Geophysics of the Earth

University of Otago

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Geophysics of the Earth

  • Host University

    University of Otago

  • Location

    Dunedin, New Zealand

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    (GEOL 112 or GEOX 112 or 18 PHSI points) and (EAOS 111 or EAOX 111)

  • 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
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Techniques and interpretation of seismological, gravity and magnetic studies; geophysical determination of the structure of the crust, mantle and core; thermal budget of the earth and the driving forces for plate tectonics.

    Through acquisition, reduction and interpretation of data from their own local geophysical surveys, students will become familiar with the use of geophysical methods in understanding the near surface. 

    Students will gain field experience with seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical geophysical techniques. We will utilise Web- and computer-based tutorial sessions for reduction and interpretation of the local surveys. 

    Using the knowledge gained from local practical studies we then examine larger New Zealand and international geophysical data sets to investigate the structure of the Earth generally and specifically the geophysical signatures of petroleum and mineral resources. 
    The second aim of the course is to examine more deep-seated processes that govern the dynamic behaviour of the Earth. We shall investigate the physics of forces that drive core and mantle flow, earthquakes, mountain building and fluid flow. Simple modelling techniques are introduced so that students can perform simulations of the Earth's thermal and mechanical behaviour. 

    Students who complete this course should have a working knowledge of the practical application of geophysical methods at scales appropriate for exploration of mineral resources, evaluation of petroleum basins and also to the larger scales of determination of Earth structure.

    Course Structure
    Lecture topics are:

    • Physics of the Earth (1 week)
    • Gravity (2 weeks)
    • Magnetism (2 weeks)
    • Electromagnetic Methods (2 weeks)
    • Geophysical Field Methods (1 week + 2-day weekend fieldschool)
    • Seismic methods (4 weeks)
    • Geophysical Inversion

    A 2-day geophysical survey is undertaken to apply concepts learned in lectures and laboratory sessions.

    Learning Outcomes

    • A general awareness of the range of geophysical methods available for understanding the Earth and an understanding of the types of geological targets that can be examined with each technique.
    • Knowledge of geophysical concepts as applied to the investigation of geological bodies in the subsurface
    • Applied geophysical skills in the acquisition of seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical data sets, along with basic surveying skills for locating such data
    • Critical skills needed for evaluating and assessing geophysical data sets

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

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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.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.