University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Up Close and Personal: Planet Earth

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION The Unit provides an introductory ‘tour’ of planetary systems. Students will first be introduced to the concept of Earth Systems, and to the interlinkages between these various systems that underpin the functioning of Earth and that make life on the planet possible.

In initial introductory lectures, students will be acquainted with general scientific concepts relevant to the six key earth systems, with these comprising (i) the geosphere (including tectonic activity, volcanism, geology, geomorphology), (ii) the biosphere (ecology and biodiversity), (iii) the hydrosphere (marine and freshwater systems), (iv) the cryosphere (polar environments), (v) the atmosphere (including weather and climate) and (vi) the anthrosphere (the ‘human’ world).

In each case, introductory lectures will be followed by discussion workshops, during which management issues affecting the system in question will be reviewed and evaluated. These will cover a range of issues, with examples including the loss of biodiversity, climate change and ocean acidification, amongst other sustainability issues.

In the final part of the Unit, students will be shown how the concepts of Earth systems can be applied at a variety of scales, through a focus on the Maltese Islands.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Articulate and describe the concept of Earth Systems;
- Distinguish between the six main ‘sub-systems’ governing the functioning of planet Earth;
- Describe and discuss management issues affecting different Earth Systems.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Identify environmental issues affecting the Maltese Islands through an Earth Systems lens;
- Identify interconnections between different Earth Systems;
- Identify linkages between science and management concepts relating to Earth Systems.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Kump, L.R., Kasting, J.F., Crane, R.G. (2009). The Earth System. Prentice Hall.
- Skinner, B. and Murck, B. (2011). The Blue Planet: An introduction to Earth Systems Science. Wiley.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Workshop No 50%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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