Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Geology 1 - Fundamentals of Geology

UM LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them. Geology is at the core of a number of significant societal challenges. Most of the materials and energy resources we use everyday are extracted from the ground, while our lives can be disrupted by natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Understanding how Earth works is essential to properly manage our impact on the planet and predict how the environment will change in the future.

This study-unit will provide a broad understanding of the physical processes that have formed planet Earth and its lithosphere. Such knowledge will be fundamental to allow the students to learn how to observe the Earth’s history within rock outcrops and interpret the processes that control Earth’s structure and environments. Training in modern fieldwork and laboratory techniques, which are used to extract and interpret geological information, will comprise a key component of this study-unit.

The study-unit will first provide an introduction to the main concepts in physical geology:

• History and fundamental concepts;
• Mineralogy (minerals, mineral structure, identification, mineral groups);
• Petrology (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, rock cycle, rock identification);
• The Earth's interior (composition of the Earth, heat flow, gravity, magnetism, investigating the Earth’s interior);
• Plate tectonics (global plate tectonics, continental drift, plate boundaries, constructive, destructive and conservative plate boundaries, driving forces of plate motion, rates of plate motion, crustal deformation , orogenesis, earthquakes, volcanoes);
• Origin and characteristics of oceans and continents;
• Geological time;
• Evolution of the Earth;
• Geology of the central Mediterranean region.

Through fieldwork and laboratory exercises, the second part of the study unit will focus on key techniques used in geology:
• Field skills: geological mapping, cross-section, stereonets, positioning, sampling, aerial photography;
• Laboratory skills: microscopy, petrographic analyses of thin sections, elemental analyses, isotope geology, geochronology.

Study-unit Aims:

• To provide a solid grounding in the core principles and concepts of physical geology;
• To equip students with the necessary skills to acquire, process, analyse and interpret geological data in the field and the laboratory.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• describe, classify and interpret common rocks and minerals;
• describe the structure and composition of Earth;
• explain the fundamentals of plate tectonics and how plate tectonics modified the global environment;
• describe the geological time-scale and how it is constructed;
• demonstrate an understanding of the importance of time and scale in geology.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• describe and analyse simple geological materials and their properties at a range of scales and reach informed conclusions about their possible identity and origins;
• demonstrate proficiency in the use of use of field instruments for geological data acquisition and systematic record keeping;
• demonstrate proficiency in the use of a range of laboratory techniques for geological data analysis;
• analyse, synthesise and integrate field and laboratory data in three dimensions to reconstruct geoscientific knowledge in written reports;
• demonstrate abilities of critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, working in groups, and technical writing.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Davidson et al. (2002) Exploring Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology.
- Holmes (1992) Principles of Physical Geology.
- Chernicoff et al. (2007) Geology: An Introduction to Physical Geology.
- Kearey et al. (2009) Global Tectonics (available from lecturer).

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Practical and Fieldwork

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 50%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 50%

LECTURER/S Emanuele Colica
Sebastiano D'Amico
Ray Zammit


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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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.