GEOLOGY 1103 - Building a Habitable Planet

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2021

This course is about Earth's transformation to a habitable planet. It starts with the construction of the planet in the solar nebula, to Earth's transformation to a warm wet greenhouse planet, through the evolution and extinction events that shaped and still shape life on the planet. We look at the water world that is our earth; the hydrosphere, atmosphere and the oceans. We finish with a look at our human effects on the earth system, and take a look at our extraordinary Australian environment. We undertake a day long field excursion to see some of this environment first-hand.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code GEOLOGY 1103
    Course Building a Habitable Planet
    Coordinating Unit School of Physical Sciences
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week, plus field work
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assessment Written exams, assignments, practical work
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Rosalind King

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    A successful student in this course should be able to:

    1.    Demonstrated proficiency in common practical skills in first year geology

    2.    Have knowledge of how episodic events change Earth over short time scales;

    3.    Have knowledge of how long-time scale events shape Earth;

    4.    Appreciate the time-scales of naturally occurring cycles;

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Free on-line text books will be used in this course:

    Appropriate reading sections will be provided throughout the course.
    Online Learning

    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    The course consists of three 50-minute lecture or Q&A slots per week, three hours of practical work many weeks (although not all; pay attention to the course syllabus that we'll pass out on day 1 and through MyUni) and a one-day field excursion. The lectures are the source of most of the information assessed in the short theory exams and required for practicals. Many subjects are covered in detail only once and most contain some element of specialized vocabulary or facts that are hard to reproduce by reading alone.


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).

    Learning Activities Summary

    Week Theme Lecture topics Practicals
    Weeks 1-3: Origins of a habitable planet
    1 Course intro. Origin of the earth: How did it get here? Course introduction and steps to succeeding in this course. Age and formation of the Solar System and Earth. Deep Time. no practicals week 1
    2 Visitors from space Monday Holiday- No lecture. Meteorites and how they help us understanding the structure of the earth.
    How do we know the earth is old?
    Fondling meteorites (5%)
    3 A warm wet greenhouse planet Water and life. The faint young sun paradox.
    The Great Oxidation event.
    Was there life on Mars?
    Geological time and a roll of toilet paper (5%)
    Weeks 4-6: Life and death on planet earth
    Week 4: Short Theory Exam 1 (15%) covering weeks 1-3. Monday lecture slot.
    4 Origin of life? Early life on Earth and effects on atmospheric oxygen.
    Ediacaran: the earliest multicellular life.
    no practicals (theory exam week)
    5 Evolution and Extinction Cambrian diversification of animal life.
    Plants move on to land.
    Mass extinctions.
    Museum (Ediacaran) (5%)
    6 Life weathers extreme climates Earth’s energy balance. Carbon Cycle. Climates of the past. Fossil leaves as thermometers (5%)
    Mid-Semester break
    Weeks 7-9: Water world
    Week 7: Short Theory Exam 2 (15%) covering weeks 4-6. Monday lecture slot.
    7 Water, water everywhere... The hydrologic cycle and the distribution of water. Surface waters. Groundwater. Residence times.
    The Great Artesian Basin.
    no practicals (theory exam week)
    8 Restless realms Structure of the atmosphere and atmospheric circulation. Weather. Climate change in the modern era. Hallett Cove excursion (5%)
    9 Oceans and coasts Ocean composition, circulation and currents. Coastal landforms and sea level rise. Ocean practical (5%)
    Weeks 10-12: Surface processes and human interactions
    10 The Big freeze Glaciers, ice sheets and ice ages. Stable isotopes and their role in reconstructing past glaciations. Milankovitch cycles. No practicals (in exchange for field trip time on the weekend)
    Field excursion Sunday 26 May (5%)
    11 Every-changing landscapes Earth’s dynamic surface, geomorphology and interplanetary comparisons. Evolution of the landscapes we live in. Landscape practical (5%)
    12 Human effects on the Earth system Quaternary Extinctions. Welcome to the Anthropocene! Long-term human impacts on Australian earth systems. no practicals
    Week 13: Slightly longer theory exam 3 (30%) covering weeks 7-12. Thursday lecture slot.
    Specific Course Requirements

    This course has a one-day field excursion to Sellicks Beach.This trip is compulsory, but fortunately fun. There is no charge for transport. The trip will run from approximately 8 am to around 5pm; more details will be provided at the start of Semester 1.

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Due to the current COVID-19 situation modified arrangements have been made to assessments to facilitate remote learning and teaching.
    Assessment taskType of assessmentPercentage of total assessment for grading purposesHurdle (Yes/No)Outcome being assessed
    Online quizzes on practicals Summative 30% No 1-4
    Field work Summative 10% No 1, 3
    Theory exams Summative 60% No 1-4
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Attendance is compulsory at all scheduled practical sessions.  The learning outcomes for this course are substantially dependent on
    laboratory and field experience and practice.  Therefore, missing any  practical class in a semester will result in a grade of FAIL being
    recorded for the course.

    Students are able to apply for an allowed absence from a practical session for medical or compassionate reasons by submitting an absence form with appropriate supporting documentation to the course coordinator.   Application forms can be downloaded from the MyUni course website.

    Practicals missed due to medical or compassionate reasons may be made up (opportunity permitting; contact the course coordinator for details, as soon as possible to discuss options).  All students who miss a practical will receive an email at their University of Adelaide student account with instructions on the action to be taken to organise a make-up practical, if appropriate.
    Assessment Detail

    Short theory exams: Test material comes primarily from lecture material, and secondarily from assigned reading. Students may be tested on material that is not in the lecture material, but will be explicitly told what to read. The tests will consist of a mixture of multiple choice, short-answer and long-answer questions. The exams will take place within lecture slots.

    Practical work: Students are enrolled in a particular practical session, and are expected to attend that session. The assessment will follow as a paper-based or MyUni on-line quiz or short answer exercises based on understanding gained during the practicals. Six will be assessed; each is worth 5%.

    Virtual Field excursion: A series of exercises, including short questions and practical exercises will be undertaken online (10%).


    Submission of Assigned Work

    Practical work is submitted at the end of each practical session. There are no extensions for the practical work as it is to be accomplished during the practical period, and the practicals themselves are a mandatory and non-redeemable part of the course. Practicals will be marked and returned or answer keys posted within three weeks of each session.

    The web-based assignment is to be submitted by the due date. There is no late submission or extension possible, unless you make an application on the basis of medical or compassionate grounds.

    Extensions for Assessment Tasks

    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Co-ordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from:

    Late submission of assessments

    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply.  A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.


    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.