Planet Earth explained; Earth history digs up our planet’s past

By Daniel Montaño ,Managing Editor | Photo courtesy of PALAEO-ELECTRONICA.ORG


For the first time ever at CNM, starting in the spring semester, an Earth History course and lab will be offered at Main Campus, Dr. Spencer Lucas, earth and planetary science instructor, said.

Lucas will be teach­ing the course, which is a survey of Earth’s 4.5 bil­lion year history, including the birth of the planet, the origins of life, mass extinc­tions and mountain build­ing, Lucas said.

“It covers all sorts of fun stuff including dinosaurs and other very interesting fossils,” Lucas said.

The lecture portion of the class, EPS 2096, will be offered Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. and the lab, EPS 2196, will be held Fridays from 8 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. and there are still slots open for inter­ested students, according to CNM’s schedule of classes.

There are no prereq­uisites for the course, and Lucas said students do not need any scientific back­ground in order to enroll.

“It would help if you know a little bit about geology, but I won’t assume you have a background in anything,” he said.

The lecture course is an introduction class that offers the basic foundation for other fields such as engineering or anything else related to geol­ogy, he said.

The subject focuses on the history of the planet itself and the processes through which the planet came to be how it is today, he said.

For example, Lucas said the class will study the basic processes of mountain build­ing, how different mountains form and why they form that way.

“Take the Sandias and the Jemez Mountains, they are formed in completely differ­ent ways and not a lot of people know that,” he said.

The course also enriches one’s life by shedding light on the basics of what our planet is and how it developed throughout the millennia, he said.

“To me the Earth is our home, and I think that the more you know about the Earth the more interesting of a place it becomes. I think it’s a good thing in anybody’s life to understand how this planet came about,” he said.

In the lab, students will look at fossils and interpret what they mean, and Lucas said he hopes to include optional trips out into the field so students can get hands-on field experience, he said.

“I’d certainly like to do that — go to the Sandias and actually look at the geology of the mountain range,” he said.

The credits from both the lab and the lecture course transfer to the University of New Mexico for students who are interested in moving on to get a degree in Geology, Lucas said.

However, Lucas said he thinks that the fact that CNM is looking to expand the Geology Department might mean that eventually there will be a program that offers an associate’s degree in Geology.

“I think that’s the goal, in the long run, if pos­sible,” he said.

Lucas said he has vast field experience across the globe, has printed over 500 articles in his field and is currently the curator of geology and pale­ontology at the New Mexico Natural History Museum, making him one of New Mexico’s foremost geologists.

While he has taught at UNM, and has more than 17 years’ experience teaching at the univer­sity level, this will be his first semester teaching at CNM, he said.

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