GEOL115-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

The Dynamic Earth System

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


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.

2021 Covid-19 Update:
Please refer to the course page on AKO | Learn for all information about your course, including lectures, labs, tutorials, field trips and assessments.

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
    • 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.


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 26th or 27h Sept 2020.

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

Week #

How Systems Work

20th July
Live! From Mars, A Story of Creation
TWH The Usual Suspects: Materials
and Minerals of Earth and Mars
31 27th July Early Life
CMR Geological short stories

3rd Aug Ancient Oceans and the Record of Mass
CMR Life in the ocean

10th Aug
Life on Land
CMR Life in the future ocean

17th Aug
New Zealand’s Biota
CMR Course Project (30%) Skills session

35 Semester break
36 Semester break

Earth’s Climate History and the Global
Carbon Cycle
TWH What’s Your Carbon

14thSept Tectonics, Topography and
Biological Evolution
TWH Geologic and Topographic Maps

21st Sept Hominid Evolution and Peopling the
Pacific TWH Introduction to Leapfrog

28th Sept
A Planet Fed on Dirt
TWH Acids, bases and ions, Oh My!

5th Oct
Water, Water Everywhere
TWH Acids, bases and ions, Oh My! Part 2

12th Oct How to get a job? Applied Earth System
TWH Final Exam Review Session

Course Coordinator

Catherine Reid


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

Laboratory Quizzes and Problem Sets  -  10%
Short answer test (during final lecture time in week 34)   -  20%
Course Project  -  30%
Final Exam (date TBA)  -  40%



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.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $945.00

International fee $4,473.00

* 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

  • GEOL115-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021