EARTHSCI 305 : Tectonics and Geodynamics


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Causes and effects of motions of the Earth's lithosphere drawn from across geosciences. Exposure to seminal literature covering various geological, geophysical and modelling tools and methods used for deciphering deformation at divergent and convergent plate margins. Provides a strong foundation in tectonophysics and experience in critical evaluation of the scientific literature.

Course Overview

Earth Science 305, Tectonics and Geodynamics, explores the global processes driving the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates and mantle. Evidence from a wide range of earth science sub-disciplines are pulled together to understand and quantify how the earth deforms, and the implications of such deformation for landscape evolution, magmatic/volcanic processes and hazards. Students are guided through seminal literature and case studies to develop an appreciation for the many geological, geomorphic and geophysical tools that can be applied to tectonic problems. Laboratories primarily focus on how we can use simple abstractions to model real-world processes and observations through analytical and numerical approaches. In parallel to the closely linked lecture-lab schedule, students will undertake a review of an individually selected special topic of interest within or relatable to the tectonic/geodynamic space. In a closely supported process with multiple feedback opportunities students produce a written scientific review paper and the course culminates with a poster mini-conference where students can share their findings with others.

This course addresses many of the fundamental large scale questions that contextualise the landscapes and processes we see at the earths surface or near surface.  While exploring dynamic earth processes emphasis is placed on developing many transferable digital, quantitative, data gathering and communications skills to prepare students for more professional practice at postgraduate level or opportunities in the real world. 

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: EARTHSCI 204 or GEOLOGY 204 Restriction: GEOLOGY 305

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
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Comprehend how isostasy, flexural isostasy and plate tectonics works and model aspects of this. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Recognise the geometrical controls on the structural, basin, magmatic and landscape architecture at convergent, and to a far lesser extent, extensional margins and model aspects of this. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Recognise how different geological, geomorphic and geophysical tools can be used to unravel active tectonics and tectonic history. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Utilise linear equations to model tectonic processes. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Evaluate and synthesise peer reviewed scientific literature. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  6. Apply research and science communication skills learnt to produce an independent scientific review (written report and poster presentation) of a selected special topic. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Essay 25% Individual Coursework
Presentation 15% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 20% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Final Exam
The presentation is a poster - the poster itself is graded. The opportunity to present the poster is for experience only.

Laboratories will run with plussage. The best 5/6 laboratory grades will count towards the final grade.

Key Topics

Plate Tectonics
Extensional Margins
Compressional Margins
Fluid-Tectonic Interactions
Planetary Tectonics

Learning Resources

The course does not follow a specific textbook. A reading list is provided and student will be expected to carry out their own research into the peer review literature for some assessments.

Special Requirements

No special requirements

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, 24 hour of practical work in laboratories, ~24 hours of reading and thinking about the content and  ~60-70 hours of work on assignments and/or exam preparation.

Digital 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.


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.

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.

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 at

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.

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.

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 you may be asked to submit your 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. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 13/07/2020 11:32 a.m.