EARTHSCI 714 : Earthquake Geology


2021 Semester One (1213) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Understanding why, how and where earthquakes occur from identification of their source parameters to consideration of their effects (ground shaking, fault rupture and crustal stress changes). Topics include seismic style, earthquake size and source parameters, recurrence interval, conditions for failure, and earthquakes as agents for crustal fluid redistribution.

Course Overview

The initial section of the course explores fundamental concepts of crustal strength and modes of failure from geological and geophysical perspectives and seminal literature which are then applied or explored in greater depth through application to the case study of the Alpine Fault, New Zealand. This course is delivered through an optional four day South Island fieldtrip (13-16th April 2021) or virtual alternative and weekly contact that range for more formal delivery of content to computer lab or discussion sessions where students and staff can interact as work on assessment tasks is progressed.

This course is ideal preparation for work in tectonics, seismic hazard or engineering geology but also has a strong focus on the devlopment of communication and quantitative skill. Some background in tectonics/earth science will be assumed.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

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

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Comprehend the mechanisms of crustal stress release including the source conditions and resulting deformation. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  2. Analyse data in time and space to resolve patterns and link these to process (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  3. Research and synthesise literature to explain the spatial and temporal evolution of a mature fault zone (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Demonstrate use of public datasets to explore the details of significant (global) earthquakes (Capability 1 and 3)
  5. Model crustal strength, applying theory to different tectonic settings, abstracting appropriately and justifying assumptions and parameterisation (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Communicate effectively to a professional standard (Capability 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Coursework 15% Group Coursework
Coursework 7.5% Individual Coursework
Coursework 7.5% Group & Individual Coursework
Practical 10% Group & Individual Coursework
Reports 30% Individual Coursework
Research 30% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6

Key Topics

Fractures, Faults and Fluids

Fault rocks and Fault zones

The Basics of Earthquake seismology

Styles of stress release

Alpine Fault Architecture at Gaunt Creek: Summary unit descriptions and conceptual model of brittle fracture patterns

Patterns of Alpine Fault Seismicity

Special Requirements

A four day field trip is planned for during the mid semester break (13-16 April) that explores the setting of the 2010-11 Canterbury Earthquakes and crosses the Southern Alps to explore the case study Alpine Fault. While providing context to in class learning and the opportunity to anchor/enhance the final two case study related assessments physical attendance on this fieldtrip is optional with an exercise based on a virtual fieldtrip available for the same marks.  For the fieldtrip students are expected to independently arrive/depart at the Christchurch airport start/end point, pay for hostel accommodation ( and manage their own food; land transportation is included in the trip. Students are fully initiated into the University of Auckland health and safety process and expected to be actively engaged in managing their individual and group hazard and risk during the trip. Most stops are easily accessible from the vehicles. The Waiho Valley is a longer but easy walk. Access to one optional Alpine Fault exposure involves traversing more challenging terrain and good weather. We access one quarry. Sturdy boots and personal clothing and accessories for the potentially hot/cold/wet conditions are required. If there are an Covid-19 or other disruptions all students will undertake the virtual fieldtrip. 


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 10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of tutorial time, an optional four day residential fieldtrip and 90 hours of reading, thinking about the content and working on the assignments which are directly tied to class, tutorial and fieldtrip activities.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled classes including lectures and laboratories/tutorials to complete components of the course. Lectures will be available as recordings but other learning activities including laboratories/tutorials will not be available as recordings.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable with the 4 day optional fieldtrip.

Special advice for Offshore students
This course is available online to students resident offshore. The assessment and learning delivery mechanisms may differ from that presented in this Digital Course Outline. Please contact the Course Coordinator for further details (Jennifer Eccles,

Learning Resources

Seminal to cutting edge peer reviewed literature will be used to support this course. 

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.

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.

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.


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 your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. 
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

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 04/03/2021 12:20 p.m.