The University of Southampton

SOES3032 Global Tectonics

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To provide a global overview of active plate tectonic processes, including continental margin evolution, rifting, collisional processes from subduction zones to mountain building, and transform settings • To describe the principal features of the different types of continental margins and to describe the evolving processes which produce these features • To introduce the general geodynamic processes involved and techniques used • To discuss how tectonics can influence patterns of sediment transport and deposition • To describe the importance of fluids and metamorphism in margin development and mountain building • To emphasise the importance of these processes to society in terms of hydrocarbons and natural hazards (particularly earthquakes) • To develop communication and analytical skills

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand the basic tectonic principles of rifted continental margin formation, from continental rifts through to passive margins.
  • understand the application of the techniques covered in this course to natural hazard mitigation and resource exploration.
  • Generic skills
  • Scientific report writing
  • Presentation skills
  • Data manipulation and analysis
  • Seismic interpretation
  • Core analysis
  • Integration of interdisciplinary data and subject matter
  • Independent and critical thinking
  • Application of geophysical and remote sensing techniques to tectonics
  • appreciate the processes involved in generating new oceanic crust at mid-ocean ridges
  • Appreciation of societal (positive and negative) impact of plate tectonic processes
  • understand the processes involved in subduction zones, including formation of accretionary prisms, importance of fluids, earthquakes and tsunami hazards.
  • understand the features of and processes at transform plate boundaries.
  • be familiar with processes involved in mountain building, such as metamorphism, uplift and erosion.
  • be familiar with current research areas and specific examples in the topics covered.
  • be familiar with the basic geodynamic principles of plate tectonics.
  • be aware of the impact of active tectonic processes on sedimentary processes.
  • be able to combine interpretation of a range of datasets with theoretical ideas from throughout your degree programme to understand different tectonic settings


Lectures will cover the current understanding of processes and features in different active tectonic settings e.g. convergent margins (subduction zones to collisional mountain belts), transform margins, and continental rifts to passive rifted margins, how they have formed, the dynamic processes involved, the types of data used to explore these regions both onshore and offshore, their influence on sediment transport, deposition and cycling, the role of fluids (including gas hydrates) and the importance/relevance of these processes to society. The emphasis will be on current research in the areas of marine geophysics and geology, ocean drilling, remote sensing and the dynamics of the active tectonic processes involved. Laboratory exercises will introduce some of these techniques, providing the opportunity to analyse actual datasets from regions of current research interest.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures (24 x 45 minute lectures): will firstly introduce the tectonic processes involved and their importance to society. Subsequent lectures will cover the different tectonic settings from continental margins (convergent, transform, passive) through to mountain building, techniques used to understand processes and evolution, the importance of fluids, the evolution of fault systems, and the ongoing sedimentary processes interacting with tectonics at these locations. In all areas, cutting edge research will be emphasised with contributing staff drawing on their own considerable research expertise. Practical sessions (9 practicals): will exemplify theory covered during formal lectures and allow you to develop particular skills of relevance to the fields of tectonics, geophysics and stratigraphy. Seismic interpretation, the meaning of earthquake patterns, cyclical processes within convergent margins, remote sensing techniques and analysis of cores and sediment physical properties will be emphasised. Tutorial Support: Support will be available during practical classes. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study99
Practical classes and workshops27
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Assessment Method Theory examination 70%: A 3 -hour written examination. There will be three sections. Answer one question from a choice of two in each of the first two sections and one compulsory question based mainly on the lab work in the third section. Tests all learning outcomes. Essay (30%): A 2000-3000 word essay on one of the research topics covered by the course in the style of a scientific journal paper with appropriate referenced source material. Tests Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 30%
Theory examination  (3 hours) 70%
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