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GEOLSCI 210: Tectonic Evolution of the U.S. Cordillera: A Virtual Field Trip Across the Western States 

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Old couch facing a TV in the middle of the desert with mountains in backgroun

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Why study mountain belts? They tell you a lot about the history of the earth and the influence of plate tectonics on the evolution and deformation of continental crust. This lecture course covers the geologic history and tectonic evolution of the western U. S. Cordillera from its inception as a rifted continental margin in the Late Precambrian (when the west became the west!) to its Cenozoic to recent history of Basin and Range extension and San Andreas transform motion.  This history spans more than 600 million years of geologic time! The Cordillera, studied and described in much detail, provides insight into lithospheric and crustal-scale processes and the plate tectonic driving forces responsible for deformation, magmatism and sedimentation in this and other mountain belts.  In addition to the historical narrative, lectures address the latest views on characteristic deformation-related structures formed during crustal shortening, extension and strike-slip faulting; the relationship of sedimentary basins to deformation; plate tectonic controls on magmatism and deformation; the link between deep to shallow crustal processes and highlight the unique nature of continental deformation. Unlike the narrow boundaries between plates in the world’s oceans, continental deformation is often spread across very broad regions of the continents. The course will deliver a comprehensive overview of the geology and tectonics of the western U.S. at the upper undergraduate and graduate level with a range of interests and background. For those taking the course for one unit, a P/NP grade will be assigned based on regular attendance.  A term paper exploring a topic of interest or a critical written review of the literature will be required of those taking the course for three units and a letter grade.

Taught by E.L. Miller and a host of others. Questions? Email: