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Courses - Faculty of Science

Earth Sciences

Stage I

15 Points

15 Points

Earth’s Natural Hazards

New Zealand experiences many natural hazards caused by the Earth’s natural processes through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, weather bombs, storm surge, tsunami, flooding and wildfires. Focuses on spatial and temporal occurrences of disasters, hazard preparedness and recovery, and societal responses that affect and, sometimes, compound the magnitude of disasters. Case studies are drawn from contemporary and ancient societies.

15 Points

Planet Earth

Examination of geologic processes that have shaped Earth and life through time, and their impact on modern society. Topics include: earthquakes, plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, meteorites and planets, mass extinctions and evolution of life. A practical introduction to rocks, minerals and fossils provides insights into Earth's past and important modern resources.

Restriction: EARTHSCI 103

Stage II

15 Points

Earth History

Explores the evolution of the Earth from its molten beginnings to the dynamic planet we live on today. Topics include: stratigraphy (litho-, bio-, cyclo-, magneto-); evolution; paleoecology; Precambrian Earth (formation, first continents and beginnings of life); development of the Earth and life through the Phanerozoic Eon. Knowledge of geological mapping equivalent to EARTHSCI 201 or 220 will be assumed.

Prerequisite: 75 points, including at least 15 points from EARTHSCI 103, 120

15 Points

Rock and Minerals

The formation of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, the minerals they contain, and how they can be used to interpret major Earth Science processes such as crustal evolution, volcanism, mountain building, deformation, and sedimentation.

Prerequisite: 15 points from EARTHSCI 103, 120

15 Points

15 Points

New Zealand: Half a Billion Years on the Edge

Take a 500 million year journey through time following the geologic and biologic development of New Zealand from humble beginnings on the edge of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana to the present day geologically dynamic land mass beset by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and massive erosion as a consequence of being located on the edge of the Earth's largest tectonic plate.

Prerequisite: 75 points passed

15 Points

Earth Structure

A foundation course that introduces students to descriptive and analytical methods in structural geology. Geological maps are used to help students analyse structural features (e.g., folds, faults, contacts). On completion of this course, students should be able to interpret geological maps, construct cross-sections, and synthesise analytical results into a structural history.

Prerequisite: 15 points at Stage I in Earth Sciences

Restriction: EARTHSCI 204

15 Points

Special Topic

15 Points

Practice in Earth Sciences 1

A practical and field based course that introduces and develops theory and work flows to enable students to read, document and interpret landforms and landscapes in 4-D. Students will be required to participate in a residential field experience and undertake independent field work.

Prerequisite: 15 points from EARTHSCI 120, GEOG 101

Restriction: EARTHSCI 201, 260

Stage III

15 Points

Sedimentary Systems

An advanced course that critically examines ancient and contemporary sedimentary systems. State of the art techniques and technologies (sedimentology, geomorphology, modelling) are used to examine the physical and biological processes in freshwater and marine environments. The application of sedimentary systems in the context of Earth’s resources and the current energy transition are highlighted.

15 Points

Earth's Changing Climate

An exploration of long-term climatic and environmental variability from deep time to the present - all placed in the context of our warming world. Emphasis is on the nature and drivers of climate change, and the tools used for analysis of past climate impacts on Earth landscapes, the hydrosphere and the biosphere.

Prerequisite: 45 points at Stage II, including 15 points from EARTHSCI 201, 202, 220, GEOG 260-263, or equivalent

15 Points

Tectonic and Magmatic Systems

Explores the tectonic and magmatic evolution of Earth and planetary systems, including their formation, composition, and how they deform. Students are exposed to seminal literature covering the various geological, geochemical, geophysical, and modelling tools and methods used for deciphering Earth deformation and magmatism, and the critical feedbacks between these processes. Recommended preparation: EARTHSCI 203, 208

Restriction: EARTHSCI 304, 305

15 Points

Special Topic

15 Points

Analytical Skills in Geology

A laboratory and field-based course expanding a student’s ability to collect, synthesise and analyse the range of datasets encountered in Earth Sciences, in disciplines such as geochemistry, sedimentology, structural geology and geophysics. Activities focus around a residential geological field-trip, where students develop advanced quantitative field skills in geologically diverse settings, and provide a report synthesising and interpreting their collected data.

Prerequisite: EARTHSCI 220, 30 points from EARTHSCI 202, 203, 208, 262 and a Grade Point Average of 5.0 or higher

15 Points

Practice in Earth Sciences 2

A practical and field based course that embeds theory and work flows to enable students to read, document and interpret complex and vulnerable landforms and landscapes in 4-D. Students will be required to participate in a residential field experience and undertake independent field work.

Prerequisite: EARTHSCI 220

Restriction: EARTHSCI 301, GEOG 330

15 Points

Imaging the Subsurface

Geophysical imaging of the subsurface utilises contrasting rock and fluid properties. Applications include environmental, engineering, resource, hazard, and tectonic studies. Students will acquire and interpret geophysical data by attending a one-day field trip and through laboratory sessions.

