2 x 1-hour lectures weekly
1 x 3-hour practical fortnightly
1 x 2-hour computer lab per semester
7 x 1.5-hour on-line exercises per semester
1 x 2-hour on-line tutorial fortnightly
Assumed knowledge
Knowledge of Year 12 Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry is desirable
Computer Laboratory, Physical Laboratories, Online Tutorials, Fortnightly Quizzes, Maths Competency Quiz and Final Examination
Topic description
There is an ever growing awareness that understanding our Earth and its environments holds the key to sustaining life, as we know it, on planet Earth. Our environment consists of a complex web of interacting cycles, processes, and systems. This topic discusses these by way of introduction to the Earth and Environmental Sciences. It begins with the origins of the Universe, Big Bang Theory, formation of the solar system and the planets within it and discusses the ways in which planet Earth is unique in comparison. The timeline of life on Earth is examined and includes discussion on the dinosaurs and their extinction as well as other fossil evidence found in geologic records. The topic discusses the basic geology that underpins the Earth's make up (rocks, minerals, plate tectonics) and the concept of a 'restless' earth by way of examples including earthquakes, volcanoes, avalanches, landslides, floods and storm surges as well as other natural disasters. The movement of water on Earth between the land, ocean and atmosphere is discussed, and its importance to the environment is detailed. Basic concepts in the study of natural hydrologic systems are introduced and include both surface water in rivers and lakes as well as groundwater.
Educational aims
This topic aims:

  1. To provide an overview of the processes which lead to the formation of the planet Earth and its evolution throughout time
  2. To describe our planetary environment and the governing cycles and processes which control its behaviour
  3. To describe the processes and phenomena which directly affect the nature and behaviour of the "solid" Earth, namely, rock and mineral formation, plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes
  4. To describe the natural hydrologic processes which control the occurrence, movement and distribution of water on the Earth in both groundwater and surface water environments
  5. To provide students with an appreciation of the critical role water plays in shaping the land surface through discussions on river flows, floods and other natural disasters, and its critical role in present day environmental pollution and management problems
Expected learning outcomes
At the completion of the topic, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Understand the unifying principles and processes which are critical in understanding both the evolution and behaviour of the planet Earth with particular focus on aspects relating to geology, geophysics and hydrology
  2. Have a capacity for critical thinking
  3. Develop both quantitative and qualitative problem solving skills