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The University of Southampton

SOES1009 The Living Earth

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe and explain the significance of major events in the history of life, and their causes/consequences for the Earth and its environment.
  • Understand and explain the role of biological processes during the evolution of the Earth system.
  • Be able to recognise those fossil organisms most regularly encountered in the rock record, and be conversant with their ranges through geological time.
  • Generic Skills: Pattern recognition and the application of simple graphical methods to the interpretation of multiple datasets.
  • Subject-Specific Skills: An understanding of Earth system history and the intrinsic and extrinsic factors driving extinction and evolution.
  • Subject-Specific Skills: The ability to recognise different forms of fossil preservation; the ability to identify fossils as once living organisms and thus the environmental conditions in which they lived as a tool for understanding the rock record.


The Big Picture: the module content will span the entirety of Earth history, progressing form the formation of the Solar System to a projection of Earth’s future several billion years from now. We will explore the relationship between physical, chemical, geological and biological factors through time, covering topics that will examine how internal/intrinsic factors (e.g., changes in plate tectonics, the atmosphere, oceans and climate) and external/extrinsic factors (e.g., meteorite impacts, etc.) have driven evolution and extinction, and how various global systems and cycles have developed through geological time. This will be achieved by exploring key events in Earth history, which will include amongst other things: the origin of life, Snowball Earth, the appearance of the first multi-celled animals, the assembly of the Britain Isles, the invasion of the land by plants and animals, the five great extinction events (including The Great Dying and the end-Cretaceous demise of the dinosaurs), post-extinction biotic development, the evolution of hominids, through to the conditions that will be experienced on the near- and far-future Earth. A series of weekly practical classes will be based around individual groups of organisms and their fossil representatives, examining fossil remains from the perspective of having once been living organisms.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal lectures (45 minute lectures): each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations. Key aims objective and learning outcomes for each lecture are provided in advance on the Blackboard website, as will the Powerpoint presentations for those wanting to preview the material. Where relevant, lecturers' own research experience in the appropriate fields is brought into the lecturing sessions. Background reading material and links to other appropriate media resources will also be available via the Blackboard website. Practical classes: interactive practical classes are supported by staff (and when relevant, post-graduate demonstrators). Access to practical material is available for independent work, and there are extensive online resources available. Laboratory classes will be based on 'flipped learning' techniques, where you will be required to run through an introductory session introducing the material to be studied in the next practical session prior to attending that session, as only a very short introductory talk will highlighting techniques to be employed and the goals to be attained will be given at the start of each practical session. Academic support: you are encouraged to discuss any aspect of the course with staff. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Practical classes and workshops34
Independent Study92
Total study time150



Online test


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 15%
Examination 65%
Practical assessment 20%


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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