Geography 112 - Earth System Science, Course Syllabus, Fall 2017 edition

Section 001

August 21 - December 13, 2017

Course Title: Earth Systems Science

Course Numbers: GEOG 112.001 (CRN# 50159)

                             GEOG 112.002 (CRN# 51109)

                            GEOG 112.003 (CRN# 52317)

Instructor: Dr. Jim Durbin, Associate Professor

Meeting time:

section 001 : MWF 10:00 to 10:50 AM in OC2008

section 002 : MWF 11:00 to 11:50 AM in HP1084

section 003: MWF 9:00 to 9:50 AM in OC2008

Office: Science Center Room 2218 (middle floor of the Science Center, inside room 2219)

Office Hours: TR 11:00-12:00; 2:30-3:30;  WF 1:00 - 2:00 PM, or by appointment.

Phone: (812) 465-1208


Web page address:

Text: I do not have an assigned text for this class due to the high costs associated with nearly all college level Earth Science textbooks.
However, if you are someone who needs to have access to information from a textbook to assist in learning the material, I have the following recommendations:

1) The Good Earth: Introduction to Earth Science (any edition) by McConnell, Steer, Knight, Owens and Park, McGraw Hill Publishers, NY, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-07-727097-1

2) Geosystems: an introduction to Physical Geography (any edition) by Robert Christopherson, Pearson- Prentice Hall Publishers

3) Earth Science and the Environment (any edition) by Thompson and Turk, Brooks Cole publishing

4) Introduction to Physical Geography (any edition) by Arthur Strahler, Wiley Publishing

Or any other Physical Geography or Earth Science text book that has a meteorology section in it.

Often you can find very inexpensive used textbooks available from online resellers that will serve you well and likely save you a lot of money (The cost of most used texts are typically less than 20 dollars, including shipping). The downside to purchasing books from online resellers is that you typically cannot sell them back once you are done with the class. Sometimes you can also find them available for check out at the public library or through the university library.

If you are someone who needs a book to be a successful learner, come an talk to me and I can show where you can go to acquire an inexpensive used Earth Science textbook.

This course fulfills the CORE39 Ways of Knowing-Scientific and mathematical inquiry OR the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences- Natural Science without a lab categories.

The goal of this course is to expose students to a wide range of topics within the broad category of Earth Sciences. Upon successful completion of the course, you will have have a fundamental understanding of the planet on which we live, and the way in which most of the major systems of the Earth affect each other and nearly all life on the planet. We focus on the science behind what we learn, and how it relates to what I call the " Five Spheres of Influence."

Some of the topics potentially covered in the course include: Minerals, rocks, weathering and erosion processes, rivers, glaciers, deserts and wind, mountains, oceans and shoreline processes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, earthquakes, fossils, geologic time, clouds and precipitation, the structure of the atmosphere, atmospheric circulation patterns, solar radiation, meso and micro-scale weather patterns, the solar systems and universe, and potential / probable effects on the biosphere.

Critical thinking skills are developed by being able to link ideas from one sphere of influence to those of the other four, and by being able to apply what you know to what you see in the world around you.

Structure of the Course:

This course does not have a laboratory, so the class will be a lecture format with regular exams covering the material discussed in class. The materials shown using the computer during the class period are posted on a class web page immediately after the topic is discussed in class. The lecture slides can be accessed at your convenience from home or from university computer labs.

Caution: The web page is not a substitute for coming to class! Each semester I have taught this course, students think that they don't have to come to class because the lecture visuals are posted on the web. As a result of skipping class and only printing out lecture slides, I then have to try to explain to students why they only earned a D or an F in the class! The content of the web page is to provide you with access to some of the visual and written materials so that you can review and write material down after the class. This then frees your time so you can listen to and write down critical information that is not on the slide during the actual class!

Exams and assignments:

Participants in the class will be evaluated on five (5) exams (4 exams and 1 comprehensive Final exam) as well as a number of assignments given throughout the semester. The content of the final will be ~ 45% material we have previously been tested on, and 55% new material. Exams are "curved" based on the high score achieved on each exam. The high score has points added onto it, up to 10% of the total, to adjust it to 100%. All other exams have the same number of points added onto them as well. It is best to assume that the curve will be relatively small.



I evaluate your grade based on a strictly adhered to point scale (listed below). All decimal points are rounded up to the next whole number regardless of the decimal. (E.G., 76.00001 would be rounded up to 77 points). There is ample opportunity to acquire enough points over the semester to get a decent grade- if you put in the work. It is your responsibility to keep track of what your grade is y checking the class website (Points you have acquired thus far divided by the total number of points possible at that point) and to adjust your studying habits, class attendance, note-taking skills, and exam performance so that you can achieve the grade you desire (within reason).

