University of Georgia - Department of Geology
GEOL 1122 - Earth's History of Global Change
Webpage for Dr. Bruce Railsback's lecture section


This is a page to provide links for topics
relevant to the course and to post updates
to the course syllabus and course schedule.

      GEOL 1122 - Historical Geology

This page was last updated on Thursday, March 24, 2016.

Course news:

Final exams for fall 2016 have been graded, and the grades have reported to the UGA Registrar.   The distribution of course grades is available from the GEOL 1122 page showing course grade distributions, as well as exam grade distributions, of previous years' classes

Exam II has been graded.  It will be or was returned on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at the end of class.  The histogram below shows the distribution of grades.


Exam I has been graded.  It will be or was returned on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at the end of class.  The histogram below shows the distribution of grades.




Selected Powerpoint lecture files are now available on eLCnew.  However, no other functions of eLCnew will be used for Railsback's GEOL 1122 course.  Email messages sent to Railsback via eLCnew will not be received.  Send email to him at
            The availability of these Powerpoint files in no way indicates that attendance in lecture is unimportant, nor that one can do well in the course without coming to lecture.  Exams in Railsback's GEOL 1122 course will continue to examine material covered in lecture, including thoughts discussed in response to student questions.  These Powerpoint files are therefore not an adequate resource in preparing for exams.


The following is a grading rubric to guide determination of the GEOL 1122 participation grade arising from recounting of creation stories:

i. Student coherently recounts the story, to the story's end, in no more than 120 seconds: 100%

ii. Student recounts much of the story but does not reach the story's end in 120 seconds, or gives an incoherent presentation of the story that reaches the story's end: 60%

iii. Student reports that he or she is unprepared to recount the story: 20%

iv. Student is not present, or tries to recount the story but gets through only little of the story, or gives a strikingly incoherent or inappropriate recounting of the story: 0%

With regard to the Academic Honesty Policy of University of Georgia, if a student is called upon and is given notes or text by another student, this will be treated the same as sharing answers on an exam, which would be a violation of that policy.

Part iii is included so that the everyone can avoid Part iv.


Earlier news:

Railsback has been excused from jury duty for the rest of the week (and presumably the semester), and so the course will proceed according to the original schedule on the syllabus and in the tabular "Schedule for Railsback's GEOL 1122 for Fall 2015" below. Thus on Tuesday, September 1, we will cover "Goals and Theories" and Creation Story 21.

Bruce Railsback has been summoned for jury duty on the week of August 31, so that he may or may not be unavailable Tuesday, September 1, and/or Thursday, September 3. The result is that TA Doug John may have to give one or both lectures that week. The lecture that was scheduled for Tuesday, September 1, is one that only Railsback can give, so some changes to the schedule may occur, as shown in the scenarios below. The upshot is that lecture topics for a given day may change, but creation stories remained fixed to particular days: CS 21 on Tuesday, September 1, CS 6 on Thursday, September 3, and CS 7 on Tuesday, September 8.

Four scenarios:

Scenario 1: Railsback is not required to be in the courthouse on either Tuesday or Thursday, and so no change in schedule is required.

Scenario 2: Railsback is required to be in the courthouse on Tuesday, September 1. Doug will give Lecture 6 ("Working Through Time"), originally scheduled for Thursday, and Railsback will give Lecture 5 ("Goals and Theories") on Thursday, September 3.

Scenario 3: Railsback is free to lecture on Tuesday but is required to be in the courthouse on Thursday, September 3. If so, Doug will give Lecture 6 ("Working Through Time") on Thursday as expected from the course schedule.

Scenario 4: Railsback is required to be in the courthouse on both Tuesday, September 1, and Thursday, September 3. If that happens, Doug will give Lecture 6 ("Working Through Time") on Tuesday, September 1, and he will give Lecture 7 ("Correlative and Relative Dating") on Thursday, September 3, and Railsback will give Lecture 5 on Tuesday, September 8.

