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Unit of study_

GEOS3101: Deep Mantle to Earth Surface Dynamics

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Planet Earth is a complex system in which exchanges of matter and energy across its various components has maintained the permanent state of change needed for the emergence of the Earth's biosphere and its sustainability over billions of years. As the present existential crises show, from climate change to the collapse of biodiversity, the Earth's biosphere, its atmosphere and ocean, its landscapes, the Earth's lithosphere and the Earth's deep interior are tightly coupled. In such a system, no component can be understood in isolation from the others. In GEOS3101, you will learn how we probe the deep Earth interior, what powers mantle dynamics, plate tectonics, and surface dynamics, and how they impact on climate change. You will gain an appreciation and understanding of the feedback loops between the Earth's surface, tectonic processes, mantle dynamics and climate. During the practical classes, you will learn and apply a range of investigative methodologies to unravel the geodynamic of the Earth from the deep mantle to the Earth's surface. You will learn to decode the temperature, pressure and strain history of metamorphic rocks, and to decode the morphology, and assess the potential biodiversity of ancient and future landscapes by characterizing their physical properties. You will develop and apply knowledge relevant to heat and mass transfer, rocks’ rheology, fluvial incision and hillslope diffusion to design and run computer simulations to explore complex geodynamic, tectonic and surface processes.

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) Dietmar Muller,
Patrice Rey,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment South Coast Excursion Field Report
Individual field report. 4 day field trip.
22% Mid-semester break
Due date: 15 Apr 2022 at 23:59
8 -10 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO7 LO6
Assignment Formative 1
6% Week 03
Due date: 10 Mar 2023 at 23:59
4 - 6 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO7
Assignment Formative 2
6% Week 06
Due date: 31 Mar 2023 at 23:59
4 - 6 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO7
Small continuous assessment Summative 1
Skills-based evaluation
14% Week 07
Due date: 07 Apr 2023 at 23:59
2 hours - outside normal contact hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO7 LO2
Assignment Formative 3
6% Week 08
Due date: 21 Apr 2023 at 23:59
4 - 6 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO5 LO7
Small continuous assessment Summative 2
Skills-based evaluation
14% Week 10
Due date: 05 May 2023 at 11:59
2 hours - outside normal contact hours
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO7 LO3
Assignment Formative 4
6% Week 10
Due date: 05 May 2023 at 23:59
4 - 6 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5 LO7
Assignment Six short essays
Summary of video seminars, or research papers.
6% Week 12
Due date: 19 May 2023 at 23:59
6 x 600 to 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Small continuous assessment Summative 3
Skills-based evaluation
14% Week 13
Due date: 26 May 2023 at 23:59
2 hours - outside normal contact hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO7 LO5 LO4
Assignment Formative 5
6% Week 13
Due date: 26 May 2023 at 23:59
4 - 6 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO7

Assessment summary

Details are in 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.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

10% per day

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 Introduction to GEOS3101 Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 02 Imaging the mantle part I Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6
Week 03 Imaging the mantle part II Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Mantle convection Workshop (5 hr) LO2 LO5 LO6
Week 05 Mantle partial melting Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
South Coast excursion Field trip (32 hr) LO2 LO6 LO7
Week 06 Earth lithosphere and mantle convection Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO6
Week 07 Notions of rheology Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6
Week 08 Isostasy and vertical motion Workshop (5 hr) LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 09 Tectonic and gravitational forces Workshop (5 hr) LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6
Week 10 From mantle convection to topography Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 River incision and hillslope processes Workshop (5 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 From landscape to biodiversity Workshop (5 hr) LO5 LO6
Week 13 Revision Workshop (5 hr) LO6

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. Understand how seismic tomography data reveal deep Earth structure from the core, to the lithosphere, to the subsurface.
  • LO2. Understand heat transfer processes across the deep mantle and the lithosphere, and assess their impact of the thermal and mechanical evolution of the Earth’s lithosphere.
  • LO3. Evaluate the forces involved in the deformation of the Earth’s lithosphere, use the concept of isostasy to evaluate the gravitational force acting within the lithosphere.
  • LO4. Understand the interplay between tectonic and surface processes and quantitatively assess its impacts on landscape in regions of active deformation and during periods of climate changes.
  • LO5. Apply the acquired knowledge to design and perform numerical experiments to explore coupled geodynamic, tectonic and surface processes.
  • LO6. Work collaboratively in a multicultural team environment.
  • LO7. 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.

Schedule adjusted due to shift of semester

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.


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