Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Announcing open textbook: Introduction to Earth Science

by Anita Walz, posted on March 30, 2023

The Open Education Initiative at Virginia Tech is pleased to announce a newly-adapted work by Dr. Laura Neser. Introduction to Earth Science is a 530+ page open textbook 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 main landing page for this book is This text is available in multiple formats including PDF, a low-resolution PDF which is faster to download, and ePub [coming mid 2023]. The book is also available in HTML/Pressbooks
PDF: ISBN 978-1-957213-34-7
HTML/Pressbooks: ISBN 978-1-957213-33-0
Print: ISBN 978-1-957213-36-1
ePub: ISBN 978-1-957213-35-4 [expected mid 2023]
Softcover print versions with color interior are available to order at the manufacturer’s lowest price

This text 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.

Adapted from openly-licensed works in geoscience, the sequence of the book differs from mainstream commercial texts in that it has been arranged to present elementary or foundational knowledge regarding rocks and minerals prior to discussion of more complex topics in Earth Science. Unlike prominent commercial texts for Earth Science, this book dedicates an individual chapter to each of the three major rock types, the processes of mass wasting, geological time, Earth history, and the origin of the universe and our solar system. Book content has been further customized to match the Pathways General Education Curriculum at Virginia Tech with a focus on Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for Pathways Concept 4, Reasoning in the Natural Sciences.

Are you an instructor reviewing or adopting this book for a course?

Instructors adopting or reviewing this text are encouraged to record their use on this form. This helps the book’s sponsors to understand this open textbook’s impact.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Science
  2. Plate Tectonics
  3. Minerals
  4. Igneous Processes and Volcanoes
  5. Weathering, Erosion, and Sedimentary Rocks
  6. Metamorphic Rocks
  7. Geologic Time
  8. Earth History
  9. Crustal Deformation and Earthquakes
  10. Mass Wasting
  11. Water
  12. Coastlines
  13. Deserts
  14. Glaciers
  15. Global Climate Change
  16. Energy and Mineral Resources
  17. Origin of the Universe and Our Solar System


We are grateful to the following authors who licensed their work under Creative Commons licenses. Introduction to Earth Science includes content from multiple sources reproduced under the terms of Creative Commons licenses, Public Domain, and Fair Use. Specifically: Chapters 1-16 are adapted from An Introduction to Geology (CC BY NC SA) by Chris Johnson, Matthew D. Affolter, Paul Inkenbrandt, and Cam Mosher. Chapter 17 is adapted from Section 22.1 of Chapter 22 “The Origin of Earth and the Solar System” by Karla Panchuk in Physical Geology, 2nd edition (CC BY) by Steven Earle, with Sections 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4 of Chapter 7 “Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System” from OpenStax Astronomy, 2nd edition (CC BY). And, figures are from a variety of sources; references at the end of each chapter describe the terms of reuse for each figure. Version notes located at the end of the book describe author changes made to these materials by chapter.

Find, Adapt, and Share Resources

If you wish to share resources you build from this book or find those shared by other adopters of this book, please join the Instructor Resource Portal in OER Commons.

About the Author

Laura Neser, Ph.D. is an Instructor in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech. Dr. Neser earned her B.S. in Geosciences at Virginia Tech in the spring of 2008 and completed her Ph.D. in Geological Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in 2014. Her doctoral research focused on the structural geology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy of formations that were deposited along the flanks of the Beartooth Mountains as they rose during late Paleocene-Eocene time. Dr. Neser has worked as an athletic tutor and online instructor at The University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC), in temporary positions as an Adjunct Instructor at Chowan University (Murfreesboro, NC) and Full-Time Lecturer at Indiana State University (Terre Haute, IN), and as a Professor at Seminole State College (Sanford, FL) before starting as an Instructor at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2021.

Although she is currently focused on teaching online sections of Introduction to Earth Science, Earth Resources, Society and the Environment, and Climate History, her teaching background is significantly broader and includes Environmental ‬Science, Astronomy, Environmental ‬Ethics, Earth History, Structural Geology, and Field Geology‬.

Suggested Citation

Neser, Laura (2023). Introduction to Earth Science. Blacksburg: Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences. Licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

An OER Adaptation Story

Here is the story of how one faculty member built a course text using openly-licensed materials from multiple authoritative sources. – Contributed by Anita Walz

In Spring 2022 Dr. Laura Neser and I began talking about working together. After obtaining departmental approval and a grant from the Open Education Initiative, we outlined the process and she began working in June 2022 while teaching summer courses. She completed the bulk of revisions in the summer, and taught fall courses while wrapping up final details. The book was published in December 2022.

For a 500+ page book, a seven-month turn around is extraordinarily fast. Developing the original work, having it reviewed, copyedited and adding all of the reference information and formatting takes on average two years, oftentimes longer. 

Factors which worked in our favor

  • The bulk of openly-licensed material was already in existence and had already been peer-reviewed and copyedited;
  • Much of that material was in a format which could be easily cloned (Pressbooks rather than PDF) and Virginia Tech has institutional access to Pressbooks. Other openly-licensed content was in a format that allowed it to be easily copied rather than manually rekeyed.
  • This is a topic where there are a lot of public domain images and a lot of other openly-licensed content. 
  • Dr. Neser was already familiar with the content as she had used portions of the content previously. She had a clear vision regarding what she wanted to change.
  • Both Dr. Neser and I were willing to plan the process, set, and meet deadlines.
  • We had additional skilled and reliable colleagues to handle production and other tasks.
  • The platform vendor was helpful in finding solutions when the platform did not operate as expected. (Glossary terms and definitions did not match when first copied over.)
  • The Open Education team is experienced with project planning, management, organization, and staying within the planned budget and scope. We also have expertise with copyright, open licensing, rights-negotiation, graphic design, and best practices with regard to Creative Commons attribution and references.
  • The Open Education Initiative was able to support Dr. Neser with grant funding and had available time for periodic meetings.

What work was required?

  • Dr. Neser learned Pressbooks and copyright and open-licensing basics;
  • She rearranged, edited, deleted, and added learning objectives, sections, figures, glossary terms/definitions, and interactive elements. She kept careful notes regarding the changes and any issues she encountered;
  • The Open Education team reviewed the book’s contents and checked the copyright / open licensing status of all of the 600+ figures. We added figure numbers, resized most images, negotiated for release under an open license a number of in-copyright illustrations, and replaced remaining in-copyright images with newly-designed original figures or openly-licensed images;
  • We rewrote all figure attributions to align with best practices for reusing Creative Commons licensed works;
  • While we did not start from scratch in terms of layout, a slight reduction in font size (to accommodate the lengthy glossary within an overall 600 page count limit) and addition of additional sections required overall reformatting;
  • As we planned a short timeline, being able to solve problems quickly became important. When the glossary did not copy correctly, we were grateful for the assistance of the platform vendor which wrote code to assign terms and definitions correctly throughout the book.
  • The team is currently working on improving alternative text for the Pressbooks version of the book

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Funding and Project Support

This publication was made possible in part through funding and publishing support provided by the Open Education Initiative of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech.

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