Ford Cochran

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Yellowstone: Microcosm of the National Parks
Episode 1 of A Geology of North America
Start your tour of the geological wonders of North America's national parks with Yellowstone, where the breathtaking landscape inspired the idea of a national park. Focus on the processes that produce Yellowstone's many geothermal formations, particularly its geysers.
Grand Teton and Jackson Hole
Episode 3 of A Geology of North America
At Grand Teton National Park south of Yellowstone, an active fault lifts some of North America's oldest rocks to the summits of some of the continent's youngest mountains. Explore these glacier-sculpted peaks, and learn the origin of the broad valley,…
Mesa Verde and Ancient Settlements
Episode 29 of A Geology of North America
Explore parks where geology supported the settlement of people in North America. Begin at the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, cleverly engineered to exploit natural shelter and rock seeps. Then survey other cliff dwellings and pueblos in the Southwest.
Yellowstone’s Cataclysmic Origins and Future
Episode 2 of A Geology of North America
Read the evidence in the rocks to discover Yellowstone's bigger story: the massive volcanic eruptions that created the region and will one day destroy it, the glaciers that shaped the terrain, and the meltwater floods that carved the impressive Grand…
Hawaii Volcanoes - Earth’s Largest Mountains
Episode 4 of A Geology of North America
Compare the lessons of hotspot volcanism at Yellowstone with the very different landscape at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is also stoked by upwelling magma from Earth's mantle. Professor Cochran describes rivers of fire on the Big Island of Hawaii…
Redwoods, Sequoias, and the Sierra Nevada
Episode 11 of A Geology of North America
Dig deeper into the geology of Yosemite, charting the role of glaciers in shaping the terrain. Also, learn the origin of California's famous gold deposits. Then study the special conditions that promote the growth of giant sequoias, and visit the…
Yosemite: Nature’s Cathedral
Episode 10 of A Geology of North America
Survey the most beautiful valley on Earth: Yosemite. Even for those who have not yet visited, its views are iconic thanks to stunning photos by Ansel Adams and others. Investigate the geological history of the park, focusing on its most…
Pinnacles to Joshua Tree: The San Andreas
Episode 12 of A Geology of North America
Trace the earth-shaking San Andreas fault through a series of national parks and recreation areas--from Point Reyes, Golden Gate, and Pinnacles in the north to the Santa Monica Mountains, Channel Islands, Joshua Tree, and Mexico's Sierra de San Pedro Martir…
Assembling North America, Park by Park
Episode 36 of A Geology of North America
Conclude by surveying national parks not yet visited in the course, traversing North America on a grand expedition. Along the way, assess the geology of this spectacularly diverse continent. From the Appalachians to the Aleutians, the national parks and other…
Shenandoah: The Collision of Old Continents
Episode 15 of A Geology of North America
A hike along the Appalachian Trail is a journey back in time to a continental collision that raised mountains rivalling the Himalayas--now eroded into the Appalachians. Chart the geology of this ancient chain from Shenandoah National Park to Gros Morne…
Crater Lake, Olympic, North Cascades
Episode 7 of A Geology of North America
Learn how seafloor subduction raised a lofty volcano only to obliterate it in a colossal eruption that created Crater Lake in Oregon. Hundreds of miles to the north, tectonic forces upended the imposing mountains of Olympic National Park and formed…
Montana’s Glacier and the Canadian Rockies
Episode 31 of A Geology of North America
Journey to Glacier National Park, where the glaciers may be disappearing, but the impressive glacier-sculpted terrain remains.
The Colorado Rocky Mountains
Episode 30 of A Geology of North America
Ascend the heights of the Rocky Mountains, asking how tectonic processes nearly a thousand miles away could possibly have raised this extensive range. Venture to Rocky Mountain National Park, Red Rocks, the Garden of the Gods, the Maroon Bells, and…
Mount Saint Helens, Lassen Volcanic, Rainier
Episode 6 of A Geology of North America
Tour Mount Rainier National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Pacific Northwest, which are part of the Cascade Range of active volcanoes that include Mount Saint Helens. Then visit a group of similarly cataclysmic volcanoes in national parks…
Big Bend on the Rio Grande and Saguaro
Episode 32 of A Geology of North America
Investigate the multitude of geological processes on view at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Here you find signs of continental collisions, volcanic eruptions, dramatic erosion, and other breathtaking events. Then survey another geologist's paradise--Saguaro National Park.
Mammoth Cave, Wind Cave, Carlsbad Caverns
Episode 33 of A Geology of North America
Visit underground parks, exploring a tiny portion of the hundreds of miles of mapped passages in Mammoth Cave, Wind Cave, and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks. Consider the similarities and differences between these caves--two carved by mildly acidic rainwater, the other…
Acadia’s Highlands and Islands
Episode 22 of A Geology of North America
The rocks of coastal Maine reveal a gripping legacy of lost oceans, colliding continents, epic mountains, furious volcanoes, and massive glaciers. Acadia National Park records evidence of all this, etched into its granite summits and boulder-strewn shores.
Death Valley and Great Basin: The Rift Zone
Episode 14 of A Geology of North America
Continental rifting has caused huge blocks of land to sink between high mountain belts, producing Death Valley, the lowest, hottest, driest place in North America. Explore this and other national parks and monuments in the Great Basin region.
Petrified Forest and Other Fossil Parks
Episode 26 of A Geology of North America
See Petrified Forest National Park, a colorful landscape littered with fossil trees that shaded Earth's earliest dinosaurs. Here and in other parks in the U.S. and Canada, fossilized flora and fauna open a window on ancient ecosystems, extinct species, and…
The Grand Canyon’s 2-Billion-Year Staircase
Episode 24 of A Geology of North America
Descend into the Grand Canyon, recording the full sequence of strata from top to bottom--a story that takes you from 270-million-year-old limestone formed in a shallow sea to basement rocks that record a mountain-building saga from 1.7 billion years ago.