Planet Earth is a hands on unit of study, that sets out to acquaint you with the essential features of the materials that constitute the Earth, processes that shape the Earth’s surface, and the interaction of people and the geologic environment. The unit is an introduction to geology and not only forms the vital stepping stone for future studies in Earth and Environmental Science, but also sets out to give students from other disciplines a basic understanding of the physical Earth that will be helpful in studies and careers in environmental science, geomorphology, biology, geodesy, gemology and economics.
We aim to help you develop the skills necessary for study of the physical Earth. By the end of the unit, you should have the skills to:
- Make critical observations of geology for yourself
- Identify minerals and rocks
- Determine geometric relationships between rock units, as depicted on simple geological maps
- Use geological information to better understand the physical Earth
These different threads come together via an understanding of the cyclic nature of rock-forming and rock degrading processes of our planet, in terms of the Plate Tectonic Theory.
Geology is a vital, living science that touches our everyday lives. For example, materials such as diamonds, natural resources and energy are essential to our modern civilisation, and precious stones add to our appreciation of nature's beauty. Processes such as volcanism, earthquakes, landslides and erosion may dramatically affect our well being. Knowledge you gain of these materials and processes, based on scientific approaches of observation, testing and evaluation, will assist you towards a better understanding of this planet, Earth.
Students coming into this unit have a variety of backgrounds, since there are no set pre-requisites. Some of you will have no geology or physical geography at all in your previous studies, others will have taken Earth and Environmental Science at HSC level. However, previous studies in geology and related subjects are not necessary and in terms of your geological knowledge, by the end of this unit it should not matter what background you had before you started. In spite of this, inevitably in the early stages some of you might find many more new concepts to come to grips with than others. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, as by persevering into the unit of study, you will gain the satisfaction of seeing how the pieces of the overall Earth puzzle start to come together.
This unit concentrates on five major themes that will be explored and revisited in various ways throughout the unit. These themes include:
- Deep time (prehistorical and ancient geological past)
- Plate tectonics
- The rock cycle
- Geological skills e.g. mapping and mineral/rock recognition
- How geoscience can be used to solve some of the problems of the 21st century
There are three modules that investigate different aspects of geoscience. The main ideas and objectives for the modules are:
Module 1: Tools of Geoscience (approximately one-third of the unit)
By the end of this unit students should be able to:
- Understand that the rocks we see today have undergone change through geologic time and are still undergoing change (this is known as the rock-cycle)
- Recognise that there are 3 main groups of rocks (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) and be able to distinguish typical hand specimen examples of each type (Note: this skill will be reinforced throughout the unit)
- Understand the basic concepts of the plate tectonic theory and appreciate that it is the major unifying idea of geoscience
- Describe the main tools of geoscience and give examples of how they are used: e.g. mapping, satellite imagery, air photos, geophysical investigations, Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- Read and interpret topographic maps, and understand how contours are constructed and how to interpret them
- Use geological maps including legends, scales, grid references, etc. to solve simple problems and navigate
- Understand that maps are two dimensional representations of a three dimensional world, and the graphical techniques that are used to illustrate what is under the surface (e.g. making and interpreting geological cross sections)
- Explain the sequence of events that led to the geological configuration of an area (geological history)
Module 2: Hot Rocks (approximately one-third of the unit)
By the end of this unit students should be able to:
- Analyse volcanic processes, the landforms produced, and volcanic hazards
- Account for differences between volcanoes in terms of lava type (chemistry, appearance, explosiveness, etc) and their geographic position in relation to plate tectonic theory (e.g. boundary, intra-plate, etc)
- Examine intrusive igneous processes (e.g. magma composition and behaviour), and the features these processes produce
- Recognise common volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks and be able to use a classification scheme to identify them; interpret the origin of igneous rocks from hand specimens and field relations
- Describe and appreciate the significance of deeper Earth processes (e.g. mantle plumes)
- Understand the impact of plate tectonic theory on igneous processes
- Identify the main silicate rock-forming minerals
