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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Global Tectonics and the Rock Cycle (EASC08020)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPlate tectonic processes play an important role in the distribution of rock types on the surface of the Earth. This course analyses the physical processes responsible for the formation and destruction of tectonic plates. It considers the principle tectonic components of the Earth such as mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones and mountain ranges, and develops an understanding of the specific rock types formed in these environments. The course also considers the mechanisms by which sediment is generated as a result of the tectonic processes is analysed, as well as processes on in-situ sediment production. Sediment formation and transport processes are studied as well as the sediment and rock types that are generated. We then demonstrate how sedimentary rocks are used to reconstruct ancient tectonic and other environments.
Practicals and a weekend field trip will develop concepts from the lectures.
Course description Syllabus
1. Oceanic plates, transform faults and plate flexure
2. Plate motion: boundary motion vectors, direct and indirect plate motion determination, triple junction stability
3. The subducted slab: tomography, seismics, thermal structure, phase changes and buoyancy
4. Lithospheric properties: heat flow and plate cooling models
5. Igneous rocks and the rock cycle; classification of Igneous rocks; silica saturation; subalkaline, transitional and alkaline magmas; Bowen's reaction series; relationship between magma types and global tectonics
6. The Earth's mantle, mantle melting and the genesis of basic magmas; relationship between composition and degree and depth of mantle melting under dry conditions; contrasted mineralogy of subalkaline and alkaline basic igneous rocks; formation of oceanic crust
7. Subduction zone processes; effect of water on mantle melting and subsequent evolution of magmas; formation of the continental crust; origin of granite.
8. Granites and granitic rocks; classification into I-, S- and A-type granites; recycling of crustal rocks into S-type granite; subsolvus and hypersolvus granites
9. Reading metamorphic rocks from mineral zones to the facies concept and metamorphic facies
10. The importance of protoliths
11. Mapping metamorphism
12. Facies Series, P-T paths and tectonics
13. Carbonate systems and processes; global occurrences and controls on deposition, and basic diagenesis.
14. Modern and ancient carbonate systems and processes
15. Fluid dynamics and transport of grains
16. Bedforms, sedimentary structures and deserts settings (modern and ancient)
17. River systems (modern and ancient)
18. Deltaic settings (modern and ancient)
19. Deep-water settings (modern and ancient)
20. Sedimentary petrology and provenance
**The compulsory field trip to East Lothian and the Borders on weekend of 19-20th March 2022**
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Earth Dynamics (EASC08001)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements To enter this course, you will have to have a pass in Earth Dynamics or an approved exemption based on equivalent previous studies, such as a good grade in Geology A-level.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students will be expected to have introductory knowledge of geology including plate tectonics and the main rock types.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  90
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 152 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 60%, Course Work: 40 %, Practical Exam: 0%.
Course work will include two assessed practicals (20% of overall mark), and a field trip to the East Lothian coastline (20% of overall mark). These assessments and the field trip are compulsory.
The Compulsory Field Trip takes place the weekend of 26th and 27th March 2021
Exemption from the compulsory elements of the course can only be made if there are Special Circumstances. Advice regarding Special Circumstances should be sought from the Earth Sciences Student Support Co-ordinators Emma Latto and Nikki Muir (
For information regarding Extensions and Special Circumstances please see:

The final written exam will cover all aspects of the course and account for 60% of the overall mark.
In order to pass this course, students must attain at least 40% in their overall marks.
If you do not get 40% or more overall after the course work and written exam, then you will need to resit the elements for which you obtained less than 40%. The practical assessment resit will comprise a laboratory-based 2-hour test covering practical elements of the igneous, metamorphic and sedimentology elements of the course.

Assessment deadlines:
Assessed Practicals will take place in Weeks 4 and 6
Fieldtrip hand-in deadline 12 Noon Wednesday after the field trip.
Feedback Practicals (non-assessed): Students will be able to get help and feedback on their practical work during scheduled practical sessions, or at other times upon request to the course organiser/lecturers.
Course work: Students will receive written feedback on work (both assessed and non-assessed) which is handed in during the course.
Individual Meetings: Students can arrange individual meetings with the CO/lecturer at any time for advice, support, feedback etc.
End of semester exams: Students will be able to view their corrected manuscripts upon request, and discuss their results with the course teaching team.
Examples of feedback can be found here:
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain modern tectonic theory and plate tectonic processes.
  2. Interpret and explain major features of current and past tectonic activity, and the geological processes involved.
  3. Understand the mode of formation of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks in the context of global tectonics and the ability to identify and interpret them under a petrological microscope.
  4. Analyse sedimentary successions in the laboratory and the field and the criteria used to reconstruct ancient sedimentary environments.
  5. Understand surface, biological and chemical processes involved in the generation and transport of siliciclastic sediments (eg. Sands) and carbonates (eg. limestones and dolomites) over the globe, and their plate tectonic association.
Reading List
1. Kearey, P., Klepeis, K.A. and Vine, F.J. 2009. Global Tectonics. Wiley-Blackwell 3rd edition
2. Rogers, N., Blake, S., Burton, K., Widdowson, M., Parkinson, I. and Harris, N. 2008. An Introduction to Our Dynamic Planet. Cambridge University Press.
3. Leeder, M., 1999, Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins: from turbulence to tectonics. John Wiley and Sons.
4. Bridge, JS. and Domecco, R. 2008. Earth Surface Processes, Landforms and Sedimentary Deposits. Cambridge University Press.
5. R. Gill, Igneous Rocks and Processes: A Practical Handbook, 2010. Wiley-Blackwell.
6. Best, M.G., Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, 2nd Edition, 2002 (Blackwell Publishing)

Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Rock identification skills in both hand specimen and thin section; Field skills; Numerical skills.
Course organiserDr Alan Hastie
Tel: (0131 6)50 4910
Course secretaryMr Johan De Klerk
Tel: (0131 6)50 7010
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