2023 Fall

Classes are free  with your  UMASC Membership


Relevance of Geology
to Modern Environmental Issues

Instructor: Elizabeth Champeon

Mondays • 8 classes • 9/18-11/13 (No class 10/9) • 1:00-3:00 PM

Class size 5-100 students
92 seats remaining
Location: Zoom only

This course addresses the importance of site geology to modern environmental issues and installations. Topics include a general review of the geology of Maine and the reason we need to know this in siting of modern facilities that will address the changing climate; a definition of aquifers and the water cycle; the siting of geothermal facilities in cold rock regions; the mechanisms behind wind and waterpower, including a discussion of hurricanes; the locations and mechanisms of earthquakes; the mechanisms behind solar power; and a segment on glaciers and climate change.

Sessions by week —

or Why is my Yard Full of Rocks or Clay?

This session provides a brief summary of the forces that produced the  geology and geography of the State of Maine, commencing with the continent of Pangea and proceeding to the glaciation and the effects that  it had on the landscape. The purpose is to provide a background for the  remaining sessions, which deal with the relevance of the subsurface to  the development of new sources of clean power.


Aquifers are important for the maintenance of agriculture, as sources of water for households and for drinking, and for industrial uses. Aquifers are characterized by the material in which they are sited. The utility of an aquifer is dependent
upon the ease with which water can be extracted and the rate at which that water can be replenished by precipitation. Extraction and replenishment rates are directly dependent upon the matrix of the aquifer. The processes by which aquifers can be used as resources in a sustainable manner are discussed.


Geothermal heat is available throughout the crust of the earth, both  due to infiltration of heat from the sun and exfiltration of heat from the  interior of the earth. In cold regions like Maine, this heat can be  accessed from the subsurface. The type of material in the subsurface  affects both the transfer of heat and the amount available. Several  schools in Maine have now installed these systems, and no longer are  dependent upon fossil fuels.


Siting of buildings, landfills, power plants, dams, dikes and other facilities requires knowledge of the earthquake history of the surrounding area. Not only is it necessary to know what the seismic history of a site is, but regulations require that the anticipated seismicity be predicted. Unfortunately, in this part of the world, the oral history of those who  have lived here the longest has been ignored or destroyed, so other  means of rational prediction must be found. 


This session examines the potential for solar power in various regions  and explains how the power is generated from the solar panels that are  sprouting in the countryside. Reference is made to ancient uses by  other civilizations. 


Water has been used to create power since at least 3000 BCE, when the Jawa Dam was constructed in Mesopotamia. Water power use exploded in the industrial age. Even when rivers and streams were not available, the power of the tides was tapped in places like Martha’s Vineyard. The remains of a tidal dam can still be seen in Jonesboro, Maine. The Quoddy project in Eastport was intended to provide power during the Roosevelt administration, but the project was terminated by World War II. New technologies are now being proposed that would use the power of the tides.


Schoolhouse geography teaches that the Dutch use windmills to control the water in their below sea level homeland. In recent years, windmills  have come to be used to create power worldwide. The mechanism of  making power from windmills is discussed, as is the relevance of the  local geology to the siting of the windmills.

Exit glacier, Alaska • Courtesy of Wikipedia


This segment discusses the natural processes that affect the extent of glaciers on the earth’s surface.  Processes discussed include the Milankovitch Cycle, the effect of glaciation on local landforms and variations in ocean currents and sea levels. 

Liz Champeon is a geologist registered to practice in the State of  Maine. She spent the majority of her working years in private practice  at S. W. Cole Engineering, Inc., where she was a Senior Geologist and a  member of the Board of Directors. Her more than 30 years of  experience also include work for both Federal and State agencies, and she has served as an adjunct faculty at Unity College. She has a BA in Geology from the University of Maine and took graduate level courses at the  University of Indiana and the University of Maine.  She has loved  geology since studying dinosaurs in the fourth grade.