- Comprehend the basic chemical structure of the main groups of minerals (e.g. silica tetrahedra) and how this structure determines their appearance and physical properties
- Illustrate how knowledge of igneous processes can be useful to people (e.g. natural resources and energy; building materials)
Module 3: Rocks Under Stress and Deep Earth (approximately one-third of the unit)
By the end of this unit students should be able to:
- Comprehend that metamorphism causes change to existing rocks by the application of heat and pressure
- Comprehend that rocks slowly change form and shape under the application of forces
- Match parent rocks with metamorphosed equivalents
- Establish that rock microstructure and the existence of particular minerals indicate that rocks have undergone change
- Discern the difference between contact and regional metamorphism and be able to distinguish this difference in hand specimens showing a visible difference
- Understand the concept of metamorphic grade
- Use and interpret geological maps with intrusive rock bodies and simple structural features
- Describe how knowledge of metamorphic processes can be of benefit to people
- Understand the relationship between metamorphism, deformation and plate tectonic theory
- Understand how geophysics is used to understand the deep Earth and to monitor geological hazards
STUDENT LEARNING EXPERIENCES
This unit can be seen as two interconnected streams. A lecture/workshop stream involving short presentations and hands on activities that will give a broad overview of the topic, provide background information and introduce new ideas and concepts that link in with the other stream. Parallel to the lecture/workshop stream are a series of laboratory and field-based activities and case study workshops.
There will be two case studies. These case studies will be extended inquiries into real geo-scientific problems, extending over several weeks. These problems are different to the ones that you would typically find in textbooks, and more closely resemble the investigations that scientists face in the real world, with many interacting factors and a number of possible solutions.
Each of the case studies will allow you to explore the ideas in depth and will provide an effective and, we hope, enjoyable method of learning. There is also the added benefit of providing you with opportunities to develop generic skills such as problem solving, teamwork, communication, accessing and evaluating information and in using scientific approaches to solve problems.
You will be working individually or in small teams for each case study, both in attempting to solve the problem and to produce a final report. The reports will be awarded marks for your individual synthesis. You will be expected to do substantial research outside of the scheduled time (e.g. library and/or web-based literature search).
During this unit of study you will be required to participate in two field trips: one on-campus (in-person) and one off-campus (virtual if COVID-impacted). These excursions form an essential part of the unit and give you an introduction to field geology. You should take special note of the following:
Equipment: The basic requirements are a hand lens, magnet, and some method of testing mineral hardness (e.g. a pocket knife, copper coin, etc.). Buy a geological hammer only if you intend to continue in a geological field. As the weather is not always kind, note taking can be a problem if ballpoint or ink pens are used. Pencils are recommended. Bring several, and keep them sharp. Learn to be neat and tidy in these initial stages, and form a good habit early. It is much easier to discipline yourself now than to change habits later.
Clothing: Everyone has their own idea of comfort, but some common features of field clothing are obvious. Wear sensible, tough footwear, such as boots or strong sneakers. Thongs, fashion shoes and street shoes are useless and unacceptable. We will be walking over some irregular rock outcrops and may be in snake-infested areas. We cannot guarantee good quality weather; so you should have waterproof clothing. Long trousers, such as jeans, are safer than shorts. Bring a hat and sunscreen.
TEXTS AND REFERENCES
Unit of study booklet
This is available through iLearn and contains the lecture/workshop activities, laboratory practicals and case study assignments. The booklet is essential for you to have to follow the unit. You must print this yourself. The completed worksheets are invaluable as an aid during revision for the examination.
The recommended text is:
Tarbuck, E.J., Lutgens, F.K. and Tasa, D. (2016). Earth: An introduction to Physical Geology (12th Global). Pearson . ISBN 9781292161839
This gives more background information, often written from a different perspective from the workshops and practical class notes. It also contains photographs and diagrams for use in the workshops and laboratory exercises. In the library you may find several other basic textbooks on Physical Geology that will be of use to you. The other text mentioned is Merali, Z. and Skinner B.J. Visualizing Earth Science. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-74705-5.
You may find the following books helpful for reference. They should provide useful supportive material to the workshops, case studies and laboratory exercises, and supplement the prescribed textbook and the Unit of Study booklet.