Prerequisite: 15 points at Stage II in Earth Sciences, Environmental Physics, Geophysics

Restriction: GEOLOGY 361, GEOPHYS 361

15 Points

Engineering Geology

An integration of quantitative and qualitative concepts in geology as applied to engineering projects. Fundamentals of soil and rock mechanics will be introduced. Topics covered in the course include landslides, dewatering schemes, contaminant transport, foundations, mines (open-pit and underground), dams, tunnels, urban geology, and transportation infrastructures. Case studies are used in lectures to demonstrate the importance of geology and water to engineering projects. Fieldwork is required.

Prerequisite: CIVIL 220 or EARTHSCI 201 or 220 or GEOLOGY 201, and 30 points from EARTHSCI 201-263, GEOG 260-263, GEOLOGY 202-205

Restriction: CIVIL 726, GEOLOGY 372

15 Points

Directed Study

Prerequisite: Permission of Academic Head

15 Points

Capstone: Earth Sciences

Conducting an Earth Science investigation involving a range of skills, as practised in research and industry careers. Students will undertake an independent research project involving field, desktop and/or laboratory work, and communicate the results in written and oral formats. Skills gained include ability to design a research project, collect and analyse qualitative and quantitative Earth Science data, and research communication.

Prerequisite: 30 points at Stage III in Earth Sciences

Postgraduate 700 Level Courses

15 Points

Hydrothermal Systems

Active hydrothermal systems are dynamic and significant to national energy requirements, hazards assessment and understanding planetary evolution. Geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical features of hydrothermal systems are considered with an emphasis on hydrothermal systems, sustainable geothermal energy extraction, mechanisms underpinning hydrothermal eruptions, and the potential role of hydrothermal systems in origin of/early life scenarios and the search for extra-terrestrial life.

15 Points

Directed Study in Earth Sciences

Prerequisite: Head of School approval

15 Points


Contemporary methods used to identify and assess natural hazards, techniques used for the probabilistic forecasting, spatial representation and communication of hazards. How the relationship between hazard information, risk mitigation and emergency management is addressed. There will be a strong focus on the use of case studies.

15 Points

Special Topic

15 Points

Faults and Fluids

Fault-fluid interaction is critical in earthquake dynamics and hydrothermal systems that have implications for geothermal energy, ore mineralisation and, via hydrothermal alteration, land stability. We will explore the fundamentals of these interactions and their relevance to hazard and resource challenges of society today. This course will be anchored by a strong in-person field component.

Restriction: EARTHSCI 706

15 Points

Environmental Geochemistry

Provides a broad overview of applications of geochemistry across multiple disciplines. In addition, this course will help determine the suitability of different analytical techniques to different problems while providing practical experience in collecting and evaluating geochemical data. Subject areas are wide-reaching and include, geology, environmental science, biology, archaeology, and forensic sciences. No formal prerequisite but knowledge of introductory chemistry will be assumed.

15 Points

Exploring Environmental Change

Sedimentary and biological records show that extreme, rapid and short-lived climatic and environmental changes occurred in the past. Case studies are used to introduce the tools used to identify and interpret abrupt environmental changes during the Last Glacial Period and Holocene that may have implications for the present and our future.

15 Points


Volcanoes were an important part in the formation of Earth’s crust and atmosphere and influenced the evolution of life. Today, volcanoes play an important role in society from hazards and resources to recreation. This course covers how and why volcanoes erupt from magma processes in the mantle to eruption at the surface.

15 Points

Integrated Sedimentology and Tectonics

Develops an advanced and practical understanding of how sedimentary and tectonic processes relate to one another. Case studies, field work, guest lectures and discussions will allow critical examination of the latest research into the dynamics of tectonic and sedimentary environments.

15 Points

Engineering Geological Mapping

A field-based course which provides hands-on experience in outcrop mapping, geomorphic mapping, and simple field testing of rocks and soils for geotechnical purposes.

15 Points

Advanced Engineering Geology

Advanced engineering geology focused on engineering practice. Interpretation of in-situ testing and laboratory test data (including groundwater) for the derivation of design parameters for input into numerical modeling software. The topics covered include, but are not limited to, design and analysis of site investigation, advanced core logging, slope stability analysis, rock fall assessment, introduction to numerical modeling, liquefaction and seismic hazard assessment for engineering design.

15 Points


Introduces aquifers and aquifer properties; the various processes and techniques utilised in the discovery, development and assessment of groundwater resources; groundwater in construction; groundwater contamination.

60 Points

30 Points

30 Points

BAdvSci(Hons) Dissertation in Geology - Level 9

Prerequisite: Approval of Programme Director or Major/Specialisation Lead

To complete this course students must enrol in EARTHSCI 785 A and B, or EARTHSCI 785

30 Points

15 Points

15 Points

Honours Research Project - Level 9

To complete this course students must enrol in EARTHSCI 789 A and B, or EARTHSCI 789

30 Points

60 Points

Thesis in Engineering Geology - Level 9

To complete this course students must enrol in EARTHSCI 794 A and B

60 Points

60 Points

MSc Thesis in Earth Sciences - Level 9

To complete this course students must enrol in EARTHSCI 796 A and B