GE331 Plate Tectonics

Course Description

This is a primary-literature-synthesis course designed to guide you through the topic of plate tectonics from the development of the theory to some modern-day theories on crustal growth and plate-boundary interactions. By the end of the course you should be able to: (1) piece together a broad-scale interpretation of the evolution of an active or ancient plate boundary using data and interpretations gleaned from the primary scientific literature and (2) use basic thermochronologic, geophysical, geological, and geospatial data sets to interpret active plate boundaries. In addition to these geoscience-centric goals, this course is also designed to improve your verbal and written communication skills and provide you with experience in accessing, reading, and assimilating scientific literature.


Walter A. Sullivan (Bill)
Office: Mudd 206
Office hours: Open-door policy; current schedule [XLS]
Office phone: 859-5803

Syllabus [PDF]


None yet

Resources on the web

GeoMapApp: Super-cool mapping freeware

Google Earth: A very powerful geology tool

Online Map Creator: Create custom maps with different projections

USGS Map Projections Site: Information about different map projections

Plate Motion Calculator: Calculate motions of one plate relative to another

Magnetic Reversals: Information about what the magnetic stripes on the seafloor really represent

Magnetic Timescale: Detailed paleomag timescale

Reference Search for Ocean Floor Tectonics

Lectures and Reading Lists

0. Course introduction [PPT] and introduction to geophysics [PPT]

1.  The recognition of plate tectonics and the early history of the theory—Reading list [DOC].
2. Growth of oceanic crust: Testing the ophiolite model at fast and slow spreading ridgesIntroduction [PPT]. Reading list [DOC]. 3. Continental extensional tectonics: Case study of the Basin and Range province in North AmericaIntroduction [PPT]. Reading list [DOC].

4. Continental transform boundaries: Case study of the San Andreas Fault system in California—Introduction [PPT]. Reading list [DOC].

5. Subduction tectonics and great earthquakes (magnitude greater than 8.0)—Introduction [PPT]. Reading list [DOC]

Student presentations [folder]

Lab materials

Lab 8, Klamath Mountains tectoninc analysis