These scenarios change the topics of lectures given on certain days, but the creation stories assigned to those calendar days remain the same: CS 21 on Tuesday, September 1, CS 6 on Thursday, September 3, and CS 7 on Tuesday, September 8.

This webpage is now updated for Fall 2015.  The syllabus is now available as a pdf file.

Very old news:

Some histograms of grades from previous exams are shown below. There is also a page showing course grade distributions, as well as exam grade distributions, of previous years' classes.







If the distinction between WP and WF is relevant, persons withdrawing before the midterm withdrawal deadline will be given WPs, not WFs.

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Schedule for Railsback's GEOL 1122 for Fall 2015
Lxr Date Topic or Business Reading*
Part I. Basic Materials in Historical Geology
1 8/18/15 Introduction; Minerals Syllabus (read it!); 31-35; Introduction to GEOL 1122; Basics of geology; More basics of geology; Minerals in perspective; Non-silicate minerals; Trends in silicate minerals
2 8/20/15 Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks 35-38, 45-47; Cooling of magma and igneous rocks; Bodies of igneous rocks; Metamorphic rocks; CS #1
3 8/25/15 Sedimentary Rocks, and Fossils 6-7, 38-45, 98-102, [103-126], 52-55; Weathering-to-lithification; Steno's Principles; Unconformities ; Fossils
4 8/27/15 Structural Geology & Plate Tectonics 186-201, 209-211; Structural Geology diagram; ["Earth to scale" cross-section] Plate tectonic boundaries; Divergent plate boundaries sketches; Convergent plate boundaries sketches
Part II. Basic Principles and Geologic Time
5 9/01/15 Goals and Theories "What is Science?"; "Ways of Understanding"; A quick assignment; CS #21
6 9/03/15 Working Through Time 3-5; CS #6
7 9/08/15 Correlative and Relative Dating 146-148; Facies diagram in 3D, Movement of facies, Lecture cross-sections 1, 2, 3, and 4, Correlation ppt file, An optional stratigraphy exercise and its solution, Practice cross-sections and their key; CS #7
8 9/10/15 Absolute Dating [28-29 on isotopes], 141-144; [Atoms, Isotopes]; Half-lives; A table of parents and daughters; CS #3
9 9/15/15 Age of the Earth & Geologic Time Scales 140-141, 10-13, 150-151; Lead isotope diagram; Sequences
  - 9/17/15 Exam I   - -
Part III. Biological Evolution of the Earth
10 9/22/15 Explanations of Biological Evolution 156-162; Modern Example 1; Modern Example 2; Modern Example 3; [Modern human evolution]; Model Part 1; Model Part 2; Artificial Selection 1; Artificial Selection 2 Artificial Selection 3
11 9/24/15 Mechanics of Biological Evolution 162-180; Alleles, Genes, Chromosomes, etc. ; WWW Life ; CS #10
12 9/29/15 Precambrian Life 268-272, 281-287, 304-311; Cells, [Prokaryotes], Cellular Evolution (Small printer-friendly version); Intra-cellular symbiosis; An endosymbiotic experiment; Slime Molds; Evolution of multicellularity; A summary of early evolution; CS #11
13 10/01/15 Evolution of Vertebrates I 73-77, 335-338, 341-345, 367-371; Chordate Evolution (jpg) or Chordate Evolution (pdf)
14 10/06/15 Evolution of Vertebrates II 399-411 (incl. ESS 16-1); Revised chart, CS #13
15 10/08/15 Evolution of Vertebrates III 396-398, 429-433, 457-458; ESS 17-1
16 10/13/15 Evolution of Mammals & Hominids 454-457, 509-519; Hominid Cranial Sizes ; Primate Brain Structure; Primate Evolution jpeg or pdf ; A short essay; Human cognition Slide 1, Slide 2 , and Slide 3
  - 10/15/15 Exam II  
Part IV. Environmental Evolution of the Earth
17 10/20/15 The origin of the Universe, Solar System, and Earth 254-257; "In Defense of the Big Bang"; ["Spectra, Absorption, and the Red Shift"]; ["Doppler Effect & Red Shift"]; ["Gravitational Lensing"]; ["Further Evidence"]; [An isotopic-dating diagram]; ["Earth to scale" cross-section]
18 10/22/15 Evolution of the Earth II 257-266, [191], 297-299, 345, 350-352; 379-381; maps in cover and on 277, 297-299, 303, 317, 319, 359, 372, 375, 391, 411, 423, 434, 451, 461; Craton Growth; "The Fall Line" and "The Fall Line in Georgia"; Phanerozoic tectonic events in eastern North America. CS #14 and 15
19 10/27/15 The Evolution of the Ocean & Atmosphere 259-272, 287, 227-243; Phanerozoic environmental time line as pdf or jpeg; [Limestones and CO2]; [Bob Berner's box models]; [Soil carbonate and ancient PCO2] [Boron and ancient PCO2]; CS #16
20 10/29/15 Phanerozoic Sea Level and Climate 148-151; "Possible causes of sea-level change"
21 11/03/15 The Cretaceous and Cenozoic 435-457, 460-465, [231-234 on isotopes] Isotopes; Cenozoic O isotope records; ["O Isotopes", Glaciers]; CS #12
22 11/05/15 Quaternary Glaciation 108-109, 485-494; [Glaciers]; North American glacial phases, Pulse of Pleistocene, Milankovitch Cycles I, II, and III, a CO2 record
23 11/10/15 The Last 120,000 Years 524-538; Last 4 my, Last 120 ka, Later Quaternary events, Holocene events, "Changing the World"
24 11/12/15 Holocene I - Greenhouse effect & global warming 540-546; Lecture 23 outline; WWW pages on carbon dioxide
25 11/17/15 Holocene II - Some 20th-21st Century Environmental Issues Web pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7,
26 11/19/15 The Holocene III - Changing ecologies Lecture Illustration #0 , #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #8; CS #20 .
27 12/02/15 The Holocene IV - Alternatives for the Late Holocene Human lifestyles; Lifestyle effects; US energy consumption; World energy consumption; Human footprint data.
28 12/04/15 Summary and Review The Land Ethic Revisited; A time line; Primate brain volumes revisited
- 12/08/15 Friday UGA follows a Friday schedule on this Tuesday.
- 12/15/15 Final Exam 8:00am-11:00am Room 200A GG   - -

