomass—and explain why, as yet, none of these energy sources is an adequate replacement for fossil fuels.
  • Show how the distribution of our energy sources—both nonrenewable and renewable—is linked to the processes of plate tectonics.
Chapter 20
  • Explain how understanding geologic processes and the geologic record provides a unique insight into modern environmental problems.
  • Describe the greenhouse effect and the role atmospheric carbon dioxide plays in global warming.
  • Track the path of carbon as it moves through Earth’s surface environments.
  • Summarize the evidence that Earth’s climate over the past million years has been dominated by alternating warm and cool episodes with about a 100,000-year cyclicity.
  • Describe the effects the Milankovitch Cycles have on the solar energy reaching Earth.
  • Identify the feedback systems that play a role in climate change.
  • Demonstrate how plate tectonics has had a powerful influence on Earth’s climate.
  • Assemble the evidence to determine the cause of global warming and the climate change Earth is witnessing today.
Chapter 21
  • Compare and contrast Earth and its Moon and explain the origin of the Earth-Moon system.
  • Describe the terrestrial planets and show that each has its own unique set of characteristics while also sharing common traits.
  • Explain how Earth’s unique ability to generate continental and oceanic crust was fundamental to the evolution of plate tectonics and the development of life on this planet.
  • Describe the Jovian planets and their moons.
  • Discuss the nature of asteroids, meteorites, and comets and what they can tell us about development of the Solar System.
  • Describe the search for solar systems like our own across the universe.