Dynamic Earth is a subject relying heavily on observation, so it will be of great help to look at a variety of illustrations of the features that are covered in the unit of study. The books listed below are generally well illustrated, with striking colour photographs and diagrams.
** indicates a book in Special Reserve in the Library; * indicates a book on 3-day loan.
**Branagan, D.F. and Packham, G.H., 2000. Field geology of NSW. NSW Dept of Mineral Resources. Sydney. QE45.B7
*Busch, R.M., Tarbuck, E.J. and Lutgens, F.K, 1993. A study guide to accompany "The earth — an introduction to physical geology". Merrill. QE28.2.T37
*Cattermole, P., 2000. Building Planet Earth. Cambridge University Press. QE26.2.C384
*Hamblin, W.K. 1998. Earth's Dynamic Systems. Macmillan (8th Ed.) QE28.2.H35
*Hamblin, W.K. and Howard, J.D. 1995. Exercises in Physical Geology. QE28.2.H36
**Herbert, C. and Helby, R., 1980. A Guide to the Sydney Basin. Geological Survey of NSW Bulletin 26. QE341.N4
**Kimberley, M.M and Kimberley, S.J. 1995. Study guide to Skinner/Porter's The Dynamic Earth: an introduction to physical geology. Third Edition. Wiley (3rd Ed) QE28.2K56
*Merritts, D.J., De Wet, A., and Menking, K., 1998. Environmental Geology: an earth system science approach. Freeman, New York. QE38.M47
*Monroe, J.S. and Wicander, R. 1992 Physical Geology — exploring the earth. Harper Educational Publ.; West Publ. Co St. Paul. QE28.2.M655
*Montgomery, C.W., 1993. Physical Geology. Wm C. Brown (3rd Ed.) QE28.2.M66
*Morrison, R., 1988. Voyage of the Great Southern Ark. Ure Smith Press. QE340.M67
*Morton, R.D., 1995. Student’s Companion to Skinner and Porter’s The Dynamic Earth; an introduction to Physical Geology, Third Edition. Wiley QE28.2.S552
*Murck, B.W., Skinner, B.J. and Porter, S.C., 1996. Environmental Geology. Wiley and Sons, New York. QE38.M87/1996
*Plummer, C.C. and McGeary, D., 1999. Physical Geology. Wm C. Brown Publ., Iowa (8th Ed.). QE28.2.P58
*Press, F. and Siever, R. 1998. Understanding Earth. Freeman, New York (2nd Ed.) (replaces Earth, 4th Ed.). QE28.P9
**Scheibner, E., 1999. The geological evolution of New South Wales. Dept of Mineral Resources. QE341.S296
**Skinner, B.J. and Porter, S.C., 2000. The Dynamic Earth: an introduction to physical geology. Wiley , 4th Ed. QE28.2.S55
**Skinner, B.J., Porter, S.C. and Botkin, D.B., 1999. The Blue Planet. Wiley , 2nd Ed. QB631.S57
*Smith, D.G., 1981. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge. QE26.2.C35
*Stanley, S.M., 1989. Earth and life through time. W.H. Freeman and Company, N.Y. QE28.3.S73
*Tarbuck, E.J., Lutgens, F.K. and Tasa, D. (2016). Earth: An introduction to Physical Geology (12th Global). Pearson . ISBN 9781292161839
**Van Andel, T.H., 1994. New views of an old planet: continental drift and the history of the earth. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge (2nd Ed.). QE26.2.V36
*Veevers, J.J., 2000. Billion-year earth history of Australia and neighbours in Gondwanaland. GEMOC Press, Sydney. QE340.B55
**Dunning, J and Onesti, L.J., 1998. Earth Matters. Freeman and Co., New York. QE38.D8
**Tasa, D., 1999. Illustrated dictionary of earth science. Tasa Graphic Arts. QE5.I45
The Library at Macquarie will have provided you with information on library loans. The procedures differ for metropolitan and country students. Please familiarise yourself with the procedures appropriate in your case. If you have any enquiries contact the Library on (02) 9850-7500.