GEOLOGY 3505 - Earth Systems History III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2018

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, and on how those processes can be deciphered through the analysis and interpretation of sedimentary archives. The course will highlight the approaches used to interpret those archives, particularly the geochemical and physical techniques used to quantitatively constrain past climate and biogeochemical cycles, and those used to determine the age and rate of sedimentary deposits. The application of these techniques will be illustrated alongside a narrative of some of the key transitions in Earth's history, including the origins of the atmosphere, ocean and life, carbon cycle fluctuations through time, the expansion and demise of global ice ages and the role of humans in the modern Earth system. With a strong focus upon critical analysis and debate, the course will provide a scientific grounding relevant to a variety of contemporary issues, including resources, climate change and sustainability.

  • 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
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites GEOLOGY 2500
    Incompatible GEOLOGY 3014
    Assessment In-class tests; Assignments
    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)
    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)
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
    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
    2, 3, 5, 6
    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
    1, 4
    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 & 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; Earth Systems and geological record of
    global change - Snowball Earth
    Sedimentary rock review and Earth Systems: Reconstructing the 500 million year history of the Amadeus Basin
    Week 2 Evolution of Earth's oceans: changes in elemental and isotope
    Marine arcgives (fossils, sediments) for palaeo-seawater studies: Isotope
    chemostratigraphy, applications of Ca, Sr and B isotopes
    Week 3 Evolution of Earth's atmosphere: redox history, Great Oxidation Event,
    palaeo-redox proxies
    Hallett Cove field trip: field logging of stratigraphy and palaeo-environmental interpretation
    Week 4 Phanerozoic carbon cycle Earth's energy budget
    Week 5 Lecture Test 1 'Issues in Earth Systems History' Introductory lectures to Assignment 1
    Week 6 Abrupt change in the global carbon cycle and climate: the
    Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)
    Carbon-climate dynamics in Earth History: case study of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
    Week 7 Building an icehouse in the Cenozoic 'Issues in Earth Systems History' student group presentations
    Week 8 Quaternary ice ages and Milankovitch focing Inferring global glaciation from marine sediment isotope geochemistry
    Week 9 Holocene climate change: sediment archives and
    palaeoclimate proxies
    Sedimentological proxies of Holocene climate variability
    Week 10 Dating sediments and applications to Earth Systems History Practical application of dating techniques
    Week 11 Human-Earth interactions in the pre-historic Earth System: the Australian case study Human interactions case study: cave sedimentary records
    Week 12 Centennial-annual dynamics in the climate system during the
    last millennium: natural and human impacts
    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
    20% and 25% respectively
    Formative & Summative


    No 1-8 Weeks 5 and 12
    Practical assignments (8 x 1% in class; 1 x 2% for field class) Formative & Summative 10% No 1-5, 7-11 Weeks 1-4 and 6-11
    Theory assignments
    20% each for 2 assignments (including one take home exam); 5% for a group oral presentation
    Formative & Summative 45% No 1-8 Weeks 8 & 13
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Attendance at workshops is compulsory. Students are able to apply for an allowed absence from a class by submitting the application form with appropriate documentation to the Course Co-ordinator. Application forms can be downloaded from 

    Assessment Detail

    Practical assignments: (10% of total course grade; 1% per practical)
    During each practical class, an assignment will be set to be handed up at the end of that class. The practicals will be designed to provide training in key skills in sedimentary geology and geochronology as well as manipulation/analysis of geochemical and Earth system data. The practicals will reinforce the theoretical learning from the lectures as well as providing hands on context. One practical will involve field observation and interpretive skills. Another practical (week 7) will entail group presentations by students followed by debate on their chosen topic for Assignment 1, the objective being to stimulate thought and gain feedback from lecturers/peers prior to essay writing.

    In-class theory tests: (45% of total course grade; 2 tests, 20% and 25% respectively)
    Two tests will be given to address understanding of the lecture and practical material. The first test will be given mid-term to provide the students a benchmark for their progress in the course. The final 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 during the lecture session in week 5 and the practical session in week 12. Feedback on the first in–class test will be provided by end of week 6.

    Theory assignments: (45% of total course grade; x2, 25% and 20% respectively)
    Assignments will be used to stimulate independent research, information synthesis and critical review of key topics within the discipline. They will provide experience and feedback in scientific writing and encourage a deeper conceptual understanding of the nuances of a specific scientific field. Assignment 1 will be preceded by a small group debate around the focus subject, thus encouraging verbal communication and group interaction skills. Assignment 2 is a take home exam consisting of four short summative essays on subjects covered in the course.  

    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
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