Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

GS 5 Living on the Edge

Main content start

GS 5: You ARE Living on the Edge

For the Next Four Years! 
2 DAY field trip along California Coast
The Department of Geological Sciences invites YOU to come take a look over that edge! (1 unit)
Fall and Spring quarters

Colored topographical map of CA Earthquake zones
THE RED ZONE: Earthquakes most likely

GS5 Living on the Edge (Download Flyer)

Learn more about this course on ExploreCourses

GS 5:  Living on the Edge Brought to you again by popular demand!

Are you new to the Bay Area? Welcome to life along the Pacific Rim of Fire! Do you wonder about the San Andreas Fault and earthquakes? How people live with its associated threats? Winter weather, mudslides and seacliff erosion? Do you want to discover where the best beaches are? Hidden redwood forests? Do you wonder where your water comes from? Do you want to learn more about the Earth Sciences? California’s geology is ROCKIN’ AND ROLLIN’ !

This class is a weekend field trip to the Pacific Coast April 7-8. Tour local beaches, geology, landforms, earthquake, volcanic and climate hazards with expert guides. Enjoy a locally grown, seasonal BBQ dinner and camp overnight on the Santa Cruz coast. Get to know your fellow students and faculty and graduate students in the Earth Sciences. You will come away with a better sense of your local EARTH and your place within it!

Requirements: An organizational and two afternoon/eve campus meetings and the weekend field trip to the Pacific Coast (1 credit S/NS). Attendance at meetings and field trip is required as is taking notes on the field trip and turning them in (we read them!).  Limited to ~25-30 students (Frosh have first choice) 

Instructors: Miller + various

The “Edge” :
Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide

The Edge - Highway 1 @ Devil's Slide Cliff view from the air
Original Highway 1 as it crosses Devil’s Slide along the coast. In 2013 a tunnel was completed through the mountains to bypass the slide at a cost of ~500M . We will walk on the original highway (if it is still there..). The coastline here is erosional (waves pounding at base of rock cliffs) and land is rising as the Pacific and North American plates converge slightly as they slip past each other along the San Andreas transform fault.

Take a plunge into “Deep Time” (that’s like millions of years)  

Rocks embedded in the ground with camera lense next to it for scale

Boulders in a Cretaceous sandstone (80 million years old) were eroded from rocks in southern California and moved 100’s of km north to Pigeon Point, giving good control on the amount of slip along the San Andreas transform fault.  How do geologists figure things like this out?  …it’s complicated..  but it’s helpful that rocks have clocks!  

Diagram of Pujilla Darwini swimming

In the Miocene (23-5 million years ago), the land mammal Pujilla Darwini evolved into the elephant seals who mate on the beaches of northern California. We will see elephant seals but they aren’t mating right now.

Elephant Seals


Group Photo of students on beach
Warning: The Edge can be warm or very cold in April!
Ariel shot of Devil's Slide


Geological Sciences
Bldg. 320 Room 214

Research website: