University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Science of the Ocean Floor

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will first provide a background to Earth and its geological system. Secondly it will focus on seafloor topographic elements and processes at a global scale, explaining the development of continental and ocean margins and basins, and the tectonic, sedimentary and oceanographic processes associated with both continental margins and ocean basins. Thirdly it will focus on seafloor features and processes at a fine spatial scale, exploring how these change from the near shore (e.g. submerged palaeolandscapes, continental shelves, fluid flow processes), to the continental slope (e.g. submarine landslides, submarine canyons, contourites etc.), and finally to the deep sea (e.g. submarine channels and fans, hydrothermal vents, seamounts and volcanoes). We will conclude the unit by reviewing the seafloor forms and processes around the Maltese Islands and in the surrounding central Mediterranean region.

Study-unit Aims:

- To give a broad outline of the origin, structure and evolution of ocean basins and continental margins.
- To equip students with an understanding of the nature and spatio-temporal scale of the principal seafloor processes and their signatures in seafloor data.
- To explain the environmental, social and economic implications of seafloor investigations, with particular reference to the central Mediterranean region.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will:
- Have a solid grounding in the physics of seafloor processes.
- Be able to appreciate the scale and complexity of seafloor processes.
- Be able to describe seafloor features found in different settings and understand the processes leading to their formation.
- Be able to understand the framework provided by plate tectonics, and the significant role played by climate and sea-level changes, in shaping the seafloor record.
- Be aware of the fundamental research questions that still need to be addressed in marine science.
- Be aware of the key seafloor forms and processes of the central Mediterranean region.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- identify seafloor forms from seafloor data.
- explain the sedimentary, structural and oceanographic processes responsible for a variety of seafloor forms.
- know which tools are used to investigate different seafloor forms and processes • To work in a team to solve a geoscientific problem.
- reconstruct geoscientific knowledge in written reports.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Cuchlaine, A.M.K. (1975) Introduction to marine geology and geomorphology, Arnold.
- Pratson, L.F., et al., (2009). Seascape evolution on clastic continenal shelves and slopes, in: Nitrouer, C.A., Austin, J.A., Field, M.E., Kravitz, J.H., Syvitski, J.P.M., Wiberg, P.L. (Eds.), Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy: IAP Special Publication. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, pp. 339-380.
- Seibold, E. and Berger, W.H. (1996) The seafloor: An introduction to marine geology, Springer.

Additional readings will be suggested at the end of each lecture.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Qualifications: Background in Environmental or Environmental Sciences, Geography or Physics

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Tutorial

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Examination (1 Hour) Yes 50%

LECTURER/S Aaron Micallef

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.
MSc (Research) and PhD application deadlines
Application Deadlines for Academic Year 2017/18 
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