Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spotlight on California Geology: the Eastern Mojave Desert

The eastern Mojave Desert is a geological wonderland of rugged mountain peaks, basaltic cinder cones, widespread rhyolitic ash deposits, limestone caverns and the site of California's only known exposures of dinosaur trackways. The area has a rich history of human habitation, and with everything from petroglyphs, pictographs, forts, and old train stations, as well as a portion of the iconic Route 66. The Far West Section visited the area in February of 2005 as the guests of the Desert Research Center at Zzyzyx. The conference was sponsored by El Camino College.

The trip was disrupted by an unusually wet winter storm system that left many of the dirt and gravel roads in the region impassable, but the participants of the field trips still saw a great many interesting localities nonetheless.

You can retrace the field trips with the roadguide developed for the event here. Sales of the guidebook support the Far West Section scholarships for earth science students. Chapters include the following:

  • Surficial Geology of the Cima Volcanic Field and Adjacent Areas of the Eastern Mojave Desert, California by John Dohrenwend
  • Landscape Evolution in the Eastern Mojave: Geology, Biology and Climate Change by Robert Fulton
  • Mojave Tracks Through Time by Robert Reynolds
  • Eastern Mojave Desert Geology Tour, Parts I and II by Dee Trent, Richard Hazlett and T. James Noyes
  • Geology and Mining Activity in the Standard Mining District, San Bernardino County, California by Ted Weasma
  • Prehistoric Rock-Art of the Eastern Mojave Desert by David Lee
  • Prehistory of the Granite Mountains by Don Christensen, Jerry Dickey and David Lee

The photos above from the conference include a panorama of the Providence Mountains which contain a nearly complete Paleozoic section something like 10,000 feet thick, topped by Tertiary rhyolitic ashflows. The second shot is of pictographs hidden deep in the Granite Mountains south of Kelso Dunes, and the third is a really close up look at some lichens growing on basalt in the Cima Volcanic Field.

Check it out!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scenes from the Mt. SAC Conference, April 17-19

Many thanks to Wendy Van Norden! Some sights from the Mt. San Antonio Canyon field trip at the recent conference of the Far West Section at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California.

I wasn't able to attend, but I recognize a few of the features, and hope Wendy or others will correct any misinterpretations in the comments. The top photo is the Hogback, a rather large rockslide in the upper canyon. When I was growing up, this was the hill that challenged my 1965 VW Bug, and I was always intensely curious about why the road went so steep over the top, when it made more sense to go around it. The answer is in the second photo: the road used to do that, but was wiped out in the catastrophic floods of 1969. San Antonio Canyon was always a difficult place to try living in or developing. It seems the only places flat enough for buildings are on the top of landslides, or on sediments backed up behind landslides. These are steep mountains!

The remaining photos show faults and dikes exposed in the upper canyon. The bottom photo is a great exercise in crosscutting relationships! I see at least two dikes and two faults. Which came first and what was last?? (click on the images for a slightly larger view)

Thanks again, Wendy.

GSA Session - Geoscience Programs at Community Colleges: Models for Success and Innovation

This note came across my virtual desk....I pass it on for your perusal (thanks to Greg Wheeler)

Hello everyone...

Eric Baer (Highline Community College in Des Moines WA) and I will be co-chairing what looks like a first time event at GSA, a topical session on community college earth science programs. Our proposal to do this was not only accepted by GSA, but is also sponsored by both NAGT and GSA GED. Furthermore, the NSF GEO Diversity and Education program is interested helping this session go forward by providing funds that would subsidize presenter travel and expenses. Many community college geoscience instructors don't attend conferences like GSA due to lack of funds. The two caveats that come with this offer are that the presenters and advocates meet with NSF to discuss what they can do to aid community college earth science and that we include a list of potential speakers for the event. It is because of this second caveat that I am writing this to all of you. I am looking to put together in the next three weeks a list of community college instructors and university faculty involved in community college / university collaborations who would be interested in speaking at the session. See below for a description of the session. If you have recommendations of community college or university faculty that you think would be interested in speaking and have experience in addressing the questions listed in the description, please forward me their names or have them contact me directly. If NSF accepts the proposal from my college (Portland Community College) then we would pay for travel and conference expenses for the presenter and a student of their choosing.Feel free to contact me if you need additional information.I look forward to hearing from you.

