GEOL115-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019

The Dynamic Earth System

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2019
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2019
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 26 July 2019
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 27 September 2019


The 4.55 billion year story of Earth is a story of constant renewal and interaction among tectonics, rocks, water, plants, animals, soil and air. The Dynamic Earth System teaches you how to read this story present in both the rock record and Earth's modern natural environment.

The 4.55 billion year story of Earth has a single unifying theme: change. Entire continents have come and gone and more than 99.9% of Earth’s life forms are now extinct. You can even find marine fossils on the top of Mount Everest, and whole oceans have disappeared as continents have collided in prolonged periods of mountain building. The story of Earth is a story of constant renewal and interaction among tectonics, rocks, water, plants, animals, soil and air. The Dynamic Earth System teaches you how to read this story present in both the rock record and Earth’s modern natural environment.

Learning Outcomes

  • Goal of the Course:
    To introduce students to concepts of earth System Science as they relate to the Earth through geological history

    Learning Outcomes
    Students completing The Dynamic Earth System will be able to:

    1) Explain fundamental geological concepts and terms.
    2) Observe, describe and identify major fossil groups and chemical systems and their interactions
    3) Interpret Earth processes and events using scientific observations, knowledge and reasoning.
    4) Discover and explain how Earth works as a system of interacting components across geological timescales.
    5) Understand geological processes and resources relevant to society.
    6) Identify and solve common geological problems by synthesizing multiple independent observations
    7) Identify, evaluate and reflect on potential career paths and professional opportunities in earth science.

    Summary of the Course Content
    The topics coved by this course are:

  • Chemical Reactions that Drive the Earth System
  • Origin of Universe, Solar System, Earth, Moon, Oceans and Life
  • Evolution of Early Life
  • Causes and Casualties of Mass Extinctions
  • How plants changed the atmosphere and the evolution of dinosaurs, birds and mammals
  • Evolution of New Zealand’s biota
  • Tectonic, topographic, climatic and biologic evolution of Earth
  • Human Evolution and the Great Human Migration
  • Soils, Nutrients and Feeding the Planet
  • Water Cycle and Sustainable Water Resource Utilisation
  • Applications of Earth System Science to Modern Science Challenges


    The fieldtrip to the Waipara River in North Canterbury for GEOL115 provides students the opportunity to be introduced to a wide variety of geological topics. This fieldtrip has 2 streams (of which students need only do one), departing on the dates of the 289th or 29th Sept 2019.

    This fieldtrip is a compulsory part of GEOL115 so students are required to attend. Material from this fieldtrip may be assessed.
    • 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.

      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.





Recommended Preparation

Timetable Note

Lectures: 3 one-hour lectures per week: schedule to be advised by Centralised Timetabling

Laboratories and tutorials:
1 lab (2.5 hours duration) or 1 lab (1 hour duration) per week. Schedule to be advised by Centralised Timetabling Occurrence of labs is shown on the lecture timetable over the page.
Laboratories are held in the Stage 1 Geology classroom in the Ernest Rutherford building, room 219 level 2.

Lecture schedule

Week #  -  Week Starting  -  Lectures  -  Lecturer  -  Laboratory

29  -  15thJuly  -  How Systems Work  -  TWH
30  -  22nd July  -  Live! From Mars, A Story of Creation  -  TWH  -  The Usual Suspects: Materials and Minerals of Earth and Mars
31  -  29th July  -  Early Life  -  CMR  -  Geological Short Stories
32  -  5th Aug  -  Ancient Oceans and the Record of Mass Extinctions  -  CMR  -  Life in the ocean
33  -  12th Aug  -  Life on Land  -  CMR  -  Life in the future ocean
34  -  19th Aug  -  New Zealand’s Biota  -  CMR  -  Course Project (30%) Skills session

35  -  Semester break
36  -  Semester break

37  -  9thSept  -  Earth’s Climate History and the Global Carbon Cycle  -  TWH  -  What’s Your Carbon Footprint?
38  -  16thSept  -  Tectonics, Topography and Biological Evolution  -  TWH  -  Geologic and Topographic Maps
39  -  23rd Sept  -  Hominid Evolution and Peopling the Pacific  -  TWH  -  Introduction to Leapfrog
40  -  30th Sept  -  A Planet Fed on Dirt  -  TWH  -  Acids, bases and ions, Oh My!
41  -  7th Oct  -  Water, Water Everywhere  -  TWH  -  Acids, bases and ions, Oh My! Part 2
42  -  14th Oct  -  How to get a job? Applied Earth System Science  -  TWH  -  Final Exam Review Session