*Notes regarding readings:
    All readings are in Stanley and Luczaj's Earth System History (4th edn), except for linked web pages and for numbers labeled "CS", which are numbers for stories in Creation Stories from around the World.
    Pages in brackets are suggested reading that may make lecture material easier to understand.
    Reading assignments do not include "Earth System Shift" ("ESS") inserts unless specifically noted.
    Reading assignments include all figures to which reference is made, even if the figures fall outside the page range indicated.

GEOL 1122 webpages:

How to do better in GEOL 1122 or How to study for college exams.

A little bit of advice for first-semester freshmen.

A letter that student athletes can print out and use to request that their grades by reported to an advisor in the athletic program. After filling all the blanks, they should give the letter to Dr. Railsback.

Past grade distributions in Railsback's GEOL 1122 lecture sections.

Questions asked frequently or recently by 1122 students, and the answers to those questions.

Part 1 of a glossary of terms used in Railsback's lectures in GEOL 1122.

Part 2 of a glossary of terms used in Railsback's lectures in GEOL 1122.

There's no longer a lecture on evolution of plants, but for persons trying to find one of the readings, here's the link to An Ode to Plants.

A table of possible course grades given certain Exam 1 grades.

Course evaluations.

An extra-credit exercise.

The essay question for, and other information on, this year's final exam.

Railsback's GEOL 1122 Exam 1 from 2014.
Railsback's GEOL 1122 Exam 2 from 2014.
Railsback's GEOL 1122 Exam 3 from 2014.

Email to Railsback (
Railsback's main web page
UGA Geology Department web page