Introduction to Earth Science is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to Earth Science that can be freely accessed online, read offline, printed, or purchased as a print-on-demand book. It is intended for a typical 1000-level university introductory course in the Geosciences, although its contents could be applied to many other related courses.The textbook is an amalgamation of existing open-source textbooks (An Introduction to Geology from Salt Lake Community College, Physical Geology from BCcampus, and Astronomy by OpenStax).  It has been customized to match the Pathways General Education Curriculum at Virginia Tech with a focus on Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) of Pathways Concept 4: Reasoning in the Natural Sciences.

The sequence of chapters in this book may differ from a typical commercial publisher’s introductory Earth Science textbook. Selected concepts in the book have been reorganized to summarize elementary or foundation topics prior to discussion of more complex topics in Earth Science. A foundational knowledge of minerals and rocks is essential in an introductory Earth Science course. Oftentimes all three rock classifications are bundled into a single “rocks” chapter but because they vary extensively in the way they form and their overall features, this textbook gives the three major rock types their own dedicated chapter. A similar issue occurs with mass wasting which is usually included as a small section within an overall “water” chapter but in the geosciences, mass wasting is an important surficial process that moves material across the surface of Earth. Therefore, mass wasting is dedicated to a single chapter. Geologic time is commonly paired with Earth history but both topics are uniquely important in a foundational knowledge of Earth and as such, each topic has its own chapter.

This textbook includes a chapter dedicated to the origin of the universe and our solar system. Many existing introductory Earth Science books lack a chapter dedicated to astronomy and the solar system. Understanding our solar system is important for a variety of reasons: it contains the only known example of a habitable planet, the only star observable close-up, and the only planets we can visit with modern technology such as satellites, probes, and landers. Knowledge of Earth’s place within the solar system is essential to understand the origin of planets, along with the conditions that allow life to exist on Earth.

This open-source textbook includes various important features designed to enhance the student learning experience in introductory Earth Science courses. These include a multitude of high-quality figures and images within each chapter that help to clarify key concepts and are optimized for viewing online. Self-test assessment questions are embedded in each online chapter that help students focus their learning. QR codes are provided for each assessment to allow students using print or PDF versions to easily access the quiz from an internet-capable device of their choice. Selected graphics and tables have been replaced or updated to enhance quality and clarity.

Features of this book

  • Example-rich narrative
  • Graphic elements which illustrate and reinforce concepts
  • Linked online glossary (glossary appears at the end for PDF)
  • Embedded navigation and image alt-text for screen readers
  • QR Online interactive self-test quiz questions
  • Free online and in PDF, and in-print at vendor cost of production
  • Open license, Creative Commons BY NC-SA 4.0 permits customization and sharing
  • Instructor community portal enables sharing of ancillary resources
  • Register your Use form allows instructors to opt in to receive book updates
  • Errata and report-an-error/share-a-suggestion forms promote currency


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