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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Geological Evolution of the British Isles (EASC10124)

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
SummaryThis new course provides students with an up-to-date overview of the main controls on the tectonic, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic history of the British Isles. The lecture series provides a broad overview of the rock record of the British Isles within its global paleogeographic context. The practicals investigate individual case studies of particular events in the geological history of the British Isles, using specialist datasets or recent research literature. The course also integrates a variety of knowledge from previous courses and UK fieldtrips.
Course description The British Isles have a remarkably varied geological history for such a small fragment of continental crust, with a remarkable rock record back stretching through three billion years of Earth History. This geological evolution would have been interesting enough if it had been played out on relatively stable continental crust. However, the British Isles have developed at a tectonic crossroads, on crust once traversed by subduction zones and volcanic arcs, continental rifts and mountain belts. The resulting complexity is instructive, fascinating and perplexing and is further enhanced by the northwards drift of the province throughout its geological history meaning that the majority of the geological history of the planet is represented within the stratigraphy of the British Isles.

1. Introduction to course objectives, revision of the principles of stratigraphy (bio, chrono and litho) and basin analysis along with a summary of the Lewisian rocks of NW Scotland within their palaeographic context
2. Summary of the stratigraphy and depositional controls on Torridonian and Moine rocks of Scotland, and Precambrian of the remainder of the British Isles
3. Controls on deposition and metamorphism of the Dalradian rocks of Scotland and the Caledonian Orogeny
4. The Early Palaeozoic of British Isles: Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian rocks within their palaeographic context
5. The Late Palaeozoic of British Isles: Devonian-Carboniferous-Permian rocks of the British Isles
6. The Mesozoic of British Isles: Triassic-Jurassic-Cretaceous rocks of the British Isles
7. The Cenozoic - Tertiary and Quaternary events in the British Isles

1. Stratigraphy of British Isles through Earth History
- Examining a selection of hand specimens representing the paleogeography of UK through time through each period with a focus on their depositional environment and climatic controls.

2. The Stac Fada Member of the Torridonian Stoer Group: Ash fall or meteorite Impact deposit?
- An introduction into how to get the most from an academic paper
- Group presentation of a critical summary written during the class of a given research paper on the Stac Fada Member
Please bring your laptop to this practical if you have one.

3. Snowball Earth - One snowball or several slush balls?
- An in-depth look at the Snowball Earth hypothesis, including the triggers, duration and record of Neoproterozoic glaciation in the Britain and beyond
Group presentations to be prepared in advance of the practical (papers to study will be provided at the end of the previous weeks practical)

4. Controls on Devonian and Carboniferous sedimentation in Britain
- An in-depth study of the stratigraphy, depositional environment and controls on sedimentation acting in Britain during the Devonian and Carboniferous Periods

5. Episodes of extensional magmatism in the British Isles
- Examination of the rock record of intra-plate volcanism which occurred in the British Isles during the Carboniferous and Permian Periods and at the outset of the Cenozoic Era, when the British Isles and continental Europe rifted away from North America.

6. Backstripping of the Conoco 15/30-1 Well
- Using the back stripping technique to determine the tectonic subsidence and uplift in the Central North Sea
- Understand the tectonic controls on Jurassic sedimentation in the North Sea
Please bring a laptop to this practical if you have one.

7. The record of Quaternary climate change from ocean sediments and exam revision session
- Introduction to Foraminifera paleoclimatology in North Atlantic ocean sediments
- Exam revision session will outline the exam format and how to answer the questions effectively as well as an opportunity to ask about any aspect of course

***One day field trip scheduled for Saturday October 31st 2020. Location and logistics to be confirmed in light of Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time***

The preferred field trip option is a one day trip to Stonehaven to examine the Highland Boundary Fault and Highland Border complex. We will study the rock types and settings related to the genesis and emplacement of oceanic crust (ophiolite) along the contact between the metamorphic rocks of the Highlands to the north and the Old Red Sandstone (here Silurian) of the Midland Valley of Scotland to the south.

A traverse through the Pentlands hills or excursion within the south Edinburgh area are backup locations should Covid-19 restrictions require it.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 7, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 14, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 77 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30%

Students will answer TWO essay type questions (out of a selection of SIX) covering the entire range of the course in two hours (Each question will be equally weighted and hence worth 50% of the final exam mark).

A single A4 page synoptic event diagram summarising the major geological events shown by the rocks observed on the fieldtrip. This will comprise 30% of the course mark.

Assessment deadlines
Synoptic Event Diagram - Semester 1, Wednesday 12 noon of Week 7
Feedback Feedback is a key component of your learning experience, and this a high priority in the delivery of this course. Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback in the following instances:

- Personal 1-to-1 feedback during the practical sessions, as students' progress on the exercises during the course (once a week). Feedback will be provided by both demonstrators and teaching staff.

- Personal 1-to-1 feedback during the one day field trip. Feedback will be provided by demonstrators and teaching staff.

- Individual feedback will be provided on each students single page synoptic event diagram summarising the major geological events shown by the rocks observed on the fieldtrip. This will include recommendations as to how you can improve your grades.

Students are expected to build on this feedback to progress and produce work of good standard. Course team members are happy to give individual feedback to students who ask.

Examples of feedback can be found here:
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. A broad, integrated knowledge of the stratigraphical, structural, sedimentological, paleo-geographical and geological history of the British Isles set into its European context.
  2. Detailed knowledge of the Precambrian and Phanerozoic history of the British Isles.
  3. A critical understanding of the principles of stratigraphy (with and without fossils) and basin analysis.
  4. An understanding of the economic subsurface resources within the British Isle and how they have influenced its development and population density.
  5. Enhance specialist knowledge and understanding, including a range of established techniques and research methodologies and the ability to interpret, use and evaluate a wide range of specialist data and improved presentation skills
Reading List
Mountain Building in Scotland, The Open University. Available online for free!

Geological History of Britain and Ireland, 2nd edition, Nigel Woodcock and Rob Strachan, 2012

Geology and Landscapes of Scotland, Con Gillen, 2003
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsDynamic Stratigraphy
Course organiserDr Stuart Gilfillan
Tel: (0131 6)51 3462
Course secretaryMs Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
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