“how to” PDFs

Here are a few… I’ll be adding more, so do check back periodically.  These are free to download for your personal educational use; for other uses, please contact me (or in the case of the one or two resources here linked to an external site, you’ll want to contact someone on those sites for the appropriate permissions).  I hope you’ll find these resources informative and helpful.  If you have suggestions for corrections, improvements, or any new mineral chemistry or analytical topics that would be of interest to cover, please let me know.


major mineral groups
A list of important mineral groups with structural details and compilations of crystal chemical diversity. Although species names are not included in this draft, important compositions are highlighted in red.


optics flowchart
This flowchart is modeled after the “tactics” narrative in Nesse, 1986. It is designed to provide the beginning petrography student with a comprehensive strategy to identifying unknown minerals in thin section using transmitted light microscopy.


summary of microscope settings to measure optical properties
This is a scan of my original hand-drawn table that I handed out to petrology students on their first day of lab, from many years ago when I was a grad student teaching assistant. Dug out of my archives, now this table is getting a new life, and one day I might even retype it and “modernize” it.


Excel-based (.xls) database of optical properties of common minerals in thin section
This database is very much still a beta version: the geologic environment field is complete for only about 1/3 of the entries; the various optical tests are not ideally weighted; additional optical tests should be included on the observations worksheet. Nonetheless, beginning petrography students may find using a spreadsheet like this a bit easier than trying to sort through tables in a book when narrowing down potential matches for an unknown mineral.

Note: Be aware that depending on your computer’s settings, clicking this link will automatically download an Excel workbook to your computer; for your peace-of-mind, there are no macros in this workbook. Also note that the data worksheet is locked to prevent any accidental corruption or over-writes of data. This unfortunately also prevents the user from sorting rows, which would otherwise be rather convenient to do. To get around this limitation, filtering of column A (the relative ranking column) has been enabled, so the user can use this feature to focus just on the rows with the highest rankings. I hope to improve the features of this workbook in future versions; I am also working on making publicly available an expanded version of the database (with close to 600 minerals).


Michel-Lévy birefringence chart from Zeiss.com
This birefringence chart from the Carl Zeiss microscopy website is one of the best versions available… the colors are vibrant and a large number of minerals are tabulated on it (page 4). Additional useful information on the polarization of light and mineral optics is also included.


microprobe analytical strategy 2014
A beginner’s guide to including quantitative electron microprobe work in your research, from before you even arrive in the microprobe lab through to collecting and evaluating your data. This guide was written based on my experiences using the University of Arizona Cameca SX100 microprobe and its factory software, but should be broadly applicable to other instruments and software.


how to normalize epidote-group minerals in MS Excel (video)
This is a long (1hr48min!) but comprehensive YouTube video detailing the normalization of an odd Sr+REE+Mn-rich member of the epidote family using Excel. The formulas are described in a fair amount of detail and most are universal to mineral normalizations in general, so this video should be helpful to normalize other minerals as well. Pardon the sound hiccups and my over-generous use of “actually”… d’oh!


setting up mineral normalizations in Excel
For those who prefer reading to watching a video, this document is my original attempt at a “how to normalize a mineral in Excel” tutorial. I’m in the process of putting together an updated version of this with additional detail and better screen shots.


balancing complex mineral reactions with high school algebra
An early version of this was one of my homework assignments for my petrology class. I’ve re-written it to be more detailed.


analytical routines used on the UofA Cameca SX100 electron microprobe
This is an “approximate” list of the current analytical routines I’m using to do the analyses presented on this website. I say “approximate” because over time elements have occasionally been added, removed, counting-time adjusted, or background-adjusted as new matrices are tested or new needs arise.