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This subject will provide an understanding of the composition of the Earth in space and time. The first part of this subject will investigate the composition of the Earth on accretion and its differentiation into core, mantle and crust. This will be followed by an investigation of the minerals and rocks that make up the mantle and the crust, what these minerals and rocks are made of, how minerals and rocks form, and what information these provide about how the Earth works. These questions are central to the science of Geology and will be addressed using field observations and measurements, and examination of minerals, rocks and petrographic thin-sections in the laboratory. Our ability to answer geological questions invariably requires such observations to underpin any final interpretations we make. This subject introduces a wide range of new minerals from igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and provides knowledge and practice to aid in their identification in both hand-specimen and thin-section. An important focus of the subject is the link between the chemical composition of mantle and crustal magmas and the minerals they crystallise (i.e., igneous rocks). Students will learn to appreciate that magma chemistry and the mineralogy of igneous rocks (i.e., once the magmas have cooled and crystallised) are directly related to each other. Thus, if we can identify the minerals present in an igneous rock, we already know a great deal about its composition (and therefore the processes by which it formed).
Intended learning outcomes
This subject builds upon some skills that students have already developed in first year (e.g., the identification of rocks and minerals in hand-specimen). In this subject, these skills will be developed and augmented through the examination of rocks and minerals in thin-section. Although much of this subject deals with igneous rocks, the minerals that students will be required to identify include others formed in metamorphic and sedimentary environments. Thus, many of the techniques learned here will apply to a broad range of geological situations. For those students wishing to pursue their study of Geology, other second-year subjects and almost all third-year subjects will use or build upon the information gained here. It needs to be understood that the identification of rocks and minerals is usually a means to an end, and only seldom an end in itself. Before we can proceed to use more sophisticated methods of unravelling Earth processes however, a solid background is required in understanding the fundamental insights that can be provided by careful observations of rocks and minerals
In addition to learning specific information, this subject will help students to develop their ability to synthesize data and interpret observations. The ability to apply analytical skills will also allow students to tackle the description and identification of unfamiliar samples. Opportunities will be provided for students to work with other students during laboratory, field and tutorial classes, but students will need to manage their own time effectively in order to complete tasks in preparation for ongoing assessment and the end of semester examinations.
Last updated: 7 September 2023