GEOL3311/ENST3312 - Environmental Geology


This page for GEOL3311/ENST3312 - Environmental Geology was created when the course was taught by Dr. Hollings. As the course is now being taught by Dr. Diocheon links to course materials have been removed but links to interesting websites have been retained.

In the news

I will use this section of the website to post links to articles in the media that are relevant to the class. For links to older news stories click here.


* Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the UK Government Economics Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development, has just released his report to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Economics of Climate Change. This report has generated a lot of interest. The full report is 700 pages but there are some highlights that are worth looking at and some background research. 


I have attempted to group these links into relevant themes. As with all websites you should treat the information contained in these pages with some caution as the creators of the sites often have an agenda, sometimes hidden, sometimes not. In general government sites, such as those of the USGS are more reliable, but this is not always the case.

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) despite the boring name has some very interesting statistics on natural disasters of the last 100 years. 

Plate Tectonics

For more information about the history of plate tectonics as well as some excellent animations of plate motions visit the Berkeley plate tectonic site. The US Geological Survey site "The Dynamic Earth" also contains some good information, while the Paleomap Project has some excellent reconstructions and animations of plate movements.  


The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program is a good place to start while the Geological Survey of Canada has a good site for Canadian quakes. For information about the December 26, 2004, quake that generated the deadly tsunami try here. For some images of the devastation caused to Christchurch by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes click here.

Volcanic hazards

The Global Volcanism Program - A listing of volcanoes and eruptions for the last 10,000 years 

The US Geological Survey Volcano Hazard Program - A great site detailing the effects of different eruption types and historical eruptions. The Volcano Observatories display up-to-date images of recent volcanic activity. The USGS also has a number of pages detailing the effects of various volcanic hazards and suggested mitigation strategies, for example dealing with volcanic ash and its effect on automobiles.An updated discussion of the hazards of volcanic ash can be found here.

For details of the Laki eruption itself try the Volcano World website, discussion of the effects on world climate can be found here and here.


The USGS is a good place to start with their Landslide Hazards Program which includes discussion of the problem, some examples and hazard maps. Closer to home, the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources has some good photos, discussion of landslide types as well as techniques for minimizing the hazards. The National Research Council of Canada talks about the landslide hazard across Canada. The Alberta Geological Survey has a great web site dealing with Frank Slide and Turtle Mountain, including ongoing monitoring. There is also a range of government and non-government web sites with information from around the world including; Japan, Australia, and Italy. Finally, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in California has some great information about and photographs of the Portuguese Bend landslide. 

Coastal erosion

The  Geological Survey of Canada has some material about coastal erosion on their CoastWeb site, including the effects of storms, monitoring methods and an excellent series of images showing the sea level changes in Atlantic Canada in the last 13,000 years.Natural Resources Canada in their Atlas of Canada as an excellent map showing areas at risk of sea level rise. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage has some specific examples of erosion problems including some dramatic before and after photos. The USGS has some material about coastal erosion in Lake Michigan.  


The NASA Earth Observatory web site has some great information about desertification in the Sahel of Africa.


The Environment Canada website includes a detailed discussion of groundwater issues, including the percentage of population dependent on groundwater. The Atlas of Canada also has some good information as does the Canadian Groundwater Association

For more information about Lechuguilla Cave visit the National Park Service web site or for more images try this interactive web page. For a discussion of the unique microbial life found in the cave try Diana Northup's site.   


The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an excellent series of stories on what would happen if a hurricane hit town. For more before and after photos check out the Digital Globe site. The USGS has published a number of hurricane impact studies while the NOAA website has information about hurricanes and the Saffir-Simpson scale.


A good starting point for information is the Ontario Ministry of the Environment or Environment Canada's "Green Lane".  The EPA website contains similar information for the USA. The growing awareness about the risks of air pollution is illustrated in this article about the dust associated with the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Water pollution

I mentioned Thunder Bay's "blob" in the water pollution class and after being told that it is apparently still there I was inspired to go looking for more information. A 2001 article in the Galt Global Review discusses the nature of the blob and efforts being made to clean it up and implies that the job was nearly done. There is also a more detailed report on the nature of the problem by the Ministry of Environment. The most recent material to address the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC) project is an International Joint Commission report where they state that 11,000 cubic meters of the total 60,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediment was removed, an additional 21,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediment was confined by a rockfill berm, and the remainder, 28,000 cubic meters, was left in-place to undergo "natural recovery".

Waste disposal 

Not surprisingly there are a number of web sites that deal with the Green Lane Landfill that is soon to be home to Toronto's garbage. The official site for the Environmental Assessment has a lot of information as does the company web site. Wikipedia has a brief history of Toronto's garbage woes. The recent debate about disposable coffee cups in Toronto discusses an article by Martin B. Hocking entitled "Reusable and Disposable Cups: An Energy-Based Evaluation" published in the journalEnvironmental Management. In this article Dr. Hocking calculates the overall energy costs during the fabrication and use of disposable and reusable coffee cups. He concludes that in some situations disposable cups my use less energy than reusable ones.

Nuclear power

The International Nuclear Safety Center has some good resources including a list of Canadian nuclear reactors. Dr. Jeremy Whitlock has put together a site addressing Frequently Asked Questions regarding nuclear power in Canada, whereas the Sierra Club of Canada has a slightly different outlook. Finally, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission over-seas the regulation of our power plants.   

Global warming

Given the complexity and importance of this issue I have created a separate page dealing with the topic.

Radioactive waste disposal

The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management has an excellent (if potentially biased) site about Yucca Mountain and the problems associated with moving nuclear waste. This includes a quick summary of other countries waste management programs, including Canada's. For a more detailed discussion of the issues in Ontario visit the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.


The topic of mining is a controversial one and there are a lot of websites on this topic. The following are some links to some of those sites. Artisanal Au mining at Rinconada, Peru is having a negative effect on the inhabitants. The Porgera Au mine in Papua New Guinea is a controversial one, the operating companies view can be found here while the website operated by the group Mines and Communities have very different views on this and many other mines. For information about the hazards associated with abandoned mines in Ontario, including acid mine drainage (AMD), visit the Mines and Minerals Division of the MNDM.

Audio files 

With the growing popularity of podcasts I will be including some links to some sound files that are relevant to the course. These will generally be mp3 files which will play on just about anything.

Wasting away in the outback - this BBC documentary explores the ethics of a deal which promises 12 million dollars to an isolated indigenous community in exchange for them taking on the government's nuclear waste. 

World without waste - this documentary from the BBC World Service is a great place to get an idea about waste management strategies around the world.

Chernobyl Tales - another BBC documentary looking at the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on the 20th anniversary.

A Witch's Brew - this two part BBC documentary discusses the pollution issues faced by eastern European countries as they have emerged from the shadows of the Soviet Empire.