Unit 2: Soils, Clay Minerals and Slope Failures

Environmental Geology is divided into five units and each unit is based on some of the chapters in the open textbook “Environmental Geology”. For those of you taking the course for credit, each unit also has an associated assignment. You can start working on the assignment as you are going through each unit, the textbook readings, exercises and chapter-end questions, or you can wait until you are finished the readings and other activities.

Topics of Unit 2

  • Soil formation.
  • Soil as carbon storage.
  • Clay minerals, types of clays, and the significance of clays to a range of geological processes.
  • Slope failures: types, causes, effects and examples. Strategies for minimizing the potential for slope failure in populated areas and for avoiding the risks associated with slope failures.

Learning Activities

  • Read Course Unit 2 and complete the embedded exercises.
  • Read Chapters 10 and 5 in the Environmental Geology textbook and complete the embedded exercises.
  • Answer the chapter-end questions.
  • Consider the implications of the 2020 Elliot Creek glacial lake outburst flood and debris flow for the Homalco First Nation.

Learning Assessment

Complete Assignment 2 (in the Assessments Overview tab in Moodle) and submit for marking to your instructor. The assignment is worth 12% of your final mark.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the important aspects of soil formation and soil preservation.
  • Explain why clay minerals are important to many environmental geology processes.
  • Describe the different types of slope failures and their causes and impacts, and outline how we can predict the potential for slope failures, reduce the likelihood that they will happen and minimize the risks associated with failures that we cannot control.
  • Gather field information and write an interpretive report.


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