Aims and Objectives
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- The ability to construct a publication-ready well illustrated and tightly formatted document
- Working as part of a small group to give a concise presentation on a complex subject
- Use the latest research to evaluate the many (often conflicting) theories of Earth evolution
- Express this ability by writing a reasoned essay on some key aspect of Earth history.
- Discuss in detail the major events in Earth history that were crucial in determining the habitability of our planet.
- The ability to be critical in examining different published theories
- Appreciate the variety of methods used to provide information on the nature and patterns of Earth evolution.
Ten themes are developed over the course of this module through a series of 24 lectures accompanied by guided wider reading. The module starts with the beginning of the Solar System and an examination of the theories behind the origin of the Earth and Moon including the nature of planetary formation, accretion and differentiation.
Next we focus on the conditions on the early Earth and discuss the evidence for an early continental crust and likely nature of plate tectonics early in Earth's history, along with a look at the theories for the origin of the atmosphere and hydrosphere.
This early Earth has some recognisable features but much is different to the Earth system today. The next crucial steps we will examine are the evolution of modern-style plate tectonics, the origin of life and the possibly associated rise of atmospheric oxygen.
Along with changes in the solid Earth came dramatic changes in the oceans and in Earth's climate. The next theme we will examine is how Earth's climate evolved over geological time paying particular attention to Snowball earth events.
With the rise of complex multicellular life, followed by rooting plants becoming established on land, we have nearly approached our modern Earth system. At this stage we turn our attention to the influence of apparently stochastic events in Earth history such as major asteroid impacts and super-massive volcanic eruptions. To put the rest of the course in context we finish with a look at comparative planetary evolution and try to answer whether the Earth is truly unique or is habitability a natural consequence of planetary formation?
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
Formal lectures: 45 x 15-25 minute pre-recorded lectures will provide the background and evidence underlying broad and important topics relating to the evolution of the planet. The students will be expected to listen to this material ahead of the face-to-face sessions.
There will 2 x 2 hour sessions each week in which the students will be split into groups to debate some of the key issues raised in the lecture material.
Background reading and independent research of the literature is essential. Wider reading materials will be supplied.
Time will also be allocated for preparation of written work.
A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.
|Total study time||150|
Review article (80%): An essay in the style of a Nature Review Article will be due towards the end of the module. The topic of the essay will deal with one or more of the major themes of the module and will be detailed on blackboard. The scientific quality and presentation of this paper will assess learning outcomes 1 to 3. Wider reading is essential.
Presentation (20%): Each student will receive 1% per week for engaging in the debates.
There will be no final examination.
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
Repeat type: Internal & External