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Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Michael V. Kravchenko, Russia, 1999

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Studying minerals and rocks in your areaThis manual contains a description of procedures for collecting mineral and rock samples in your area as well as a brief theoretical course in mineralogy. The manual also contains descriptions and short characteristics of rock classes, simple identifying keys and recommendations for the presentation of the rock and mineral collection.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


While studying different ecological objects that are connected to rocks (as rocks serve as substrate for many organisms), it is necessary to know the mineral (as well as approximate chemical) composition of these rocks. As pure minerals are rarely found in nature (not as a component of rock composition), so the focus of this manual is paid to rocks as the main objects serving as habitats of living organisms. The manual is composed in such a way to be used to identify minerals and rocks under field conditions.

Sites and techniques for sampling

This lesson can be carried out almost anywhere: in the mountains and on the plains. Many different rock and mineral types can be found almost everywhere, even on an “old” plain. There is no problem with a mineral search in mountains; however classification and identification of rock samples will be much more laborious.

Let us describe a selection of search sites for minerals and rocks in the plains in more detail. First of all, students should look for samples in soil profiles. Lower soil horizons are richer in samples at the place where the soil turns into parent rock (mother rock).

Rock and mineral samples can always be found in beds of small streams; they are usually rocks washed out of soils and mother rock by streambed currents in the course forming beds (i.e. they are “local” deposits). The farther they are found from a big river, the more “local” these deposits are and, correspondingly, the closer they are to the river the higher the chance that they have been brought by the river from far away.

There is another typical place for rock sampling: riverbeds. Look for undermined bank sections, where “stones” can always be found. They are generally alluvial (modern fluvial) or fluvioglacial (ice-borne) sediments. It is quite difficult to tell the difference between them; fluvioglacial sediments are usually located underneath alluvial, but sometimes it is quite the contrary.

One more possible place is the outcrops of terraces. The farther they are located from the river, the older the deposits are. It is also possible to look for rocks and minerals in other, sometimes unexpected places on flat ground, including construction sites, dump piles left after a well is built, as well as in sand pits (quarries) where sand and broken stone is quarried for building roads. Ideal places among technogeneous objects are quarries and open-cast mineral mines.

There are a number of rules for collecting rock samples regardless of where they are collected.

First, two or three samples of the same kind (at least according to appearance) should be taken from each sampling place. The samples can turn out to be different on closer examination.

Second, do not take boulders of their natural size; they are too heavy to carry. It is a good idea to take a hammer with you and break stones into pieces directly at the site, so they can be identified and placed in the collection (size usually ranges from the size of a walnut to a fist).

Third, each collected sample should be wrapped in separate packing, such as paper or plastic bags, or in the simplest case wrapped in a sheet of paper.

Fourth, a label should be filled in for each sample. The label contains detailed description of the sampling site: its administrative and local position, layer (soil horizon), where the sample has been taken from (depth, thickness of the horizon, and main composition of the horizon or layer), and initial size of the sample (if it has been broken). It is also necessary to write down the date and author of the sample collection.

If samples are collected in bags, then labels are written down on pieces of paper, which are put into the bag. If samples are wrapped in paper – label data is written down on the wrapping paper. Minerals and rocks can be identified in the field, but it is more convenient to identify them in the lab.

When students return to the lab, they should sort out all the samples. A large table will work best. Initial sorting is conducted according to sampling sites. Samples that are common for different places (according to their appearance) are revealed in each sampling site collection. Common minerals and rocks usually make up from fifty to...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write a request to the authors (in a free form).

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple “Eye” Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of Birds’ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on Leaves’ Asymmetry

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