Frank D. Granshaw
Earth Science Instructor
Portland Community College
Sylvania Campus, Portland, OR 503-977-8236

Session #T104: Geoscience Programs at Community Colleges: Models for Success and Innovation

Frank D. Granshaw – Portland Community College, Portland Oregon
Eric M. Baer – Highline Community College, Seattle Washington

Community College programs are diverse and multifaceted. This session will highlight a variety of programs and how they successfully achieve their goals.

Community College Geoscience programs are a critical part of the geoscience education system. Because they serve more than 10 million students currently enrolled in these institutions, they play a critical role in educating the general public and future graduates of colleges, training future K-12 educators and recruiting geoscience majors from a diverse and variable pool. This session will look at the questions that community college geoscientists face in fulfilling this mission. Chief among these are following:
  • What makes for a strong community college earth science program?
  • Given the student population of most community colleges, what is the focus of these programs, career training, geoscience literacy, or both?
  • What strategies are useful for helping students become geoscience literate?
  • How do community college earth science department successfully encourage and prepare geoscience majors?
  • What role does university - community college and high school-community college collaborations play in making a strong program?
  • How do community college geoscience programs relate the vocational programs in their own institutions?
  • What role do community college geoscience courses have in providing science background for future teachers?
  • How do professional networks enhance the mission of community college geoscience program?
  • Given the large number of adjunct faculty teaching community college earth science courses, how do science departments mentor these faculty to help them address these questions?

Smithsonian Science Education Academy Opportunity

From Ian MacGregor, former executive director of the NAGT:

Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers:
Earth's History & Global Change
National Science Resources Center/Smithsonian Institution July 26-31, 2009, Washington, D.C

As part of its annual program of teacher events, the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) is conducting a week-long academy for teachers (of grades 6-12) on Earth's History and Global Change. The academy utilizes the unique resources of the Smithsonian Institution's museums, as well as scientists from organizations, and laboratories around Washington, DC to explore concepts and content relating to the formation of our planet, and the evidence for planetary change through natural processes and human intervention. Sessions will include behind-the-scenes access to museum collections, special museum floor visits, interactions with scientists in research laboratories, hands-on inquiry-based sessions, and more. Topics investigated include planet formation, volcanism and plate tectonics, geological evidence for different paleoenvironments and recent changes in our oceans and atmosphere.

The course is residential. Course fees include hotel accommodation near the National Mall, some meals, and transport to session venues. 3 graduate credits, (for an additional fee of $300) are available from the Virginia Commonwealth University. For additional information on the course fees and nature of this course, and others like it, visit or contact Juliet Crowell at the NSRC by email at or phone at 202-633-2968.

Register Online Now!

National Science Resources Center
901 D Street, SW
Washington, District of Columbia 20024

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Symposium: The Importance of K-12 Geology Education to the Future of the Planet

Courtesy of Wendy Van Norden, the new director of the Far West Section of the National Earth Science Teachers Association:

Educational Symposium:
The Importance of K-12 Geology Education to the Future of the Planet

Panel Conveners: Bob Ballog and Tanya Atwater
Wednesday Morning • May 6th • 0800-1200

With the increasing importance of climate change, water conservation, increasing awareness of potential natural disasters, and the increasing environmental consciousness we are seeing, it is imperative that we train more earth scientists to be able to confront and address these problems. Current estimates show that the number of graduating geoscientists is falling not rising.

Currently, in the state of California, the earth sciences are being relegated to secondary status in the science curriculum. In many districts earth science is not taught as a college prep course. The PSAAPG is concerned about this trend and this panel is assembled to bring our views to the forefront and discuss alternatives with state educators. We hope to have representatives from the State Board of Education, Ventura County Office of Education, university professors, K-12 teachers, and professional geoscientists gathered to brainstorm ideas and approaches to solving this problem.

All interested earth scientists, teachers, and administrators are invited to attend and participate in this session. Pass this along to colleagues who are not PSAAPG members and urge them to attend.

Panel Convener: Bob Ballog, Geologist, Eagle Exploration and Production Company, Inc.
Panel Convener: Tanya Atwater, Geology Professor Emeritus, UC Santa Barbara
Panel Member: Don Clarke, Consultant, Pacific Section AAPG President
Panel Member: Gerry Simila, Geology Professor, California State University, Northridge
Panel Member: Karen Blake, Geologist, Hobby Energy
Panel Member: Rick Woodson, Coordinator, Taft Oil-Technology Academy
Panel Member: John Parrish, State Geologist, California
Panel Member: Eldridge Moores, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Funding is available to attend the event.

