EARTHSCI 120 : Planet Earth


2023 Semester Two (1235) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Examination of geologic processes that have shaped Earth and life through time, and their impact on modern society. Topics include: earthquakes, plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, meteorites and planets, mass extinctions and evolution of life. A practical introduction to rocks, minerals and fossils provides insights into Earth's past and important modern resources.

Course Overview

Why do earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides happen? What causes mountains to rise? When did the Earth form? How do continents move? How have climate and life changed through time? In this course we will answer these questions and solve other geological mysteries. We start our exploration in space and move through our solar system to Earth, where we look at plate tectonics, the movement of massive crustal blocks that make the continents and the ocean basins. Geological history is linked to this movement and the events that result, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. These events relate to how life originated and evolved... and how it has ended for thousands of species in mass extinctions. Rocks, minerals, and fossils give us clues to Earth's past and insights into the development of resources upon which society depends. This is the core Stage 1 Earth Science course and introduces you to the fundamentals of Geology/Earth Science - the excitement of having your finger on the pulse of global geological processes, knowing how geological change has happened in the past and will continue into the future.
The course is delivered as interactive 2-hour studio and 2-hour laboratory sessions. Using a variety of theory sessions, digital resources, quizzes, hands-on learning and a field trip.

Course Requirements

Restriction: EARTHSCI 103

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a foundation of disciplinary knowledge of the Earth, including an understanding of its structure, evolution, and its natural geological hazards and resources. (Capability 1)
  2. Apply basic workflows for documenting, describing and interpreting rocks, minerals and fossils in hand specimen and in their natural context. (Capability 1 and 2)
  3. Interpret the origin and evolution of simple geological scenarios. (Capability 2 and 3)
  4. Appreciate the impact of life on the history of Earth. (Capability 1)
  5. Identify rock and mineral types in a tectonic or geologic context. (Capability 1 and 2)
  6. Understand required code of conduct for field work, including recognition of and adherence to health and safety policies. (Capability 5 and 6)
  7. Work effectively in small groups to maximise individual learning. (Capability 4 and 5)
  8. Develop an understanding of some of the Earth processes in Zealandia. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Practical - Labs 35% Individual Coursework
Assignments - Homework 10% Individual Coursework
Assignment - Field Trip 15% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 30% Individual Coursework
Studio participation 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Practical - Labs
Assignments - Homework
Assignment - Field Trip
Final Exam
Studio participation


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for, and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection), and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

Key Topics

Part 1: Our Island in Space
Week 1 - Cosmology and the Birth of the Earth & Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Week 2 - Drifting Continents and Spreading Seas: Rock Stars of Geology.
Part 2: Earth Materials
Week 3 - Patterns in Nature: Minerals.
Week 4 - Magma and Igneous rocks.
Week 5 - Pages of the Earth’s Past, Sedimentary rocks.
Week 6 - Metamorphism: A Process of Change.
Part 3: Tectonic Activity of a Dynamic Planet 
Week 7 - The Wrath of Vulcan: Volcanic Eruptions.
Week 8 - Crags, Cracks, and Crumples: Crustal Deformation and Mountain Building. 
Week 9 - A Violent Pulse: Earthquakes.
Part 4: Earth Resources
Week 10 - Geoenergy.
Part 5: History before History
Week 11 - Diversity of Past Life - Fossils, and Evolution and Mass Extinctions.
Week 12 - Deep Time: How Old is Old?

Special Requirements

Attendance at the studio (participation mark) and laboratory sessions (assessed labs) provides an effective mechanism to keep up to date with all theoretical and practical matters associated with the course.
The field trip (date to be confirmed) is your chance to get out of the classroom and look at and describe the rocks of the Muriwai Beach cliffs. It is Earth Science in action - and fun!
It is a half day trip by bus from the University: time and further details to be advised.
Necessary equipment includes: A rain jacket, hat, sunscreen, boots or solid/strong shoes, drink & snacks, pencil & pen.
Students are required to complete a Field Trip consent form. This will be made available through Canvas.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 24 hours of lectures (studios), 22 hours of laboratory exercises, 6 hours of field work, 36 hours of reading and thinking about the content and studio preparation, and the remaining hours of work on homework exercises.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including studios to complete components of the course and required at activities including labs and field trip to receive credit for assessed components of the course.
Lectures including studios will be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Textbook: Earth: Portrait of a Planet, by Stephen Marshak. The textbook is available in print and also online. This is a recommended textbook.

Health & Safety

There are no specific requirements for the laboratory exercises. Health and safety requirements for the Muriwai field trip will be communicated through lectures and Canvas announcements.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

There are no major changes or improvements required for the course in 2023. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 28/10/2022 10:23 a.m.