People and contact info
Course Descriptions
Class Schedule
Term papers

Web-based supplements
(on EarthStructure's homepage)

Earth Structure

GS 351/451 - W2005

MWF, 9-10 am
2520 CC Little Bldg.
WF pm labs in 3526 CCL

latest update: Tuesday April 12, 2005 10:25 AM

Instructors and Contacts

Ben A. van der Pluijm, 4534b CC Little Building;; office hours: by appointment
Josep M. Pares,
4506 CC Little Building;;  office hours: by appointment
GSI: Sam Haines, 4534f CC Little Building; email; office hours: TBD

CourseTools website:


You should consider ordering course texts from the internet, which can offer considerable savings.  Use this link to see prices for ES2 and this link for SA&S2.

EarthStructure: An Introduction to Structural Geology and Tectonics
(2nd edition)
by Ben A. van der Pluijm and Stephen Marshak.
WW Norton, 656 p., 2004; 0-393-92467-X


Laboratory text: Structural Analysis and Synthesis (2nd ed)
by Stephen Rowland and Ernest Duebendorfer. 
Blackwell, 279 p., 1994.

2005 Class Schedule (MWF, 9-10 am, 2520 CCL)

      Topic Reading Lab# Instr 
1 5-Jan wed Introduction and Primary structures (1, 2) 1 vdP
2 7-Jan fri Joints, Veins I 7, 8, 10 1 vdP
3 10-Jan mon Faults I 7, 8, 10   vdP
4 12-Jan wed Faults II 7, 8, 10 2 vdP
5 14-Jan fri Folds I 7, 8, 10 2 vdP
  17-Jan mon No class (Martin Luther King Day)      
6 19-Jan wed Folds II 7, 8, 10 3 vdP
7 21-Jan fri Foliations and Lineations I 7, 8, 10 3 vdP
8 24-Jan mon Foliations and Lineations II 11   vdP
9 26-Jan wed Force and stress I 3 4 vdP
10 28-Jan fri Force and stress II  3 4 vdP
  31-Jan mon Exam 1 (20% of final grade)      
11 2-Feb wed  Force and stress III 3 5 vdP
12 4-Feb fri Deformation I 4 5 vdP
13 7-Feb mon Deformation II 4   vdP
14 9-Feb wed Deformation III + Term paper topic due 4 6 vdP
15 11-Feb fri Rheology I 5 6 vdP
16 14-Feb mon Rheology II 5   vdP
17 16-Feb wed Rheology III 5 7 vdP
18 18-Feb fri Mechanics I 6 7 JP
19 21-Feb mon Mechanics II 6   JP
20 23-Feb wed Mechanics III 6 8 JP
21 25-Feb fri  Ductile behavior I 9 8 JP
      SPRING BREAK      
22 7-Mar mon Ductile behavior II 9   JP
23 9-Mar wed Deformation regimes I 9 9 JP
24 11-Mar fri Deformation regimes II 9 9 JP
25 14-Mar mon Fabrics, mylonites and shear-sense indicators I 12   JP
26 16-Mar wed Fabrics, mylonites and shear-sense indicators II 12 10 JP
27 18-Mar fri Folding and Foliations I 10 10 JP
28 21-Mar mon Folding and Foliations II 11   JP
  23-Mar wed Exam 2 (20% of final grade)   11  
29 25-Mar fri Earth structure and Plate tectonics I 14,15 11 JP
30 28-Mar mon Earth structure and Plate tectonics II 14,15   JP
31 30-Mar wed Earth structure and Plate tectonics III 14,15 12 JP
32 1-Apr fri Extensional Tectonics + Term paper due 16 12 vdP/JP
33 4-Apr mon Convergence and Collision 17   vdP
34 6-Apr wed Convergence and Collision 17, 18 13 vdP
35 8-Apr fri Strike-slip Tectonics 19 13 vdP
36 11-Apr mon Western North America 20, 22   vdP
37 13-Apr wed Central North America 22 ExamW vdP
38 15-Apr fri Eastern North America 22 ExamF vdP
39 18-Apr mon Precambrian North America 22   vdP
  25-Apr Mon Exam 3 (20% of final grade)      

Self study

Two modules that are very useful tools for self study.  The source is learningGEOSCIENCE, with modules at:

Flash file of Deformation of rocks - structural geology
Author(s): Assoc. Prof. Kåre Kullerud
Producer(s): Frank Bjørklund & Rune Selbekk
Software required: Flash Player/Plugin
Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes
The module gives an introduction to structural geology. The first part gives a description of brittle and ductile deformation structures. Further, the formation of faults, folds and foliation is discussed. The module gives an example on how the deformation structures of rocks can be used to deduce the deformation history of the crust. The last part of the module gives a description of how to measure the orientation of deformation structures at an outcrop.


Flash file of Plate tectonics
Author(s): Assoc. Prof. Kåre Kullerud
Producer(s): Frank Bjørklund & Rune Selbekk
Software required: Flash Player/Plugin
Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes
The module gives an introduction to plate tectonics. Plate tectonics give a description on how the lithosphere plates of the Earth are continously moving, giving rise to earthquakes and volcanism around the world. The first part addresses Alfred Wegener's continental drift hypothesis - the precursor of the plate tectonic theory. Then we will follow the development on the field until Wegener's ideas were acknowledged 50 years later, and the plate tectonics theory was generally accepted. The second part addresses some of the geological processes that are related to plate tectonics. The last part shows a plate tectonic reconstruction - here you can follow the motion of the lithosphere plaste thorough the last 440 million years.


