ENVU1GE: Building Planet Earth

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Eileen Tisdall 


Building Planet Earth is an introduction to geology and will explore the building blocks of Earth from the formation of the solar system to the present day. The module will focus on the materials of which the earth is made, how they are distributed between core, mantle and crust, the evolution of the atmosphere and biosphere and how these have changed with time through the activity of plate tectonics and volcanism. The module will also explore how these deep time processes have resulted not only in the shape of the continents and the form of mountains but how they have led to the ocean-atmospheric circulation patterns that lead to the different climatic patterns and the distributions of plants and animals we experience across the Earth today.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the formation of the Solar System and Planet Earth
  2. An understanding of the inter-relationships between rock formation, landforms and the realms of the cryosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.
  3. An awareness of environmental change of geological time scale.
  4. Specific knowledge and skills in recognising different rock types, the processes that form them and link these skills to the landscape scale.

Acquired Skills

  1. Analysis and interpretation of field based information.
  2. Identify broad classifications of rock types and structures in the field.
  3. Manipulation and interpretation of spatial data.
  4. Critical reasoning through observation.
  5. Concise scientific writing.

Teaching Methods

The course will be delivered through a series of lectures and practicals and will include elements of field work and independent working. The course comprises two 1 hour lectures per week, three compulsory practicals and two independent exercises.


  1. Laboratory Practicals (30 %). 
    The work from lab classes will be submitted at the end of each laboratory session. There are three labs in total, each worth 10% of the final mark.
  2. Independent Exercises (20%)
    Two independent exercises are each worth 20% of the course grade.
    i) A 500 word essay designed to develop your scientific writing and drawing skills on a specific topic.
    ii) The second is to find a specific geological exposure from a given coordinate, sketch, describe and interpret the exposure. You may need to undertake additional research to fully describe the geological section. This assignment will follow practical 2.
  3. Exam (50%)
    An exam based on short essay style questions undertaken during the exam diet.


There are two one hour lectures each week.

There are 4 practical slots.

Exam Style

The exam in the main diet is based on short essay style questions (2hrs) and will be based on materials covered during the lectures and in the practicals.


Recommended Course Text: 
Marshak, S. 2008. Earth: Portrait of a Planet. W.W. Norton and Company. 832 pp. 978-0-393-11137-8


Grotzinger, J. & Jordan, T.H. 2010. Understanding Earth. Freeman. 654 pp 978-1-4292-1951-8

Huddart, D. and Stott T. 2010 Earth Environments; Past Present and Future. Wiley-Blackwell 978-0-471-48533-9

The library also stocks a number of copies of Earth by Press and Siever, Holme’s Principles of Physical Geology by Duff and The Dynamic Earth by Skinner and Porter.

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