The University of Southampton

SOES1009 The Living Earth

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To show how life and the Earth have evolved together over the last 4.5 billion years. • To show how life and the physical/chemical planetary systems have been in a quasi-stable equilibrium. • To understand how this balance becomes disturbed by internal and external events, with resulting extinctions.

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.
  • Know the time ranges of and recognise the major groups of animals and plants in earth history.
  • Understand geology and scenery of southern Britain.
  • Generic Skills: Pattern recognition; Speedy sketching.
  • Subject-Specific Skills: Earth System History; Map reading or fossil ID skills.


Topics will include the origin of life, 3 billion years of single cells, snowball Earth, the first multi-celled animals, early sea life, reefs through time, Britain assembles, ancient glaciations, the greening of the continents, from a hothouse to an ice plant, life in the coal swamps, the great dying, changing sea-levels, orbital wobbles, the Chalk seas, giant reptiles, the end of the dinosaurs, the landscape modernizes, children of the ice ages, the goldilocks planet, the future. There will be one general introductory practical for all students. All Geology Honours students will undertake fossil practicals. All other students will undertake a one-day field course to the Isle of Wight and a preparatory practical exercise.

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. An outline of each lecture provided in advance in both manual materials and on the website. Where relevant, lecturers’ own research experience in the appropriate fields is brought into the lecturing sessions. References to the applicable chapter of course text and/or other relevant articles/websites are provided as essential/recommended reading for each lecture. Practical classes: Interactive practical classes are supported by staff and post-graduate demonstrators. Access to practical material is available on request for independent work. Laboratory classes will consist of a short introductory talk highlighting techniques to be employed and the goals to be attained, thereafter the GY-students will be expected to complete the practical coursework as self-taught and self-paced activities. Demonstrator support will be provided weekly. Tutorial support: All students are encouraged to discuss any aspect of the course with the relevant member of the lecturing staff, both of whom operate an 'open door' policy. Fieldwork: For non-Geology Honours students there is a fieldcourse to the Isle of Wight, with a linked practical. During the fieldcourse you will develop basic investigative field skills. 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



Practical exercise


MethodPercentage contribution
Theory examination 80%
Web-based assessment 20%
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