The goal of each homework assignment is to apply the relevant class material.  Completion will count toward the final grade.

Homework 1. Fold geometry and dip isogons. Complete problem 6.3 of the email/hand-out, which uses dip isogons to classify fold geometry. Due on 1/21/05.

Homework 2. Determine normal and shear stresses on planes (hand-out).  Due on 2/2/05.

Homework 3.  Strain analysis (hand-out).  Due on 2/14/05


Past homework

(Questions using StressMohr program (hand-out in class). 
This program illustrates the use of stress calculations for two-dimensional systems. The program consists of five displays. In each display you can vary the physical situation and immediately see the effects in the graphical displays. The first display illustrates the relation between forces and stresses acting on a rectangular solid. In the second display, you explore the stress on a plane as you vary the orientation of the plane and the state of stress in the system. We illustrate the calculation of the stress on the plane in terms of a simple matrix multiplication in the third display. You can also observe the simple geometry of the envelope of the stresses that are produced as the angle of the plane is varied. The fourth display shows the behavior of the normal and shear components of the stress on the plane. When the normal component is plotted along x and the shear component along y, the envelope will be a circle: called a Mohr circle. This beautiful result lets you visualize the range of possible stresses on the plane. Finally in the last display, you can explore the conditions which lead to the fracture of a sample: you can vary the stresses until the stresses are just strong enough to cause fracture by watching the changes in size and location of the Mohr circle.
Click here to download the file that contains the program and MSWord version of the manual.  The manual is also available online by clicking here.  To unzip your file, download WinZip or search for any other "zip" program.)

Complete R&D's Questions 14-1 and 14-2 on strain analysis.  (Note that the remainder of Chapter 14 is the strain lab for GS351 students)


You will need pencils, eraser and small calculator for the labs. 
We'll occasionally use some software that you will find at:
StressMohr: as zip file or unzipped folder.


Make topographic profile:

Term Paper

Post or submit a 6-10 page, illustrated and referenced paper on a topic in structural geology (not regional tectonics).  For webposting, use your personal personal web space for the paper and email link to Ben (; otherwise hand-in a printed copy of the paper or attach as Word file (with figures in the text) to an email.  Topic selection due on 2/9/05; the actual paper is due on 4/1/05 !
Some examples of suitable topics are:

dislocations in quartz
fold shape quantification
dynamic recrystallization
rheology of olivine
balanced cross-sections
thrust belt geometry
mechanics of normal faults
fluids in rocks
Mechanics of thrusting
Normal faults
Thrust belt geometries
Disjunctive cleavage
Mineral lineations
Strike-lip faults
Mineral Lineations
Low-angle normal faults
Faults and fluids
Cataclastic flow
Rheology of olivine
Impact structures
Dislocations in quartz
Gold in veins
Stick-slip behavior of faults
Fold classification
Static recrystallization
Dynamic recrystallization
Slaty cleavage
Salt deformation
Accretionary wedge structures
Geophysical Imaging
Hydro-elastic stress failures
Fold classification


Log into UM's C-tools for grade info.  
The GS351 final grade is based on:
60 points for three exams (1/3rd each);
25 points for graded lab assignments;
15 points for lab exam;
15 points for term paper;
5 points homework assignments
(normalized to 100%)
The GS451 final grade is based on:
75 points for three exams (1/3rd each);
25 points for term paper;
5 points homework assignments
(normalized to 100%)

Course Descriptions

GS351. Structural Geology. G.S.117 or 119 or the equivalent; or permission of instructor. (4). (Excl).(BS). 
The description and analysis of geological structures in the Earth's crust and an introduction to global tectonics. Three lectures and one laboratory session weekly. The following topics are covered: the description of geological structures; the kinematics and dynamics of folding and faulting; stress, strain, deformation and rheology; introduction to dislocation theory; micro-structural analysis; principles of plate tectonics; selected orogenic systems of the world. This is a core course for concentrators, but is open to all who want to have a basic knowledge of geology. Evaluation is based on graded lab assignments, a lab test, and three exams.
Cost:2 WL:4 (van der Pluijm)

GS451. Introductory Earth Structure. Permission of Instructor. (3). 
This course offers description and interpretation of geological structures in the Earth’s crust and an introduction to global plate tectonics. Topics covered are: mechanics, stress, strain and deformation; hand-specimen and field description of geological structures; the kinematics and dynamics of folding and faulting; flow of rocks (rheology); introduction to dislocation theory; microstructural analysis; principles of plate tectonics; tectonic evolution of selected regions. The course is aimed at those with an interest in geology beyond the introductory level, as well as students who want a basic understanding of the outer Earth’s physical properties. Geology and oceanography concentrators should not enroll in GS451, but elect GS351. Geology graduate students may take this course for credit by permission only. The class meets for three weekly lectures, together with GS351; however, laboratory sessions are not included.  Grading is based on three exams.
Cost:1 WL:4 (van der Pluijm). 


Instructional Supplements (links to EarthStructure)
Geological Sciences at the University of Michigan
Tectonophysics at the University of Michigan

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© Ben A. van der Pluijm, 1995-2005