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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Geosciences (GEOSC)

GEOSC 111 (GN) Forensic Geoscience (3) Covers fundamental geoscience concepts such as stratigraphy, mineral and soil identification, seismology, and geochemistry within the context of forensic investigation.

GEOSC 111 Forensic Geoscience (3)

In this course, we will look at the fundamental principles of geoscience and how they can be applied in the context of criminal or liability investigation. Students will learn how to use a stratigraphic column to determine a sequence of events, either in the geologic record or as physical evidence, for example the layers of mud on the bottom of a car suspected of involvement in criminal activity. We will discuss the many types of physical evidence, focusing in particular on those that involve earth materials (soils, sand, mineral dust) or that can be analyzed using techniques commonly applied to geologic problems (for example, analyzing shards of glass from a hit and run accident using a scanning electron microscope). Basic mineralogy, sedimentology, and petrology will be introduced in the context of trace evidence. Common techniques used by both geoscientists and crime scene investigators, including fluorescence, microscopy, ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, and seismology will be covered, including hands-on demonstrations when possible. We will learn how isotope geochemistry is used to date natural materials, and how it can be used to determine the geographic origin of rocks, minerals, or sediments. Students will learn how and when it is possible to make a statistically meaningful comparison of naturally variable samples present only in trace amounts. The proper handling of earth materials as trace evidence will be explained. Students will be expected to use the knowledge they have acquired to come up with original solutions to both real and invented crime cases. Finally, students will use the material they have learned in class to write an original mystery story in which geological evidence plays a key role in solving a crime.

General Education: GN
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Spring 2008

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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