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BC Cross-Faculty Modules 2010/11

BCGEOL - Planet Earth


This course is a beginner's guide to our planet, Earth, and the fascinating science of geology.  From the vastness of space, to the microscopic crystal structure of minerals; from events which take billions of years like galaxy formation, to volcanic eruptions which may last seconds.  Geology, or Earth Science, sets out to investigate the origin and development of the planet, the natural principles that govern it, the processes that act in it, on it, and around it, and finally the life that has evolved with it.  Many sciences are conducted in the laboratory, but to a geologist the Earth itself is the laboratory.

This module follows two main consecutive themes over the course of the Semester.  Firstly, 'Earth in Space', investigates the origin of the Universe and our solar system, how the Earth first formed and what makes it 'tick' over millions and billions of years.  We will look at how dynamic events occurring below the surface of the Earth constantly change the landscape upon which we live, whether it be building mountains or rifting continents apart.  In the second half of the semester, 'Earth and Life' explores how life originated and evolved hand-in-hand with our changing planet.  We will look at how Earth has changed the course of evolution, sometimes causing 'mass extinction' events, and conversely, how life has changed the physical properties of the planet itself, such as the composition of our atmosphere.  Finally, the module closes with a brief focus on the human impact of living on a dynamic planet; how to understand geological hazards such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.