Sponsored by Pacific Section AAPG
Pacific Sections AAPG-SEPM-SEG Convention
May 2 - 6, 2009 - Ventura, California

Please contact Bob Ballog for more information at

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spotlight on California Geology: the 2006 Cambria Meeting

The Spring 2006 conference of the Far West Section included a tour of the Big Sur Coast and the geology of Estero Bay, which includes Morro Rock and Montana del Oro State Park. Our host was Cuesta College, and the organizers were Jeff Grover, Paul Bauer and Tom Hollis.

The picture above shows our tour of a section of the pillow basalts and ribbon cherts of the Franciscan melange exposed in the Estero Bluffs just west of Cayucos. The chert is the reddish rock along the lower cliffs, and the pillow basalts are the grayer rocks lying above. The terrace above is a former wave-cut platform that was uplifted in Pleistocene/Holocene time. Numerous former sea stacks are exposed along the terrace surface.

The guidebook for the trip includes two extensive road guides:

  • Geology of the Big Sur Coast by Mihal Ducea (pages 1-42)

  • Geology of Estero Bay, San Luis Opisbo County, California (pages 43-54)
The guidebook is available for sale here. As with all our guidebooks, proceeds go to support scholarships for deserving students in the Far West Section region.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Latest Far West Section Field Guide Available: Geologic Diversity Around Los Angeles and Vicinity

The latest geologic guidebook from the Far West Section is now available for purchase at The guide was developed for the just-completed Spring Field Conference at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. Sales of these guides supports the yearly scholarships awarded to geology/earth science students by the Far West Section of the NAGT.

The guide is called Geologic Diversity Around Los Angeles and Vicinity and includes five field trips and a walking tour. It was edited by Mario Caputo of Mt. SAC. Trips include:
  • Evidence for Tertiary Floodplains, Oceans, and Volcanoes in the Santa Monica Mountains by A. Eugene Fritsche
  • Martian Analogs in the Mojave Desert by Nathan Bridges
  • Geology of the Conejo Valley and Western Santa Monica Mountains, Ventura County by William Bilodeau
  • Natural Hazards, Past and Impending, in the Eastern San Gabriel Mountains by Jonathan A. Nourse
  • Major Landslides of the Southern Palos Verdes Hills, Los Angeles County by Edward A. Steiner
  • Walking Tour of the Wildlife Sanctuary at Mt. San Antonio College: Biologic, Ecologic, and Geologic Features by Kathryn Sanchez and David Munoz

These guides are a great way to learn about the geology of California, Nevada and Hawaii! Check them out. Cost of the new guide is $25.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Send Pictures!

Hey! All of you Far West Sectioneers who are having fun at the Mt. SAC meeting this weekend while I sit at home grading papers: Send Pictures! Geology is such a visual science, and nothing conveys more than a good picture. What was the most interesting thing you saw this weekend on the field trips? What is the most interesting thing you never knew about before taking the field trip? Send a shot with a short explanation and I will start posting them!

Today's photo was a view of the eastern Mojave Desert near the Zyzzx Desert Research Center during a particular wet year in 2005 at a meeting sponsored by El Camino College.

Opportunities for Students with the Geological Society of America

Information from the Geological Society of America of interest to students. See your campus representative for more information. (I'm the rep for MJC).

1. 2009 Subaru Minority Student Scholarship
Follow the links for information the 2009 Subaru Minority Student Scholarship Program. The details of the scholarship and eligibility are included in the application. The deadline for submitting this application is 15 August, and we hope by receiving it now we allow you sufficient time to encourage undergraduates to apply before the summer recess. As the Campus Rep, you will make the final decision on which student application to forward to GSA.

Please contact Chris McLelland or call 1.800.472.1988, ext. 1082 if you have any questions about the scholarship.

2. Submit an Abstract for the GSA Annual Meeting
Encourage your students to submit an abstract to the GSA Annual Meeting in Portland Oregon, 18-21 October 2009. Not only do we have 162 topical sessions proposed, 40 field trips, and eight enlightening Pardee Sessions, we are also lining up a number of spectacular opportunities especially for students.

3. GSA Student Membership
GSA Student membership is an incredible value. If you have students who are not members of GSA, please encourage them to join and to take advantage of this discount: Join online and save US $5 by using promotion code: Student09. Membership dues are only US $25 with this offer.

Far West Section honors the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the Year

Anna Foutz, a 9th grade earth science teacher at John North High School in Riverside, CA is being recognized as the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Far West Section (NAGT-FWS), which includes the states of California, Nevada and Hawaii. She is receiving the honor this weekend at the conference of the Far West Section at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. Outstanding Earth Science Teacher (OEST) awards are given for "exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth Sciences at the secondary level." Middle school and high-school teachers are eligible. Only ten national awardees are selected each year, one from each NAGT regional section.