 Point Breakdown (table 1)



Percent of total course

Exam 1- Friday 9/8/17


~ 14%

Exam 2- Friday 9/29/17


~ 14%
Exam 3- Friday 10/20/17
~ 14%
Exam 4- Friday 11/10/17
~ 14%

Final Exam-comprehensive
(section 001: Friday, Dec. 8, 2017; 10;00 AM to 12:00 PM)

(section 002: Monday, Dec. 11, 2017; 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM)

(section 003: Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017; 9:00 to 11:00 AM


~ 31%
Exercises/Assignments 50
~ 9%

Attend/Participation determined by quizzes, assignments and exam handbacks


~ 3%

Grading Scale for the Course (table 2)






















Missing class is highly discouraged. Much of the information we cover in class is not available by any means other than by notes taken during the class. If you must be absent from class, please make arrangements to get the notes taken during class from one of your peers in the class with you.

I do not mind students coming late to class, as I would prefer you come to class a little late than to not show up at all. Try not to make a lot of noise when coming in late, and do not to make a habit of being late to class. It won't disturb me, but it will bug your classmates.

Do not talk in class while I am speaking, unless it is to ask a question pertaining to the class. If you choose to talk, you will be asked to leave the class.

Cell phones must be turned off while in my class. If you choose to bring these items to class with a normal ringer mode on, prepare to be asked to leave if it goes off!

Laptop computers and tablets for note taking purposes are allowed, but if I find that people are surfing the web (for example- facebook) instead of listening or taking notes, I will disallow them to be used for the entire class.

Please do not bring children into the classroom. Although I personally love kids, they often have a tough time sitting for an extended period (think how tough it is for you sometimes!), and will distract the other students. The University has excellent child care facilities and ways to accommodate nearly any circumstance.

I do not mind students eating or drinking in the classroom provided the University doesn't mind, and you don't make crinkling noises when unwrapping food items.

If you know ahead of time that there is a conflict with an exam date, you must see me in advance to make arrangements as to when you will make up the exam. If for any reason you miss an exam, you must see me to see if you will be allowed to make it up, or contact me within 24 hours. On exam days, anyone coming into the classroom more than 15 minutes late will not be allowed to start the exam at that time. You will be able to take the make up exam at some point after the class period.

All assignments are due when you enter the classroom unless otherwise noted by me.

I have scheduled office hours listed at the top of the page, or you may schedule an appointment with me to discuss matters that concern you. If you cannot reach me during office hours, you may leave a message with the departmental secretary, leave a voice mail message, or e-mail me. I will respond to you as quickly as possible.

Academic Integrity:
Cheating on exams, turning in work that is not done by you is grounds for failure of that particular assignment, failure of the course, and removal from the university. If you are aware that someone is cheating or otherwise engaged in dishonest behavior, it is your responsibility as an honest student to report the incident to me. I despise academic dishonesty! The "ends" definitely don't justify the "means". It just isn't worth it. If you are caught, you have my word that I will pursue the appropriate course of action to the fullest extent. If you want to know what the course of action is, get a copy of the student handbook and read the academic integrity statement contained therein.


ADA Statement:
If you have a disability that requires academic accommodations for this class, you must register with Disability Resources (DR- located in the Orr Center, Room 095) to qualify for accommodation assistance. Students who already have or are granted an accommodation letter from DR are encouraged to meet with course faculty to discuss the appropriate academic accommodations within the first two weeks of the term. Students are encouraged to meet with course faculty and remind them of their need for accommodations a few days before those accommodations are needed to ensure that they will be available. Students should schedule their exams in the DR offices, including the final exam, within the first few weeks of the semester, as space is limited and timing is critical.

 Title IX statement:

USI does not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and all forms of sexual violence.  If you have experienced sexual misconduct, or know someone who has, the University can help.  It is important to know that federal regulations and University policy require faculty to promptly report incidences of potential sexual misconduct known to them to the Title IX Coordinator to ensure that appropriate measures are taken and resources are made available. The University will work with you to protect your privacy by sharing information with only those who need to know to ensure we can respond and assist.  If you are seeking help and would like to speak to someone confidentially, you can make an appointment with a counselor in the University Counseling Center.  Find more information about sexual violence, including campus and community resources at

I reserve the right to alter the syllabus should the need arise during the semester. I will notify the class of any changes that might be made.

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Syllabus last updated 8/16/17