A Few Geological Information Resources


This is a list of books, websites and monthlies that are great sources of geological information.  They are great potential sources of information for extra credit papers. 



Below are some of the better websites that contain geologic information.  Most are university or government sites.  There are many more excellent websites than the ones listed here!

Government Sites


U.S. Geological Society home page.  Links to a multitude of government sites can be made from here, including sites on earthquakes, volcanoes, natural resources, water and flooding.



U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program homepage.



U.S. Geological Survey David Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory.  This site is a fantastic source of information on volcanoes of the northwest U.S.  Contains fascinating things like maps of hazard zones, descriptions of past eruptions, and current activity at volcanoes in the northwest. 



U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory.



U.S. Geological Survey Hawaii Volcano Observatory.



U.S. Geological Survey Long Valley (California) Volcano Observatory.



U.S. Geological Survey Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.



U.S. Geological Survey’s Geology of Death Valley National Park.  A great page full of information on Death Valley.



U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  Contains a wide variety of information on oceans, ranging from seafloor sediments to El Nino and national weather patterns. 


Utah Geological Survey homepage.  Links to a variety of information on Utah Geology and government.



University Sites

Only a couple of the many sites are listed here.  Most major universities have fairly extensive geology websites. 


Ron Blakey’s website at Northern Arizona University.  I like the site because it contains a tremendous amount of information on the sedimentary rocks of southern Utah and the Grand Canyon areas.



Deparment of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah.  A variety of information on Utah geology as well as links to the University of Utah Seismograph Station, which is the best source for information on Utah earthquakes, and links to information on the geology of Yellowstone. 


University of Utah Seismograph Station, which is the best source for information on Utah earthquakes.



University of Utah research on the Yellowstone hotspot.



More Earthquake Sites


Southern California Earthquake  Center.  Lots of great information on Southern California and Nevada earthquakes

Southern California Earthquake Data Center.  Lots of great information on Southern California and Nevada earthquakes


Earth Science Professional Societies

In general, there is useful geological information on these sites as well as links to other sites and information on careers in Earth Science.


American Association of Petroleum Geologists homepage.  There is some good information here.



American Geological Institute



Geological Society of America



American Geophysical Society.  There isn’t a tremendous amount of information on this site that could be used to write an extra credit report, but it is one of the largest Earth Science societies so I put it on this list.



Miscellaneous websites


Avalanche.org.  This is a consortium of avalanche forecast centers throughout North America.  The site has a variety of information on snow avalanches, including resources and descriptions of accidents, as well as links to regional forecast centers, including the Utah Avalanche Center


Mineralogy Database.  This is a fantastic online database of minerals.


Magazines and Scientific Journals


Discover.  This magazine emphasizes life science, but occasionally has earth science articles.  Similar level to Scientific American.


National Geographic.  N.G. often emphasizes photography over substance, but is always entertaining and informative and occasionally contains a feature article on earth science that will suffice as a source of information for an extra credit report.


Scientific American.  This magazine frequently carries articles on earth science topics that are written at a perfect level to take you just a step past the introductory class. 


The true scientific journals will make for difficult reading, but if you are curious look up Geological Society of America Bulletin or Geology in the UVSC library.



Non-fiction, narrative books, listed alphabetically by author.  I highly recommend each of these books.  They all are tremendously informative and enjoyable reading.  You can easily write two extra credit summaries based on a single book.


Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

John McPhee is a 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner and one of America’s great natural history writers.  Over a period of many years, he traveled extensively across the U.S. and overseas with several well known geologists.  Annals of the Former World is a compilation of books (Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrane, Rising from the Planes and Assembling California), in which he describes the geologic evolution of the U.S., especially along Interstate 80, plate tectonics and its development, and digs into the make-up of the geologists with whom he traveled.  His books are anything but dry encyclopedic descriptions of rocks; his perspective and ability to beautifully and succinctly convey complex ideas of geology are unmatched.