As the sectional awardee, she is receiving:

  • 2 year complementary membership in NAGT
  • 3 year complimentary membership in the Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • 3 year complimentary membership in GSA Geoscience Education Division
  • $500 travel funds to a GSA meeting
  • $500 classroom improvement funds from GSA

Anna Foutz has a BS and MS in Geology from California State University, Los Angeles, and teaches 9th grade earth science at John North High School in Riverside, California, where she is currently the school’s representative on the District Earth Science Committee.

She was nominated for this honor by NAGT members because she is an energetic and enthusiastic teacher who encourages students to be excited about earth science, to be aware of the geologic hazards around them, and to be respectful of the environment. She strives to make the course material relevant, creating lesson plans that relate to current events, such as recent major earthquakes, or local issues, such as flood hazards in their own neighborhoods. Anna makes certain her students are confident as they take the California Earth Science Standards Test, but she focuses on making her earth science class fun and challenging as well.

Anna encourages critical thinking by having students work in groups on a daily basis, which gives the students a chance to teach each other and allows Anna to circulate around the classroom, guiding those with different learning abilities. All of her students are involved in every lab activity and they are all expected to turn in professional-quality lab reports using the scientific method.

Anna is a member of one of her school’s Ninth Grade Teams, which share a common Science teacher, English teacher and Health teacher. As part of the program, she organized a trip to Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert for the students to see firsthand what they were studying in their class, including the San Andreas fault, wind generators, volcanoes, and topographic maps. Anna also had them imagine and describe what they would do or think if a cinder cone began forming in their backyard. This trip showed students the reality of what they are learning, and has inspired a few to think about becoming geologists.

The Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Awards program was adopted by NAGT in 1971. Any member can nominate a teacher in their area; nomination forms are available on the Far West Section website. For questions, please contact Garry Hayes

New NAGT Quarterly E-News Magazine Debuts

From Cathy Manduca, executive director of the NAGT:

On behalf of the Executive Committee I am pleased to welcome you to the first quarterly NAGT e-News magazine. Your national officers plan to use this forum as a way to provide you notice of important education-related events, to assist you in planning, and to foster a greater sense of community within NAGT. The format and delivery of the e-newsletter will evolve as we add more content. However, in general the pages and text will typically include a President’s message, ideas for collaborations and venues where you can network, calendar items, deadlines, and highlighted teaching resources. We also plan to include short summary on“hot topics.” We also hope to include section news of broad interest to our community, commentaries and reviews. We plan to add content as needed and look forward to responding to your needs. This letter is intended to augment NAGT news that often includes time sensitive items.Let us know what you think, what you would like to see included in this e-magazine and how we can make it better!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Current Community College Openings in California

Adjunct Geology Instructor Posted On: April 17, 2009 Closing Date: Until Filled Santa Clarita Community College Dist., SANTA CLARITA $52.77/hour

Adjunct Geology Instructor Posted On: December 9, 2008 Closing Date: Continuous Long Beach Community College District, LONG BEACH $47.43 - $62.16 per hour

Geology Instructor Posted On: March 10, 2009 Closing Date: Until Filled Feather River Community College District, Quincy DOE

Geology Instructor - Cypress College -Part-Time # CCX-B30 Posted On: March 25, 2008 Closing Date: Continuous. North Orange County Community College District, Anaheim DOE

Geology/Geography Instructor, #0090010 Posted On: February 3, 2009 Closing Date: February 1, 2011. San Francisco Community College District, San Francisco $75.11 to $96.46/hr

Meteorology Instructor, #PT105 Posted On: March 2, 2009 Closing Date: Continuous Foothill - De Anza Community College District, Los Altos Hills DOE

Part-Time Geology Instructor Posted On: December 5, 2008 Closing Date: November 20, 2009 Cerritos Community College District, NORWALK $48.83 per hour

Positions are listed with the California Community Colleges Registry, using keywords Geology and Earth Science

Welcome to the Far West Section of the NAGT!

Welcome, from the teachers and students of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Far West Section, which serves the states of California, Hawaii and Nevada! This blog will be the place to catch the latest information about conferences of the section, teaching seminars and workshops, awards and scholarships, and job openings for earth science/geology teachers. Comments, contributions and suggestions are always appreciated! For more information, see our website at