University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Geology and Geophysics

Study in the discipline of Geology and Geophysics is offered by the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

A major in Geology and Geophysics provides an interdisciplinary and integrative context for understanding the surface and internal planetary processes that determine how the earth functions as a system. Global climate change, an increasing population and shrinking mineral and energy resources have heightened our sense of dependence on our earth's complex natural systems and increased our need to understand the dynamic relationships between the continents and oceans that provide the physical habitat for the earth's various ecosystems, as well as the resources our modern society needs.

This major will provide you with an understanding of the origin of our planet, its evolution across geological time through the complex interaction between its internal geodynamic, plate tectonics, surface processes and biological processes. This major will equip you with the expertise necessary for possible employment in areas of sustainable exploration and management of our natural, mineral and energy resources. You will gain observational, analytical, computational, and communication skills transferable to a broad range of industries including education, insurance and banking.

Requirements for completion

A major in Geology and Geophysics requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level core interdisciplinary project units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level disciplinary selective or interdisciplinary project selective units

A minor in Geology and Geophysics requires 36 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level core units

First year

GEOS1X01 and GEOS1X03 provide a foundational understanding of the earth system, its history and dynamics, concepts of geological time, and core concepts that underpin the discipline of Geology. You will examine a range of themes and issues relative to the future of our planet, learn about the origin and fate of common earth materials and how to identify and interpret them. You will develop expertise in spatial and numerical analysis and in the use of tools for representing and interpreting geology and geological processes.

Second year

GEOS2X14 and GEOS2X24 both build on foundational concepts from first year, and provide a comprehensive understanding of composition, evolution and dynamics of the earth’s crust. GEOS2X14 will explore tectonic and igneous processes in the deep earth’s crust, and consider the implications of these processes for the mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry of magmatic systems and associated mineral deposits. GEOS2X24 introduces students to the surface processes involved in the formation of sedimentary rocks in various sedimentary environments, as well as the techniques we use to determine their ages, environments of deposition and tectonic evolution. Students will learn major fossil groups, methods of stratigraphic age determination, and how the earth’s upper crust is deformed.

Third year

GEOS3X08 and GEOS3X01 are the core units at the 3000-level, providing a conceptual framework for professional practice in geology, resource exploration, and related fields. GEOS3X08 draws together learning outcomes from the 1000 and 2000-levels and applies them in the context of field geology including field mapping, rock identification, structural analyses, laboratory-based analyses, and the use of numerical tools and models. In GEOS3X01 students learn about the forces that drive the deformation and differentiation of the Earth’s crust and that of mineralized systems, through tectonic processes, metamorphic processes and partial melting. In addition to these core units, students may choose from a selection of units that provide 3000-level training in specialist areas of geological research and practice, ranging from the geological context of hydrocarbons, ores, and other valuable minerals, to commonly-used geophysical methods, to exploration of the Earth’s interior and how to model its landscapes.

In your third year you must take at least one designated project unit.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Advanced coursework will be included in the table for 2020.

Meritorious students in the Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor of Science, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements prior to Honours commencement.

Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Geology or Geophysics: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework. Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information


T +61 2 9351 2912

School of Geosciences
Room 348, Madsen Building F09
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Associate Professor Patrice Rey
T + 61 2 9351 2067

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Geology and Geophysics will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge in geology and geophysics, within the context of Earth system science.
  2. Exhibit deep knowledge in the principles and concepts relating to Earth’s structure, its internal and external dynamics and evolution.
  3. Integrate principles and concepts of key Earth systems and articulate the interaction between chemical, physical and biological processes that govern the emergence and co-evolution of life on Earth.
  4. Work competently, confidently, ethically and safely in the field or laboratory.
  5. Source collate, synthesise and critically evaluate information in geology and geophysics from a range of relevant sources.
  6. Communicate concepts and findings in geology and geophysics through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audiences, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  7. Integrate geological, geochemical and geophysical methods and approaches with computational resources to model and interpret geological phenomena at a variety of scales in space and time.
  8. Utilise qualitative and quantitative geological, geochemical and geophysical data to construct robust and verifiable models and assess scientific arguments.
  9. Address authentic problems in geology and geosciences, working professionally and responsibly and with consideration of cross-cultural perspectives, within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.
  10. Describe and assess the legislative, regulatory and normative context in which resource industries operate.