46 Exam 3 Information (Final Exam)

Exam 3:

Final Exam

Tall limestone formations, lined up closely together stretching across a distance resembling a forest of trees
Figure 1. Limestone formations that resemble a forest of trees in Kunming, Yunnan,China, appropriately named the Stone Forest.


The questions in this exam are “deep-thinking” questions designed to cultivate critical thinking based on what you have learned in the course up to this point. Each question will be worth 25 points (25 points x 3 questions = 75 points total).

You will be asked to write a response to 3 of the 6 possible questions below. The specific three questions you will address will be chosen randomly based on the first letter of your last name. This will be announced on the course home page on the day the exam is due, so it is best to have outlines and/or full responses prepared in advance for all the questions.

Feel free to prepare your answers in advance to save you time on Exam day.

  • As you review these questions, you are permitted to draft your answers ahead of time, as well as use reputable, high-quality resources outside of the textbook. Please cite any additional sources you used in your research.


See the Schedule of Work for date of availability and due date.

You will be asked to write a response to 3 of the 6 possible questions below. The specific three questions you will address will be chosen randomly based on the first letter of your last name. This will be announced on the course home page on the day the exam is due, so it is best to have outlines and/or full responses prepared in advance for all the questions.

  • Responses should be 3 – 4 paragraphs in length (where each paragraph consists of at least 5 – 6 sentences).
  • Your response must directly answer the question posed. You will not be permitted to use tactics such as answering the question with more questions.
  • All of your work should be in your own words, with no direct quotes from other sources.
  • Do not include the original question in your document, because the plagiarism checker will detect this. Please aim for < 25% similarity to other sources in the plagiarism checker when you submit your document.
  • Complete sentences with correct spelling and grammar will be expected.

Exam Questions

  1. You are applying for a summer internship at the Nevada Geology Survey. At the interview, your future employer asks you to take a look at this simple cross section of Death Valley. What information can be derived from this cross section with regard to the formation of Death Valley? Include some discussion of the type of faulting present and any evidence you used to determine this. In addition, please address the larger “big-picture” tectonic setting that was at work in the formation of this valley, based on what you can conclude from the cross section, as well as what you have learned about plate tectonics and structural geology.
    a diagram of deathvalley showing Panamint Range in the west (left) and Black Mountains East (right), the valleys are filled with yellow indicating sediment
    Figure 2. The deep Death Valley basin is filled with sediment (light yellow). Black lines show the location of the major faults.
  2. You are hired as a consultant for the Center for Biological Diversity, which is concerned about a new, large housing development that will be situated adjacent to a nearby river and riparian area. The proposed development will draw water from its own drilled groundwater wells (approximately 10), rather than the public water supply. The cross section below shows the current water table in the river, the unconfined aquifer, and in a rancher’s nearby private well that he uses to provide water for his stock tank (the water table is represented by the dotted black line). Describe the predicted effects the proposed development and well field may have on the height of the water table, the rancher’s private well, and water level in the river. Use colored pencils to draw your predicted outcome with regard to changes to the water table in the figure below, including any cone(s) of depression that may result from groundwater withdrawal in new or existing wells. Include in your response some discussion as to why maintaining the current (pre-development) level of the water table is critical to the ecosystem.
    A diagram of a ranch showing the water table and location for a proposed well
    Figure 3. Rancher’s private well and homestead.
  3. Recent and devastating forest fires in a national forest have removed a significant amount of vegetation across several hundred square kilometers around the perimeter of a steep canyon and popular recreation area in the Southwest. The climate models for the coming summer monsoon are predicting above-average monsoon precipitation. As a land manager for the Forest Service, you quickly realize that the canyon and nearby recreation area may become vulnerable to several geological and hydrological hazards. What specific hazards might the canyon experience during the coming summer, if the climate models are correct? Explain why you think the canyon is vulnerable to these specific hazards. What steps can you take to keep the public safe and avoid fatalities during the summer tourist season?
  4. You have been hired as a tour guide for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The museum has recently acquired a piece of the Acasta Gneiss, dated at over 4 billion years old, and found in the Northwest Territories, Canada. The people in your tour are always asking the same questions: How can scientists figure out how old this rock is? What is “gneiss?” Why is this type of rock rare on Earth’s surface? Why is this continental rock so old compared to oceanic rocks? Being the professional that you are, you are able to answer each of their questions with confidence and clarity.What do you tell them?
    a rock with black and white striations
    Figure 4. A fragment of Acasta gneiss exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.
  5. You are serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and are preparing an updated publication that will inform all levels of government and the public on the state of the global climate. As a key committee member, how would you summarize for the public the main drivers (causes) of climate warming? What scientific measurements have been made (either directly or by proxy) that have led to the conclusion that Earth is indeed warming? What recommendations would you make for changing habits or policy, on either a governmental or personal level (or both)? Include some discussion on the biggest concerns with regard to the effects of global warming on Earth’s systems.
  6. You are taking relatives to see the Grand Canyon for the very first time. Knowing that you have recently completed a rigorous course in geology, naturally they have lots of questions. At the Visitor Center, they spot the following display of all the rock formations in the canyon (see the key in the image caption). Your relatives ask you specific questions: What type of rocks are predominant in the canyon (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary)? Which rock layer is the oldest and which is the youngest (and how do you know)? Relatively speaking, when did the Colorado River start carving out the canyon (after the deposition of which layer)? What caused the canyon to form? You feel compelled to brag a little about your new knowledge. Tell them everything you know
    diagram of a cross section of the grand canyon, numbered 1-6 based on the rock type. 1 is at the bottom, 6 is at the top
    Figure 5. Cross section of the Grand Canyon, as shown in a display in the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Group 6 —Hermit, Coconino, Toroweap, and Kaibab (shale, sandstone, limestone). Group 5 – Supai Group (mudstone, sandstone, limestone). Group 4 – Temple Butte, Redwall, and Surprise Canyon Formations (conglomerate, sandstone, limestone). Group 3 – Tonto Group (limestone, shale, and sandstone). Group 2 – Grand Canyon Supergroup. Group 1 – Vishnu Group (Vishnu Schist [1a] and Zoroaster Granite [1b]). Photo of an actual display in the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center.

Grading Rubric

Answers are worth 25 points each (3 answers x 25 points each = 75 points total). Points will be deducted for spelling errors, grammatical errors, or insufficient length. Points will be awarded for each answer according to the following rubric:

25 points: Answer addressed the question and illustrated your efforts at providing an accurate, in-depth, and thoughtful response. Answer was at least 3 – 4 paragraphs and contained few to no spelling or grammar errors.

20 points: Answer addressed the question and was an appropriate length, but may be lacking sufficient detail or contains a few inaccuracies. Significant effort was shown in the crafting of your response, despite the inaccuracies. Answer may contain a minor amount of spelling or grammar errors.

15 points: Answer was the appropriate length, but contained quite a few inaccuracies. Response seemed hurried or lacked depth or detail.

10 points: Answer did not adequately address the question. Response was hurried and showed lack of detail and knowledge on the subject. Length was insufficient.

5 points: Answer was insufficient in length (less than 1 – 2 paragraphs) and did not address the question with any effort or detail. Knowledge on the subject was not demonstrated. 0 points: Response was not provided.


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