EOSC 210 · Earth Science for Engineers

Focus on the interaction between society and the geologic environment. Locating, assessing and developing natural resources; understanding and preparing for natural hazards, design of structures and waste disposal sites. [3-2-0]

Course Availability & Schedule

Course Syllabus

Learning Goals

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Recognize and differentiate the adverse effects that earth processes can have on site conditions, engineering designs and vice versa.
  • Use case histories to demonstrate how unrecognized geologic factors have led to failed engineering designs, cost overruns, fatalities, and environmental problems, and how we have learned from these past mistakes.
  • Relate the effects that large scale and long term geologic processes can have on specific site conditions.
  • Distinguish various rock and soil types, their mechanical and hydrologic properties, and their significance to different types of engineering projects.
  • Explain how rock and soil properties can vary with space and time and how this makes them difficult to characterize and carry out designs for. 
  • Communicate confidently with geoscientists when working together on a project.
  • Observe our planet from a more enthusiastic and informed perspective to aid in the process of becoming a responsible professional.

Lab goals:

  • Practice geologic diagnostic and observation skills.
  • Use geologic maps to extract information relevant to engineering projects.
  • Solve problems for a variety of real world geotechnical and environmental cases.


In 2018W, classes will be taught by Dr. Siobhan Whadcoat and Mika McKinnon.  Labs will be taught by Teaching Assistants (TBA).

In 2019W, classes will be taught by Dr. Erik Eberhardt and Susan Hollingshead.


Earle, Steven. 2016. Physical Geology. BC Open Textbook Project. ISBN-10: 1537068822

The textbook is available at no cost online in various electronic formats (https://opentextbc.ca/geology/) or a print copy can be ordered online (http://opentextbook.docsol.sfu.ca/store/product/otb089-01/) at a cost ranging from about $24 for black & white to $75 for a colour version.

Lecture Topics

A significant percentage of engineering activity involves interacting with the solid earth environment. Often this interaction is complicated by the presence of groundwater and/or spatial variations in the behaviour of earth materials (soil and rock). A thorough knowledge of the geological processes controlling the evolution of our planet is therefore required in order to properly apply engineering design techniques.

This course introduces the Geological Engineering discipline, with a focus on understanding and preparing for: natural hazards; the environmental impact of engineering activities; and geological considerations regarding the design of underground and surface structures.

Topics which provide the foundation to an understanding of the natural evolution of our planet include the origin of the earth and geologic time, plate tectonics, and rocks and minerals and their physical and chemical properties (e.g., stress, strain, deformation mechanisms). Cause and effect of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and their potential impact on man-made structures will also be discussed.

Mass movements, slope stability, glacial processes, permafrost, weathering, soil development and erosion will be discussed with a focus on geotechnical engineering applications. The hydrologic cycle will be discussed with an emphasis on engineering activities affecting the availability and quality of surface water and groundwater as a resource for drinking and process water.