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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Formation and Evolution of Continents (EASC10080)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThe Formation and Evolution of Continents (FEC) course is multidisciplinary and integrative. The course integrates the magmatic, structural, metamorphic, sedimentary and geophysical features and concepts reflecting the operation of major physiochemical and tectonic processes in the Earth that have controlled its evolution since 4.5 billion years ago. FEC aims to foster a deep-Earth (solid Earth processes)/deep-time orientated view of the Earth and its differentiation, with a focus on the formation of the Earth¿s crust, culminating in the development and growth of continents.

In 2017-18 the the course will consist of 12 thematic lectures and 3 discussion sessions, presented in three groups of 5 (4 lectures plus 1 discussion session). The first group will be delivered in Week 4 of semester 1 (October 11 and 12), the second group in Week 7 (November 1 and 2), and the third group in Week 10 (November 22 and 23). Each lecture is supported by powerpoint note,s and by reference lists issued for each 4-lecture block. The keynote references for each lecture and group of lectures are designed to complement and extend the lecture content. These are deposited as pdfs on the LEARN site for the course, along with all lecture materials and background information. For each group of 4 lectures students are expected to spend about 16 hours of reading and supplementary study (i.e. 4 hours per lecture), guided by the key papers provided in the reference lists and focussed on key questions distributed for each block of lectures by the CO. The content of the key papers will be examinable in the same way as the lectures will be.
Course description 1. Key features of continents and continental crust composition: evidence and implications
2. Contributions to continents: magmatic processes since plate tectonics
3. Contributions to continents: Arcs, accretionary orogens and collisional orogens
4. Forming and growing the continents: The lines of evidence and reading the record
5. The Archaean and Secular Change: geological features and evidence for processes and tectonics
6. Continental growth and Supercontinent Episodes
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (EASC09008) AND Structural Analysis of Rocks and Regions (SARR) (EASC09052)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesPassing of courses equivalent in content and level to those listed in the UoE prerequisites for this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  60
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 12, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 75 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 100%, Course Work: 0 %, Practical Exam: 0%.

The FEC course is examined by one 2-hour long theory paper sat in the December Examination diet. Students answer two questions, one from Part A and one from Part B. Each Part allows a choice from 3 questions.

The questions in Part A will be those developed from the first part of the FEC course ¿ focussed on the nature of the lithosphere, magmatism and its role in forming crust, and accretionary and collisional mountain building processes that lead to continental growth or stabilisation (Syllabus contents 1-6). The questions in Part B will focus on the evidence from the geological record, from the Archaean through to early Phanerozoic, for tectonics and continental evolution and growth over time, as well as on the modelling of such key issues as the onset of subduction, and supercontinent cycles (Syllabus content 7-10).

The summative assessment is by examination only, the date of which is given in the examination calendar / timetable for the academic year.
Feedback A group of on-line formative assessment exercises provided at the end of Block 1 for students to self-test against. These exercises consist of a number of questions requiring short answers (one word to 3 sentences in typical length). Questions relate to the main concepts addressed in the first half of the FEC course, and require students to link specific features, processes or definitions to the themes of FEC.

Definitive answers to the formative questions are provided on-line to students following their submission of their responses.

Topic / theme-related Q&A sessions are scheduled in the FEC timetable as part of the final lecture slot in selected thematic areas (Crust & Mantle, Arc processes, Accretion and Collision, Archaean processes and evidence, continental growth, secular evolution in tectonics).
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. You will develop and enhance a fundamental critical understanding of the operation of major physiochemical and tectonic processes in the Earth that have controlled its evolution since 4.5 billion years ago.
  2. You will attain an integrated knowledge of the magmatic, structural, metamorphic, sedimentary and geophysical features and concepts relating to these physiochemical and tectonic processes.
  3. You will develop an appreciation of the relative roles of periodic, cyclical and irreversible processes in shaping the Earth through time.
  4. You will enhance your range of transferable skills, in aspects including critical reading, presentation of concepts, and synthesis of diverse data and sources.
  5. You will develop your skills to solve professional level problems with originality and creativity and be able to translate this into clear and concise written work.
Reading List
Harmon, R.S. & Parker, A. (2011). Frontiers in Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (Chapters 1 and 2).
Johnson, M.R.W. & Harley, S.L. (2012). Orogenesis The Making of Mountains. Cambridge University Press. (Chapters 3, 5-7, 10, 12).
Rollinson, H. (2007). Early Earth Systems: A Geochemical Approach. Blackwell.
White, W.M. (2013). Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (see especially Chapter 11: Geochemistry of the Solid Earth).
Numerous primary papers are also recommended, with several available on the course's LEARN site.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf Simon Harley
Tel: (0131 6)50 8547
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Thomas
Tel: (0131 6)50 8510
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