Chicago's Environmental Geology
Earth Science 109W, Fall 2010



MUDDY WATERS students!  Interested in doing paid research next summer? Check out the USDA-funded TIERRA project.  It's a 10-week, two days/week, summer paid research and mentoring experience designed for NEIU students just like you!

w The outline below will be adjusted daily.  Check frequently for updates!  

For Reading Assignments, click the link at left.

Field trips are required class activities.  You must be present and dressed appropriately for the weather.

For daily learning objectives, click the date.  Links will be added weekly as the semester progresses.


Class Activities      (Click the date for a list of daily learning objectives!)


Class meeting time:  Friday, 10:00 a.m.-1:20 pm

1 SEP 3  Welcome to NEIU!  What is FYE?  What are environmental geology and the Muddy Waters course?  Teamwork, getting to know each other, and the NEIU climbing wall.  Making field observations.  Water quality and measuring field parameters.  The Noel Levitz College Student Inventory.  An assignment is due by September 8!
2 SEP 10  Field work: North Branch of the Chicago River, CPB: Collecting representative samples.  Measuring field parameters.  Keeping scientific records.  Teamwork and the NEIU climbing wall.  Fall Into Fun week starts tomorrow!  Reading assignment: Read this before coming to class today. 
3 SEP 17  Keeping scientific records.  Intro to surveying techniquesWater Analysis: Colorimetry.  Dress for laboratory work and outdoor work today!  A reading assignment is due; click "Reading Assignments" at left for more information.
4 SEP 24  The waters of Gompers Park.  Collect water samples.   Field analysis of Gompers Samples.   Bring the NEIU Catalog to class with you.  Dress for outdoor work today!
5 OCT  1   Planning your future: Academic Planning (Bob Binkowski).  The Confluence: Collect Samples.  Lab analysis of Gompers Samples.   Strategies for successful reviewing.  Dress for outdoor work today! 
6 OCT  8  Bring the NEIU Catalog to class with you, if you haven't yet turned it in!   Analysis of River Park samples.  Drinking water standards. 
7 OCT 15   Stream discharge.  Discharge measurement.  READ:  What is it I'm supposed to do anyhow? (CSS Chapter 5)  Dress for outdoor work today! 
8 OCT 22 Calculating stream discharge.  Stream flow directions, urban hydrology.  Gradient.  Dress for outdoor work today! 
9 OCT 29  Lake Michigan.  Soils--grain size and permeability. Intro to group projects.   READ:  Rehearsal and review Strategies (CSS Chapter 12)
10 NOV  5  Floodplain Surveying.  
12 NOV 12   Water cycle, watershed, water budget.  The urban water cycle.  Sampling ground water.  Planning your future: what is beyond NEIU?  Last day to drop a course.
13 NOV 19  The urban hydrologic cycle, continued.  Career Planning (guest speaker from the USEPA).  "Field Trip" to the Student Center for Science Engagement (upstairs!)  Gradient, canals, locks, and dams.
14 NOV 26  Thanksgiving Holiday--no class
15 DEC  3  Ground Water.  Groundwater Analysis/measurements.   Work on Group Projects.  READ:  Active Learning (CSS Chapter 2).  Strategies for successful test-taking.  Preparing for essays and objective exams (CSS Chapter 16 & 17). 
16 DEC 10   Group Presentations.  Write a letter to a Muddy Waters student.  FYE course evaluations.  Sewage treatment. 

DEC 17  10:00 a.m.-1:20 pm Sewage Treatment: A trip to the Stickney plant!  Course evaluations.

REQUIRED TEXT AND MATERIALS:  Bring these to every class session.
w CSS:  "College Success Strategies", by Sherrie L. Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh, custom edition for NEIU, Pearson Custom Publishing, 2010.

w Additional readings:  Some readings will be provided in class or via Blackboard; you must check this online syllabus to stay updated. 

w Your notebook, field notebook, pen/pencil text, and any handouts or homework papers you might need.

w Appropriate attire for the day's activities. 
COURSE REQUIREMENTS:  Grading and Evaluation
w Attendance at all class sessions is required.  Attendance is part of the course grade.  The NEIU policy on class attendance (see the NEIU Catalog) applies to this course.  In accordance with university policy, less than 75% attendance will automatically result in a failure for the semester, regardless of your grade for assignments.
w If you absolutely must miss a class, please notify the instructors in advance, if possible, or as soon thereafter as you can.  To learn what you missed, first check the web page, and then get notes from at least two classmates.
w All course requirements must be completed to pass the course. 
w The final date to drop any Fall 2010 course, per University policy, is November 12.
w Students are expected to check e-mail and the course website at least every other day to watch for course announcements and updates.
Academic integrity:  The NEIU policy on academic misconduct will be strictly enforced.  A site from Indiana University  explains and gives examples of plagiarism and provides helpful tips on how to avoid it.  Cheating on homework, exams, quizzes, or other course components will result in a score of zero for that assignment or more severe penalties, as described in the NEIU policy.
w A large part of this course involves working in small groups.  A positive group dynamic depends on your positive attitude and acceptance of diversity: other group members will have diverse opinions, individual backgrounds, and work styles.  The ability to work well with others is an important skill necessary in virtually all careers and in daily life.  Whether or not you have previously been exposed to group work, in this class you will have the chance to build and enhance these skills--and have some fun along the way! 
w Students are expected to participate in all course assessments.  On some days, you will be asked to complete anonymous "minute papers", ungraded quiz-type questions, concept maps, or survey questions.  This information will help the instructors determine the extent to which the course is meeting its goals.  To help make the course better, please give your most thoughtful, honest feedback--the more, the better.
Evaluation and Grading Policies
  Attendance and participation:  10%
  Assignments (all homework, reports,
    field notebooks, and in-class assignments):
  Quizzes: 20%
  Final Project:     20%

