GEOLOGY 3505 - Earth Systems History III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2015

This course studies the fundamental geological and biological processes comprising the Earth System. It focuses on the interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere as the Earth System evolved as recorded in the geochemical and sedimentary record. It will identify the techniques necessary to interpret that record. This course explores the dynamics of the Earth system in the context of its development through time, from the origins of life on Earth (or lack of on other planets) through to the future planet Earth, affected by human activity. The course will outline the influence the changing Earth has had on the history of life as well as the role life has had in defining the Earth system and how the prediction of current issues, such as resources, climate change, and sustainability, can be informed by this record.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code GEOLOGY 3505
    Course Earth Systems History III
    Coordinating Unit School of Physical Sciences
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week plus field trip
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites GEOLOGY 2500
    Incompatible GEOLOGY 3014
    Assessment Practical & Theory in-class tests
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Jonathan Tyler

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    A succesful student in this course should be able to:
    1 demonstrate an understanding of how the sediments and landscapes of the Earth develop as dynamic systems, and how they relate to the concepts of geological time and space;
    2 demonstrate an understanding of the key sedimentological and geochemical techniques used to decipher Earth system processes through time;
    3 demonstrate an ability to manipulate and interpret geochemical data derived from sedimentary geological materials;
    4 demonstrate knowledge of how environmental change has operated on geological timescales to produce the conditions on Earth capable of supporting life;
    5  apply basic mathematics to quantify Earth system processes;
    6 apply information from sediments to interpret past environments from field observations, geologic and geochemical information;
    7 understand the relationship between the geological record and the record of time preserved in sedimentary successions;
    8 critically debate a key issue in Earth Systems History, both verbally and through a written report.
    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)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1-7
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 1-7
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1-7
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 3
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 1-7
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1-7
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 3,4,5,6
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 3,4,5
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course will be delivered by the following means:
    • 1 x 2-hour lectures per week
    • 1 x 4-hour practical per week
    • 1 x day field trip held in class time

    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
    Lecture Practical
    Week 1 Course introduction; Phanerozoic climate history Earth's energy budget
    Week 2 Climate and the carbon cycle through geological time Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum case study
    Week 3 Building an icehouse climate in the Cenozoic Sedimentary rock review
    Week 4 Quaternary ice ages and Milankovitch forcing Marine sediments, forams and oxygen isotopes
    Week 5 Centennial-annual dynamics in the climate system and climate forcing LECTURE TEST 1
    Week 6 Sea water chemistry and it's evolution through geological time Sediments, REDOX and non-traditional isotope geochemistry
    Week 7 Evolution of Earth's atmosphere: redox and oxidation Isotope mass balance and carbon isotopes
    Week 8 Issues in Earth Systems History: introductory overview of assignment topics Issues in Earth Systems History: small group debates
    Week 9 Biogeochemistry and global change: the Snowball Earth Fieldtrip to Hallett Cove
    Week 10 Humans in in the Earth System: an Australian case study Cave sedimentary deposits
    Week 11 Dating sediments and applications to Earth Systems History Sediment geochronology
    Week 12 Course wrap up and review LECTURE TEST 2
    Specific Course Requirements
    This course has a one-day field trip held in class time.
  • 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
    Assessment Task Task Type Percentage of total assessment for grading purposes Hurdle
     Outcomes being assessed/achieved  Due date
    In-class theory tests
    2 X class tests
    15% and 25% respectively
    Formative & Summative


    No 1-8 Weeks 5 and 12
    Online quizzes x 3
    5% each
    Summative 15% No 1,2,4,6,7 Weeks 3,6,9
    Assignment and take home exam
    25% and 20% respectively
    Formative & Summative 45% No 1-8 Weeks 9 and 11
    Assessment Detail
    In-class theory tests: (60% of total course grade)
    Three tests will be given to address understanding of the material. The first and second tests will be given mid-term to provide the students a benchmark for the progress in the course. The final summative test will be given at the end of the semester to ensure summative knowledge of course material. The tests will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions and be held in the 1 hour lecture sessions. Feedback on the first in–class test will be provided by end of week 6.
    Practical Test: (40% of total course grade)
    A cummulative Practical test will be administered in the final week to assess the learning through this part of the course. This test will be 2.5 hours and held in the practical session.
    Late Submission
    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

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