Basin and Range by John McPhee

This first book in McPhee’s series focuses on the region known as the Basin and Range, which extends from the Wasatch Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada, but includes much of geologic history of the entire U.S. as well.


In Suspect Terrane by John McPhee.

This is the second book in McPhee’s series.


Rising from the Plains by John McPhee

This is the 3rd book in McPhee’s series.  It focuses on the Rocky Mountains.


Assembling California by John McPhee

Assembling California is the last book of the Annals of a Former World series.  It describes the plate tectonic history of California, and how geologists’ discovered the tectonic history of west coast of the U.S.


The Dinosaur Heresies by Robert T. Bakker

Bakker is an expert on dinosaurs.  His entertaining book describes many modern discoveries on the biology, behavior and demise of dinosaurs, including many of his somewhat controversial ideas.


The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Carson’s book is a classic on the oceans – their origin, development, biology and pollution.  Carson eloquently conveys the wonder and mystique of the oceans, and in so doing passes along some of her love for them.  The book was first published in 1950, before the advent of plate tectonics and many other scientific discoveries, yet her analysis and descriptions remain fresh and moving.  Most newer editions contain forwards that update the few outdated scientific aspects of the book.  Rachel Carson is also the author of Silent Spring, the book that brought the tragic consequences of the now – banned pesticide DDT to national attention.


The Control of Nature by John McPhee

The Control of Nature comprises three vignettes that illustrate humans’ difficulties controlling geologic processes.  The problems described are the collapse of the Grand Teton Dam, landslides in southern California, and the Army Corps of Engineers attempts to prevent the Mississippi River from inundating Baton Rouge.  This book is a geologic classic.



Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner

The basis for a PBS TV series, (http://www.pbs.org/kteh/cadillacdesert/home.html), this book chronicles the exploitation of water resources in the arid western U.S.  The first part of the book is an enthralling, dramatic history of  the acquisition of water by Southern California.  The second part focuses on the dam – building craze of the 30’s through 60’s, including the impact of hydroelectric power on the outcome of World War II and dams that continue to cost more money to operate than they produce to this day.  Must reading for anyone concerned with water resources in the West.


Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the

West by Wallace Stegner

The classic biography of John Wesley Powell, who explored the Grand Canyon and was one of the founders of the U.S. Geological Survey.  The book focuses on Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River and his fight to use the limited water resources in the west for the social good.  Wallace Stegner is perhaps the best known and accomplished writer of non-fiction and fiction set in the western U.S., and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, three O. Henry prizes, a Commonwealth Gold Medal, and the Western History Association Prize.


The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester

A biography of William ‘Strata’ Smith, who made the first known geologic maps, and thus arguably founded the modern science of geology in the early 1800’s.  Smith led a dramatic life, beginning a poor orphan, rising to relative wealth and social standing then falling to disgrace and debtors prison when his work was plagiarized.  The book is a fascinating story of human resilience and accomplishment, as well as a great discourse on geology and scientific discovery. 


The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power by Daniel Yergin

This is an amazing (and lengthy) book that chronicles the international oil industry from its roots in the 1800’s through Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, to the Gulf War.  The Prize reached #1 on the national best seller list, was made into an 8 hour PBS series and has been translated into 12 languages.  History, political science, global economics as well as geology buffs will be captivated by this book. 


Two Great Science – But Not Earth Science – Books

The Double Helix by James Watson

This is the gripping tale of Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA, told from Watson’s point of view.  The book is a quick read that provides wonderful insight into the genius and serendipity that led to one of the great scientific discoveries of the 20th Century, and one that has hugely impacted modern society.


The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes received the Pulitzer Prize for this monumental work on the personalities, science and politics that led to the creation of the atomic bomb in World War II.  It’s a long and rewarding book that starts with the discovery of the atom by Ernest Rutherford and ends with the bombing of Japan at the end of WWII and the intriguing tale of espionage that jump started the Soviet Union’s bomb program.  At every step of the way, Rhodes pays careful attention to the lives and personalities of the people involved, since it is, after all, a human story.