Regional Tectonics GLG 561


Regional Tectonics is a graduate-level course at NAU. Several faculty teach the course so the syllabus below only applies to sections that I teach. Included below are (1) some graphics that I use in the course, and (2) a copy of my syllabus (note that dates change each semester).


Hypothetical Orogeny: 40 paleogeography maps provide an illustration of tectonic cycles and mountain building

Regional and Global Earth History

Geologic and Tectonic Evolution of Western North America



Professor: Dr. Ronald Blakey

Text: Moores and Twiss,Tectonics

Office: GLG 219; 523-2740;

Home Page:

Course Philosophy and Requirements:

This course challenges you to apply the principles and knowledge gained during your undergraduate career to the study of the long and varied tectonic history of our planet. The evidence of past geologic events can be observed in rock structures, textures, composition, and fossils of the crust. As geologists, we search the Earth's surface, drill into it, analyze its chemistry and physical properties, and do whatever else we can to gather together pieces of this cryptic puzzle of events. In this class, you will learn how we go about piecing together the puzzle of the earth and its tectonic history. The modern tectonic framework of Earth will be our starting point; modern first-order tectonic features will be examined, their processes and products related, and then used to reconstruct past tectonic events. The course will conclude with an analysis of several major orogenic belts and their plate-tectonic history with a strong emphasis on the geological evolution of the American Southwest.

This course stresses geologic concepts and reasoning processes, rather than rote memorization. Our goal is to encourage you to ask questions about the earth's tectonic framework and history, and to gather the tools with which those questions can be answered. For best results, read assignments before coming to class, and again before the exam.

Computer use in the classroom: I make fairly heavy use of the computer in my teaching, some in classroom presentation, some as reference material, and some as the basis for take-home assignments. All computer materials will be available in the Geology Computer Lab (Rm 104). You can access this lab 24 hours a day if you obtain a code to the door. Codes are available in the Geology Office.

Lecture Grading (500 points as follow):

Midterm exam 100 pts.

Tectono-stratigraphic poster 100 pts.

Analysis of orogenic belt:

Class presentation 50 pts.

Paper 100 pts.

Hypothetical Orogeny 50 pts.

Final Exam 100 pts.

Tentative assignments and due dates (dates change each semester):

1. Poster presentation with abstract of tectono-stratigraphic unit (eg. molasse, flysch, ophiolite, rift basin, passive margin, forearc-melange, volcanic arc, backarc basin, foreland basin, pull-apart basin, silisic cratonic basin, carbonate cratonic basin, remnant ocean). Maximum poster size 4X8.

a. Description of rocks, tectonic features; emphasis on product, not tectonic processes or mechanism of basin formation b. Origin of rocks (sedimentation or emplacement, tectonic history, modification) c. Summary of tectonic-stratigraphic significance -- what does unit convey about geologic history? d. Modern examples or analogues with illustrations e. Ancient examples with illustrations Poster and brief class presentation due Oct 16 (for presentation on Wed) at class time

2. Case history paper (with abstract and class presentation) of major orogenic event (eg. Alpine, Himalayan, Ural, Cimmerian, Appalachian, Caledonian, Hercynian-Variscan, Andean). Use Chapter 12 of Moores and Twiss as starting point. Be certain that all illustrations are correctly cited. a. Regional characteristics (tectonic styles), sequences of events (descriptive) b. Models and plate-tectonic/geologic history (interpretive) Five annotated references due Oct 25; summary abstract due Nov 8. Paper due Dec 8 and class presentation due Nov 27 at class time

3. Hypothetical Orogeny extended abstract due Oct 9 Choose any 8 consecutive maps from the sequence of 40. Describe the following: a)major tectonic processes-events represented in the 8 maps; b) major sedimentary packages; c) major volcanic areas-events; d) orogenic zones-events; e) igneous-metamorphic zones-events. Summarize the following: a) changes to continental areas-crust; b) changes to ocean basins-crust; c) provide concise summary sequence of events for 8 maps. You may want to name, number, or letter major oceans, continents, and other features.

4. Midterm exam (Oct 9)

5. Final Exam (Dec 13)


(sample, varies by semester; dates change each semester)

Date (week of)...............Subject..................Readings (M&T)

Aug 28 Introduction; 1st-order Tectonic Features 1, (2), 3

Sept 4 Oceans and Continents: Formation and History 3,

Sept 11 Hypothetical Plate History (Wilson Cycle) TBA

Sept 18 Plate Margins 4, 5

Sept 25 Plate Margins, Collisions and Mountains 6,7,9

Oct 9 (EXAM) Global Plate History, Late Precamb - Recent 10

Oct 16 Global Plate History, Late Precamb - Recent 10

Wed Oct 18--Tectono-Stratigraphic Packages (Posters)

Oct 23 Regional Plate Tectonics (Mediterranean, Asia) 12

Oct 30 Regional Plate Tectonics (North Atlantic, Caribbean) 12

Nov 6 Regional Plate Tectonics (SW NAM) 12

Nov 13 Regional Plate Tectonics (SW NAM) 12

Nov 20 Regional Plate Tectonics (SW NAM) 12

Nov 27 Mobile Belts of World (Student Presentations, MWF) 12

Dec 4 Mobile Belts of World (Student Presentations, MWF) 12

Final Exam: Wed Dec 13 @ 10 AM

Field Trips:

Verde Valley (2/3 day)

Colorado Plateau-Basin and Range Transition: Nov 2 (Th), 3 (Fri), 4 (Sat).

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