Tufts Magazine logo Tufts seal
The online edition of Tuft's quarterly publication Contents Back Issues Subscribe Contact Us
Selected Features
This Semester
Professor's Row
Magazine cover photo
Talk to Us
Send a Letter
Send a Classnote
Update your Records
Related Links
Tufts E-News link
Tufts Journal link
Tufts University link
link to Alumni Office
Tufts Career Network link
Support Tufts
Spring 2004
photo by Rose Lincoln
Professor: anne gardulski,
Associate Professor

Q What is it that you would like to get across in this course?
A The basic concept is what I like to call the architecture of the Earth. That’s not my original phrase—but it’s a term that aptly describes the discipline. If you look around at rocks on the Earth’s surface, they’re not all flat, lying, sedimentary rocks. We find that they are faulted, or they may be folded-—the layers can be like soup. How does this happen and what are the implications for ground-water movement, oil and gas reserves, ore deposits? And what does that tell us about geologic history? Because, ultimately, geologists are Earth historians; we try to put together what’s gone on in the 4.6 billion years that the Earth has existed. The Earth is like a big three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, but it’s not static. It changes through geologic time. So what you need to work out is how that jigsaw puzzle has changed.

Q How do you approach the craft of teaching?
A Before all my classes, I come in very early and put all my lecture notes on the blackboard. This way I’m not talking with my back to the class. I maintain eye contact; I can walk around the room and talk to people individually. If I give them little assignments to do during the class, there’s a lot more interaction. And the other thing with all department courses, and particularly with Structure, is that I have a lot of visual aids, a lot of blocks of layered rocks that are tilted. I use Play-Doh and clay.

Q Play-Doh?
A The students can deform things. They will, for instance, flatten out Play-Doh on window screen material, and impress a circle on it. And then they can deform it into an ellipse and we measure how much strain has occurred. We see in nature rounded pebbles, for example, that are deformed into pillow-like elliptical shapes. And, obviously, we work a lot with maps. I have the students generate their own cross-sections. If they’re looking at the geology on a map, with the data that’s given, I want them to draw a section as if they could cut the Earth at right angles, pull away some of that, and then, describe what they see.

Q The course description says “study and interpretation,” and I’m struck by the word “interpretation,” because it seems that they have to figure out a lot.
A That’s true. This is a “doing” discipline. It is essential to manipulate data mentally, but then manipulate with your hands what’s going on. Creating that three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that changes through time requires that you be able to imagine, timewise, what the rocks looked like backward from what you see, or forward from what you interpret—does it make sense? To do this, they have to learn to be good observers.

Q And then I suppose you also do go out in the field.
A I do take a field trip out to the Boxboro-Harvard area, where there are some wonderful outcrops of highly deformed metamorphic, folded rocks. About 250 million years ago, these rocks were buried under maybe 15 miles of Earth’s crust. I also take them up into the Middlesex Fells, where the rocks are highly fractured. This year for the first time, on spring break, I’m also offering an optional field trip out to southern Utah where I do my own research.

Q Do they do a term paper or a project?
A They do a project. I give them air photos of a place shot at two different angles. The students use special magnifying stereo glasses to look at the two photos simultaneously, which gives them a three-dimensional aspect. And then the students map the whole area, showing the distribution of the rock types. From their observations, they work out the geologic structure.

Q It sounds sophisticated.
A They’re terrified, and I don’t blame them. This is when they start saying, “Oh, we can’t do this!” And of course they can.

Q Someone who is deductive and inductive might do well?
A Students who have an artistic aptitude often can imagine things in three dimensions more easily, and students who are double majors in geology and art often do really well because they’re comfortable conceptualizing. In fact, we hope all students look at the world differently after they’ve had a geology course. Sometimes they tell us, even if they’ve only taken one intro course, that family vacations are never the same. They’re driving down the highway and it’s: “Mom, Dad, look at the fault over there!” or “Hey, look at the folds in those rocks!” And, finally, the parents are saying, “I guess we got our money’s worth out of that course!”—LF