EARTHSCI 361 : Imaging the Subsurface


2023 Semester Two (1235) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Geophysical imaging of the subsurface utilises contrasting rock and fluid properties. Applications include environmental, engineering, resource, hazard, and tectonic studies. Students will acquire and interpret geophysical data by attending a one-day field trip and through laboratory sessions.

Course Overview

The course provides an introduction to geophysical methods to study the Earth. It consists of a two-hour studio and a two-hour lab per week. Earthsci 361 is an elective for the BSc Earth Sciences aimed at students with an interest in the sub-surface and is an elective for the BSc in Geophysics in particular for students focusing on the Solid Earth. We encourage students from neighboring fields, such as Physics, Environmental Sciences, or Geography, to contact the course coordinator if they are interested in the course but may not meet some prerequisites.  

This course explores the links between the physical properties of the subsurface and tools that can be used to image them.  A large portion of the course is focussed on case studies from geotechnical engineering, resources, energy, and environmental applications showcasing how different approaches can be utilized to different scales and purposes and used to reach an integrated interpretation. This course will provide a geophysics foundation for careers in a wide variety of fields, such as mineral prospecting, geophysical surveying, and engineering geology, as well as post-graduate studies in programs such as the BSc (Hons), PGDipSci or MSc in Earth Sciences or Geophysics, as well as the Master of Engineering Geology.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points at Stage II in Earth Sciences, Environmental Physics, Geophysics Restriction: GEOLOGY 361, GEOPHYS 361

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. Link the physical properties of the subsurface with geophysical methods that are able to resolve them (Capability 1 and 3)
  2. Describe the appropriate geophysical techniques to apply to common geological targets and situations and their limitations (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Develop strategies to image the subsurface, plan geophysical surveys, and process raw geophysical data to a form that can be interpreted. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Critically analyse data quality and the geophysical and geological significance of the data. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Evaluate geophysical data in reports. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 30% Individual Examination
Reports 15% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 35% Individual Coursework
Case Studies 15% Group Coursework
Coursework 5% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam
Case Studies


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. Māori and Pacific's students are encouraged to contact Sonia Fonua ( or Kimoro Taiepa ( for information about the Tuākana programme.

Key Topics

The course will focus on :  
  • A geophysical toolbox focused on the physical properties of the subsurface (including magnetism, natural radioactivity, density, seismic velocities, electrical properties, and dynamic systems) and methods to image changes in these (4 weeks). 
  • Topical and career-relevant case studies within geotechnical, energy, resources, and environmental themes. 
Laboratories will develop practical communication and computations. A one-day field trip, together with some of the laboratories, will provide hands-on experience with the acquisition and use of geophysical data.

Special Requirements

Participation in the one-day field trip (TBC 19th or 20th August 2023) is critical underpinning for report writing based on the data collection (15%).  Students who are approved to take this course remotely or are unable to attend the fieldtrip will have alternative arrangements made.

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 studios, 24 hours of laboratories, an 8-hour field trip, 46 hours of reading and thinking about the content, and 48 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including studies, the 1-day field trip and labs to complete components of the course.
Parts of studios will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs may not be available as recordings. Pre-studio or lab recordings or readings may be required.
The course will not include live online events including group discussions/tutorials.
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.

Recommended textbooks: 
  • Kearey, P., Brooks, M. and Hill, I. An Introduction to Geophysical Exploration (3rd edition) Blackwell. 2002  
  • Lowrie, W., Fundamentals of Geophysics (2nd edition), Cambridge University Press. 2007.  

Both are available as e-books from the library. 
Further recommendations of literature to support case studies will be provided during the course.

Health & Safety

Fieldtrip Health and Safety requirements will be communicated. 

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.

EarthSci 361 2023 will be migrating to a studio + lab format to enhance the interaction opportunities of in person contact time. Videos and readings to be engaged with outside timetabled contact time will be needed to support in person activities.  

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 12:09 p.m.