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Unit of study_

GEOS3101: Earth's Structure and Evolution

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

The Earth's crust and upper mantle, or lithosphere, are a consequence of dynamic and thermal processes operating since the beginning of the Archaean. This unit focuses on information and techniques that enable an understanding of these processes. The main topics presented in this unit include: the formation and evolution of oceanic and continental lithosphere; tectonic deformation, magmatism and metamorphism at plate boundaries; and the mesoscopic and microscopic analysis of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Practical classes and field exercises are designed to enable students to competently and independently identify the common crystalline rocks in hand-specimen; and to gather and interpret the structural field data which enables the determination of the structural style and deformational history presented in particular tectonic settings. The concepts and content presented in this unit are generally considered to be essential knowledge for geologists and geophysicists and provide a conceptual framework for their professional practice. Students wishing to specialise in the field and become professional geologists will normally need to expand upon the knowledge gained from this unit and either complete an honours project or progress to postgraduate coursework in this field.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GEOS3101
Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
GEOS3801 or GEOS3003 or GEOS3903 or GEOS3004 or GEOS3904 or GEOS3006 or GEOS3906 or GEOS3017 or GEOS3917
(GEOS2114 or GEOS2914) and (GEOS2124 or GEOS2924)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Patrice Rey,
Lecturer(s) Vasileios Chatzaras,
Patrice Rey,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam Final exam
Online exam - 10 minutes reading time
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
Assignment Formative 1
2% Week 02 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 2
2% Week 03 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 3
2% Week 04 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 4
2% Week 05 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO10
Small continuous assessment Summative 1
Skills-based evaluation
10% Week 07 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO10 LO8 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment hurdle task Formative 5
2% Week 08 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 6
2% Week 09 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 7
2% Week 10 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO8 LO10
Assignment Formative 8
2% Week 11 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO8 LO10
Presentation group assignment Demonstrations
Video presentation
24% Week 12 4-5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO8 LO9 LO10
Small continuous assessment Summative 2
Skills-based evaluation
10% Week 12 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO5 LO10 LO8 LO7 LO6
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
group assignment = group assignment ?
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Video presentation: Students will work in groups of 3 to deliver a video presentation on a subject of particular interest to them and integrating observation from the South Coast Excursion. 

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.

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
Week 01 Heat generation and transfer Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Heat generation and transfer Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1
Week 02 Isostasy and vertical motion Lecture (2 hr) LO2
Isostasy and vertical motion Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2
Week 03 Gravitational forces and horizontal flow Lecture (2 hr) LO3
Gravitational forces and horizontal flow Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3
Week 04 Tectonic forces Lecture (2 hr) LO4
Tectonic forces Science laboratory (3 hr) LO4
Week 05 South Coast excursion Field trip (32 hr) LO5 LO6
Week 06 Notions of rheology Lecture (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO8
Notions of rheology Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO8
Week 07 Deformation mechanisms: from mineral to lithosphere Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO6 LO7
Deformation mechanisms: from mineral to lithosphere Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 08 Electron microscopy and microanalysis in tectonics Lecture (2 hr) LO6 LO7 LO8
Electron microscopy and microanalysis in tectonics Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 09 Decoding metamorphic rocks Lecture (2 hr) LO5 LO6
Decoding metamorphic rocks Science laboratory (3 hr) LO5 LO6
Week 10 Metamorphism at subduction zones Lecture (2 hr) LO6 LO7
Metamorphism at subduction zones Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 11 Metamorphism in collisional orogens Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO6 LO7
Metamorphism in collisional orogens Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO6 LO7

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

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. explain why the temperature at a particular location in the continental crust may change through time; know the various terms defining the steady-state geotherm; explain the impact of temperature on the density and the strength of rocks
  • LO2. analyse surface geology to identify the various tectonic regimes and how they may affect the temperature and pressure evolution of the continental crust
  • LO3. apply the principle of isostasy to calculate the gravitational force acting between two regions; understand and calculate the tectonic forces acting on the Earth’s lithosphere
  • LO4. reflect on why earthquakes tend to be over-represented in the upper crust and demonstrate how this observation relates to the rheology of rocks
  • LO5. when presented with a geological problem, observe and interpret the key geological data and relationships and provide a valid explanation or interpretation
  • LO6. identify common rock-forming minerals (magmatic and metamorphic) in hand specimen and thin sections; interpret common mineral textures, finite strain fabrics, kinematic indicators, and the relative timing of mineral growth and fabric development
  • LO7. understand the tectonic, metamorphic and geochemical processes involved in key geodynamic settings, their products and be aware of assumptions underlying their interpretation
  • LO8. use computers effectively to process, visualize and analyze data, and perform simple numerical calculations
  • LO9. work collaboratively in a multi-cultural team environment
  • LO10. write concise technical reports; present engaging scientific oral presentations; design and deliver effective multimedia podcasts.

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.

Some changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

Additional costs

The cost of the South Coast Excursion is $250 inc GST.

Work, health and safety

Physical requirements: These are similar to those expected for daily walks in a National Park in a coastal region. This includes walking 4 to 6 hours per day on sandy beaches and uneven terrains, climbing steep hills and walking down steep slopes.


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

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