Geol 456-556: Geodynamics

M, T, Th 9:00-9:50 Lind 103

Lab: Th, 2:00-4:50, Hebeler 108

Dr. Audrey Huerta

Contact info:
Rm 118-A, Lind; 963-2718 (office)
office Hours: M & Th 10:00-11:00, or by appt.

Course Resources

Supplemental explanation of gravity corrections and anomalies-

Course Syllabus and Schedule-
Learning outcomes for undergrads (Geol 456)
Learning outcomes for grad students (Geol 556)



Class PPT's

Earth's Magnetic Field PPT-
Continental Paleomag-



Link to Problem sets, Laboratory Handouts, Field Trip Guide

Link to Readings

Link to Quizzes




Miscellaneous Resources

Appendices to "Consider a Spherical Cow"- lots of useful numbers
Conversion Factors

How to read scientific papers
Scientifically Speaking- Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks and Posters
GSA Geology Style Guide

Course description

Geodynamics is the study of the forces and processes that drive our dynamic Earth. Geodynamicists try to answer questions like: "Are plates driven by ridge-push or slab-pull?", "Why are the Appalachian mountains still so tall?"; "Why are the oceans so deep?".

Class time will be committed to lecture/discussion of the assigned textbook reading material. In addition, every other week we will spend a class period discussing an article on the evolution of the Sierra's. There is strong evidence that these mountains experienced a delamination event that resulted in rapid uplift and erosion. We will review 4 papers discussing the evidence and implications of the geodynamic evolution of this mountain range.


 Attendance is required for all lectures. Reading the text is not a sufficient substitute. My lectures cover topics in more depth and from different points of view than the text. If you do miss a class, ask a classmate to give you notes and an explanation of those notes.

 You should be on time, prepared, and ready to listen and participate for the full 50 minutes of each class.

 Take good notes. Write down everything on the board, make sketches of slides and overheads, and get all the details. Take notes during all slides, you are responsible for the material covered. Go over your notes after class and underline important ideas and clarify points while the ideas are fresh in your head. If anything is unclear, please come see me during office hours.

 Assignments should be neat and completed on time.

 The appropriate chapters should be read before lecture, be careful not to get behind.

 You are responsible for the material presented in reading assignments, lectures, and slides. If you have questions, it is your responsibility to ask during class time or during office hours. I encourage you to ask questions in class, come to my office hours, or send me questions on e-mail.

Grading Policy

All grading will be done by me. Late work will be deducted 10% per day that they are late. I do not accept assignments after they have been graded and returned to the rest of the class

Weekly Quizes

Every Monday you will hand in a take-home quiz on the textbook reading material for the week. The quizes will be multiple choice, open book. Since you will have read the material before coming to class, class time will be spent with in-depth discussions and applications of the concepts.

Semi-weekly Papers

Every other week we will spend a class period discussing a paper on the geodynamic evolution of the Sierra's. The papers will be available on this website, and students will be assigned key roles in facilitating the discussion.

Problem Sets

Problem sets must be neat and orderly. This will probably mean that you will have to re-write your solutions after you have solved them. All problems must include a Sketch of the problem, and clearly state what is Given, what you need to Find, the Solution, and relevant Assumptions. Be sure to "box in" your final answer. DO NOT MAKE ME GUESS WHAT YOU MEAN!

See the example problem write-up style.


The lab assignments for this class will focus on identifying and calculating the processes and conditions that are responsible for making our Earth so dynamic. To do these analyses, we will be using the computing platform Matlab. The first laboratory period will be dedicated to introducing students to the Matlab environment, solving simple problems, and making plots of the solutions. You should be able to finish almost all of the laboratory within the schduled laboratory time. I will be available in the scheduled laboratory time for help and consultation. Do not hesistate to ask for help!

Students will be provided with keys to access the lab. BUT- be sure to lock-up when you're done.

If your laboratory project is late, and I have already graded the lab, your lab will not be graded in detail, but will be given a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory grad, which translates into a C or an F

If you have a scheduling conflict, please do not hesitate to talk to me; a minimum of a few days notice is required.

Field Trip

There is a required 2-1/2 day field trip for this class (leaving in the afternoon of Friday, May 30; returning late Sunday June 1). We will be observing the sedimentary units, deformation, and metamorphism associated with the accreted terranes of the Cascades. There has been a long-standing debate on where these terranes came from- are they far traveled, the "baja to BC" hypothesis, or are they terranes that formed closer to home? The field trip route will take us along Hwy 2 and Hwy 97 to Winthrop, and then into the Cascades, conditions permitting. We will be camping both Friday and Saturday night. More details will be ironed out as we near the date.

You will be handing in your notebook after the field trip for grading.

Mid Terms

There will be 2 midterms.

Final Exam

There will be an in-classs, comprehensive final exam.

Graduate Students Class Project:

All Graduate students will do a class project related to their thesis, or another project. The goal of the project is for the student to constrain a dynamic process related to their thesis. Students will use matlab to compute and plot thier analysis. On the last day of lab, grad students will hand in a write-up of their anlaysis, and give a 15 minute oral presentation on their project. This project will count as 1/3 of your lab grade.

Grading Breakdown

Weekly Quizes; 10%
In Class Participation; 5%
Midterm I; 10%
Midterm II; 10%
Field Trip Note Book; 5%
Final Exam; 10%
Problem Sets; 20%
Laboratory; 30%