An open textbook for physical geology is something I had been considering ever since taking the Introduction to Learning Technologies course at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Saskatchewan. Adapting an open textbook is a far less daunting task than starting from scratch so I was excited to hear of the textbook Physical Geology by Steven Earle, written for the BCcampus Open Textbook project. Steven’s original edition was a comprehensive and solid foundation upon which to build this adapted work.  Thanks to Amanda Coolidge of BCcampus for saving me an enormous amount of time by explaining how to modify the text and sending me the exported files from Steven’s version of the textbook.

Many thanks go to Heather Ross and Nancy Turner at the Gwenna Moss Centre for their support and encouragement on this project and for discussions with them about open textbooks. The University of Saskatchewan Open Educational Resources Fund provided funding to support my work on this project. In-kind work and assistance on the project to match my time for this funding were provided by Joyce McBeth and Tim Prokopiuk of the Department of Geological Sciences.

This book has benefited from the work of numerous contributors at the University of Saskatchewan who have assisted with editing the document and providing new images to include in this edition. Tim Prokopiuk contributed edits and selected rock samples for me to photograph from the department’s collection. Joyce McBeth provided numerous edits to this edition and adapted Chapters 14, 15, and 17. Lyndsay Hauber provided assistance with updates to image attributions for the chapter on plate tectonics. Donna Beneteau and Doug Milne of the College of Engineering, and Zoli Hajnal of Geological Sciences gave me a tour of the Geological Engineering Rock Mechanics Facility, and helped me to photograph their experiments.

Image Sources

This project would not be possible without the generosity of many individuals and organizations who shared their work with a Creative Commons license or under other open licensing terms. The following is a list of valuable image resources, as much as it is an acknowledgement of contributions:

Roger Weller has made available thousands of his high-quality rock and mineral photographs through his website hosted by Cochise College, and granted permission for their non-commercial educational use. His photos have been used extensively throughout this project. Roger’s usage stipulation has led to thoughtful discussions about what the appropriate way is to license derivative materials that make use of non Creative-Commons content. We have concluded that the best way to ensure that his wishes are respected is to license materials I make with his photographs as CC BY-NC-SA. This permits free sharing and remixing, but stipulates no commercial use, and that all derivative works must be shared with a non-commercial license.

James St. John is a geologist and paleontologist who has contributed (at the time of this writing) more than 59,000 high-quality geology-related photographs to the photo-sharing website Flickr. His photographs cover a wide range of rocks and minerals, and rarely has there been an image that I needed but couldn’t find in his work. His Flickr account is remarkable for the abundance and quality of photographs, but also because he includes detailed descriptions of his images, making it possible for me to verify that an image is what I think it is, and gather useful background information. He has shared his images with a CC BY license, which I appreciate greatly because it allows me to combine them with content having more restrictive licenses.

The U. S. Geological Survey has contributed innumerable images to the public domain. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in particular is my go-to source for both the latest in volcano photos, and for fascinating historical images. Data and images from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program Latest Earthquakes map have been invaluable.

I have used NASA images for views of Earth as much as I have for views of space and other planets. It is truly remarkable that in spite of the vast resources and expertise needed to acquire these photographs, they are free to view, use, and learn from.

Among the many teaching resources offered by IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) are beautifully designed images for explaining earthquakes and seismology.

When all other sources failed, the odds were good that Robert Lavinsky (, Mike Norton, or Michael Rygel had contributed exactly the right photograph to Wikimedia Commons.