Geological Processes


Course Description

  • Course Name

    Geological Processes

  • Host University


  • Location

    Sydney, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Geology, Natural Sciences

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    35101 Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems OR 68041 Physical Aspects of Nature OR 68101 Foundations of Physics OR 37131 Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    The evolution of the Earth's environment is a dynamic process which influences the way we live our lives. Landscape changes over time have been, and will continue to be, the catalyst for population migration, abundance, decline and adaptation of species. Understanding landscape processes is an integral part of our future as we respond to environmental changes which have the potential to affect the places we live and the food we grow. Respect for, and understanding of, environmental processes provide an essential foundation for a career in science. This knowledge allows us to contextualise our work.
    In this subject students investigate the link between landforms and the processes by which they are created and changed. This subject explores interactions between the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere which drive these landscape forming, or geomorphologic, processes. An introduction to major soil types, their formation processes and environmental implications focuses on Australian examples in preparation for a soils-based field trip. The subject concludes with an introduction to the principles of sequence stratigraphy and builds on acquired knowledge of soil and sedimentary features. This subject offers a practical, hands-on approach to map reading and construction of topographic profiles as well as soil sampling and analysis.
    Subject objectives
    Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
    1. Identify and describe the physical principles underpinning the formation and evolution of Earth?s surface environments.
    2. Explain how Earth?s surface environments change over time and predict possible future changes.
    3. Interpret landscape features represented in topographic maps and demonstrate construction of topographic profiles based on these data.
    4. Articulate the problems and benefits of using topographic maps to interpret past, present and future geomorphic environments.
    5. Prepare a report on the nature, origin and movement of sediments based on laboratory analysis of samples collected in the field.
    6. Communicate research findings to peers through an oral presentation.
    7. Evaluate and improve upon your own performance in writing.
    This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:
    An understanding of the nature, practice and application of the chosen science discipline. (1.0)
    Encompasses problem solving, critical thinking and analysis attributes and an understanding of the scientific method knowledge acquisition. (2.0)
    The ability to acquire, develop, employ and integrate a range of technical, practical and professional skills, in appropriate and ethical ways within a professional context, autonomously and collaboratively and across a range of disciplinary and professional areas, e.g. time management skills, personal organisation skills, teamwork skills, computing skills, laboratory skills, data handling, quantitative and graphical literacy skills. (3.0)
    The capacity to engage in reflection and learning beyond formal educational contexts that is based on the ability to make effective judgments about one's own work. The capacity to learn in and from new disciplines to enhance the application of scientific knowledge and skills in professional contexts. (4.0)
    An understanding of the different forms of communication - writing, reading, speaking, listening -, including visual and graphical, within science and beyond and the ability to apply these appropriately and effectively for different audiences. (6.0)
    An ability to think and work creatively, including the capacity for self-starting, and the ability to apply science skills to unfamiliar applications. (7.0)
    Contribution to the development of graduate attributes
    This subject is intended to develop the following graduate attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    a. The evolution of Earth?s surface environments and their graphical representation is learnt through lectures and practical classes and assessed in the laboratory and computer practical assignments, research report and oral presentation, and final exam.
    2. An enquiry-oriented approach
    a. Scientific enquiry and conceptual thinking are developed through synthesis and interpretation of results generated in computer and laboratory practical exercises. You will also develop the ability to follow a line of scientific enquiry through generating and assessing a hypothesis in your research report. These activities also encourage you to develop your scientific curiosity.
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    a. Application of subject-matter knowledge is an essential component of a career in science. This is addressed through acquisition of skills in map interpretation, examination and identification of Earth materials and soil properties. You will learn how to acquire, validate, query and analyse environmental data while developing computing, database construction, quantitative and graphical literacy skills. Your subject-matter knowledge and skills are assessed in the research report, computer practical assessments and final exam.
    b. Field data collection is a requirement in many roles offered by industries providing environmental services. Application of practical skills in geomorphological field techniques is demonstrated in the field and assessed through submission of your laboratory practical exercises.
    c. Effective independent workload management is an essential attribute for all professionals. On-line delivery, submission and assessment of computer practical exercises encourages you to plan the timely use of your resources.
    d. Teamwork is learned as you work in groups through collection, collation and analysis of data in the field and laboratory. Tasks must be delegated among the group to ensure all practical components are completed by the assessment submission date. A level of trust and collegiality and the consequences of ?bad data collection? are learned through comparison of group work-generated results with those obtained by staff.
    e. Ethics and professional conduct in science are learned through lectures and field work. This includes a discussion on the reasons against and consequences of data fabrication and plagiarism. Assessment of these concepts is made via the formal exam and your research report will be tested for originality using plagiarism detection software. Whilst conducting field work you will be introduced to some of the ethical and legal issues surrounding field sample collection.
    4. Ability and motivation for continued intellectual development
    a. Individual face-to-face assessment feedback and academic/career advice is an important component of this unit. The structure and timing of all of the assessment tasks allows you to address any issues and build your knowledge and skills throughout the course of the semester.
