Geology of the National Parks



Building a real online course takes a community. The primary author of Geosc10 is Richard B. Alley, and I’d like to thank a whole lot of other people who have worked very hard to make the course a reality. In no special order, here are a few of the key folks.

The transition from all-paper to online content was made in concert with the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' CAUSE trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding national parks during 2004. Eric Spielvogel was the primary architect and guiding force of that trip, and was aided by Anna Brendle with the enthusiastic support of Dutton e-Education Institute director David Dibiase and help from Annie Taylor. WPSU contributed a lot of resources. Topher Yorks filmed the whole thing and kept us in batteries, good music, and goodwill, Tom Keiter and Joe Myers really bolstered filming during part of the trip, and the WPSU management (including Ted Krichels, Jeff Preston and Tracy Vosburgh) supported the effort. The CAUSE students were Sam Ascah, Risa Goren, Raya Guruswami, Ryan Hanrahan, Dave Janesko, Kym Kline, Lainie McGuiney, Irene Mckenna, Amish Shah, Steph Shepherd, Sameer Safaya, Sheri Shannon, and Dave Witmer, TV stars and stars in and out of class. Dave Witmer really worked to get the “GeoClips” in order after the course ended.

Sridhar Anandakrishnan was the other prof on the trip, is the other prof in the course, and is the best rubber-duck herder ever. His contributions are woven seamlessly through the course in so many ways, and it would not be what it is without him.

At the Dutton e-Education Institute, Eric Spielvogel has been responsible for filming, course planning, course building, html programming, and a great range of additional things from the very beginning—you’ll find his handiwork throughout. Annie Taylor and Jennifer Babb have made the course work, solved the myriad Angel problems, planned, and upgraded. David DiBiase has been a continuing guide and supporter. Marty Gutowski and Dave Babb have helped out, too.

Cindy Alley has done the textbook publishing, the figures in the textbook, the geovisualization of the rock videos, a lot of the filming of rock videos and various other parts of the course, as well as putting up with a lot of complaining over the years. Eric Spielvogel started the rock-video filming, including bringing his truly artistic eye to the effort. Additional help for the rock videos has come from Janet Alley, Karen Alley, Adam Jones, Amanda Jones, Carl Pillot, Will Ross, and WPSU. Flash animations in the exercises were supported by the Penn State Blended Learning Initiative, with Dean Blackstock’s animation and help from Mark DeLuca.

Much of the work of the course is done by the Teaching Assistants. We have had great ones. The course dates back to 1996, and began the transition to electronic in the fall of 2005. The electronic TA veterans are (I hope this list is complete!):

Fall, 2005: Todd Johnston, Minoo Kosarian
Spring 2006: Dave Vacco
Fall 2006: Vicki Miller, Jason Sitchler
Spring, 2007: Vicki Miller
Fall, 2007: Mike Cleveland, John Fegyveresi, Audrey Huerta, Jen Nemitz, Jason Sitchler
Spring 2008: Jamey Fulton, Vicki Miller, Jen Nemitz, Jocelyn Sessa
Fall, 2008: Rebecca Boon, Mike Cleveland, Vicki Miller, Dan Peterson, Jocelyn Sessa
and many more since.

The externally funded research that Sridhar and I conduct informs the teaching we do. Although we have not been funded directly to build the course, our funding agencies encourage education and outreach, and we are grateful for that. Our research has especially been funded by the US National Science Foundation, primarily through their Office of Polar Programs. We have also received support from NASA, and from the Comer Science and Education Foundation. Supplying this material to so many students, and making this material available to the public, is a way to pay back our funding agencies for support that ultimately originated with the public.

Some “Greatest Hits”:

The CAUSE effort and the development of Geosc10 have been rather prominently featured in various Penn State efforts and more broadly. At the Outreach Conference “Engaging Faculty: Public Service Media as Service Learning” in 2004, the effort was described in talks by Sridhar Anandakrishnan, David DiBiase and Eric Spielvogel as well as by me. CAUSE student Stephanie Shepherd and I described our efforts to the Partners of the Penn State Trustees. The work was featured prominently in my College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) G. Montgomery and Marion Mitchell Innovative Teaching Award (“Rocking the Parks: Big Canyons, Big Craziness, and a Big Team Innovating in General Education”). Similarly, Geosc10 and CAUSE figured prominently in my Eisenhower Teaching Award from Penn State. The film of the CAUSE trip won an Emmy Award, has been shown on WPSU many times, and in the EMS museum many more times. Shorter versions were shown to the New Student Convocation at University Park for at least two years, to incoming Schreyer Honors Scholars, in the University President's State of the University address, and in the Road Scholars orientation for new faculty at Penn State. We were also featured on the cover of the EMS undergraduate recruiting packet. In addition to offering Geosc10 to students across the Penn State system, our materials have been incorporated in locally taught courses at Penn State’s Dubois, Delaware County and Lehigh Valley campuses, and are being used in university education outside of Pennsylvania. Dispatches from the CAUSE trip were highlighted on Penn State’s website (e.g.,, and a discussion on Deep Time with Eric Spielvogel was featured at Research Penn State ( We’re happy that thousands of students have learned lots from Geosc10 while providing high student ratings of teaching effectiveness. With many more people studying our materials outside of the normal classroom (including more than 5000 views of the YouTube spinoff of our Rock Videos as of the end of 2008), we’re even happier.