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Unit of study_

GEOS2124: Earth's History and the Biosphere

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal day] - Remote

The Earth's environments are continuously disrupted by astronomical, geological, and anthropogenic processes acting at various temporal and spatial scales. Understanding the rise, decline and resilience of past life-forms and environments is key to assessing the future sustainability of our environment and the ecosystems it supports (cf. UN Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15). In this unit of study, you will develop a deeper understanding of Earth as a life-support system and will learn how the Earth's rich and changing biodiversity through time is used, in conjunction with other methods, to timestamp the 4.5-billion-year history of our planet. You will discover how the Earth's sediments are record-keepers of environmental and biological change and how tectonic processes and the landscapes they create can shape Earth's climate, and enhance the resilience of species to climate change. You will learn the techniques to document and interpret past environments and past geological settings by integrating and interpreting multi-dimensional datasets including fossils, stratigraphy, and structural data. During a week-long field geological excursion (near Yass), you will be exposed to an ancient reef system disrupted by geological processes associated with a long-lived subduction zone, which will sharpen your observation skills and 3D geological thinking.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GEOS2124
Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
GEOL2123 or GEOL2124 or GEOS2924
24cp of 1000-level units of study, including (GEOS1003 or GEOS1903) and (GEOS2114 or GEOS2914)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Maria Seton,
Demonstrator(s) Joe Ibrahim,
Lecturer(s) Maria Seton,
Patrice Rey,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small continuous assessment hurdle task Week 1-2 practical
5% Week -03
Due date: 21 Aug 2022 at 23:59
6 hours (4h in class + ca. 2h homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5
Small continuous assessment hurdle task Week 3-4 practical
5% Week -04
Due date: 28 Aug 2022 at 13:00
6 hours (6h in class + ca. 2h homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO8 LO6 LO5
Small test Summative Exam
Summative Exam - Module 1
14% Week 05
Due date: 01 Sep 2022 at 17:00
1 hr
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO8 LO6
Small continuous assessment hurdle task Week 5-6 practical
5% Week 07
Due date: 14 Sep 2022 at 13:00
6 hours (4h in class + ca. 2h homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO6 LO5
Assignment hurdle task Week 7-8 practical
5% Week 08
Due date: 21 Sep 2022 at 13:00
6 hours (4h in class + ca. 2h homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO6 LO8
Small test Summative Exam
Summative Exam - Module 2
14% Week 09
Due date: 06 Oct 2022 at 17:00
1 hr
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO6 LO2
Skills-based evaluation Field excursion
Fieldwork skills assessment
18% Week 10
Due date: 14 Oct 2022 at 13:00
Five days
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment hurdle task Week 10-11 practical
5% Week 11
Due date: 19 Oct 2022 at 13:00
6 hours (4h in class + ca. 2h homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8
Presentation group assignment Presentation
Group project presentations
15% Week 12
Due date: 24 Oct 2022 at 10:00
15 hrs (6 in-class and 9 homework)
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Small test Summative Exam
Summative Exam - Module 3
14% Week 13
Due date: 03 Nov 2022 at 17:00
1 hr
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO8 LO6
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Mid-semester break Introduction to Geological Mapping Field trip (40 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 01 Course introduction and emergence of life, rise of oxygen Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Paper discussion Science laboratory (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 02 Tectonics, geodynamics and life resilience Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Project presentation topic preparation Science laboratory (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 03 Random disruptors and mass extinctions Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Project presentation topic preparation Science laboratory (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 04 Human influence and geochronology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Oceanic gateways Science laboratory (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 05 Stratigraphy and lithostragraphy Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Geochronology Science laboratory (2 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 06 Biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Magnetostratigraphy Science laboratory (2 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 07 Introduction to fossils Lecture (2 hr) LO2
Taphonomy and taxonomy Science laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 08 Invertebrate fossils Lecture (2 hr) LO2
Yass fossils Science laboratory (2 hr) LO2 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 10 Fractures and faults Lecture (2 hr) LO3
Contours, form lines and map analysis Science laboratory (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 11 Forces, tractions and stresses Lecture (2 hr) LO3
Paleostress analysis Science laboratory (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 12 Project presentations Presentation (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Stereonet for 3D geometrical analysis Science laboratory (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 13 Folds and fold systems and exam preparation Lecture (2 hr) LO3

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: Attendance to lectures and practicals is compulsory unless there is a clash with other UoS, or unless special consideration has been granted. Students must come to the lecture prepared by reading the lecture notes and completing pre-lecture activities.

COVID-19: Due to the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 situation, it may be the case that lectures and/or practicals will be conducted online. Please refer to specific details on Canvas and communication from your lecturers for further details.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Understand and apply concepts of stratigraphy to geological time
  • LO2. Recognise major fossil groups, their evolution and significance for understanding the rise and decline of past life-forms, ecosystems and environments.
  • LO3. Understand mountain building processes and document geological environments through 3D mapping techniques integrating paleontological, stratigraphy and structural data, to understand past geological events and their environmental consequences.
  • LO4. Recognize and explain how the Earth is in a constant state of change through the action of coupled environmental, biological and geological processes.
  • LO5. In the field or in the lab, source and analyse information, assess its reliability and significance, become adept at extracting patterns from noisy datasets.
  • LO6. Communicate (oral and written) scientific information to various audiences.
  • LO7. Engage in teamwork for scientific investigations and for the process of learning.
  • LO8. Develop a sense of responsibility, ethical behaviour and independence as a learner and as a scientist.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Course has undergone a major curriculum review.

Additional costs

Information on the fieldtrip, including costs and logistical details will be available on the Canvas site in the first two weeks of semester and may be subject to change depending on the COVID-19 situation.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General laboratory safety rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The Univerrsity is following advice from the government and related public health authorities. For the latest advice, please see

In some classes, especially those involving the use of shared equipment, please follow additional advice from your lecturers.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.