Course Coordinator

For further information see School of Earth and Environment Head of Department


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Laboratory Quizzes and Problem Sets 10% Laboratory Quizzes and Problem Sets
Short Answer Test 20% Short Answer Test
Course Project 30% Course Project
GEOL115 40% Final Exam



Relationship of GEOL115 to other courses:
GEOL115: The Dynamic Earth System is designed as a general interest paper that may add breadth to any degree and is suitable for students with no previous experience in either geology or other science subjects. GEOL115 is an acceptable prerequisite for entry into 200-level Geology courses when combined with GEOL111. Entry into GEOL 200-level courses requires 30-points of pre-requisite coursework at 100-level, including 15 points from GEOL111 and a further 15 points from either GEOL113 or GEOL115.

Students interested in our natural environment and how it works will find GEOL115 is ideal preparation for continued study of earth and environmental science courses offered by a number of departments, including Geological Sciences. GEOL115 is excellent preparation for GEOL240, GEOL241, GEOL246, and several 300- level courses covering natural systems and how they change.

Additional Course Outline Information

Academic integrity


Marks and Grades
The Department of Geological Sciences uses the following scale to convert marks into grades:
100 – 90 A+ 75 – 79 B+ 60 – 64 C+
89 – 85 A 70 – 74 B 55 – 59 C
84 – 80 A- 65 – 69 B- 50 – 54 C-
Below 50 D/E

The Department of Geological Sciences reserves the right to adjust this mark/grade conversion, when deemed necessary.

Late Work
It is the policy for this course that late work is not accepted. Or, late work should be accompanied with a detailed explanation of why the work is late.  The work will be marked and marks will be subtracted for each day the work is late.  Days late include week-end and holidays.  

Academic Liaison
Alex Nichols (room 321,, phone (03) 364 2987 ext 94410) is in charge of liaison with students in geology courses.  Each year level will appoint a student representative(s) to the liaison committee at the start of the semester.  Please feel free to talk to the Academic Liaison or the student rep about any problems or concerns that you might have.

Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities should speak with someone at Disability Resource Service. Their office is on Level 2 of the Puaka-James Hight Building (Central Library). Phone: +64 3 369 3334 or ext 93334, email:

Policy on Dishonest Practice
Plagiarism, collusion, copying and ghost writing are unacceptable and dishonest practices.
• Plagiarism is the presentation of any material (text, data, figures or drawings, on any medium including computer files) from any other source without clear and adequate acknowledgement of the source.
• Collusion is the presentation of work performed in conjunction with another person or persons, but submitted as if it has been completed only by the names author(s).  
• Copying is the use of material (in any medium, including computer files) produced by another person(s) with or without their knowledge and approval.
• Ghost writing is the use of another person(s) (with or without payment) to prepare all or part of an item submitted for assessment.  

In cases where dishonest practice is involved in tests or other work submitted for credit, the student will be referred to the University Proctor.  The instructor may choose to not mark the work.  

Reconsideration of Grades
Students should, in the first instance, speak to the course co-ordinator about their marks.  If they cannot reach an agreeable solution, students should then speak to the Head of the Geological Sciences Department. Students can appeal any decision made on their final grade.  You can apply at the Registry to appeal the final grade within 4 weeks of the end of the semester.  Be aware that there are time limits for each step of the appeals process.  

Special Considerations Applications
If you feel that illness, injury, bereavement or other critical circumstances has prevented you from completing an item of assessment or affected your performance, you should complete a Special Considerations application form, available from the Registry or the Student Health and Counselling Service.  This should be within five days of the due date for the required work or the date of the examination.  In the case of illness or injury, medical consultation should normally have taken place shortly before or within 24 hours after the due date for the required work, or the date of the test or examination.  For further details on Special Consideration applications, please refer to the Enrolment Handbook or visit  You have the right to appeal any decision made, including Special Considerations decisions.  

Missing of Tests
In rare cases a student will not be able to sit a test.  In such cases, the student should consult with the course co-ordinator to the Head of the Department of Geological Sciences to arrange alternative procedures.   This must be done well in advance of the set date for the test.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $917.00

International fee $4,034.00

* 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.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 16 people apply to enrol.

For further information see School of Earth and Environment .

All GEOL115 Occurrences

  • GEOL115-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019