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GEOL 1010 Introduction to Geology

About the Course

This self-paced class is an introduction to geology, the study of the Earth. It examines the solid Earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere. In this course you will be introduced to a scientific approach that recognizes a complex and dynamic interplay between these different realms. We now have considerable knowledge regarding the processes which continuously shape our planet and we have a coherent model (plate tectonics) for explaining the forces which raise mountains, create ocean basins, and generate spectacular, and sometimes deadly, events such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

This course meets MAPS and Arts and Sciences core curriculum requirements for natural science.


The course involves numerous delivery tools that enhance a highly acclaimed (and very readable!) introductory textbook. These include a chapter-by-chapter study guide, on-line non-graded self-tests, web-links, and video materials (both animated and lecture). Used together, students acquire the elements of introductory physical geology, learning about the processes that generate rocks, landforms, oceans, rivers and more.

Grade Breakdown

  • 7 assignments (10 points each) – 70%
  • 2 Exams (15 points each) – 30%

Required Text

Carlson, Plummer, and Hammersley, 9th Edition, Physical Geology: Earth Revealed

(8th edition is suitable, but certain page numbers may not match with assignments)

Instructor Contact


Alan Lester is a Senior Instructor and Research Associate in the Department of Geological Sciences, CU-Boulder. A native of Oregon, Alan moved to Colorado in 1985 (BS from the University of Oregon and PhD from the University of Colorado, 1993).

Alan has done research in a variety of geological sub-disciplines including mineral structures, paleomagnetism, isotope geochemistry, and igneous petrology; all of which have been directed at understanding the origin and subsequent evolution of the Rocky Mountains.

A recipient of multiple university-wide teaching awards, Alan focuses on teaching at the undergraduate level. In addition to this internet course, Alan’s most recent teaching duties have included courses in Natural Disasters, Historical Geology, Honors Lab Geology, and both introductory and advanced Field Geology.

Both Alan and his wife Melissa are rock- and mountain-climbers. They combine their interest in geology with visits to climbing areas all over the western United States; sometimes adding to the adventure by flying small airplanes to their destination. Alan is also a flight instructor and a commercial airline pilot-if you’re ever on a United Express regional jet, listen for the pilot names!

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Monday – Friday
7:30am to 4:30pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado