An applied geophysics laboratory for introductory environmental-geology courses

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


For introductory geology courses, which typically enroll both science and non-science majors, a hands-on laboratory is often an effective way to get students of differing abilities and backgrounds interested in practical environmental issues. Solid-waste management and landfills are standard topics of environmental-geology courses, and we have developed a laboratory that teaches students some important aspects about design and monitoring waste-containment systems. The membrane lining in regulated landfills must be rigorously tested to ensure that there are no leaks, and landfills themselves must be monitored constantly to guard against developing leaks. A new method of detecting leaks in landfill liners, based on the parallel properties of electrical and ground-water flow, can be easily simulated in the laboratory of an undergraduate environmental-geology course. In this laboratory we explore the properties of potential, resistance, and flow in electrical systems and show how these relate to hydrologic principles. Using these tools, we construct a landfill model and solve a real field problem in environmental geology.

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Journal of Geoscience Education