* The grading scale is as follows:  A 100-90%; B 89-80%; C 79-70%; D 69-60%; F <59%. 
* Late homework assignments will not be accepted
unless there is an approved reason for missing the deadline.
* Make-up exams will be permitted only in a case where there is an approved reason for missing the exam.  Missed exams that are not made up will result in a score of zero for that exam.
* Please note the schedule for the final exam and university policies governing final exams (inside the back cover of the Schedule of Classes.)  No exceptions will be made other than those allowed by this policy.

Flexibility: The schedule of activities will change several times per week as the semester evolves.  Check this page frequently for updates!

Dr. Kenneth M. Voglesonger E-mail:  K-Voglesonger [at]
Office hours: 
  Monday 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
  Wednesday: 1:00- 2:00 pm
  Thursday: 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
  Friday: 2:00 - 3:30 pm
  or by appointment.
Web page:
Dr. Laura L. Sanders E-mail:  L-Sanders [at]
Phone: 773.442.6051 
available in S-130/132. 
Office hours: 
  Tuesday 12:00-1:00 pm; 7:20-7:50 pm
  Thursday 12:00-1:00 pm; 7:20-7:50 pm
  Friday 9:30-10:00 a.m., 1:20-1:50 pm (in S-120 or 114)
  or by appointment.
Web page:
Brian Dix, Peer Mentor E-mail:  B-Dix [at]
Office hours:
  Thursday 2-3 pm
  Friday  1:30-2:30 pm
  of by appointment.
Location:  Picnic tables/benches in the cafeteria
Sarah Paulis, Peer Mentor E-mail:  S-Paulis [at]
Office hours:
  Tuesday 12:10-2:10 pm
  Thursday  12:10-2:10 pm
  or by appointment.
Location:  Picnic tables/benches in the cafeteria
LEARNING OUTCOMES:  Course Objectives
Upon successful completion of this course, you will have demonstrated the ability to do the following:

work effectively as a team member to research environmental geology issues of a specific area, in particular with respect to the scientific investigation of soil and water, interpreted in the context of Chicago regional geology.
w apply a scientific method for geologic field and data interpretation, utilizing time management strategies, critical reading and analysis, and written/oral presentation skills in the synthesis and interpretation of the data.

Toward this final goal, successful completion of course elements will enable you to:

4 Compile an organized record of data and supporting information from various sources (field and laboratory experiences, class presentations, readings, and research), optimized for your individual learning style.

4 Distinguish changes to the landscape effected by stream, lake, and coastal processes; critically analyze patterns of change in soil and bodies of water to predict continuing/ future changes from these forces.

4 Evaluate the impact of geologic factors on human activities (including water and waste management, storm water and sewage treatment/control, construction, etc.) in Chicago, and the effect of human activities on analyzed parameters of water quality and soil characteristics.

4 Apply strategies to maximize achievement of your short-term and long-term academic goals through self-knowledge, successful navigation of the university environment, and effective planning.
Chicago's vital bodies of water--Lake Michigan, Chicago River, and others--interact with the urban landscape and the soils and rocks of the ground beneath us. These interactions influence environmental issues in our everyday lives, including "What happens when water goes down the drain?" and "Why do certain areas flood after it rains?"  Explore these questions in the context of Chicago's geology, to evaluate the critical interactions affecting soil and water contamination, flooding, and our drinking water. Laboratory analysis of water and soil, collected on local field trips, will clear the "muddy water" about how environmental geology impacts your neighborhood.  ESCI 109W meets the NEIU General Education requirement of a laboratory Natural Science course.
General Education Program:  Muddy Waters counts as a Natural Science Laboratory course.  See this document for more information.

First-Year Experience Program: Muddy Waters counts as your First-Year Experience course.  See the First-Year Experience Course Matrix here.
Web address (URL) for this page:

Muddy Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation program

Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences
(Award 0914497).

Department of Earth Science | Northeastern Illinois University

Copyright 2010 Laura L. Sanders.  Last updated December 10, 2010.

Your Instructors:
Dr. Ken Voglesonger

Dr. Laura Sanders

Your Peer Mentors:

Brian Dix

Sarah Paulis