    5. Communication skills
    a. Confident and competent use of different modes of professional communication and self expression are essential components of all professional roles. This is assessed through presentation of your research findings in seminar and report forms. In addition to the assessable components of the course you are encouraged to engage in the UTSOnline Discussion Board.
    Teaching and learning strategies
    This subject is a 6-credit point subject offered as a set of lectures, computer practicals, a field trip and laboratory practicals. You are expected to lead your own learning by managing your study of theoretical and practical material, and by integrating the hand-out contents with required textbook study. You are encouraged to spend an average of 8-12 hours per week studying for this subject and researching the topics contained in lectures and practical sessions. In the first week of semester you will be provided with information regarding the program for this subject, including content and dates of lectures and practicals and due dates for assessment items. Lecture hand-outs provide a concise overview of the current knowledge in the subject areas and background information to assist you in the preparation of assessment items and the final written theory exam. Each practical activity involves exercises designed to allow you to develop your skills in topographic, geomorphologic and thematic map reading and identification of specific types of sediments, soils and geological processes.
    Lecture hand-outs, data sets and detailed instructions for computer practicals can be found on UTSOnline. Additional helpful study material can also be found in UTSOnline and you are encouraged to share additional resources you find helpful via the UTSOnline discussion board.
    Collaborative learning will assist you in your assessment tasks and deepen your knowledge of the subject area, as well as preparing you for your final year of study and possible higher degree research interest.
    During the semester we will be using the UTSOnline discussion forums for discussion on ALL questions relating to the content, the teaching activities, the assessment activities and the administration issues that will arise. Exceptions will be made for issues of a personal nature where confidentiality is required. If you email the subject coordinator with a question about the subject that does not require confidentiality then you will be asked to post the question into UTSOnline before the question is answered. The reason we do this is so that everyone can see and respond to questions and discussions that are likely to be useful and relevant to all students are made available as such. The subject coordinator will allocate time each week, specified in lectures, for responding to Discussion Board enquiries.
    During face-to-face classes you are encouraged to ask questions and to contribute to class discussions. You are required to bring a copy of each of your practical assessment tasks to the lectures immediately following their due dates as we will be working through the answers at these times. Due to the mixed mode of delivery of this subject (online and face-to-face) you are strongly encouraged to form study groups, collaborate in finding information and answers to questions, and to maintain regular contact with your peers as well as the subject coordinator using the UTSOnline Discussion Board.
    You will learn about the evolution of a variety of geomorphic environments by studying landforms and the processes by which they are created. We begin by introducing geology, geomorphology and pedology as interrelated disciplines. Identification and interpretation of landscapes features from topographic maps leads us in to looking at a variety of geomorphic environments and environment-building processes. Identification of the characteristics of specific erosional and depositional environments, including glacial, fluvial and deltaic systems, provides you with a knowledge base for an introduction to soil science, including sediment transport methods, soil formation processes, classification, typical Australian soil types and environmental issues involving soils. The soils component of the course is supported by field work and laboratory practical sessions. Building on your newly acquired knowledge of soil properties, you will learn the principles of sequence stratigraphy and apply your knowledge to interpret basic stratigraphic sequences associated with sea level rise and fall, glacial, fluvial and deltaic environments.
    Assessment task 1: Practicals
    These computer and laboratory practical assessments address:
    Subject objectives 2, 3
    Graduate attributes 1a, 2a, 3b, 3d, 4a
    Objective(s): Acquisition of skills in reading maps, examination and identification of geomorphic processes and soil properties.
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0 and 3.0
    Weight: 35%
    Accuracy of calculations
    Accuracy of topographic exercises
    Correctness of conclusions
    Assessment task 2: Research project ? seminar + report
    This assessment item addresses:
    Subject objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    Graduate attributes 1a, 3a, 3c, 3e, 5a
    Objective(s): Use of knowledge of geomorphic principles to interpret features described by maps and in peer reviewed scientific literature. Effective communication and interpretation of data.
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 2.0, 4.0, 6.0 and 7.0
    Weight: 35%
    2000 words (not including tables, figure captions, reference list)
    Clarity of report
    Correctness of information reported
    Correct understanding of literature searched
    Correct adherence to guidelines (format, length, outline, citations)
    Correct and detailed interpretations / conclusions
    Correct topographic profiles and calculations
    Clear and concise seminar
    Please note that in-depth and specific marking criteria for this item will be provided to students via UTSOnline.
    Assessment task 3: Final examination
    This assessment item addresses:
    Subject objectives 1, 2, 4
    Graduate attributes 1a, 3a, 3c, 3e, 5a
    Objective(s): Test your understanding of geomorphic principles underpinning the formation and evolution of Earth?s surface environments.
    Weight: 30%
    3 hours
    Accuracy of information provided by you with respect to the content and concepts covered by lecturers in lectures and practical classes.
    Minimum requirements
    You are expected to attend all lectures during the semester.
    Attendance at the field trip and subsequent soils laboratory practical sessions is compulsory. Failure to attend any of these 3 sessions will result in a mark of zero for the practical report unless an acceptable reason for your absence, supported by relevant evidence, is provided to your teaching associate.
    In addition, in order to pass this subject you must obtain a total of 50% as a weighted average over all assessment components.
    Required texts
    Pidwirnyi M. (2007) (free online access).
    Ritter ME (2007) The physical environment: An introduction to Physical Geography, 2e (free online access).
    Are provided on UTSOnline when appropriate.
    Exercise and practical data and handouts are provided on UTSOnline.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.