Earth Structure

Earth 351/451 - 2014
Ben van der Pluijm, BR Clark Professor of Geology
University of Michigan, Dept of Earth & Environmental Sciences


Univ MichiganEarth 351/451

Lecture: M/W 8:30-10:00am
1505 C.C. Little Building

Laboratory: M/T/W 3-6pm
3526 C.C. Little Building

Contact Information

Ben van der Pluijm, 4534b CC Little Building;
Office hours: TBD

Erin Lynch 4534f CC Little Building
Office hours: TBD

   (images from Earth Structure, by van der Pluijm and Marshak)

Course Descriptions

GeoSci 351

Description and analysis of geological structures of the Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle), and introduction to global tectonics. Three hours lecture and one laboratory session weekly.

These topics are included: description of geological structures; kinematics and dynamics of folding and faulting; stress, strain, deformation and rheology; deformation mechanisms and microstructures; whole-earth structure; principles of plate tectonics; selected tectonic settings.

This is a core course for Earth concentrators and required for upper-level field camp, but is open to all who want to have a basic knowledge of geology. Non-geology concentrators and new graduate studnets can also elect the no-lab version of this class (GEOSCI 451).

Check class and lab sections availability here.

GeoSci 451 (meet together)

Description and interpretation of geological structures in the Earth's crust and 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.

Check for availability.



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

ES2 coverEarthStructure: 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: A Laboratory Course in Structural Geology (3rd edition) by Stephen M. Rowland, Ernest M. Duebendorfer, Ilsa M. Schiefelbein.
Wiley-Blackwell, 2007; 978-1-4051-1652-7.


Lecture Schedule

Lect# Date Day Topic Reading Lab#
  8-Jan Wed No Class    
1 13-Jan Mon Introduction and Rock Structures 1,2 1
2 15-Jan Wed Force and stress I 3  
  20-Jan Mon MLK - NO class   2
3 22-Jan Wed Force and stress II  3  
4 27-Jan Mon Brittle Behavior I 6 3
5 29-Jan Wed Brittle Behavior II 6  
6 3-Feb Mon Joints, Veins, Faults I 7,8 4
7 5-Feb Wed Joints, Veins, Faults II 7,8  
  10-Feb Mon Review (8:30a) + Exam 1 (9:10a)   5
8 12-Feb Wed Deformation and Strain I 4  
9 17-Feb Mon Deformation and Strain II 4 6
10 19-Feb Wed Rheology I 5  
11 24-Feb Mon Rheology II 5 7
12 26-Feb Wed Ductile Behavior I 9  
      Spring Break    
13 10-Mar Mon Ductile Behavior II 9 8
14 12-Mar Wed Folds, Foliations, Lineations I 10,11  
15 17-Mar Mon Folds, Foliations, Lineations II 10,11 9
16 19-Mar Wed Ductile Shear Zones 12  
17 24-Mar Mon Earth Structure and Plate tectonics 14 10
  26-Mar Wed Exam 2 (lectures 8-16)    
18 31-Mar Mon Divergent Tectonics 16 11
19 2-Apr Wed Convergence and Collision 17  
20 7-Apr Mon Fold-Thrust belts 18 12
21 9-Apr Wed Strike-slip Tectonics 19  
22 14-Apr Mon Western North America 20,22 13
23 16-Apr Wed Central North America 20,22  
24 21-Apr Mon Eastern North America 20,22  
  30-Apr Wed Exam 3 (lectures 17-24); UM schedule: 8-10 am    

Laboratory (351 only)

You will need black and colored pencils, eraser, ruler and basic calculator for the labs. Details will be announced in the first laboratory session.

We'll occasionally use software, such as:
StressMohr: as zip file or unzipped folder.
(or Stereonet:
ArcGIS (campus license):


Term paper (451 only)

Post or submit an 8-10 page, illustrated and referenced paper on a topic in earth structure (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.

Some examples of suitable topics are:
Fold shape quantification; Dynamic recrystallization; Rheology of olivine; Balanced cross-sections; Thrust belt geometry; Mechanics of normal faults; fFuids in rocks; Mechanics of thrusting; Normal faults systems; Thrust wedge geometries; Disjunctive cleavage; Mineral lineations; Strike-lip faults; Mineral Lineations; Low-angle normal faults; Faults and fluids; Cataclastic flow; Impact structures; Dislocations in quartz; Gold in veins; Stick-slip behavior of faults; Unconformities; Fold classification; Static recrystallization; Dynamic recrystallization; Slaty cleavage; Salt deformation; Gneiss; Accretionary wedge structures; Pseudotachylytes; Hydro-elastic stress failures; Fold classification.



Assignments to be announced.

Class Materials

PDFs of powerpoint slides for each Chapter (or subchapter) are posted on the Earth Structure website (at: ). PowerPoint originals are available on request for adopters of the textbook, based on WW Norton's records.

Other version of the powerpoint files and supporting documents are posted on the Ctools site for GeoSci 351/451 (U-M only)


The GS351 final grade is based on: 69 % for three exams (1/3 each); 26 % for graded lab assignments (13); remainder for additional assignments.

The GS451 final grade is based on: 75 % for three exams (1/3 each); 20 % for term paper; remainder for additional assignments.

A straight scoring scale is used to determine the final letter grade.



We'll occasionally use software, such as:

StressMohr, by Ulrich Kruse: as zip file or unzipped folder.

Stereonet for Mac and Windows, by Rick Allmendinger. Go to:

GeoOrient for Windows, by Rod Holcombe. GEOrient plots orientation diagrams (equal area, or equal angle stereographic projections, and rose diagrams). Go to


© Ben van der Pluijm. Last updated: 10-feb-14 15:45