GEOL101-23S1 (C) Semester One 2023

Building Planet Earth: Fundamentals of Earth Science

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 20 February 2023
End Date: Sunday, 25 June 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 5 March 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 14 May 2023


Welcome to Te Kura Aronukurangi | School of Earth and Environment at Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury. In this introductory course, we aim to provide you with a basic understanding of how Earth and its materials have developed through deep time. Since the birth of the Earth 4.55 billion years ago the only constant has been change. The oceans and atmosphere, the distribution of the continents and the life that they support are all part of an interactive system that makes Earth unique. In this course you will learn about the essential building blocks of Earth (minerals and rocks) and the processes that are responsible for how they form and change through time. In addition this course teaches you how to read the stories that the rocks are telling us and decipher key events in the evolution of life on Earth through the fossil record. Building Planet Earth gives you the opportunity to explore how our unique planet works and has sustained life, by showcasing our Zealandia continent. Aotearoa | New Zealand, on the active margin of the Pacific with its volcanoes, earthquakes, dramatic geomorphology, and 500 million years of geological history, is one of the best places on Earth to study geological processes.

Aotearoa | New Zealand, straddling a dynamic plate boundary, with its active volcanoes, earthquakes, dramatic landscapes, and 500 million years of geological history, is one of the best places on Earth to study geology and broader Earth sciences. Geologists are Earth detectives and see the planet in 4 dimensions. Looking for clues preserved in the landscapes, even down to minute materials around us, to build pictures of the Earth changes in both 3 dimensional space and time, using the present and the past to infer the future. Any one location on the surface of this planet has a complex history of change and movement preserved beneath the surface, just waiting to be discovered!

Learning Outcomes

  • Topics covered in the course:
  • The Big Bang to the Birth of the Earth
  • Earth structure and Plate Tectonics
  • Minerals and Rocks – building blocks of a terrestrial planet
  • Igneous materials and processes
  • Sedimentary materials and processes
  • Metamorphic materials and processes
  • Geological Time
  • Earth evolution
  • History of Life
  • NZ’s geological development
  • Earth systems and resources

    Hua Ako | Course Learning Goals:
  • Comprehend the processes that have shaped and built planet Earth through time and the
           implications and applications into the future
  • Be able to discuss plate tectonics and the rock cycle
  • Know the geological timescale and the difference between relative and absolute time
  • Be able to discuss major events in Earth history from an Earth systems perspective and the
           timescale over which they occurred
  • Infer story of process, history of Earth, and from rocks through their physical and chemical
  • Be able to identify the main minerals, fossils and rock types and explain how these
           contribute to our understanding of Earth processes and history.
  • Appreciate how Earth works as a system of interacting components across geological
  • Know the principles of stratigraphy and be able to apply them to maps
  • Appreciation of mātauranga Māori and its relevance to modern geoscience
  • Be able to communicate New Zealand’s geological context
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Biculturally competent and confident

      Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Timetable Note

3 x lectures per week
1 x lab per week (3 streams) (except first week of semester)
1 x 1 day weekend field trip (3 streams) to Waipara Gorge, North Canterbury – dates 29th, 30th April, 7th May 2023

The estimated workload breakdown for GEOL101 is:
• Lectures 36 hours (3 lectures per week)– as well as your own lecture preparation and review 30 hours
• Short Answer Test 1 hour, Final Exam 3 hours – your own test and exam preparation 25 hours
• Lab work 33 hours (11 x 3 hour labs)
• Practical Assignment 15 hours
• Field trip 7 hours (1 day)
Total 150 hours

Course Coordinator

Alex Nichols


Kate Pedley , Darren Gravley and Catherine Reid


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
In-class participation 5% In-class participation - various dates
Short Answer Test 15% Short Answer Test - Week 6
Practical online quizzes 10% Practical online quizzes - every 2nd week of labs
Practical Assignment 30% Practical Assignment - Due Week 12
Final Exam 40% Final Exam

Assessment name   Weighting Due date (if known)
In class participation        5%        Various
Short Answer Test        15%        Week 6
Practical online quizzes 10%        Every 2 weeks of labs
Practical Assignment        30%        Week 12
Final Exam                40%        Mid-year exam period

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended Reading

Marshak, Stephen; Earth : portrait of a planet ; Sixth edition; W.W. Norton and Company, 2018 (Recommended 7th or any earlier eddition).

Recommended textbook(s):
Marshak, S., Earth: Portrait of a Planet, 7th or any earlier edition.
Panchuk, Karla, 2019. Physical Geology, First University of Saskatchewan Edition. Retrieved from:
Bentley et al., 2020. Historical Geology

The Penguin Dictionary of Geology (a useful reference for all geology students).
Campbell, H.J.; et al 2013. A photographic guide to fossils of New Zealand. Auckland, NZ: New Holland. 143 p. available from GNS Science
Guides to rocks and minerals – useful for Practical classes and field work. Numerous authors.


Prerequisites: None

Restrictions: GEOL111-S1, GEOL111-SU1, GEOL111-SU2, ENCI271-S2

Recommended preparation: None

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $986.00

International fee $4,785.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Earth and Environment .

All GEOL101 Occurrences

  • GEOL101-23S1 (C) Semester One 2023